Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Feuding Firefox Extensions: Adblock Plus and NoScript Resolve Differences

I've written about the Firefox extensions Adblock Plus and NoScript before, in positive ways, and I've also indicated that the extension system on Firefox is one reason I'm not looking to change to Chrome; I have too many extensions to do so. But one problem is that there's no current way, except for ads or donations, for developers to monetize their creations. And here we are.

Adblock Plus does just what it sounds like it does: blocks ads. NoScript relies is designed to block browser scripting and plugins, adding security to the browser, and relies on ads and donations.

You can probably see where this is going.

In a (prior to this) unprecedented move, after some back-and-forth where the NoScript dev, Giorgio Maone, kept changing the structure of his site to work around Adblock Plus, he finally decided to modify NoScript so that it disabled Adblock Plus when it installed.

This caused what should be expected: a huge uproar.

It also grabbed the attention of the Mozilla Foundation, which I'm sure didn't really want to be mediating between two of its highest profile extensions. Their response: a proposal for a new extensions policy that would require the following:
Changes to default home page and search preferences, as well as settings of other installed add-ons, must be related to the core functionality of the add-on. If this relation can be established, you must adhere to the following requirements when making changes to these settings:
  • The add-on description must clearly state what changes the add-on makes.
  • All changes must be ‘opt-in’, meaning the user must take non-default action to enact the change.
  • Uninstalling the add-on restores the user’s original settings if they were changed.
These are minimum requirements and not a guarantee that your add-on will be approved.
It seemed that people came to their (common) senses after that. Maone basically apologized to the Mozilla community, removed the changes that blocked Adblock Plus, and said:
So I had this crazy idea of retaliating against EasyList “from the inside”, and in my blindness I did not grasp that I was really retaliating against my own users and the Mozilla community at large. Even worse, my hacker attitude led me to dig directly in the low level Adblock Plus internals where filters are enforced.
Let's be honest, all was "well" until for whatever reason Adblock Plus started to make changes to its filters that "fixed" the hole that NoScript was using to get around Adblock Plus, which started the back-and-forth that eventually led to Adblock Plus changes its filters to the point that users couldn't even download NoScript or FlashGot (another Maone extension). Of course, that in and of itself was already egregious.

But this last step eventually led to a final round of p****-waving, and here we are. It seems that if Mozilla implements its new policy, we'll be safe from such feuding again, but who knows?
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