NPAPI Plugin Bugs, Accessibility

I want to talk a little bit about Mozilla NPAPI plugin bugs 78414 and 93149. I’m surprised by the fact that more people don’t complain about them given how irritating they are, particularly on Linux and Windows. We have an ugly hack on Mac OS X that mitigates the problem so it isn’t as much of an issue there, but the hack violates NPAPI and it’d be nice to not have to use it.

Here’s how annoying these bugs are, you have to use Windows or Linux for this example to work:

1. Open a new window in Firefox.
2. Go to a YouTube video, I suggest this one (I wouldn’t rickroll you, pinky swear!).
3. Click in the plugin, either on the video or the pause button or wherever.
4. Hit ctrl-w in an attempt to close the window.

Surprise! The plugin ate the keyboard command and the window is still open. It’ll eat tab key presses too, so you can’t tab focus away from the plugin. I don’t know how Windows and Linux users can stand this. At least on Mac OS X we let any keyboard commands in the native menu bar have first crack, and if they don’t do anything then we let the plugin have the event. This is a problematic and incomplete solution though, I won’t get into it here except to say that doing the same thing on Windows and Linux would be nasty. We need to fix the problem the right way, which will probably be a bit of a slog because it’ll most likely require changes to NPAPI and a fair amount of discussion between browser and plugin vendors.

In addition to being irritating, these bugs are problematic in terms of Section 508 compliance, which “requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.” They can go on any list of reasons for federal agencies not to use Mozilla products.

We’re going to be looking into fixing these bugs soon, stay tuned…