State of the Add-ons Ecosystem

This is a first in a series of blog posts that will try to articulate some background about add-ons in order to explore potential product directions for the Mozilla add-ons site (AMO).

First some facts and figures to help set the context and scale for Firefox add-ons.

  • There are more than 180 million active monthly Firefox users (more than 60 million daily)
  • There have been more than 800 million add-on downloads since the inception of AMO
  • There are about 150 million active daily add-ons (Each add-on downloaded from AMO pings once a day)
  • AMO hosts about 5600 add-ons and 800 themes
  • We believe that there is a sizable number of add-ons not hosted on AMO (more than 1000?)
  • The AMO site has about 4-5 million page views and more than 750,000 user sessions daily
  • Every day 10-20 blog/news articles are published reviewing or mentioning some Firefox add-ons

Basically, there is a TON of user and developer activity here.

Why are add-ons important?

  • They are core to the Mozilla’s mission to offer “choice & innovation”
  • Customization is a key differentiator for Firefox. Huge momentum versus Internet Explorer, Safari (no official site), and Opera
  • Add-ons have become a platform for innovation and experimentation and it’s relatively easy to get started
  • Many startups have made their bet with the Firefox user base as the entry point
  • Major web properties invest in building & distributing add-ons
  • We believe that Firefox users who have installed add-ons tend to be more loyal

AMO’s Core Principles

Given the above, the AMO site’s function is to present end users with add-ons, keep them up to date and support the developers who publish these add-ons. The AMO development team focuses its efforts around four main guiding principles:

  • Help users find and discover add‑ons in their local language
  • Ensure the highest quality for what gets published
  • Create a satisfied ecosystem of add-on developers, editors and translators
  • Create the most comprehensive add-ons directory on the web

In my next posts, we’ll explore the various constituents (End Users, Developers, Translators & AMO Editors) that make up the add-ons ecosystem and their unique needs.

(Note: we should recognize that even though the AMO site only supports official Mozilla products: Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey and Sunbird. To look at the entire ecosystem, we need to examine the many XUL-based applications and their support for add-ons. Many applications have their own dedicated add-on site such as the ones for Flock, Songbird, eMusic, and Komodo.)

7 responses

  1. Morbus wrote on :

    About users with add-ons being more loyal, it’s a tricky issue. It’s not that they are more loyal (i.e., that they won’t dump firefox as easily for the competition) by default. The thing is, the more extension we have in our firefox, the more our firefox becomes OURS, and that’s a very important thing to take into account when about to go and change our browser. Look at it this way: firefox without extensions isn’t as good a browser as it is with extensions, and it’s arguably worse than Opera or Safari. But with extensions, it’s better, or it can be better, and why would someone dump his browser for a worse one?

    Also, reading “given the above, the AMO site’s function is to present end users with add-ons, keep them up to date and support the developers who publish these add-ons” reminds me of a thing that’s been bugging me (and probably many others) since the last big remodelling of AMO: no discussions for extensions. It’s less functional, and encourages users to post complains/problems/suggestions in their reviews. Why the hell did they cut discussions off anyway? I know, it’s better for the developers, but IT’S WORSE FOR THE END USERS!!!

    Jush sain.

  2. bhashem wrote on :

    @Morbus: Excellent points. Have no fear, discussions for AMO are coming back in the next revision. We initially removed them because there seemed to be other alternatives (developer’s web site, MozillaZine forums, etc…) Discussions will be turned on for add-ons and authors can opt to redirect discussions to a private forum. Hopefully that will offload some of the feedback from the review system back into discussions.

  3. Morbus wrote on :

    Thanks for the heads up basil.

  4. Ethan Bauman wrote on :

    Hi Basil,

    I’d be really interested to know what percentage of your active users have multiple add-ons installed.

    For example, how many active Firefox users currently have 3 or more active add-ons?

    While I can’t prove it yet, I suspect that these are the folks who really “get” the customization aspect of Firefox and are core to evangelizing Firefox.



  5. Ethan Bauman wrote on :

    Ooops. Just realized I compared daily add-on pings to monthly active users of Firefox. Should be 150 million daily add-on pings divided by 60 million active Firefox users or 2.5 add-ons per user.

  6. bhashem wrote on :

    @Ethan: And that 2.5 add-ons/per user calculation is not exactly right either since it’s not necessarily the same users who happen to visit and the ones that are ping’ing since they are not time or cookie correlated. It also tells us nothing about the distribution of add-ons per user. (Some may have 50 add-ons while others may have 2). You can’t have 1/2 an add-on 🙂

  7. bhashem wrote on :

    @Ethan: Unfortunately, we are not able to offer up this statistic because of how we currently implement the Firefox Automated Update System (AUS) and add-on updates. There is currently no unique ID, cookie or other correlation done to identify users. Add-on updates are checked on a per add-on basis so the update service gets 10 requests for example if a user has 10 add-ons. We’ve tried looking at IP addresses but that also is not unique enough given our volume. Firefox is architected this way in order to take advantage of the caching infrastructure on the server side. If you batch them up as a single request you’ll lose the cache advantage.