Earlier this week, Mozilla announced that the company will be discontinuing support for sideloading extensions to its Firefox browser. With Firefox version 74 planned to be released on March 10 next year, users will not be able to manually sideload extensions.
For the uninitiated, Sideloading is a method for installing a Firefox extension by placing XPI extension files to the special folder inside Firefox’s installation directory.
The prime reason for removing support for sideloading extensions is to ensure the privacy and security of Firefox users, according to Mozilla. “To give users more control over their extensions, support for sideloaded extensions will be discontinued.”, wrote Caitlin Neiman, Add-ons Community Manager at Mozilla in a blog post.
The concern seems valid as Neiman notes that this technique was used to install malware into Firefox. Since add-ons installed through this method will not show up on the Add-ons Manager of the browser, users will be unaware if they got affected. Sounds scary, indeed.
Mozilla, however, is not dropping support for sideloaded extensions all of a sudden. In the Firefox 73 that will be rolled out to users on February 11, 2020, sideloaded extensions will be converted to normal add-ons that will be accessible from the Add-ons Manager in the browser.
With Firefox dropping support for sideloading extensions, users will be left with two methods to install an extension. The first method is downloading and installing extensions from Firefox’s official Add-Ons portal. The other method is the “Install Add-on From File” option in the Add-on manager where users will be asked to browse and install the XPI file from their PC.
I do think this is a welcome move from Mozilla. But, what are your thoughts? Does this affect your workflow as a Firefox extensions developer? Tell us in the comments.