Firefox follows Chrome’s lead, to stop supporting plugins by end of 2016
In September 2014, Google had announced that Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) support would be removed starting in January 2015. Now, Mozilla has announced that it has plans to remove support for web plugins by the end of 2016. Web plugins were quite useful to upgrade the web browsing experience.
For many years, NPAPI plugins helped browsers add functionality such as gaming, rich interactive maps, and video support. But plugins also came with problems such as security vulnerabilities, stability issues, and performance drawbacks. The Web standards community overcame these problems by creating native functionality, such as HTML5 video, in order to do away with plugins.
When Google announced its decision, speed, stability, and security were cited as reasons for ditching plugins. Mozilla too revealed in its blogpost that NPAPI plugins are claimed to be “a source of performance problems, crashes and security incidents”. The company also points out that many features and functions that only used to be possible through the use of NPAPI plugins can now be achieved through native web APIs. Several years ago, Firefox started the process of removing web plugin support with the introduction of manual plugin activation. New platforms like 64-bit Firefox for Windows are planned to be launched without plugin support.
Even though plugins are going away, Flash will continue to receive special status in Firefox, as it does with Chrome. Although it’s falling out of fashion, Flash video and Flash-based ads are still widely available online.
Even though Mozilla temporary blocked Flash support in Firefox in July, it now says that Mozilla and Adobe will continue to collaborate to bring improvements to the Flash experience on Firefox, including on stability and performance, features and security architecture.
The web browser maker has also partnered with Unity to enable Unity-based content to be available directly in the web browser without the need for any third-party plugins.
As Java is among the widely-used web sources for many webmasters and to provide a “smooth transition” for sites that use Java, Mozilla is closely working with the Oracle Java Platform Group. There are some plugin-free solutions like Java Web Start that would take place of the currently used Java applets on sites to deliver a smoother experience.
“The Mozilla team wants to work closely with affected publishers to make this transition as painless as possible,” said Benjamin Smedberg, Firefox’s quality engineering manager at Mozilla. “The Web provides an increasingly rich environment which should eliminate the need for plugins, and we are eager to continue improving the Web platform for any use cases where plugins may still be required.”
Site owners and developers still depending on the likes of Java and Silverlight are being boosted to find out alternative technologies or exclusive Firefox add-ons that can accomplish the same things. Mozilla warns:
“In the rare cases where a site needs to extend Web technologies, the recommended solution is to develop the additional features as a Firefox add-on. Site maintainers should prepare for plugins to stop working in all versions of Firefox by the end of 2016.”