The Future of Personas

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As you may already know, Personas in Firefox 3.6 has been a phenomenal success. In the past month we’ve seen millions of Firefox users discover Personas for the first time and create over 30,000 personas. Firefox users want to customize their browser and Personas give them that ability in a simple and beautiful way.

With this new-found success comes new responsibility. Personas was a Mozilla Labs experiment that has matured and graduated from Labs. Much of its process and code was for a prototype and is beginning to suffer from the overwhelming popularity in Firefox 3.6. In order for Mozilla to give Personas the support it rightly deserves changes are in order.

Live with Music

The biggest and greatest part of this change is migrating getpersonas.com to addons.mozilla.org. (Don’t worry, none of your personas or account information will be lost.)

Currently getpersonas.com is built on a prototype code base and simply is not capable of supporting the features and scale we need to bring to the Personas community.

Some of the benefits of moving Personas to addons.mozilla.org are:

  • Ratings and reviews for personas
  • Designer profiles
  • Statistics of persona usage over time
  • Tagging
  • Support for over 30 languages
  • Suggested personas and
  • Improved review tools

Moving Personas to addons.mozilla.org also makes them a fully realized piece of the add-ons ecosystem. They will be given the full attention of the add-ons team and benefit from their expertise and experience with add-ons in Firefox.

Live with Music

We’re also renaming the “Personas” add-on to “Personas Plus” to better reflect how it adds features to the Personas already present in Firefox 3.6. Personas Plus will continue to evolve to add new and exciting features to Personas.

We’ve got a lot of ideas on what to do next with Personas Plus, so take a look and let us know what you think!

The future is looking bright for Personas! Stay tuned during the next few weeks, we’ll keep the blog updated with more information about the transition to addons.mozilla.org.

Categories: general, themes

50 responses

  1. Jim B

    I honestly don’t get why anyone wants this. I guess it’s because I’m over 40, but it doesn’t appeal to me at all. The dozen or so featured personas that I’ve tried all wreck the legibility of the menu bar, and the skinning is of the most simplistic kind.

    Call me a fuddy duddy, but I use a browser to access content. Anything the browser does to draw attention to itself is a distraction.

    Yes, yes, this is an opt-in feature, so mostly I’m kvetching that this bauble is garnering so much mindshare of the developers.

    1. Beth Rogers

      I am over 50., and the animated goldfish and rain, and rose garlands make me smile.

    2. angelo

      if you say so fuddy duddy… it eases and relaxes most eyes. like mine…just stick to what you believe in and don’t comment in here at all…i believe the personas are great.

      1. Risav Karna

        I believe Jim B has a point. A browser should ideally give you access and power on the web content by not coming in the way itself.

        The fact that Firefox has a chrome bulky enough to be wearing a persona is pathetic in the first place. A browser should reduce the screen real estate it invades for itself at the expense of the space for the web content the user is looking for. Firefox celebrates its lack of pixel friendliness by adding the so called ‘Personas’ to its insanely large chrome.

        As for the aesthetics of your browsing experience, perhaps animated goldfish, rain or rose garlands can go on blank spaces of the pages(e.g. either sides of this central column in this page) or new blank tabs. That would be a real achievement as it would involve improvements such as GPU acceleration and not just theming up the browser frame, which is hardly a pioneering achievement at all.

  2. Axel Hecht

    Nice to see this coming.

    Nitpick, there’s some confusion about “personas” as in the Firefox feature and “personas” as in the web app that supports that. It would help if we could keep them separate while we’re talking about separate things.

  3. Standard8

    One request – drop the “Personas for Firefox” bit. Personas also work in Thunderbird 3.0, and should do in 3.1 as well. So please consider other apps in the design/wording (hopefully, some of that you’ll just get by moving to amo…).

  4. Ken Saunders

    Well it makes perfect sense to me.

    Personas Collections?
    That would be cool.

  5. Ken Saunders

    Hey aside from my (incomplete) Personas collections question, will Personas reviewing still be done by Personas reviewers? I’d imagine so but it would seem like that creates some extra work and a new type of access and control to AMO by Personas reviewers.

