Firefox hasn’t blocked the Adblock Plus add-on, Pale Moon has!
Early Sunday afternoon, Mozilla appeared to be suddenly blocking installation of Adblock Plus in the Firefox web browser. By 1:30 p.m., trying to install Adblock Plus 2.6.10 in the Pale Moon fork of Firefox from the official Mozilla add-ons repository resulted in the following message from Mozilla:
“Adblock Plus could not be installed because it has a high risk of causing stability or security problems.”
This alert usually means that the add-on has been blocklisted by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox.
Once an add-on, or a theme, or plug-in has been added to the Mozilla blocklist, Firefox will automatically block the add-on from loading at startup. Mozilla explains that it will also block users from installing the add-on and display the following message:
“The add-on [name here] has a high risk of causing stability or security problems and can’t be installed.”
This is slightly rearranged from the message I saw but clearly means the same thing. However, Adblock Plus 2.6.10 is not on the Mozilla list of blocked Add-ons. The most recent addition is Quick Translator, added on July 17, 2015, because, explains Mozilla, the add-on is vulnerable to a cross-site scripting attack.
Before that, it’s just the usual Java, Flash Player and Real Player plug-ins, going all the way back to May.
A sign of much tighter security
If it wasn’t blocked because of a security bug, I thought that the Adblock Plus add-on might’ve been blocked because it was still unsigned by Mozilla (It hadn’t been listed in the Add-ons repository as being signed).
Back in February of this year, it was announced in a post to the Mozilla Add-ons Blog that extension signing would be introduced in an effort to tighten security. All add-ons would soon need to be vetted and digitally signed by Mozilla before they could be installed in Firefox.
There was to be a transition period during which time only warnings would be generated but then all unsigned extensions would be completely blocked from all stable and beta releases of Firefox.
Up until uninstalling it last week, Adblock Plus had worked flawlessly and I had received no warning notices from my browser. So it came as a real surprise that Mozilla didn’t allow me to reinstall it.
And to be truthful, I still wasn’t 100 percent convinced that Mozilla was blocking Adblock Plus. It seemed almost unbelievable.
According to Mozilla’s own statistics for Adblock Plus, yesterday (August 2), the add-on was downloaded 201,501 times and had 19,773,663 daily users.
Adblock Plus is so popular that if Mozilla really was blocking it from running and/or installing across the board, then I should’ve actually been able to hear the shouting and screaming from angry users from where I sat in Vancouver — not to mention the cheering from web advertisers.
Update: First real problem I’ve had with the Firefox fork Pale Moon
And, after further testing, it appears that the fault lies not with Adblock Plus or necessarily with Mozilla but definitely with the the Pale Moon web browser that I use.
Pale Moon is a fork of Firefox, meaning that it’s built on the same open source framework as Firefox and shares most of the same code but intentionally diverges from its parent in key ways. For instance, it eschews the Australis interface which debuted in Firefox 29 and it has diverged in other way under the hood, that now appear to be causing compatibility conflicts with some Firefox add-ons.
To see if the problem that I was having installing Ad Block Plus was perhaps specific to Pale Moon, I dusted off the old March 2014 release of Firefox 28 that I still have on my hard drive.
Instead of going to the Mozilla Add-ons repository I used the “Search all add-ons” field under “Tools” > “Get Add-ons”.
A search for Ad Block Plus brought up “Adblock Plus 2.6.91-signed” (released 2015-03-31) which installed successfully in Firefox 28.
However, the same search, conducted exactly the same way, in Pale Moon 25.6.0 x64 (the latest version) only brought up “Adblock Plus 2.6.61” (released 2014-11-11) which installed but was immediately “disabled due to security or stability issues”.
Has Pale Moon finally fallen too far from the Mozilla tree?
Pale Moon used to be built on the extended support released of Firefox (ESR). Firefox 24 ESR, September 17, 2013, was the last ESR version before Mozilla added the Australis interface to Firefox.
Since then Pale Moon appears to have maintained a balancing act: avoiding incorporating Australis but continuing to be based on Firefox even as it strives to become what the Pale Moon developers say is a true fork of Firefox, not just the rebrand that Mozillistas used to sneeringly call it.
Currently, Pale Moon’s developers admit to having problems with certain Firefox Add-ons, due to the fact that Pale Moon changed something called a GUID, short for “globally unique identifier”. Pale Moon now has a different GUID than Firefox.
I love using the Pale Moon browser but I have to ask if the developers (and we users) are trying to have our cake and eat it too. We all like the way Pale Moon allows us to use the latest Firefox add-ons in an older Firefox interface but in daring to diverge from Firefox, Pale Moon is seemingly flirting with total divorce.
When, I wonder, does a fork diverge so much from it parent that it becomes, say, a soup spoon. And when (and if) that happens to Pale Moon, what will I do.
So far, Ad Block Plus is the first add-on to give me problems in Pale Moon but, if it come down to a choice between using Firefox add-ons or using Pale Moon, well then, Pale Moon will probably lose.
We've had to block Adblock Plus due to ongoing issues with Pale Moon 25+. Adblock Latitude is your go-to! https://t.co/nrQLZ8iXXZ
— Pale Moon (@palemoonbrowser) August 3, 2015
Late Sunday afternoon, Pale Moon’s developers explained, via their Twitter account, that they had blocked Adblock Plus due to ongoing issues with Pale Moon 25+ and that Pale Moon users could switch to Adblock Latitude, a direct fork of Adblock Plus made specifically for the Pale Moon browser.
However, I’ve decided to try uBlock Origin 1.0.0 (Jul 18, 2015), which installed just fine in Pale Moon.
uBlock is a new open source content filter and ad blocker that supports most of Adblock Plus’s filter syntax, and includes ADP’s list subscriptions but is notably lighter on memory usage that ADP.
In April 2015, Raymond Hill one of the authors of uBlock disassociated himself with further development of uBlock and relaunched the extension under the name uBlock Origin — which is now available for both Chrome and Firefox. Click the images to enlarge them.
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