Scary Extension

I just installed an extension recommended by a website. I then restarted Firefox, and looked at the extension Preferences. They were so numerous and extensive and detailed that I felt I couldn’t be sure what this extension was actually going to do to my browsing experience. I foresaw my browser changing in tiny, quirky ways and not being able to track down why – or, worse, not knowing which exact checkbox to click to restore normality.

So, without even trying out any of its purported features, I immediately uninstalled it.

Can anyone guess which extension can inspire such fear even in a fairly geeky person like me?

36 thoughts on “Scary Extension

  1. NoScript (3 tabs of options – mostly never had to tweak it)?

    FasterFox (7 tabs of options – never felt the need to download)?

  2. As an extension author, preference bloat is an extremely difficult challenge. Users always complain when a particular feature they don’t quite like isn’t configurable, so adding an option controlling it seems like a good idea, you’re keeping users happy right? Then of course you end up with the mess of options so no-one knows how to do anything and doesn’t use your extension. But oddly you don’t tend to get complaints about that so much.

    So the moral is, if you don’t want to deal with user complaints, give them every option under the sun so they don’t use your extension at all ;)

    No seriously the point is that it’s a big challenge deciding where to draw the line, I know I have a habit of going to far and have been drastically dragged back to reality in the past.

  3. I think that it’s OK to have preferences holding most (if not all) configurable options for an extension, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have a UI option for all of them.
    Advanced users know about about:config, so you can always refer them to that. Your Options window should only have the things that your regular (let’s say beginner to intermediate) users would like to change.
    My 2 cents.

  4. Yes, Tab Mix Plus was my first thought as well. But it might be Fasterfox as well, this extension is extremely dangerous IMO.

    @Phil: Adblock Plus has a total of 6 options and one of them will be removed in the next release. This doesn’t really qualify I think. I was very careful to keep the number of configuration options low and not give into suggestions to add yet another optional quirk.

  5. Fasterfox is perhaps dangerous, I don’t know, but I know one thing: it doesn’t make Firefox faster. On average, when I tested it, it made Firefox slower.

  6. I’ll wait a while longer to see if other people have views. You can suggest another extension, or endorse one that’s already been listed.

  7. Is it “All in One Gestures”? That extension certainly scares me, although there are features it provides that I can’t live without (I use the gestures, but mousewheel scrolling in the tab bar is usually the first thing I notice when I don’t have it).

  8. Without any doubt here: Customize Google. Anything Google sorta scares me!

    Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.9a3pre) Gecko/20070308 Minefield/3.0a3pre Firefox ID:2007030804 [cairo]

  9. I was about to suggest AllPeers, since the client-side was GPL/MPL’d. Then Giorgio’s link above reminded me that I’d installed/uninstalled something from that list myself. My money’s on Download Statusbar.

  10. I’m proud to say that my (albeit sort of trivial) extension has 0 options to configure. It has been hard to turn down people, “Can’t you make it do this?”, “No? Then can’t you put in an option to do it that way??” but it has been worth it. My extension has no text, so putting in an option panel would also require me to put out a request for translation, bundling in more languages for a single switch or two. The extension adds a feature as I designed it. And I thought a long time about its design, so I hope it works well for lots of people.

    It’s the Firefox way.

  11. Well, assuming you really mean “browser quirks”, it can’t be ChatZilla, which otherwise probably has the other extensions beat on number of preferences – a tree with a tabbed pane associated with it, where the tabbed pane has 7, 4 or 2 tabs depending on which item in the tree you select :-)

    I don’t use any of the high-hit extensions otherwise. The ones in my add-ons dialog with prefpanels are the Web Developer toolbar, Calculator, Graphing Calculator (my own), Launchy and FireFTP. All of those pref panels are either really small or well-thought out (and don’t generally affect browser content). So I have no idea – but I’m still quite curious! :-)

  12. My bet is on: AllInOneSidebar. I uninstalled it because it had a host of preferences, and was overreaching in attempting to change many unrelated things (keyboard shortcuts, too).