    I’ve been very interested in helping with reviewing (Personas), but I want to be sure that I can be consistent with time commitments to do so.

  6. Chris Pearce

    Personas are cool, they provide a nice refresh to the UI. I’d like to see the ability to have stronger text shadows or outer glow on toolbar text though, it’s often hard to read. It would also be cool if you could easily edit existing personas, as often I see a persona that I kinda like, but there are little things that annoy me which I want to change (like the text colour of toolbar text).

  7. Vin

    @Ken how would a collection of Personas benefit someone? I guess FF would need to rotate personas on a daily/weekly basis.

    I thought you could only have one persona active at a time; like one theme at a time.

  8. Edwin H Voorhees III

    As an artist and designer I’ve had a ball creating personas and cajoling my friends, family and clients into installing FF so they can use them. It thrills me that complete strangers have adopted my designs, and sport my work on their browser skin.
    My biggest concern moving forward is concerns such as those stated by Jim B regarding the usability of themes. Untested personas that render toolbars unreadable will limit the growth of personas, as potential users, like Jim, drop in, try a few random themes, and not see the logic in using a feature that makes using FF more difficult, if not impossible.
    My proposal is that either:
    1. A second level of certification is awarded asserting that a particular theme is usability tested. Or,
    2. Require all submitted themes to have readable text in the menus and bars.
    Of the two options, I would lean toward the first, as this allows a non off-putting way to separate serious persona designs from, for want of a better way to put it, vanity or casual persona designs. I don’t believe a casual theme designer should have to test their persona in order for them to use it themselves, or share it with friends. I just hope for a way that casual adopters can try out themes vetted for usability so they don’t end up with an experience like Jim B’s and others I’ve read. This is an obstacle, IMO, to growing Personas as a feature, one I’d like to see addressed. You don’t have to hover that far down the “Popular” list to catch personas with washed out menu text.
    BTW, for more info, I’ve posted pages for to help persona designers at the Google group dedicated to personas:
    http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla-labs-personas
    I am anything but an authority, but I’ve put down some of the findings resulting from my experiences designing personas in the form of pages.
    Again, I can’t thank the good people at Mozilla for coming up with a feature that shows such promise for artists like me.

    -ehv3

  9. Ryan Doherty

    @Ken: Yep, we’ll have collections also. And Personas reviewing will be done by a separate group of reviewers. It will most likely involve some new ACLs.

    You can spend as much or as little time approving as you’d like, send an email to personas@mozilla.com to apply!

    @Vin: Yeah, we’d have to setup either Firefox or the Personas Plus add-on to subscribe to a collection and rotate the persona. It’s a feature many users have asked for.

  10. Ken Saunders

    Well, I think that there’s a limitation to the number of Personas that you can have installed (expected to change I believe) at any given time, so having collections would be a good way to retrieve and apply (right from the add-ons manager) your faves much more quickly than having to go and search for them individually, or having to go through your list of faves on the Personas website (which I’m not sure what will become of that option now).

    It would be easier to share your favorite Personas with others (just provide a link to your collection), you could group your Personas (Firefox ones, Holidays etc), it would make it easier to install all of your faves when creating a new Firefox (or Thunderbird) profile, or installing a new O.S. and building up Firefox with the help of the new (and cool) Massive Extender add-on (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/89648).

    Rotating Personas is currently possible with the Personas Rotator.
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60914

  11. MoJo

    Personas not having it’s own site will kill it… When it is brought to add ons, the user base will plummet. Just my opinion.

  12. MoJo

    This is going to KILL personas…

  13. Jeannine

    Ummm… no.
    The updated FF with Personas has not been a success.
    You took a cool thing and wrecked it.
    What once could be worn under buttons and themes, can now only be used on default themes and installs without user want.
    We shouldn’t have to do “work arounds” to get it to function properly.
    And, to have done this and make Personas advertised boldly…
    I hope it gets better, because it was a great idea that worked like a charm before.

