A Black & White Coding Issue

Benjamin Bradley was an enslaved man who developed the technology for the first steam powered warship. He was not allowed to patent his invention, so he sold it and used the proceeds to buy his freedom.


It’s Juneteenth, the perfect time to make changes for the better.

Technology is a great thing. The people who develop it, however, are only human. Some code still in use today uses phrases like ‘master/slave’ and ‘blacklist/whitelist.’

We at FoxyProxy recognize that it’s time to update those terms to something less overtly problematic and clearer to the intended purpose.

“Please consider renaming black patterns and white patterns to something more inclusive and clearer. Besides that associating black with not passing and white with passing, is kind of offensive, I’d also think that the function of the two lists can be more clearly communicated when being renamed.”

The above is part of a bug report submitted to us via github.

Although FoxyProxy for Firefox does not use whitelist/blacklist, it does use white and black patterns. These words are used in 3 places in the FoxyProxy Firefox Add-on:

1. In the user interface (UI) with which people interact
2. In the internal Javascript programming code and the data written to/read from disk (both in exported settings and the saving of internal state).
3. online documentation

#1 can be changed relatively quickly.

But #2 will be more involved and requires (among other things) writing “upgrade” code that would convert the use of the old terms to the new terms. This code has been around in various forms since approximately 15 years, so this will be a process. Bear with us.

Writing this upgrade code is going to take a lot longer to implement, test, and release, and we invite “pull requests” from the public (that is — contributions from people outside of our team) to support this effort. Such work can be contributed on github directly.

We are still discussing the replacement terms, but are leaning towards green and red patterns.

We at FoxyProxy are very proud that we have a long track record of diverse hiring practices. Our personnel is currently and historically made up of at least 50% marginalized communities including women, people of color, and LGBT people. We welcome all people to our team, and it’s time we do what we can to reflect that in our coding practices.

Here are some screenshots showing the terminology in use.