Where are those Anonymous Firefox Add-On Ratings Coming From?

I’d wondered about this myself. Apparently, there’s a reasonable explanation, but still, those “no comment” reviews are definitely less helpful than the reviews that have something to say.

If you are a Firefox user and pay attention to user reviews and ratings on the Firefox add-ons website, you may have noticed an increase in anonymous ratings. The ratings are left by anonymous user “random six character string”, and only have a rating but no review itself. This in itself is strange for veteran Firefox users, considering that one of the requirements for leaving reviews was leaving a comment up until now.

One example where you can see the new influx of reviews is the Adblock Plus reviews page on Mozilla AMO.

Anonymous Firefox add-on ratings

adblock plus review

As you can see on the screenshot above, the first three ratings have been left by anonymous users. You can click on the username to find out more about that user.

No matter how many you check, you will notice that they have all been created on the same day the rating was left.

So where are those anonymous user accounts coming from? Webmasters may have seen similar activities by anonymous and random users leaving comments on sites, and one fear that users and add-on authors may have that this is a spam campaign.

The first thing that comes to mind is spam, probably because of that.  This is not the case however. According to this discussion on Mozilla’s official Add-ons forum, anonymous ratings come from users who run Firefox mobile.

This is because the new mobile site was recently launched. You can test it yourself by visiting AMO on a mobile device, or scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on “View Mobile Site”. You’ll notice the new rating UI lets you submit a star rating without a written review. This is intentional. We think this will encourage more people to rate add-ons, and will reduce the instances of written reviews that don’t say much or end up being deleted because of the way they’re worded.

This is confirmed on the Mozilla Addons Server Github page. It confirms that blank reviews will come to the desktop site as well.

We’re supporting blank reviews now. The recent ones come from the mobile site, which is the first one to support this. The desktop site will support it in the future as well.

firefox mobile ratings

Firefox users on mobile devices still need a Firefox account to leave reviews, but the requirement for leaving a comment / explanation has been removed by Mozilla.

It is unclear why Mozilla’s site shows these ratings as anonymous, as opposed to listing the Firefox account username. One explanation may be that you only need to set an email address and password during registration, so that there is no username for a particular user at that point in time.

As far as I see it, there are two issues with these reviews. First, that they look like spam, and second, that they don’t add any value besides adding a rating.

Mozilla’s main idea behind lifting the requirement to leave a comment when rating an add-on is that it does away with meaningless reviews by users who did not want to write anything but still rate an add-on.

The fact that these are now replaced by empty reviews that clutter the review listing refutes that argument.

It would be easy enough to solve part of the issue right away though, as Mozilla would only have to find a way to remove empty reviews from the reviews listing.

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