  14. Dwight Stegall

    I don’t like Personas because they make the Toolbar, Bookmark Toolbar, and Main Menu text to difficult to read since they aren’t solid colored like themes are. I have to slow down and pay more attention while using them.

    I use the Noia 2 Extreme theme because it is evenly colored all the way across the screen. I prefer the Phoenity Modern theme but it was discontinued.

  15. Bill Weepie

    How will Personas interact with the new Windows theme ideas proposed for Firefox 4.0? Will the background go over the glass and be transparent?

  16. Lita Letourneau

    Thank you for the Personas and all the wonderful skins…I personally LOVE to skin all aspects of my desktop, especially My FFox…I would love to request further customizable features to include the ability to have the personas/themes install into a folder that I could then copy for all my systems instead of having to transfer my whole profile (I have several systems & my kids each have one & FFox/Personas/Themes is utilized on all). The next wish list would to be able to change the default icons…I love the themes (ie. Red cats), but I also love the Personas…it would be great to create a mix of the two…allow the persona skin, but also allow me to choose my favorite icons as well…maybe there could be some changes to the default skin to allow for additional icon options? Thanks for the wonderful FFox and all it’s customizing features…Firefox & Personas…My browser, My way!

  17. hanshan mtn

    To Mozilla: I love personas, except I want to build a library of the personas clipart on my own pc so I can change it without going to the website and searching for it. The gallery function that’s currently built in doesn’t work reliably – I tried to add about 30, but it only has about 5 in the pull-down. Irritating. That’s why I want a more reliable way to make a gallery to pick from at a whim. You should enforce filename with creator name in it, or some other credit to the artist. One other irritant: hard to make the top border the correct width or depth so the personas clipart will show – want to adjust it, for example, so the breakdancer or flowers or other graphic shows entirely. I don’t always want a search field on the upper right, it obscures the pretty designs.

    Rock on, Mozilla! My favorite is the little moving breakdancer, but I like flowers, scrolling designs, neon, modern, all kinds of stuff. I love that you have given visual artistic creativity in the user audience expression that we can all enjoy. Please just make it easier to adjust the top of my browser to show the graphic entirely, and also easier to save all my many favorite delicious designs your community has shared.

    Also: To Jim B, March 3rd entry: Hm, you said it- you are a fuddy-dud, because I’m a decade older than you (50!) and I love Personas – all kinds of designs.

  18. Jivko

    I hate this new feature for two reasons.First it only changes the toolbar background and the status bar.Second this thing is killing the custom Firefox themes.Personas is not a theme it’s a skin.Second it takes a lot of time and effort to create a custom theme for Firefox.Extensions are 10 times more popular than custom Firefox themes and now this.Why don’t you make custom themes more popular by making them more easy to create?Also you can install Personas without restart but you can’t install a custom theme without restart.Well why don’t you add this feature in Firefox 4?

    Sorry if I sound angry.I’m not because I can’t change a thing about this but I really wish there was more help and attention to Firefox theme developers like me.

  19. BlakeJr

    First of all, I think personas is a great addition to FF but as has been mentioned, you can’t use custom themes such as Noia 2.0 Extreme.
    That is a really big oversight on the part of the designers. Especially as personas used to have that function!?

    While I’m at it, I might as well add my vote for ways to add contrast to the menu and bookmarks bars.

  20. Kevin Cannon

    Seriously, is this just feature creep or what.

    Add-ons, extensions, plugins, themes, personas-plus.

    It’s nice to see Firefox getting less complicated!

  21. lumalon

    Someone earlier mentioned their age. I’m turning 50 in November, and I love the Personas! I would really like them to fill the page, and not just be a header. There is some amazing creativity by great artists, and it would just be so cool to fill but for the white entry box for the Google search engine. Artists could create the Google logo to go along with their theme. Barring that, leave the theme alone, and I would just love to see these images in all their glory filling the FireFox page. You all are the best, and I have used your services for years. Thank you!