  13. im sure its ‘Mr. tech local install’, which will change your ‘tools’ menu

  14. IMHO Mr Tech Local Install isn’t bad, at least in how it configures your UI … you have choices about how you want almost everything. After being really undecided for a while, I’ve found a setup that makes me happy enough to keep it in the active extension set. The only thing it does that annoys me is using !important on some bizarro margin/border/padding setts.

    I guess all those UI prefs could make it scary.

  15. Your comment describes perfectly what I did with fasterfox. (I was looking for something that would block flash popups, though as far as I have found nothing does.) But after looking at the pages of what it did, and realizing it didn’t do what I wanted, I dumped it fast.

  16. I would guess tab mix plus too. I wish the two or three things I like changed using it were options easily available in Firefox, so I wouldn’t have to put up with that monstrosity :)

  17. My immediate thought was also Tab Mix Plus.

    It’s well worth the effort of getting to know all it’s options. I find particularly useful the Events > Tab Opening settings where you can specify that the address bar, search bar and bookmarks should always open new tabs.
    I also use the settings there: Open new tabs next to current one which if you hover over it gives the tooltip: [a][b][c][1][2][3] -> [a][3][2][1][b][c] meaning if you open new tabs from tab [a] they will appear after it.
    And it’s accompanying setting Change opening order with the tooltip [a][3][2][1][b][c] -> [a][1][2][3][b][c]

  18. And the winner is: Tab Mix Plus. Which probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you. It has about seven tabs of options, each with up to six sub-tabs.

    Giorgio Maone was right when he said I read this article, but he guessed the wrong extension. Customise Google does have lots of options, but they are very easy to understand.

    The other nominations listed in the comments were: NoScript, Fasterfox, Showcase, TabExtensions, Adblock Plus, All In One Gestures, NoScript, Customise Google, Download Statusbar, ColorZilla, All In One Sidebar, and Mr Tech Local Install. The authors of each of these extensions need to search their consciences to see if they are clear regarding their complexity :-)

  19. Actually, looking at Fasterfox I’m not entirely sure if the comments are fair as the default setup just has 2 tabs, Presets allowing the user to choose the mode of operation, and each mode has a nice one line description. The second tab allows prefetching to be enabled and the option to exclude sites, and a option to display a Page Load timer.

    It’s only if the user selects the Custom that they receive the full 7 tab experience. It’s not a bad compromise between allowing users that want it the ability to tweak away and for most others a quick defualt.

  20. Chris, even the 2 tabs are lots options that change the browser’s sane defaults without a proper explanation of the consequences. I doubt that even the author of this extension really knows what these preferences do. E.g. Fasterfox changes the default for the maximum number of persistent connections to a server from 2 to 8. Now the persistent connections have been introduced to save time by loading multiple items over one connection, without the large overhead of establishing new connections. When this feature was implemented in Gecko, the tests indicated that having more than 2 persistent connections will degrade performance in most cases – and yet Fasterfox changes this default. Fasterfox also activates HTTP pipelining by default – something that has never been done by the Mozilla project because there are still lots of servers out there that cannot cope with it. But when the user notices that some site doesn’t work in Firefox he will for sure not blame Fasterfox… The “enhanced prefetching” feature caused users lots of grief before it was finally disabled by default (but not removed).

    There is also another aspect. I know at least two servers that ban users automatically if they open too many simultaneous connections – these connections are killing servers. Guess what extension was installed in the browsers of users who complained?

  21. I see your commenters have deep issues with my top two “must have”
    extensions — tabmix plus and local install.
    They have many preferences because they have many features.
    Extensions like these give me the power and flexibility
    to make firefox look and behave the way I want.
    Without them, I might very well be an Opera user.

  22. Must be MediaPlayerConnectivity. It takes some 10 minutes to remove all those zillions settins in about:config. Why cannot it write those settings to some own file instead?