Mozilla Retreats After Mr. Robot Firefox Extension User Backlash

We could have told Mozilla that installing an extension on its Firefox browser to promote a niche TV series would be a bad idea, but nobody from Mozilla asked us. Mozilla should have known this too. Now it does, on hindsight, following a backlash from angry Firefox users who discovered that an extension had been remotely installed on their machines, leading many to wonder if they had fallen victim to malware. Mozilla is now backpedaling from the bad business move.

What happened is, Mozilla partnered with the team behind Mr. Robot, a television show that is known among some geek circles. Mozilla decided to push out a "Looking Glass" extension to Firefox users, without their consent or permission, assuming that it would be an obvious tie-in to the Mr. Robot. But it wasn't obvious to many people, and instead caused a lot of Firefox users to spend time researching what the heck found its way onto their machines and whether the extension was malicious.

"Are you a fan of Mr Robot? Are you trying to solve one of the many puzzles that the Mr Robot team has built? You’re on the right track. Firefox and Mr Robot have collaborated on a shared experience to further your immersion into the Mr Robot universe, also known as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). The effects you’re seeing are a part of this shared experience," Mozilla explained on a support page describing the extension.

Looking Glass is not malicious, of course, and it doesn't spy on users or send data back to Mozilla. But to anyone not familiar with the show, seeing the extension with the description "MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS" was understandably confusing and concerning.

"Suffice to say, we've learned a good deal in the last 24 hours ... Although we always have the best intentions, not everything that we try works as we want," Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Mozilla's chief marketing officer, told CNET.

Curiously missing from any of the statements Mozilla put out is an outright apology, just an admission that it messed up. However, Mozilla has since moved the extension to the Firefox add-on store where users can grab it on their own, if they want it. And going forward, we don't suspect Mozilla will make this kind of mistake again.