  22. @Jivko
    Adding a feature takes time and resources, much more so than creating a theme.
    Also, Personas is a Mozilla Labs project, which is meant to explore new ways and ideas etc.

  23. W. Jaroch

    I watched and listened to video. The music is so loud that I was able to hear less than 50% of text. If this was your intention, you got it. Some comment a lot about colors. I am in 30% color blind. The website with bed color balance or contrast are completely useless for me. How many of us with this kind of defect? It is worth to care? Care is part of success.

  24. BobChao

    I’m glad that we (as one of the l10n teams) didn’t waste time on getpersonas.com l10n.

  25. Will Merrell

    I add my voice to those who are not happy with personas. The idea is great, but the implementation is awkward, flaky, and annoying. The fact that they do not work with the old style themes that allow custom buttons is an absolute killer for me. I use Noia Extreme also, and will continue to.

    This whole area of functionality needs a major redesign. Custom themes need to install and switch(use) without a restart, and “personas” should slide in behind whatever button set is selected. When they have it working this way then this will take off big.
    – Will

  26. WisdomSpirit

    Personas are kool…they remind me of “Peter Max” and artist back in the 1960′s & 1970′s. His art made my spirit feel great and still and always will. Personas has the same effect on me. Age is a #er to the body ONLY! The spirit has no age bcuz it does NOT age. The Spirit is energy which never dies. Only the body ages and never dies. I will be obtaining a new web-site and Personas will be used exclusively. Live & learn. LONG LIVE PERSONAS SPIRIT! God Bless all :-)… .

  27. Julie

    Love it, Love it, Love it! Personas is Fantastic! I just refer to them as skins. Can’t imagine why anyone would dislike this. There are thousands to pick from to suit you and that don’t interfere with anything on the browser. These are the coolist I have ever seen! I am 52. Why would you need to be a child to enjoy them. The best I have seen yet. I love the idea above of filling the entire page.

    Great Work!

  28. dmitriy

    before posting about “phenomenal success” of personas should check out reviews for last 4 weeks for personas plus addon. Mostly negative.
    People downgrade either addon to 1.4 or firefox to 3.5.x (which is worse).
    THAT is NOT success.

  29. Decliner

    It’s pretty cool, but overall kind of useless. The only really problem is the limited number of themes you can store onto this browser.

  30. Chris Taylor Jr

    I love persona’s but it has a few problems. For example we need some user control over font colors. Many times I will enable a persona that is DARK so it changes the text to WHITE but it does NOT skin the “bottom” status bar of firefox but leaves it with white text IE unreadable. Let me “alter” test color for parts of firefox so I can fix this

    also on small screens ala netbooks I use “full screen” a lot and persona’s fubar’s this

    normally I can just tap F11 and be FS but with persona the program bar is left visible and non interactive.

    In order to go FS I have to FIRST hit maximize and THEN hit F11 for it to function properly.

    Other than that its fantastic. ALSO a way to download the images so I can reload them on a reinstall or on another machine without having to HOPE they are still available on the site or finding them on the site.

  31. Janet Sue Gagliardiq

    How does one remove personas?

  32. Leif

    As a long time graphic designer, more emphasis needs to be placed on designers to avoid too much contrast and detail to their images as has been stated hundreds of times the difficulty to read one’s buttons if such artwork is behind it.

    HERE’S an idea that could save millions of hours and frustration by all. When anyone is changing to a new Persona, they toggle a spectrum control for contrast with the background before committing to it.

    This will save lots of frustration from both sides (creators/users).

  33. Frankie

    This great idea of having persona’s has taken a new level of fun. It appeals to me and gives me things to do as well.
    I look forward to more things. This is truly Freedom Firefox at it’s best.

  34. Purity Matters

    The future ought include fewer myopic moderators.

    I posted a conservative, :gasp:, persona and had to email half a dozen people to have the parody approved.

