Mozilla puts Firefox Test Pilot program to rest

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 16, 2019

Mozilla announced today that it will sunset the Firefox Test Pilot program on January 22, 2019.

The organization launched Test Pilot in 2016 to test new Firefox features. Interested users could join the program to install experiments in the Firefox browser. They provided Mozilla with data in return, and Mozilla used the data to determine whether a particular experiment would be a good native fit for Firefox or better suited as an add-on.

Several Test Pilot experiments, e.g. Page Shot (which was renamed to Screenshots), Tracking Protection, or Activity Stream, were integrated natively in Firefox. Others, such as Containers or Snooze Tabs were released as extensions for the browser instead. Some Test Pilot experiments, e.g. No More 404s or Snooze Tabs  were retired without them being released as add-ons though.

Test Pilot will cease to exist on January 22, 2019. Existing experiments remain accessible on the Firefox Add-ons website. Experiments that are not available as browser extensions, Mozilla mentions Firefox Lockbox and Firefox Send, remain in active development.

Firefox Lockbox is an attempt to replace the native Firefox password manager, Firefox Send a file sharing service.

The Test Pilot add-on will be removed from Firefox when users visit the Test Pilot website on January 22 or later.

Why is Mozilla retiring Test Pilot?

firefox test pilot

Mozilla states that "Test Pilot performed better" than it could "have ever imagined". It sounds contradictory at first that the organization would retire a successful project.

Test Pilot was created to address the growing need to test and release new features quickly to the market. Instead of integrating new features in the browser directly through updates, something that could backfire phenomenally at time, new features were made available to users through the program for testing.

It was a win-win; users could install new features early and Mozilla got data to make better decisions about how to proceed.

The Test Pilot team was a small project team; each graduation required resources to develop and maintain the product further, and that meant that the team had less prototyping time since most experiments could not be handed over to other teams at Mozilla.

Screenshots, one of the biggest successes of the Test Pilot program, took three engineers and a designer off the team when it graduated.

Adding new team members to Test Pilot would resolve the issue, but that was not practicable for a number of reasons. The announcement is a bit vague on that but it seems to come down to financing and personnel.

Closing Words

Mozilla plans to experiment even more in the coming years. While it is unclear how that will work out for the organization, it appears that the organization plans to experiment even more. Experiments won't be launched under the Test Pilot banner, however.

I liked Test Pilot a lot; it provided interested users with options to test new features and provide Mozilla with feedback. Test Pilot was the place to go for experiments; Mozilla Labs could become the new home for experiments.

It is clear, however, that Mozilla needs to create a central hub for experiments to inform interested users about experiments.

Now You: What is your take on the retiring of Test Pilot?

Mozilla puts Firefox Test Pilot program to rest
Article Name
Mozilla puts Firefox Test Pilot program to rest
Mozilla announced today that it will sunset the Firefox Test Pilot program on January 22, 2019; experiments remain installed, however.
Ghacks Technology News

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Franck said on January 18, 2019 at 1:40 am

    Good to know, thank you !

  2. John IL said on January 16, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Seems to me eventually Mozilla will have to shrink not expand. Especially if their contract with Google search ever goes away. Mozilla would then be desperate for funds to even develop Firefox. They need projects that eventually would bring them revenue, and to me that would include Firefox and whatever they can build off of that. Google can afford to waste money on projects that go nowhere. Mozilla cannot, and the sooner they realize this the better for Mozilla.

  3. Yuliya said on January 16, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    “Mozilla puts Firefox to rest”

  4. Stan said on January 16, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    Yep, look for that ‘hidden extensions’, browser/features folder to to grow like Kudzu..

  5. Anonymous said on January 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    They said they’re not going to experiment less than before but that they’re migrating Test Pilot experiments to Shield experiments. I guess what that really means is having more opt-out experiments on users and fewer opt-in ones, users having less choice, control and awareness of what’s going on in their own browser. And, the cherry on top, we know Mozilla has a tendency to use experiments to install spyware and adware.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 16, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      You can opt out of the shield experiments program entirely. If you so, then you won’t get any in the future. You don’t need to opt out of each experiment individually.

