Add-ons are here to stay

17

We want to assure everyone in our community that XUL-based add-ons are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Mozilla is committed to keeping Firefox the most customizable browser, and add-ons are here to stay.  Without our add-ons community, Firefox would not be the most extended browser in existence, and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for getting us to where we are today.

Project Jetpack explores an additional way of creating add-ons for Firefox, and no plans have been made for it to completely replace XUL-based add-ons. If you’re interested in learning more about Jetpack or helping to shape its future, you can read more on the Jetpack blog.

We hope this clears up any confusion, and look forward to 2010 as the best year for Firefox add-ons yet.

- the Firefox Add-ons team

Tags:

Categories: developers, end users

17 responses

  1. Ken Saunders

    Tis funny (and at the same time sad) to think that some thought that their favorite add-ons wouldn’t be available at all in the future.

    Truth be told, as much of an add-on junkie that I am, I’d still choose Firefox over any other browser if I had to give up add-ons or didn’t know that they existed.

    Wait, I did do that when I starting shopping for a new browser years ago, I didn’t know anything about add-ons.
    I tried Opera (twice), Avant, Netscape, Maxthon, AOL, several others, but I chose Firefox and still do today despite Chrome, Safari, and others.
    Although, SeaMonkey is a kick *ss product too.

    Gee, you’d think that I would have gotten the hint that Trident sucks.

  2. Wired Earp

    These were actually comments for the linked article over at http://mozillalabs.com/blog/2010/01/the-future-of-add-ons/ but since there was an error on posting, I guess they may be just as relevant or irelevant here. Please refer to the article for quotations.

    “Right now, you write a Firefox extension; in the future you’ll be able to write an extension using Jetpack. If Jetpack doesn’t provide the flexibility or feature you need, you’ll be able to contribute it in true Mozilla fashion.”

    Not to holde a grudge, but I hoped the last sentence would read: “If Jetpack doesn’t provide the flexibility or feature you need, you’ll always be able to use regular extensions”. Updating source code on the Firefox trunk seems a little overkill for my tropical fish tank sidebar. You may claim that Jetpack is already powerful enough to support my intentions, but then again I may not want to implement it using Javascript only. Scripting is but one vertex of intersection in the golden triangle of frontend development composed of markup, styling and scripting. Solid code emerges from the force field at the CENTER of these technologies. Remove one and you get tagsoup. Remove two and you get scriptsoup; which is what Jetpack is to me. A complete throwback to the heydays of DHTML, only without the HTML. And the XUL, XBL and SVG. And the CSS. And the CSS transitions. Writing an Javascript emulator for all this makes extension development comparable to Java Swing rather than web development and it is certainly not a “developer-friendly extension platform that introduces mainstream web developers to the world of browser extensions”. Markup and styling is more mainstream than scripting. And regular Javascript is more mainstream than the convoluted syntax of Jetpacks; it will even serve you better and last you longer. Being of a nature fundamentally different to extension development, I don’t believe that we are “months away from the point where Jetpack serves as a viable alternative”. Not to me at least.

    Hopefully I got the whole Jetpack development model wrong. I haven’t found any documentation or code snippets to prove me wrong, not in the tutorial and demos section on the website, but the Jetpack marketing campaign hasn’t exactly inspired me to look for it either. Writing an extension in 50 lines of code is, well, and it is certainly not relevant for an application loaded from harddisk. As an extension developer – if only for the sake of argument – I want a playground for Mozilla technologies. You can add XSLT and XUL templates to the list. For practical reasons, I cannot entertain these technologies on normal websites. And in Jetpack, I don’t see them encouraged with the obvious enthusiasm I dream of. Even if traditional extensions WERE to be maintained as an option, I fear that the Jetpack model will cancel the drive to push these technologies forward. XUL seems to be deprecated in favour of HTML already. Mozilla as a development platform will certainly suffer from this. And Mozilla as an application eco system will suffer, since extension developers are the only obvious authors of Songbird, Thunderbird, KompoZer etc. I do not simply fear that Jetpack is a premature technology, but that it somehow got off on the wrong foot from the start.

    “If Jetpack becomes just as functional and powerful as the existing system, then we’ll talk about whether migrating all extensions to the new platform makes sense.”

    Gut feeling says that we should wait until it is possible to code a single Jetpack called “Rocketpack”, powerful enough to replace the current Jetpack system.

