Plugin Checker Launched

Mike Morgan

10

Today we launched a Plugin Checker to help people find and update their plugins.

smiling nurse

Why is this important to you?

  • Crashes are the number one concern for Firefox users, and we are listening.
  • At least 30% of all Firefox crashes are caused by third-party plugins.
  • Many major security vulnerabilities exploit out of date plugins.

Why is this important to Mozilla?

Increasing awareness about plugins makes the web better, and that’s our mission.

  • We want the web to be safer.
  • We want the web to be less crashy.
  • We want to help everyone — not just Firefox users — to address the plugin problem. (though admittedly it doesn’t fully work with all browsers yet, it will)

What did we do?

The plugin checker has three components:

The end result is actually pretty simple — and that’s how it needs to be. Here’s your plugins, and here’s their statuses:

flash_quicktime

Putting it all together, we reach a workflow similar to the graph below. Our goal is to query a central database that contains plugin information and inform users about the status of their plugins. This was built so it could be used to support Firefox directly in the future.

pfs-workflow

What will happen next?

The three components above are a good start, but together we can do more.

  • Integrate this experience with the Firefox client. Firefox will identify vulnerable plugins and help you update them.
  • Create a self-service panel for vendors to update their plugin info as new releases come out.
  • Create an open directory for all plugin information (sort of like Plugindoc but dynamic)
  • Evangelize plugin detection via an embeddable widget — get it out on WordPress, etc.
  • Integrate with our crash reporting system so we have a report card/dashboard for which plugins are most crashy

How can you help?

This entire project is open source. You can work on any of these components to help contribute to the effort:

10 responses

  1. Alexander Limi wrote on ::

    Looks great!

    I’d suggest opening the plugin links in new windows so people can easily find their way back to the main page if they need to update several plugins at a time (which is probably the case for most people visiting this web page for the first time).

  2. fsync wrote on :

    Great — really great — to see the process diagrammed in detail, and to have this function in general.

    One thing that might be worth noting is that for some plug-ins (looking at you, Silverlight) a system restart is required before the update will be reflected in the plugins check page.

  3. Ken Saunders wrote on ::

    Great work and thanks!
    I was happy to see VLC show up this time around. It needed updating.

    I agree with Alexander’s comment about having plugin home pages open in a new tab (I prefer tab).

    Last time around I learned that QuickTime needed updating and I did that and QuickTime hijacked all of my default file associations and Apple Update was installed and I didn’t authorize either of those things in fact, I had already uninstalled Apple Update.
    I’m fully uninstalling QuickTime.

    Thanks again.

    You all rock!

  4. Ian M wrote on :

    Why does about:plugins report “Shockwave Flash” but the plugins page says “Shockwave for Director”?

    This is what I have installed that it doesn’t support yet, with comments:

    “Adobe Acrobat”
    I think this should be the top priority new plugin to support. Must be the widest installed plugin not supported.

    “Microsoft Office 2003″
    The majority of Windows users probably have Office installed – this is a fairly good one to support soon too

    “IE Tab Plug-in”
    One of the more popular Firefox addons I think? Maybe this one can be excluded from here though, as it will be updated via the extensions update system

    “Java Deployment Toolkit 6.0.150.3″
    It supports the JRE but not the JDK – mostly on developer’s machines, probably not so urgent to update, but definitely should be on the todo list.

    “Google Update”
    Anyone who’s got Chrome installed will have this. Probably with other Google software too (toolbar?) Not sure why it needs to be in Firefox though…

    “Windows Presentation Foundation”
    I’ve got this on XP, and I assume everyone on Vista has this?

    “Windows Media Player Plug-in Dynamic Link Library”
    This should probably be one of the higher priority ones too I think.

    “Microsoft® DRM”
    For some reason, I’ve got two of these :-)

    I don’t have RealPlayer or QuickTime installed, but I think these should be on the high priority list too.

  5. Robert Kaiser wrote on ::

    This service is just great!

    I wonder a bit how we can usefully do this for SeaMonkey as well, as the story for plugins is identical for both Firefox and SeaMonkey.

  6. Martijn wrote on ::

    I get quite some “Unable to Detect Plugin Version” messages:

    ———————————–
    Microsoft Office 2003
    Office Plugin for Netscape Navigator Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Citrix ICA Client
    Citrix ICA Client Plugin (Win32) Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Google Gadget Plugin
    Google Gadget Plugin 5.7.712.19360 Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Java(TM) Platform SE 6 U11
    Java(TM) Platform SE binary Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Google Update
    Google Update Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Windows Presentation Foundation
    Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) plug-in for Mozilla browsers Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Google Updater
    Google Updater plugin
    http://pack.google.com/ Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Microsoft® DRM
    DRM Netscape Network Object Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Windows Media Player Plug-in Dynamic Link Library
    Npdsplay dll Unable to Detect Plugin Version

    Microsoft® DRM
    DRM Store Netscape Plugin Unable to Detect Plugin Version
    ———————————–

    The versions for Flash, Silverlight and Metastream could be detected. Metastream should be updated. When trying to download it crashed Firefox. I guess that is beyond the Plugin Checker service, because I was downloading from the manufacturer’s website. However, other users would perhaps say that this service crashed their browser while updating plugins.

  7. Adan wrote on ::

    This is great to see! Here is a list of plugins that he plugin checker was unable to detect version installed.

    2007 Microsoft Office system v12.0.4518.1014
    ActiveTouch General Plugin Container v2.4.0.0
    Adobe Acrobat v9.0.0.332
    Cooliris embedded in a tab v1.11.0.0
    Dimdim Web Meeting Screencaster Firefox Plugin v5.0.0.0
    Google Earth Plugin v1.0.0.1
    Google Update v1.2.183.7
    IE Tab Plug-in v1.3.0.1
    Java Deployment Toolkit v6.0.150.3
    Java(TM) Platform SE 6 U12
    Microsoft Windows MEdia Player Firefox Plugin v1.0.0.8
    Picasa v3.1.0.0
    Windows Presentation Foundation v3.5.30729.1

  8. Ville wrote on :

    Looks marvellous. This’ll make keeping your plugins so much more easy as well as being a really nice troubleshooting help.

    I however haven’t seen anything about localizations? Are they on their way? (half of that 30% crashes should come from non-english browsers… so?)

  9. Scott M Sanders wrote on :

    I’ll keep this short: I have two Java SE 6s listed, U15 being newest and U12 the page can’t detest its version? Why do I have two anyway? VLC, I had a really old 0.8.6 which version was printed but also not “detected,” so human intuition had me just go to VLC’s homepage to update it, so I hope everyone else on Earth is as smart. MSO Live Plugin 1.4, again v. not “detected,” hmm, and a screenful and a half of gray “research” boxes with very vague Google queries. Good start but I think needs work.

  10. J. Couprie wrote on :

    Adobe Reader is a problem : I have uninstalled it but the plugging was still here and detected, of course you reported that it was old ! So I have inactivated it. I use Foxit reader instead but you cannot yet test it release !
    I have checked my plugin via tools : most of them have a version number but apparently you cannot obtain it with your checking interface. Why ?

    http://www.techspot.com/article/146-top-apps-after-reinstall/page7.html
    gives a list of best applications. I propose that you check the plugins they install, and that you do the same for the list of applications recommended in other known technicals newsletters.