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Mozilla to auto-block unwanted Firefox add-ons

Revenge of the force-fed browser users

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Mozilla's Firefox will soon start blocking browser add-ons installed by other programs until users explicitly approve them, a move that's designed to give people more control over their web surfing experience.

The feature will debut next week in the Firefox Aurora prebeta, Justin Scott a Mozilla product manager for add-ons said Thursday. It will be activated each time the browser is started. If it detects a new add-on that's been installed by another program, it will disable it and present the user with a dialog box. The add-on will be unblocked only after the user approves the add-on.

"Third-party applications frequently install bundled add-ons into Firefox as part of their own installation process," Scott wrote. "While some of these applications seek the user’s permission beforehand, others install add-ons into Firefox without checking to make sure the user actually wants them."

The new Firefox version will also present users with a one-time dialog box the first time it's run that prompts the user to approve previously installed add-ons. By default, all those installed by another application will be disabled unless approved by the user.

The move comes after Mozilla has blocked several individual add-ons deemed to degrade browser stability and user security. In January, it was a Skype toolbar add-on that Mozilla said caused 40,000 crashes in one week and last year it was a Java plugin with security flaw.

Many Firefox users have also protested add-ons Microsoft silently installed in the open-source browser on at least two separate occasions.

"Unfortunately, the extent of unwanted add-ons installed through these methods has caused us to take action, but we're confident that users who truly want such add-ons to be installed with opt in when Firefox prompts them," Scott wrote. ®

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