Firefox 23 beta removes option to disable JavaScript

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Old 04-Jul-2013
Ginni Singh
Firefox 23 beta removes option to disable JavaScript

The beta version of Firefox 23 was released last week and introduced improved security against man-in-the-middle attacks as well as a new Share button. However, the update also removes the checkboxes for enabling JavaScript, loading images automatically and keeping the tab bar visible. All the three options are now turned on by default, and you can't disable them via the preferences panel.

This is a big change, as it makes it difficult for casual users to change settings as they see fit. While power users can change these options via the about:config page, it takes a lot of poking around and is not as easy as clicking a checkbox. It also takes some technical knowhow to find the relevant entry and change it without breaking the entire browser.

The move makes sense, but still doesn't feel right.

But Mozilla may have had good reason for taking this step. A lot of people disable JavaScript for privacy or security reasons: hackers can exploit it to invade your privacy, while websites can disable right-clicks and launch pop-up ads. Similarly, if you have low bandwidth or a slow connection, you might not wish to load images on websites. Developers may also disable JavaScript to see how their websites look without it, and not having an option to disable/enable it with a click may prove annoying.

However, disabling JavaScript usually causes websites that use it to break and malfunction, while the Web is simply not that great when it’s only in text—essentially, disabling these features leads to a poor Web experience. Moreover, giving casual users the power to radically change how the browser operates may lead to more instances of the browser breaking, causing the same users to complain. Hence, if Firefox hides the options and enables JavaScript by default, a lot of websites will work just fine and look better because they show images. Besides, Firefox has a host of extensions that let you choose which scripts run on websites, and users can simply use them to enable the features they want.

There’s no way to say if the final version of Firefox 23 will ship with the options disabled, since a lot of things tend to change from the beta version to the time the final version is released. However, we do hope the people behind Firefox find a way to let users choose what options they want enabled without having to jump through hoops, especially considering how picky users are about their freedom on the Internet.

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