Add-on. Add-in. Plug-in. Extension. These are all words that describe third-party pieces of software added to a browser to enhance functionality. Different platforms call it different things. In the world of Mozilla, “add-on” is an umbrella term encompassing extensions, themes, dictionaries, language packs, plug-ins, and search providers. But is it the correct term?
Suppose we have a bicycle shed, and we want to add a new shelf to store some spare parts. It’s a fairly straight-forward task: we’ll just be adding something new onto the bike shed, so it makes sense for this new shelf project to be considered an add-on. Say, however, that the shed’s door opens into the shed, and we’d like for it to open out for more room. This sort of functionality change is a common task for extensions, but it’s not really adding anything onto the bikeshed. It’s just changing things around.
Extensions are extremely powerful and can do everything from turning the browser into a brand new kid-safe environment to synchronizing your bookmarks and other data across all of your devices. Not all of those activities fall under the label of “adding on” to the browser. That’s why, after much thought and research, we’ve decided to rename add-ons to change-arounds.
This first phase of this change is visible starting today, as we’ve renamed the Firefox Add-ons site to Firefox Change-arounds. The second major change will occur when the Add-ons Manager becomes the Change-around Manager in the upcoming release of Firefox 3.5.
These are exciting times for web browser extensibility, and this re-branding of add-ons as change-arounds is reflective of a renewed commitment to improving the Firefox ecosystem for add-on users and developers alike. We’ll be posting more information on our planned improvements in the coming months, so stay tuned to this blog.
Update: Please see our latest post regarding this issue.