Firefox 109 introduces Chrome’s default Manifest V3 feature for developers and has a Single Extensions button for better add-on management.

Firefox 109 is available for download. One of the most notable changes is the default activation of Manifest V3 for extension developers. Developers can still use Manifest V2 (until June 2023). Mozilla opted for Manifest V3 so that developers don’t have to make every extension twice. However, Manifest V3 will be looser in Firefox’s approach; for example, you may still find web requests blocking in Chrome that is not in the Manifest V3 approach.

Also worth mentioning is the Single Extensions button on the toolbar. This button simplifies the toolbar area when multiple extensions are installed, as well as surface extensions running in the background (you forgot it), so you can see if they affect the current page, and manage, pin, report, or delete them.

Firefox 109 is the browser’s first release this year, but as you’d expect, the proposed changes are relatively minor overall, which isn’t a bad thing.

Extensions button on the toolbar

One new feature is the Extensions button, which allows you to quickly remove, report, and manage extensions and their permissions right from the toolbar. The extensions you have installed appear in the extensions panel. If the extension isn’t in the panel, it’s probably pinned to the toolbar.

Click the puzzle piece icon in the toolbar to open the Extensions panel:

After installing the extension, whenever you want to view a website that requires one or more permissions to run, the extensions button shows a notification dot. If an extension is already pinned to the toolbar, a notification dot appears below the extension’s icon.

A notification dot also appears below the extension icon in the panel when the extension needs to access the currently displayed page:

When an extension already has access (or doesn’t need it) and it opens a panel as part of its functionality, that panel is pinned to the extensions button:

To manage extension permissions, all you need to do is:

  • Click the extensions button on the toolbar.
  • In the drop-down panel, find the extension decorated with a green dot.
  • Click the menu button (gear) to manage its permissions.
  • Select the permissions you want to grant to the extension.

All extensions on the panel have a menu button in the form of a gear wheel. If the extension does not require permission for the website, you can use the menu button to manage your extension. The following options are available:

  • Ping Toolbar: Binds the extension to the Firefox toolbar.
  • Manage extension: Opens the Add-ons Manager where you can change other add-on settings. Click Manage Extensions at the bottom of the panel to access the settings for all your extensions.
  • Remove extension: remove the extension from Firefox.
  • Reporting Extensions: Provides information about Mozilla extensions.

In general

The Unified Extensions button brings together all the plugins that were once scattered across the application toolbar in one place. This graphic element therefore makes the space on the screen more rational and clean.

This button has been designed and implemented to allow better use and management of the various extensions that can be added to Firefox. This software solution is very similar to what has been used for some time in other web browsers such as Chrome, Opera or Edge. This layout option allows you to manage all the plugins available in the browser faster and faster. Indeed, the classic settings menus hidden in the various built-in configuration panels are completely bypassed.

This innovation is also made possible by the introduction of MV3 (Manifest Version 3), a list of rules and guidelines written to ensure that developers always provide all end users with access and constant control over the behaviors that plugins can adopt. internet browsing.

Thanks to the single extensions button, in fact, Internet users can constantly check the behavior of a particular add-on in an easier way.

This release introduces support for Manifest V3

In a few months, Chrome’s Manifest V2 will no longer be supported (by June 2023), forcing extension developers to adapt to Manifest V3. The team behind Chrome talks about enhancing security, performance and also user privacy.

The security reason used by Google to apply the change

Among the planned changes, Google mentions removing the Web Request API, replacing it with another interface called Declarative Net Request. This introduces a radical change: the inability to scale to monitor all traffic. For security reasons, the new API forces extension designers to pre-declare how a certain type of traffic will be handled.

Of course, this change from Web Request to Declarative Net Request will bring a significant improvement in security, as extensions will have limited rights to traffic between the browser and the website. And this time in a unique way. Other important changes include the inability to always access remote code for security reasons, or the replacement of persistent background pages by worker services for significant performance gains.

Many of the extension behaviors associated with Manifest V2 will be optional by V3, which has one major benefit: validation gates and, in particular, tighter control by the user that can prohibit certain behaviors.

A decision that angered some publishers and also organizations like the EFF

However, according to the editors, Manifest V3 prevents ad blockers from playing their role in the browser. The Digital Frontier Foundation, a digital rights activist, has opposed its use: Chrome users beware: Manifesto V3 is deceptive and threatening. According to Google, Manifest V3 will improve privacy, security and performance. We strongly disagree. These changes won’t stop malicious extensions, but they will slow innovation, reduce scalability, and hurt real-world performance.

To the EFF: Manifest V3, or Mv3 for short, is clearly harmful to privacy efforts. This will limit the ability of web extensions, especially those designed to track, modify and even calculate your browser’s interaction with the websites you visit. Due to the new features, the capabilities of extensions such as some privacy tracking blockers will be significantly reduced. Google’s efforts to limit this access are worrisome, especially since Google installs trackers on 75% of the top one million websites.

Here’s what NoScript author Giorgio Maone had to say about Manifest V3:

Quote sent by Giorgio Maone

Of all the browser extension API revolutions I’ve seen in 16 years of NoScript development, Manifest V3 is the worst offender: a huge, unwarranted step backwards. Manifest V3 reduces extensibility and freedom for web users to customize their browsing experiences.

While there are many reasons to doubt the claimed privacy improvements and theoretical performance gains, the disruption of existing extensions is painfully real: non-trivial extensions must be rewritten when they have to override essential functionality.

But even worse, the ability of browser extension developers to innovate and respond quickly and creatively to emerging threats in the case of privacy and security extensions is severely limited. The net loss for developers, especially online security and Internet users’ freedom of choice, is huge.

Firefox’s hybrid approach

Although Firefox is not based on Chromium, support for Manifest is an important element because it makes it easier for extensions: a module created in Chrome (or one of its Chromium-based derivatives like Microsoft Edge) is easily ported to Firefox, much of the base is the same. But with this version 3, Mozilla is doing things their own way.

Mozilla has warned that while Manifest V3 will be fully supported, the Web Request API will be preserved. Therefore, the direction the team is taking is hybrid, with the ability to both restore next-generation extensions and preserve Web Query and the capabilities that come with it. Nice version of Manifest V3.

One of the most controversial changes to Chrome’s MV3 approach is the removal of WebRequest blocking, which provides an important level of power and flexibility to enable advanced privacy and content blocking features. Unfortunately, this power has also been used to harm users in various ways. Chrome’s solution in MV3 was to define a more narrowly scoped API (declarativeNetRequest) as a replacement. However, this would limit the possibilities of certain types of privacy extensions without adequate modification.

Mozilla will continue WebRequest blocking support in MV3. To increase compatibility with other browsers, we will also add support for declarativeNetRequest. We will continue to work with content blockers and other major consumers of this API to identify current and future alternatives as appropriate. Blocking content is one of the most important use cases for extensions, and we’re committed to ensuring that Firefox users have access to the best privacy tools available.

Other news

Arbitrary Code Guard, an exploit protection feature developed by Microsoft, is enabled in media playback utility processes, improving security for Windows users.

The native HTML date picker for date and time entries is now keyboard-only, improving its accessibility for screen reader users. Disabled users can also now use common keyboard shortcuts to navigate between the calendar grid and month selection buttons.

The Spanish-Spanish (es-ES) and Spanish-Argentine (es-AR) versions of Firefox now come with a built-in dictionary for Firefox’s spell checker.

Download Firefox 109

Source: release note

And you?

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