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Firefox 52 was released today and it includes two major changes: support for WebAssembly and the removal of support for NPAPI (Netscape Plugin API) plugins like Silverlight, Java, and others, with the exception of Flash.

Firefox 52 plugins

Dropping support for NPAPI plugins isn't something new in the web browsers world - Google Chrome did this back in 2015, leaving Mozilla Firefox as the best choice for those who had to use such plugins. But that's about to end, with Firefox 52.

Furthermore, Mozilla plans to activate Flash in Firefox only with user consent. This change is expected "later this year".

In case you're wondering about the Firefox NPAPI plugin that allows installing extensions for GNOME Shell, it no longer works. However, Chrome GNOME Shell doesn't only support Chrome-based web browsers, but also Firefox.

As for Google Hangouts, audio and video calls currently don't work in Firefox 52 due to dropping support for NPAPI plugins, however, Google is working on a "fix".

I should also add that while Firefox 52 no longer supports NPAPI plugins other than Flash, there's a way around this - see below.

Another major change in the latest Firefox 52 is the addition of WebAssembly, a standard that allows running complex web-based games and applications at near-native performance, without using plugins.

You can learn more about WebAssembly by watching the video below:

(direct video link)

Other changes in the latest Firefox 52 include:
  • Sync can now send and open tabs from one device to another;
  • improved the download experience:
    • added notifications in the toolbar when downloads fail;
    • Firefox now provides quick access to the latest 5 downloads instead of 3;
    • the buttons for canceling and restarting downloads are now larger;
  • security / privacy:
    • implemented the Strict Secure Cookies specification which forbids insecure HTTP sites from setting cookies with the "secure" attribute;
    • added warnings for non-secure HTTP pages with logins;
    • removed Battery Status API to reduce fingerprinting of users by trackers;
  • developer:
    • enabled CSS Grid Layout;
    • improved screen sharing security, which now shows a preview and no longer requires a whitelisted domain;
    • redesigned the Responsive Design Mode (can be accessed from the Web Developer submenu) to include device selection, network throttling, and more.

A complete list of changes can be found HERE.

How to continue using NPAPI plugins like Java with Firefox 52

Firefox 52 ESR plugins

If you need to use NPAPI plugins such as Java, you may think you can simply not upgrade to the latest Firefox 52, but that's a bad idea because you won't take advantage of the latest security updates.

However, there is a way to continue using NPAPI plugins in Firefox - use Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) instead.

The latest Firefox 52 ESR continues to allow using NPAPI plugins, and it is supported until May 2018.

Update (thanks to grof for the tip!): another way to enable NPAPI plugins other than Flash, which works with Firefox 52 (not ESR; will probably not work with future Firefox versions) is to type "about:config" (without the quotes) in the address bar, then right click, select New > Boolean, enter "plugin.load_flash_only" (without the quotes) as the new Boolean value and set it to false. Once you're done, restart Firefox.

Download Mozilla Firefox

For Ubuntu / Linux Mint users, the latest Firefox 52 should be available in the official repositories soon.

To continue using NPAPI plugins like Java, Silverlight and so on, get Firefox ESR.

After downloading the latest Firefox ESR for Linux, extract it and simply double click on the "firefox" executable to run it. To create a launcher for it (so it shows up in the menu), you can use a tool such as MenuLibre (it's available in the official Ubuntu / Linux Mint repositories).