      I agree that Mozilla’s newfound love of requiring people to opt out of stuff rather than opt in is bad. That said, you can at least opt out.

  6. User17843 said on January 16, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Confirms my theory about verizon not paying Mozilla. They are Now eliminating unnessecary Teams and Projects in Order to Save Resources.

    They have become so lazy. 1000 People and the Browser is Not Even optimizied on Mac.

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on January 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      Why do you think 1000 people work on Firefox? Do you really think the entirely foundation + corporation work on the desktop browser? That’s far from reality. And who says there were / will be layoffs? The official announcement tells a different story:

      “our team have been moving away from developing new Firefox features and starting to invest in services that stand apart from the browser and bring Mozilla’s core philosophical commitments to privacy, security and user control to new audiences”

      Who are you that people should believe you more? And why do you think the developers are lazy? Only because you have problems on your Mac? Where can other people find your bug reports?

      1. user17843 said on January 16, 2019 at 6:59 pm

        @Sören, I appreciate your comment.,

        Roughly around 60% people in the corp. work on the dev side, and 40% on the marketing and management. This can be deducted from the financial report.

        I don’t think there will necessary be layoffs – Mozilla has laid aside lots of money for years to come.

        I don’t think anyone should believe me, but simply entertain my thoughts and come to their own conclusions.

        I think what’s happening here is some form of making the company more efficient to cope with the new reality.

        Why do I know there is decreased revenue? I don’t, because Mozilla is not talking about what is happening with the Verizon case.

        But I recently read in an interview with a Mozilla exec where she basically flat out said that Verizon is refusing to pay. That means $375 million less in 2018. That’s almost all of the 2017 revenue. Depending on how much google is paying now, it could mean more than half of the yearly revenue is missing.

        Quote: “She declined to comment in detail on the Verizon lawsuit, which is in a preliminary data-discovery phase.

        “We feel very good about our revenue from existing partners. We have anticipated not receiving any additional revenue from Yahoo as the litigation is pending,” Dixon said.

        You are free to discard my opinion, but I have put lots of time into researching these things, because ultimately Mozilla is very important for the web, especially when it functions correctly.

        With revenue finally reflecting their true performance, we can expect better, more economically sound, solutions from Mozilla in the next 1-2 years.

      2. Stan said on January 16, 2019 at 5:33 pm

        “our team have been moving away from developing new Firefox features and starting to invest in services that stand apart from the browser and bring Mozilla’s core philosophical commitments to privacy, security and user control to new audiences”

        Uh-hu, “control” OF the “new audiences”?
        Don’t think were not onto what’s going on in Germany with that Mozilla/Cliqz/Hubert Burda Media mob.
        Spoon fed Mozilla approved search results ?…and which ones were paid for ?

  7. 420 said on January 16, 2019 at 9:44 am

    my biggest bitch with firefox is you need a 3rd party tool like configfox to set all the crap you do not want to disabled, which I find annoying and a pain in the ass to do every time there is an update. Why? why is there all this shit that needs about:config to turn off, why not just have all that shit turned off and if you want something you can enable it? seems anti user friendly. and then you need ccleaner or the like to disable all the fucking features that you do not want or asked for, its annoying.

    1. Anonymous said on January 17, 2019 at 10:01 am

      Uh, what browsers are you using that let you change those settings from their standard Settings page?

    2. Jason said on January 16, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      I agree with you about all that nonsense in Firefox. But at least you *can* turn these things off. There is still considerable exposure of internal settings to the end user.

  8. Denizhan said on January 16, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Mozilla even started to copy Google in this. They are making useless things and shutting them later.

    1. Weilan said on January 16, 2019 at 10:52 am

      They started copying Chrome in everything – UI, lack of customization, etc.

  9. Sören Hentzschel said on January 16, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I recommend to read the announcement on the Medium Test Pilot blog for more context. It has more information than the announcement on ;-)

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.