Current Version plugins

Firefox Settings: Permissions Management incoming

Mozilla plans to add a permissions section to the Firefox settings that allows users to manage certain permissions globally from the location.

If you have used Firefox for more than a year or so, you may remember that the browser shipped with a permissions management system before.

All you had to do was load about:permissions in the browser’s address bar to open the management page, and manage permissions for all sites and services in that central location.

It was a handy thing to have, considering that it allowed you to check and change permissions for multiple sites quickly using it. Mozilla dropped the whole thing back when Firefox 45 was released, and Firefox users had to live without it up until now. I’m still puzzled as to why it was removed, as it was quite the handy feature to have.

While it is still possible to manage permissions of the active site, it is obviously more time consuming if you need to manage permissions for a number of sites, as you’d have to open them all one after the other to do so. Mozilla did improve the visibility of custom page permissions in Firefox 50, but that did nothing to the underlying management issue.

Firefox Permissions Management

firefox permission preferences

With the update of the Settings page (about:preferences) that is still ongoing but already part of Firefox Nightly, comes a new initiative to re-introduce permissions management to Firefox.

Mozilla plans to integrate the new management options in the Firefox Settings this time.

Note: The screenshots are mockups, and development is ongoing. This means that there is a chance that things may change along the way.

Permissions will be added to the privacy & security part of the new Preferences page of the Firefox browser.

The first mockup screenshot that you see above lists the four permissions location, camera, microphone and notifications. Each has a settings button next to it which you may activate to manage all custom permissions of that particular type.

firefox permission preferences 2

The click on settings opens the list of sites for which that permission has been set (either allowed or disallowed).

firefox permission preferences 3

It features a search to filter sites quickly, and lists sites with their URLs in the listing. To change a permission, simply click on the status and switch it to allowed or blocked, or use the “forget” options instead to remove the custom permission for that site completely.

Comparison to about:permissions

firefox about permissions

So how does the new permissions manager compare to the old? The first thing that you may notice when you compare the two is that it takes more clicks in the new to manage permissions for individual sites.

If you wanted to remove all permissions of a site, you’d not only have to click on all four settings buttons, you’d also realize that you have to do so even if it turns out that a particular permission has not been granted.

The new permissions manager, at least in the current state of development, lists fewer management options on top of that. While you may manage locations, camera, microphone, notifications, pop-up windows, and add-on installations, it does not list options to maintain offline storage, cookies, or several other permissions yet.

Firefox users may find some of those elsewhere, cookies and password permissions are managed under Privacy & Security as well for instance. Still, this means even more browsing and clicking to manage all permission.

The moving of the permissions system to the preferences is a welcome change however, as it gives the manager a dedicated home in Firefox. You may remember that about:permissions was never integrated into Firefox through links in the UI, and that users had to know about the resource to make use of it.

Closing Words

The return of global permissions management in Firefox is a welcome, overdue, change. I wish Mozilla would reconsider using a site-focused approach, and not one that focuses on particular permissions for managing these permissions though. (via Sören)

Now You: How would you like Firefox’s new permissions manager to look like?

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