  3. Tony Mechelynck

    Add-ons are here to stay… at least in the “foreseeable” future. And indeed, it would be hard for some great addons, some of them from Mozilla itself (DOM Inspector, ChatZilla, Lightning, Venkman, …), others from third parties (Adblock Plus, MR-Tech Toolkit, Tab Mix Plus, …) *and for their users* if all support for them were suddenly to disappear from _all_ Mozilla applications. However, even if Mike Connor’s talk of “deprecating” non-Jetpack extensions and non-Persona themes seems to indicate that support for them will be removed from, oh, maybe Firefox 5.0, Robert Kaiser seems determined to keep it in SeaMonkey at least, if at all possible, and even if it means less-than-ideal code sharing with Firefox.

  4. Fraser

    thanks for the quick response and the peace of mind!

  5. Alfred Kayser

    I hope that this statement also applies to themes (which face the same ‘threat’ from Personas), as they also have a large and alive community of contributors and users.

  6. Euchre

    Oh yes, add-ons are here to stay, just like themes are here to stay – in a back corner, so they can be forgotten as soon as possible. Two years ago Personas was just a ‘neat idea’ to compliment the rich theming community, now it is designed and effectively deployed as the current theming replacement.

    Fool me once…

  7. Livio

    There’s a lot of info-harm in the air, because people tend to repeat myths and rumours.

  8. CatThief

    Please excuse my pessimism, but this declaration in no way provides me with any sort of reassurance. “XUL-based add-ons are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future” contradicts “add-ons are here to stay”. This does not clear up the confusion. It just adds to it.

  9. Franklin Akins

    Yes, what about themes? Are they officially dead?

  10. patrickjdempsey

    Phew, I’m so glad to see that Add-ons are here to stay! I guess I was just being paranoid, silly me! And since Themes are a part of Add-ons, then I guess they must be “here to stay” too right? Awesome! I guess that means I should expect Themes to be returned to the AMO Recommended Add-ons list, returned to the browser Get Add-ons list, moved up the Categories list so you don’t have to scroll down to find them, and Firefox will redirect the Get Themes button to lead to AMO instead of getpersonas.com. Boy this is GREAT NEWS! I can rest easy now! Can’t wait to see everything fixed!

  11. Axel Grude

    there is no way that Personas is going to replace Themes, at least for users who are used to use themes, Personas is a poor man’s skinning engine – I remember a similar plugin for Internet Explorer, that died a death into oblivion (can’t even remember its name) – it did basically what Personas does, just underlay an image under the flat areas of the browser – no productivity improvement whatsoever, also there is no scope for improvements within this model.

    The interesting thing about Themes is that the GUI elements themselves can be developed. Personally I think having an “easy way” to create extensions / themes and release them is not necessarily a good thing as it does not encourage high quality.

  12. rist

    What actually happened with FUEL?

  13. Phaeye

    Can anyone point me to an add-on that will allow me to read sheet music? I am a member of Solero Music Viewer 8.0.29.370 and am trying to download digital music sheets from sheetmusicdigital.com, and get a message that a plug-in is needed. When I go to Mozilla’s plug-ins, I don’t find one listed for either the viewer or the sheetmusicdigital site.

    Please help – I am quite new to this type of online information. . .Thx

  14. Randy

    I’m wondering if there is an add-on that will let me alphabetically tab my addresses in my Thunderbird address book? I did a few searches but didn’t find anything.

  15. Gavin

    Awesome, good to hear that addons will indeed stay. Chrome and Safari may be lean, but I for one would rather have a powerful browser that lets me customize MY MOST USED APPLICATION to suit my needs than save 1/10 of a second loading CNN.com.

  16. Murphy

    Yep, lose the add-ons and we lose an entire part of our community.

  17. Ed

    I’m just an ordinary user, not a programmer. Here’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.

    Themes have already been relegated to the “ghetto”part of addons.mozilla.org, and I can no longer get to them directly using the “Get Themes link.” Instead, I’m being redirected to that Blast of the Past that is being repackaged as “Personas.” Oh how I hate how they push and shove that in my face like some kind of New Coke. (Hint: calling an old, discarded idea in a different way using Latin-root words do NOT make them new and fresh… they looked stale in the 90′s in IE and they STILL look stale and useless.)

    The wording about the add-ons is not clear either. It’s still garnished with nuanced double-talk. Like a poster above me wrote, “add-ons are here to stay” and the vague “add-ons are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future” are more contradictory than complementary. I’m used to that kind of talk from Microsoft… didn’t expect it from Mozilla.

    I’ve been using Firefox since it was Firebird 0.6, and have kept on using it because its extensibility made it the BETTER browser (and because it as NOT IE). But to me, brand loyalty only goes as far as brand quality. Please don’t hamstrung FF. If the current power of extensions and (REAL) themes is ported to whatever new system, fine by moi. If not, I’ll switch to Chrome, Opera or Safari and won’t look back.