Chrome recently announced that they were doing away with plugin support; Firefox confirms similar trend.
Plugins like Silverlight and Java are no longer supported by Chrome, and Mozilla has stated they are next. Making their next step in Google’s footsteps, they posted about dropping Plugin support for those developed with the NPAPI (Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface) by the end of next year.
These plugins were a way for people to customize their browser and add functions that could be used for gaming, interactive mapping, video support and much more. But after years of usage, they have lead to many negative aspects as well. They open doors for issues with stability, make security more vulnerable, and can cause performance issues. In order to get rid of plugins, Web standards were updated and created a native function, such as the HTML 5 video.
For Firefox, the end is near, but they have not released a specific date yet, just that it will be sometime in 2016. This comes three years after they introduced the click-to-play security function that restricted certain plugin behaviors.
Although the end is near for plugins, Firefox will still have a special status for Flash, just as Chrome does. Even though Flash is decreasing in time, there is still a large amount of flash-based ads and videos online. Of course, once Flash is no longer widely found online it too will likely become a thing of the past, and there are companies that are already working at leaving it behind. One of these is Amazon, as they have stated they are going to ban Flash-based ads.
Although the majority of NPAPI based plugins are replaceable with web solutions, browser-based games that use the Unity engine are not as lucky. However, Unity and Mozilla are working towards a way to bring Unity games to Firefox without plugins through the WebGL (Web Graphics Library). Unity has deprecated its Web Player plugin, announcing March 2016 would be the release of Unity 5.4, and would lack Web Player support.
How This Will Impact You
The average user may not notice much, if any, changes to their usual browsing experience once the NPAPI plugins are eliminated from Firefox. Due to native web technologies, there is not going to be much loss of functions, just a different path of getting there. However, one main area that may experience this is gaming.
If you play a browser game that runs off Unity, one method would be to keep the last NPAPI-supporting version of your Firefox browser or alternative so you are able to keep playing. Keep in mind that outdated browsers increase security risks and should not be used for casual activities, only gaming.