Mozilla is working on a feature to load plugins on demand
Click-to-play plugins is one of the great features in Firefox 15 that isn't quite ready for its public release just yet. The feature has actually been around for a while now; it's built into Firefox 14 too. Those that have been playing around with it know that the basic functionality is working and has been working for months.But Mozilla doesn't just want power users to take advantage of click-to-play, which enables them to load plugins on demand, it wants everyone to benefit.
And, for that, it needs simple ways of controlling the feature and an UI that makes it clear to users when plugins are blocked and what they can do about it.
"Starting this week in Aurora and Beta we’ll begin adding the components of click-to-play, a Firefox security control that helps protect users against outdated and vulnerable plugins. We anticipate this new security feature to be fully operational by Firefox 18," Mozilla wrote in a post about the Java vulnerabilities that've been plaguing users lately.
Mozilla is continuing to work at it, but it seems that the feature won't be considered complete at least until Firefox 18, which has just landed in the nightly channel. It's going to stay there for six weeks, then spend six weeks in the Aurora channel and a further six in Beta.
So the soonest you're going to see it in a stable Firefox is over four months from now, in 2013. By that time, the Australis UI revamp should be ready as well.
Google Chrome has had Click-to-play plugins for over a year now. But the feature is hidden deep in the settings page; you have to know it's there to find it. Firefox has gotten a similar feature lately.
The feature blocks all content that requires a plugin, be it Flash, Java or anything else, until users "click" on the placeholder to enable it. This means pages use less memory, are less crash prone and that users are better protected from vulnerabilities in these plugins.
The caveat is that some sites may have hidden plugin content which won't load with the feature enabled. Unless users notice that this content has been blocked, they may believe the site isn't working or miss out on some features they don't know are there.
This is why Mozilla is taking so long, it wants to make sure it's got the UI elements needed in place to make sure users know when content is blocked and realize that's why some sites may not be working.
But if you don't mind that, here's how to enable the feature right now.