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Mozilla expands plug-in check to other browsers

Plug-in check page, meant to ensure users have latest versions of popular plug-ins, now supports IE 7 and 8, Chrome 4, Opera 10.5, and Safari 4.

Mozilla designed its plug-in check page so Firefox users could see if they're running the latest versions of their plug-ins. Now the company has invited the other major browsers to the party.

In addition to handling Firefox 3.6 and higher, the plug-in check page now supports Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 and 8, Google Chrome 4, Opera 10.5, and Apple's Safari 4. All the browsers are compatible with the plug-in check. But Mozilla cautions in its official blog that IE 7 and 8 need specific code written for each plug-in, so full support of Microsoft's browser will take a bit longer.

The plug-in check page looks at all the plug-ins currently installed in your browser and alerts you to their status. If the plug-in is the latest version, you'll get a thumbs up that it's up to date. If not, the page offers you an update link that takes you to the plug-in vendor's Web site where you can download the newest edition.

Plugins are sometimes blamed as a source of stability and security issues for Web browers, so Mozilla designed the plug-in check to help reduce those risks. Since debuting the plug-in check page last October, Mozilla believes it's making a difference. The blog noted that Mozilla is now seeing 60 percent of its users with the latest version of Adobe's Flash plug-in and believes that's due to the new page.

I tried the plug-in page on the five major browsers. The results were similar in each. The page found some plug-ins that were up to date and one or two that needed to be updated. But it also found several that it couldn't detect and told me I'd need to research those myself.

In the blog, Mozilla does acknowledge that its Plug-in Directory, its database of plug-ins, is still in alpha stage, just one step beyond beta. The company is looking for help from developers to update this directory as new versions of their plug-ins are released and older versions become too risky to run.