Mozilla Lays Out Security-Focused Future Of Firefox And Its Extensions Lockdown

Mozilla on Friday announced some major changes coming to the development of add-ons for its Firefox browser. One of the biggest changes is a new extension API called WebExtensions, which isn't all that different from the one used in Chrome and Opera. By switching to WebExtensions, Mozilla is making it easier for developers to make extensions that work in multiple browsers.

"Extension code written for Chrome, Opera, or, possibly in the future, Microsoft Edge will run in Firefox with few changes as a WebExtension. This modern and JavaScript-centric API has a number of advantages, including supporting multi-process browsers by default and mitigating the risk of misbehaving add-ons and malware," Mozilla explained in a blog post.


Speaking of multi-process browsers, another technical term you're likely to hear with some frequency in the coming months is Electrolysis. It's a feature of Firefox that ads multi-process support to the browser. Similar to how things operate in Chrome, this allows for Firefox to execute web related content in a single background content process, which then communicates with the main Firefox process. The idea is to improve security through a sandboxing approach.

Using a separate rendering process will also bring about "significant performance" improvements, though developers are warned that it could also break some existing add-ons, especially those that modify content. There are some mitigations in place to keep add-ons functional, but Mozilla says developers should start thinking now about their strategies for working with a multi-process version of Firefox.

Mozilla's roadmap calls for Electrolysis to available to users as an opt-in feature on the beta channel on September 22, followed by a general release to the public no earlier than December 15.