Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a long post detailing our add-on review process. It has been a few weeks since the launch of the new developer tools, and that warrants a new post explaining how the new review process works. I’ll try to keep it short this time.
By the way, this post doesn’t cover Personas because they have a separate review process.
Submitting Your Add-on
Did you create an add-on you want to host on AMO (addons.mozilla.org)? Just visit the AMO Developer Hub to get started. You’ll need an AMO account and you should probably take some time to read our submission policies. We also have a detailed guide that explains what we look for when reviewing your submissions and deciding if and how it should be listed on the site.
When you submit a new add-on, you will have to choose between 2 review tracks: Full Review and Preliminary Review.
For the Full Review track, our reviewers will check that your add-on is safe to use, respects users’ privacy and choices, doesn’t conflict with other add-ons or break existing Firefox features, is easy to use, and is worth publishing to a general audience. While this appears to set a very high admission threshold, it really doesn’t; our goal is to publish as many add-ons as possible, while offering safe and useful choices to our users. Add-ons that receive Full Review approval will appear as Public, have the option to be Featured, can enable Contributions, and in general get much more public attention and downloads.
The Preliminary Review track only requires your add-on to be safe to use. Reviewers look for issues that could put the users’ system or data at risk. Add-ons with Preliminary Review approval appear on the site as Experimental, can’t be featured, and get lower search rankings. Like Public add-ons, they have automatic updates enabled.
So, why would anybody choose Preliminary Review? Many authors have expressed to us the need to host their add-ons on AMO in an intermediate state where they don’t get as much visibility and don’t have their add-ons as heavily scrutinized as they are for Full Review. Also, it serves as a replacement for the sandbox that we had in the previous review system. Now, if an add-on doesn’t pass Full Review, it can still qualify for Preliminary Review if it passes the basic security checks that we do. That will at least allow the add-on to be visible, installable and updatable.
Add-ons that don’t pass Preliminary Review are considered unsafe and are not published on AMO at all.
When your add-on is reviewed, you should receive and email message form us explaining if the review was approved or not, and what kind of approval you got. The message should include notes from the reviewer explaining what was discovered during the review and any issues that need to be addressed. Make sure that your registered email address on AMO is active and that you check on it frequently. On occasion we’ve been told that review email end up in the Spam or Junk folders, so you may want to check there if you think you should have heard from us by then.
If your add-on has been approved in the Preliminary Review track, you can nominate it to the Full Review track after a 10 day waiting period. The 10 days begin from the time of your last Preliminary approval. After that you should see a Full Review nomination option in the Status & Versions page in the Developer Hub.
Updating your add-on
You can upload updates for your add-on from the Status & Versions page in Developer Hub. All updates are reviewed as well, and they will receive Full Review or Preliminary Review depending on the review track your add-on is in. If your first submission wasn’t reviewed before you uploaded the update, the new version will take its place in the review process.
Updates for add-ons in the Full Review track that don’t pass Full Review can still get Preliminary Review approval if any issues are found in the submission. In this case, the update will not be pushed to users, but it will still be visible and installable in the All Versions page of the add-on. The add-on remains in the Full Review track, and a fixed version needs to be submitted before updates can be pushed to users.
Update reviews are normally very fast (under 5 days), but we understand sometimes an update needs to be pushed as quickly as possible. Security fixes and broken external dependencies are the most common reasons for requesting this. In those cases you should contact the AMO Editors directly via email or IRC, and state your case. We can normally respond within a few hours.
The Review Queues
We have 3 lines where all review submissions are queued: one for Full Review nominations, one for Full Review updates, and one for Preliminary Reviews (both nominations and updates).
The waiting times for these queues can often vary, but our goal is to process all updates and preliminary reviews within a couple of days, and Full Review nominations within 10 days. I post queue state updates every week in the Add-ons Forum if you’re interested.
At this moment we’re doing very well on all queues except for Full Review nominations. We have a very large amount of reviews to process caused by the transition from the old review system to the new one, since thousands of old add-ons that never passed our reviewed process now require to do so in order to live on AMO. We expect to bring that queue back to normal within a few weeks, though.
The Mozilla add-on review team is called AMO Editors. It’s composed mostly of volunteers; experienced add-on developers who take time from their busy lives to ensure the add-ons we list are good to use. Reviewing add-ons is a meticulous and often monotonous task, and many of them spend several hours a week working on this for free.
Reviewing add-ons for AMO is no small feat. Just last month the editor team performed over 2400 reviews. While these are exceptional times because of the release of Firefox 4 and the launch of the new review process, the average monthly review count usually hovers around 1000 reviews. With hundreds of submissions pouring in every week, there’s always work to do. So, if you run into an AMO Editor, give him a hug, or buy him a beer :).
Questions and comments welcome, as always.