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…

8 thoughts on “NPAPI Plugin Bugs, Accessibility

  1. I get this all the time with the Adobe PDF viewer, too: “This action cannot be performed from within an external window”. Presumably some evangelism will be required to fix that plug-in? In either case, good to hear that the problem is being revisited :-).

  2. “I’m surprised by the fact that more people don’t complain”

    Bug 78414 has 100 votes (20th position in top voted non-RFE bugs), 105 dupes, 177 CCs and 240 comments. That seems like a fair quantity of people complaining…

    I hardly notice the bug now actually – if I hit ctrl+t and it doesn’t work, without really thinking about it I click to get off the plugin and hit the key again.

    It’ll probably take me another year or two to get used to using the keys without clicking first, but good to know that those issues are being looked at 🙂

  3. This is one of the things I first noticed on YouTube. I came to depend on the plugin behavior on Mac (that I deem correct) especially when YouTube rolled out the shortcut key features (e.g. hitting the space bar plays or pauses the video).

  4. One weird aspect of this bug is that lets say you had the focus on a flash component in a tab, then you change the used tab via the mouse, and then you want to cycle the tabs with ctrl+tab, but it gets stuck when you get to the tab with the flash. This is not really the same bug i guess: the focus should only be given when ctrl is released. Why? because with the proposed fix for, the component returns if it has handled the key. If it catches the tab key, the user wont be able to cycle the tabs via CTRL+TAB without the mouse (I hate ’em).

  5. Arrrgh!!! You’d think that after almost 10 years, this would be taken care of. It’s such a glaring Section 508 violation, that you would have thought that it would have been solved by now.

    It’s almost as bad as having a browser not support images. Seriously..???

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