Firefox 10 is already in beta and when it hits the release channel in a couple of weeks from now, users will find that overnight a huge number of add-ons have become compatible with their browsers, even those that didn’t work on Firefox 9 or earlier. This is because Mozilla plans to make all add-ons compatible by default in the upcoming Firefox 10. This can have both positive and negative repercussions, and as a Firefox user, you should be aware of both.
The upside of default compatibility is obvious: users will be no longer kept away from their favorite add-ons just because their browser is recent. Most add-ons, if not all, will work on Firefox 10 just like it did on previous versions without needing any changes. The downside of this new policy is that you could inadvertently break your browser by installing add-ons that are clearly not compatible with the new version but weren’t marked as such. This could pose problems for casual users who wouldn’t know what happened.
Ever since Firefox has entered the rapid release cycle, there has been some major changes to how Mozilla handles add-on compatibility. Previously, when a new Firefox version with major changes was released, add-ons that worked on previous versions of the browser were marked as incompatible until they were manually checked for compatibility problems. This process took months to get compatibility to an acceptable level and resulted in many add-ons marked as incompatible even though they actually were.
When Mozilla started development of Firefox 5, earlier this year, they announced that new Firefox releases will have automatic add-on compatibility. However, this was restricted to Beta, Aurora, and Nightly builds. Testers and developers were encouraged to install the Add-on Compatibility Reporter and report broken add-ons to minimize problems for users of the stable release. But now Mozilla has decided to move the default-compatibility model to the stable release. This demands even more rigorous testing.
“All add-ons will be made compatible by default in the upcoming Firefox 10 release, so it’s crunch time for testing them in Beta, Aurora, and Nightly. With default compatibility, you can expect to see less of the incompatible add-ons dialog, and more of your add-ons should just work”, Mozilla said in a blog post.
“In general, it would be super helpful for everyone to install the Add-on Compatibility Reporter and let us know through the reporter if your add-ons are working properly”, they added.