  35. Purity Matters

    idea: ease the process of creating spoofs or derivative works

  36. Lummox JR

    I frankly haven’t been able to use Firefox 3.6 because its load times are abysmal compared to 3.5.x with many windows open. I’m talking about a difference in startup time from two minutes to twenty, not a minor issue but an order of magnitude difference. 3.6 has also drastically increased the amount of processor time the browesr takes on idle. However, I’ve been told that the 4.0 alphas don’t have this problem.

    I liked trying out personas when I tried 3.6, but I found some major problems: 1) Personas don’t work alongside themes, apparently because some of the designers feel there is no good way to come up with an intuitive UI people will get for merging the two. This is a cop-out. Personas used to work with themes in older versions of the add-on, so there is no excuse for having backed off this functionality. I hate the default theme enough that it isn’t worth it to me to have a pretty skin over it. 2) Personas are not stored locally, even as an option. This is ridiculous. Not only would locally stored personas load and switch faster, they wouldn’t use up more bandwidth and they wouldn’t be in danger of disappearing for any reason. This would have the added benefit of allowing savvy users to override bad color settings in some personas or change contrasty images just enough to work well; attempting to do just that is how I discovered the local storage issue in the first place.

    These major design flaws have to be fixed. Get the present right first, then let’s talk about the future of personas.

  37. t3

    Personas can be cool when the designer takes the time to be sure (as has been stated over and over here) that all text is readable. I’ve seen more than a few great personas that would be perfect if the designer realized the graphic extends over the status bar and white text of long status messages gets lost.

    Personally I’ve not tried my hand at creating a persona but I have had to customize my chrome to fix such gaffs only to have to redo the same for each one! Text shadow or some other way to make text stand out from the background is seriously needed!

    Let’s hope we’re not following in the foot steps of Windows utter failure to support dark themes properly because the programmers and tools mixing object color resources that do not belong together.

  38. Altrego Janeway

    As an FF user for many years, I seriously have doubts why this was integrated with the FF distributable. Being a most useless feature, this should be the last one to pick from the addon repository. Even IE knows which ones are good, they have something like FF ‘colored tabs’ addon coming with the default installation – which is both pleasing to the eye and useful for organizing tabs. To be frank, setting the background to an image does not look good, in fact it is hideous. Also it breaks down with some addons that rearrange the UI, for example which show the tab bar to the left. I mean don’t you guys at FF care about the bloat anymore? And how do you get ideas like this pass your board to the release cycle??!

  39. c’est Moi

    If u cant read ur toolbars because of personas…stop moaning and turn em off or get to specsavers…. 80)

    1. t3

      Are you a moron? Color/contrast/texture has nothing to do with detail level implying we need glasses. There’s more insults here for you but you’ll need specsavers to read the white text on off-white BG ……

  40. pairodocks

    I love Personas. There are many that I have saved in My Favorites. The main issue for me is that I can only use the FF Default buttons. I found out that when I added a Theme (Aeon or Aero Silver) to change the Navigation Buttons, that the Persona was eliminated. :(. That was a big disappointment as the Default Buttons are small and boring. How about allowing the Themes have transparent backgrounds so the Personas can be seen? Please.please.please.

  41. Adam

    What I’d really like to see in firefox 4 are transparency options on personas as they seem to destroy the beautiful transparency and do not compliment it.

  42. Beth

    I like personas a lot but hope that someday soon they’ll work without having to use the default theme. I really enjoy the different buttons you get with different themes and want to be able to use them PLUS have a different persona/skin. If I have to choose a theme with fun buttons versus a persona and default buttons, I choose the theme. Personas don’t make a bat fly or a guy juggle when a page is loading.

  43. karen

    i have a persona on my new dell mini and i can not get rid of it – any suggestions? thanks

  44. Rohan Verma

    I believe you should make a feature that automatically changes the persona with time, like in windows 7. It could be called a Persona Set.

  45. Chris

    I like Personas but would like it to be able to rotate between my installed themes\personas without add-ons.

  46. Ryan

    Waiting for Personas Plus to be compatible with Firefox 4.