Application Update Service Helper new Firefox system add-on

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 4, 2016
Updated • Apr 16, 2018
Firefox, Firefox add-ons

Application Update Service Helper is a new system add-on for the Firefox web browser that is pushed to all Firefox 50 or newer versions of the browser.

System add-ons work in many regards like regular add-ons that users install manually. They are installed and maintained independently from the browser core which is the greatest advantage.

This enables Mozilla to push updates to the browser without having to ship a new version of Firefox. The effect is that updates reach user systems faster and without service interruption.

Updates may modify preferences of the browser among other things.

One downside of system add-ons is that users don't have control over them in Firefox. While you can go ahead and delete the respective directories on the local system, there is no option currently to disable them directly from within Firefox.

Application Update Service Helper

application update service helper

The new Application Update Service Helper system add-on,,  has been designed by Mozilla as a direct response to the Firefox Websense updating issue.

Similar to what we did for Websense, we intend to have a built-in add-on (that can be updated via GoFaster if needed) that allows us to add special markings in the update ping for whatever reason necessary.

The add-on allows Mozilla to change update related information directly in the browser. As you may remember, Mozilla changed the updating URL of Firefox to block users from being upgraded to a new version to avoid Websense compatibility issues. This was a makeshift solution back then as a fast response time was of utmost importance.

The add-on offers similar functionality to that, but is streamlined. Basically, what it does is allow Mozilla to disable or enable updates based on device specific parameters (think Websense again).

Mozilla is making use already of the Application Update Service Helper add-on. In this particular case, it is used to find out if the underlying system is susceptible for a specific crash that is investigated here.

Checking system add-ons

You can verify in Firefox which system add-ons are installed and enabled in the browser. To do so simply load about:support in the browser's address bar, and scroll down until you come to the "extensions" section.

There you find the list of all add-ons installed in Firefox. System add-ons and user installed add-ons are mixed together, but it should be easy enough to distinguish them.

If you have troubles, load about:addons as well to eliminate all add-ons found on that page. The remaining add-ons are system add-ons. (via Sören Hentzschel)

Mozilla released the Web Compat system add-on recently as well.

Application Update Service Helper new Firefox system add-on
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Application Update Service Helper new Firefox system add-on
Application Update Service Helper is a new system add-on for the Firefox web browser that is pushed to all Firefox 50 or newer versions of the browser.
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  1. Franck said on July 2, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks a lot for this excellent article !

  2. Tony said on April 16, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Martin, you may want to update this article to mention the filename “”, so that search engines (including the one on your main page) find this article more efficiently.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 16, 2018 at 9:50 am

      Thanks Tony, did that!

  3. Phillip said on August 28, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    This explanation went over my head. Firefox updates appear in my Update Manager and are provided by the Linux repository. I certainly don’t need an update “shipped” to me. Seems like a waste of gasoline.

    1. Phillip said on August 28, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      Never mind. I realize now that the top portion of the article is for explaining system addons as opposed to explaning the specific system addon per se. I think there should be a separate article explaining system addons that can be linked to in an article about about a specific system addon. Therefore, a person won’t finding himself reading the first few paragraphs trying to figure out what “Application Update Service Helper” is to no avail.

  4. CBA said on May 1, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Late to the party, but I just installed Firefox 52.1.0 ESR and found the below in the features folder:

    I disable Pocket via CTR, however, what about the other 3 add-ons? I have them disabled (done via CCleaner). Do I really need them? I have auto-update disabled. I’m using a legacy Thinkpad with Win-7-32 for travel and want to load a minimum of extras. Thanks.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 1, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Aushelper is the Application Update Service Helper (allows Mozilla to deactivate and activate Firefox’s update functionality.

      e10srollout for the multi-process rollout

      Webcompat to improve website compatibility directly and without using updates of the browser for that.

      1. CBA said on May 1, 2017 at 11:50 am

        I agree, at the end of the day, my shot.

        As for your reply, you should have been a diplomat…! Thanks

      2. CBA said on May 1, 2017 at 11:18 am

        Thanks Martin!

        As I normally download a full version rather than using the built in updater, do I really need Aushelper?

        And, as long as I’m on 52 ESR, using legacy plugins and extensions, I don’t care too much about e10s. I prefer the classic Firefox UI and rely on CTR accordingly. So do I really need e10srollout?

        Webcompat may be a good thing. Have to look into that one. Maybe useful. But, if I leave all three disabled .. am I asking for trouble?

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on May 1, 2017 at 11:46 am

        I suggest you disable what you don’t feel comfortable with. Chance is, you won’t see much of a difference.

  5. D. said on November 5, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Thanks Martin…

  6. bjm said on November 5, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve set Web Comp false. May do same with Application Update Service Helper.

  7. Chris Granger said on November 5, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I also have an add-on that don’t recognize called Asynchronous Plugin Rendering.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm
  8. Vaga said on November 5, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    while I like Firefox,,the last updates seem to be going in a direction I dont care for,
    so I switched to Vivaldi,While theres a couple addons I Miss,theres addons I dont need as they are built in.

  9. buck said on November 5, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Can Modzilla be trusted, or will they use new features like this to “follow the Big Data yellow brick road”?

    1. Parker Lewis said on November 5, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      I would vouch for their honesty in their pro-privacy stance, but I would not advice concerned people to just listen to me. If that matters to you, disable all automatic network connections by following Mozilla’s centralized and up to date guide:

      You don’t need to let Mozilla update system add-ons automatically just like you don’t need to let them update Firefox automatically. This whole system add-on thing is mostly an organisational novelty, like Firefox 4’s rapid release cycle back in the day :)

  10. Gary D said on November 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm


    Off Topic. What has happened to Pants and Corky ?? I have not seen any posts by them for several weeks. Their posts are always a good read. Pants has not updated the about:config list since July.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 4, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Pants is still around, sent me two links today to interesting articles. Corky’s last post was two days ago, so they are still around.

      1. Gary D said on November 4, 2016 at 5:28 pm


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