Introducing the Add-on Guidelines

Jorge Villalobos

11

Add-ons are often cited as the main reason users love Firefox, and while they offer users substantial benefits, they can also be a cause of slowdowns, instability and other problems. This is the reality of having an open development platform where add-ons are first-class citizens: developers have the tools to create truly excellent and innovative products, but those same tools can be misused and cause grief to the people using them. It can be very difficult for users to realize an add-on is to blame for these problems, and Firefox suffers because of this.

On the Add-ons team, it’s our responsibility to find add-on problems and get them solved, regardless of where the add-on is distributed. The most effective way for us to do that is to ensure our expectations are clearly documented so that problems can be avoided before they even surface. This will empower the community to help us fix add-on problems, and it will give add-on developers an easy guide to follow.

This is why we’re putting forward the Add-on Guidelines, currently in draft form. They are mostly a formalization of what we have already been looking for. The idea behind this document is to make our guidelines clear to everyone, and to have a distinct guide that applies to all add-ons, even those not hosted on addons.mozilla.org. In addition to guidance for developers, these guidelines establish a formal process for users and community contributors to report violations to Mozilla to help us identify problems sooner.

These guidelines have already gone through two rounds of discussion, and now we’d like the community at large to give their input. Once we have reached a finalized version of the document, we will put it up in a more permanent location and make it official.

If you have feedback on the draft, please share it with us in the comments or in the latest newsgroup discussion.

11 responses

  1. Matt_G wrote on :

    Great work guys! The new guidelines look awesome.

  2. Tyler Downer wrote on :

    These guidelines are looking great. Thanks for all the hard work AMO team!

  3. akshay mittal wrote on :

    Thanks for all

  4. Mingyi wrote on ::

    The guidelines look stringent but good for users and place necessary safety/usability burden on the authors, which is reasonable. But on the other side of the equation, is there any plan to revamp the Featured Addons or other programs that reward addon authors’ hard work? Right now some Featured Addons stay there forever, and every month only a few gets changed after committee gives the nod, which seems rather arbitrary.

    I feel that these author-rewarding programs should be expanded to allow more addons the opportunity to get into spotlight, like allowing the more heavily roated Up and Coming to allow nominations, or adding an interactive category called Vote on Addons, where promising addons can be rotated more frequently and they get featured based on users’ votes. If the guidelines are all geared towards helping FF user experience, then why not let the users make the selection of Featured Addons?

    I’m proposing this because I feel that for simple addons that take authors little or relatively small amount of time to implement, current system is fine, small effort with niche functionalities, small chance of reward too – I have 3 addons with small effort too. But for those with rather complex/advanced functionalities – like my Fastest Search, Instant Browser addon that supports many novel (like Regex, Engine categories, multi-engine/category search, multi/all-tab search, Ctrl-; shortcut …) or existing (like Instant loading, autocopy …) popular features that took me many months of leisure time to finish – I care about getting spotlight for such a large-effort addon, and I truly feel that right now there isn’t enough spotlight opportunities for the addon to get its well-deserved chance for spotlight.

    Hopefully that when the users get the guidelines to protect them that place more maintenance burden on the authors, the authors of large-n-time-consuming addons also get incentives to keep working on them to add more feature and/or make sure they still work in new FF/Addon SDK versions.

    1. Jorge Villalobos wrote on ::

      You should send these requests to the Featured Add-ons group. Also, have you considered joining them? The best way to change things is from the inside :)

      1. Mingyi wrote on ::

        I did nominate and successfully got my other large-effort addon TableTools2 featured last year. But my nominations on Fastest Search failed repeatedly, and my suggestion that Featured Addon board let addon authors know why their nominations failed so they can improve/fix was not taken up or replied to.

        When my TableTools2 addon was removed from the Featured list after 6 months, I was told it’s because TT2 had less than 20K users (it actually had >20K users for the 1.5 months before then, and it gained >17K users in the 6 months it was featured, not a bad speed and certainly still growing fast). I did note to the Featured Addon board that addons like Context Search had been featured forever, and its user base did not grow much for years despite the Featured Addon rule where addons that do not grow will be removed. But Context Search was still featured after losing 40% (>50K) users in the last year alone.

        Also, if InstantFox, Add to Search Bar, Context Search and Quick Drag can all be featured year in and year out, why is my Fastest Search, which amounts to all of them combined and MUCH more (I listed some above), not given a chance, not even in the Up and Coming? I couldn’t find one rule in the Featured Addon guide that I did not work very hard to get Fastest Search exceed, spending tremendous amount of time in the process. I was rather frustrated by the enigmatic process that did not seem to follow its own guide. BTW I was pretty tenacious on this particular addon because I truly believe this addon will be loved by many users and benefit a whole lot of them.

        That’s why I was calling for user-voted Featured Addons. Why not let users pick which addon to feature through voting or user growth? Set a hard number and feature the addons that pass it. Maybe publish the stats just to make the process fair and open.

        1. Jorge Villalobos wrote on ::

          The idea is to help users discover new add-ons in different categories, not just promote add-ons that users already love. If we allowed user voting, our featured add-ons list would be most static and difficult to get into.

          The other problems seem to be related to the group’s selection process, which I know very little about. Like I said, you could try joining the group for a while, so you can at least learn how they work and what they look for. If there’s something missing or wrong in their process, you can bring it up internally and it will probably get much more attention.

          1. Mingyi wrote on ::

            Jorge, the first point in your comment is not really the case. The board removed TT2 because it didn’t have “enough” users, which means that the board did not seek to (continue to) promote new addons that’re in a new or one-of-a-kind category and fast-growing, but rather those that are already established, whether it’s growing or losing users, as evidenced by the perennially promoted Context Search.

            Moreover, I was not suggesting for users to vote on established addons, but rather, nominated new/unestablished addons. Then those growing users fastest and/or garnering the highest ratings get to be featured for a certain amount of time. That does not conflict with your assumed goals of the Featured board.

            As for going onto the board, I do admire the addon reviewers’ dedications and would like to join them IF I had the time. But I truly believe that one should never need to join a review board (like Featured Addon board) to even understand its guidelines or to promote one’s own work. This is conflict-of-interest.

            But I was merely suggesting some addon promotion method that I consider fair. If you feel like it, please forward to those who are in charge of addon promotions. If you don’t agree, just ignore it, no biggie. Thanks for taking the time to reply however! I do appreciate the communications.

          2. Jorge Villalobos wrote on ::

            That your add-on was rotated out of the list doesn’t mean we don’t care about promoting new add-ons. I look at the list they generate on every rotation, and there are always add-ons there that are just getting started. Maybe in your category we’re promoting too many well-established add-ons. If we are, then you should tell the group. They’ definitely take it into account.

            As for getting users to suggest add-ons to the featured add-ons board, they can already do that by sending a message to the list. It doesn’t have to be your own add-on. Maybe we can promote that more. I’ll ask some people to see what they think.

  5. Tom wrote on :

    Please don’t add a restriction about only sending user data using a secure connection, or allow exemption through the privacy policy.

    Secure data transfer adds a significant server overhead, in CPU cost, development cost, and maintainance cost.

    This form, ironically, including my email is being sent over unencrypted connection.

    1. Jorge Villalobos wrote on ::

      I don’t think that processing costs are big enough to warrant exposing private user data. If you’re sending non-personally identifying data, it’s ok not to use a secure connection. For everything else, you should be.