Adding search plugins to firefox is now broken by default?

I’ve just discovered an incredibly annoying bug downgrade “feature” in the new firefox (3) – the new add-search-plugins site is broken. I noticed it in later versions of firefox 2.x as well: I was kind of hoping it was something temporary but it looks like its here to stay.

(Quick solution: ignore the site the “Add engines” link takes you to and go to instead – its all there).

I’m a big fan of the firefox search bar: I have it setup for google, google images,, urban dictionary, wikipedia, wikiquote, youtube, imdb and ebay. I’ve even written two search plugins in use at the computer science dept at my university which is used to search the staff directory + and general website.  I use them all the time, and they will be included in the firefox 3.x deployed to the workstations our 17+ computer labs this semester.

So I’m a fan, I consider search plugins a highly desirable if not essential time-saving feature in my browser, and as soon as I install a new copy of firefox, I take time out to customise my search menu pretty much straightaway. I quietly evangelise the feature to others, show them how easy their common searches can be. Click here, click there, bam, done, easier, isnt firefox great?

Problem is,  what used to be a simple and smooth process is no longer. By default anyway – and only if you’ve upgraded your browser relatively recently.

Now I haven’t actually gone back and installed an older version to check or anything, but I’m pretty sure that getting more search plugins used to be a case of dropping the search menu, selecting “Manage Search engines”, then “Get more search engines” (or the equivalent text) in the settings dialog.

This would take me to a site I never bothered to remember the URL of, since the link was always right there in settings.

Used to be, I could go *wherever the aforementioned link went*, type in the name of *major searchable site* I wanted to add (ebay/youtube/wikipedia/etc) and would be presented with a list of links – click on them, approve the security popup, and wham, the plugin is added. It was quick and easy, and I found that if I was searching somewhere (ebay for example), rather than go straight to the site and use their search, it was worth the 60 or so extra seconds to go via the search plugins site and add them to my search bar.

Now, this simplicity is broken, due to a simple change: the “Get more engines” link now takes me to Different site, ok, cool – as long as it gives me the functionality, right? I have faith. Its landed me automatically in the ‘Search plugins’ category. Cool. I seach for ‘ebay’. It turns up… zilch. Searching for ‘google’ gives me… ‘AOL search’ (wtf?).

Oh no.

A couple of minutes later navigating around and trying different searches with no fruit, I realise that regardless of whether this site actually does conspire to harbour the search bar plugins I pursue, perhaps concealed behind some menu or search option I have overlooked, however n00b-like I may be in overlooking said option, this new way of adding plugins has failed, catastrophically. It has failed the end user test. Namely, its chief advertised function – adding searchbar plugins – is nowhere in sight. Not to the casual user, and not to me. It is, it seems, akin to getting in a taxi, asking to be taken to a restaurant and being dumped at the local gymnasium. I wanted a hamburger and I didn’t even get something edible. The place I’ve been taken is not even related.

So I dumped the broken site and hit google looking for firefox search plugins. A couple of links in, I found what looks like the old site – - which has the goodness, the instant search, the 60 second convenience I wanted. I bookmarked it, problem solved – for me, anyway. Now I remember that URL in case I need to add more plugins on another machine, or demonstrate the add plugins feature on someone elses browser.

I just hope this difficulty doesn’t put people off using firefox, especially those migrating from other browsers.


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