Browser plugins are fading into obscurity, at least when it comes to those using the ancient NPAPI interface for integration with browsers.
All major browser companies and organizations announced the end of support for NPAPI plugins. While some block plugins already (Chrome), others will do so in the near future (Firefox) or shipped without support for plugins out of the box (Edge).
While that means no plugin support whatsoever in Firefox, browsers like Chrome or Edge using custom interfaces to keep plugins such as Flash installed in the browser.
And it is here that Mozilla’s Mortar Project wants to make a difference. The project explores options to bring some of those plugins to Firefox.
Project Mortar is aiming to explore the possibility to bring PDFium library and the Pepper API based Flash plugin into Firefox.
The wiki entry on Mozilla’s Wiki website lists the PDF plugin PDFium and the Flash plugin based on the Pepper API as the plugins that Mozilla considers bringing over to Firefox.
The private project integrated PDFium successfully in Firefox so far with basic rendering functionality. It plans to create a near feature complete version in the second half of 2016, and improve that version further in the first half of 2017.
The Wiki entry does not mention Pepper Flash at all apart from that Project Mortar attempts to bring the plugin to Firefox.
It is unclear whether work on the implementation began or if it will begin once the PDFium integration reaches feature completion.
It is furthermore not clear right now how these plugins are made available in the release channel. The most likely scenario is that they are provided as system add-ons that users may turn on or disable.
Firefox ships with a basic PDF reader already. The PDFium system add-on that could get released in the future will support more features including form submission, form input, and other options such as copying, selecting or pasting images or text in documents.
Mozilla planned to integrate Shumway, a Flash replacement into Firefox initially but gave up on the project more or less some time ago. With that project dead, the organization announced that it would keep Flash NPAPI support enabled in Firefox even after disabling support for all other NPAPI plugins in 2017.
Project Mortar raises a couple of questions. First, can Mozilla integrate PDFium and Pepper Flash in Firefox in a reasonable time frame? Second, does it make sense to integrate those plugins in Firefox? Firefox ships with its own PDF reader and one possible scenario would be to improve it instead of relying on a third-party implementation.
One possible reason for doing so is that Mozilla would no longer need to spend resources on improving the Firefox PDF viewer.
Flash will still be used on sites in 2017 and beyond, and if Mozilla manages to integrate Pepper API as early as in the first half of 2017, it could end NPAPI plugin support at the same time. (via Betanews)
Now You: What’s your take on Project Mortar?