The signals Mozilla sends with "Recommended" extensions

I have been a bit bothered about the signals Mozilla sends to end-users with their “Recommended” program. Especially when it comes to “privacy protecting” extensions, which also got a feature in a recent article on AMO by @sdevaney :

First of all, how does recommended privacy extensions compare to Firefox’ built-in tracking protection? Many recommended extensions seems to do what Firefox already can do itself, especially if you enable “Strict” tracking protection in browser’s Privacy & Security settings. Some extensions might do better or extend functionality, but don’t forget to tell what Firefox itself can do (and should be proud of)!

But also think about the signal you send to users with the “Recommended” badge on extensions. Less experienced users will install such extensions without much consideration. But I know from own experience that many of the “recommended” extensions break ebank signing or the authentication on some sites. This includes f.ex. ClearURLs mentioned in above article, and it also includes another interesting extension. Interesting because it seems to be removed from AMO now because functionality now is integrated into Firefox. But I only just discovered that in “research” while writing this post. Even though not visible on AMO anymore, Don’t Touch My Tabs was still marked as an “Recommended” extension when managing my browser’s installed extensions!

But while an experienced/technical user might try to disable extensions or change their settings when sites break, less experienced users will just blame Firefox and change to another browser. Or if they look at extensions first, they probably doesn’t suspect extensions with the “Recommended” badge to be causing the trouble. After all, it was Mozilla recommending the extensions!

Btw, enabling “Strict” tracking protection in browser settings, also seems to be pretty effective blocking most ads, and especially the annoying ones. So if you are not the fanatic anti-ad type, but just want to get rid of the most annoying and aggressive ones, try to see if “Strict” mode is enough for you!? Personally I ended up installing my old ad blocker again after this experiment, but that was just because it has a feature to block those annoying “push notifications” requests (Might some day look for a more simple lightweight extension to do just that).

PS. I just discover that I have been touching some of the same subjects that @raywood did here:

1 Like

Hi @stig and thanks for this thoughtful post. You bring up a lot of interesting points. I’ll try to provide some broader insight into how our editorial process works.

The intent behind all privacy oriented extensions we feature is they in some way augment or otherwise complement what Firefox does by default. But it’s a moving target. Malware and invasive tracking techniques are constantly evolving, and so do the tools that protect against them (thus why it’s important that developers of Recommended extensions actively maintain and update their content—to keep pace with a constantly shifting landscape). So there may be times when certain Recommended extensions perform a similar function to what Firefox does (for instance, there are cookie manager Recommended extensions that offer similar features to Firefox’s Total Cookie Protection), but ideally they should offer a measure of distinction as well.

I’m sorry to hear that some Recommended extensions caused a disruption in certain web workflows. This is indeed an issue at large with browser extensions and unfortunately even Recommended extensions are not immune, though we do undertake extensive evaluations to try our best to ensure universal functionality of Recommended content.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and happy New Year!