Firefox 23 to hide ‘Disable JavaScript’ option

A Bugzilla bug report has been getting plenty of attention over the past 24 hours. It states the ‘Disable JavaScript’ checkbox will be removed in the next major version of the browser Firefox 23.

The initial post in the report thread said if JavaScript was deliberately disabled by the user, the nightly update re-enabled it.

“The ability to disable JavaScript is now obfuscated, and users are deliberately discouraged against manipulating their JavaScript preferences,” said user ‘JS_SPYWARE’, “This is wrong, and inhibits a user's understanding of what happens when they load a web page.”

In the existing nightly release, the only means of changing preferences back is via about:config, which is something the majority of users won’t know how to do. On Twitter, Mozilla contributor and open web documenter David Bruant noted that the capability to disable JavaScript via the UI would return in Firefox 24’s developer tools.

Reactions on a Hacker News thread about the move appeared to be split. Some commenters argued in favour, on the basis that users will often disable functionality without realising and sometimes conflate JavaScript with Java, thereby disabling JavaScript in response to news articles about Java. Others said users should remain in control and options should never be removed.

On the Bugzilla post, technology consultant Mikko Ohtamaa was in favour of the move, and said this was a “positive goal […] limiting the user’s ability to break their software”.

Judging by a post by Mozilla product design strategist Alex Limi, that’s also Mozilla’s goal. In Checkboxes that kill your product, he showed how historical baggage can break a product, with options having the potential to wreck the user experience.

One of Limi's examples happened to be the JavaScript control that’s soon to be removed. He also showed how disabling auto-loading of images could wreck usability, and that's another option that's gone from the current Firefox Aurora build.