Personas are joining the Themes family

2/28/13 Update on the migration »

Early last month, we asked for your help in choosing a new name for the Personas feature in Firefox. We’ve found that most users, even those who use Personas, don’t know them by that name, and new users can’t tell what a “Persona” is by its name.

After a lot of thought, including consideration of the community poll results, we’re planning to make “themes” the name for custom visual changes to Firefox, whether through Personas or existing themes. We think it’s easiest for a user trying to change Firefox’s look to go to a single place without worrying about the difference between a “theme”, a “background”, and a “skin”.

For people who do know the difference and only wish to browse one type of theme, we’ll distinguish “background themes” (current Personas) from “complete themes” (current themes).

We know that current theme designers put many hours of work into their styles to totally transform every aspect of the Firefox UI, and hope that a single themes area featuring both themes and Personas will help more users discover complete themes who otherwise wouldn’t.

As many of you know, we’ve been in the process of migrating the Personas website into with all of our other add-ons, and we plan to finish that process in the coming months. When Personas have finished the migration to their new home, they’ll be called themes. Until then, our websites will continue to refer to them as Personas or Persona themes.

In case you’re curious, out of more than 1,000 responses to our naming poll, “themes” came in second place with 22% of the votes behind “skins” with 41% of the votes. We considered “skins”, but it drew many negative reactions and associations, and we ultimately felt it’s less confusing to users if we unify all of our themes under a single name.

As for the future of the name “Personas”, we mentioned earlier the possibility that it might be better suited for another product. We did find this to be the case, and last week we announced that Mozilla Persona will become the new name for our Web-scale identity system (formerly called BrowserID). You can read more about the product and the reasoning behind this decision here.

23 responses

  1. Hamid wrote on :

    Good Decision. “Theme” is so better word specially for people whose native language is not English.
    I hope you make every thing in Firefox and Thunderbird as simple as it could be.

  2. malliz wrote on :

    How come the poll was ignored? How come other programs have used skins for years with no negative connotations.

    And your post needs editing as it reads as if the skins came in second and it did not

  3. Jivko wrote on :

    This article stinks!

    1. Jack wrote on :

      Ya, I can smell it!

  4. Dao wrote on :

    I assume you’ve also discussed this decision with Add-ons Manager folks in light of ?

  5. tom jones wrote on :

    “As for the future of the name ‘Personas’, we mentioned earlier the possibility that it might be better suited for another product. We did find this to be the case, and last week we announced that Mozilla Persona will become the new name for our Web-scale identity system (formerly called BrowserID).”

    that statement sounds disingenuous. are you sure it wasn’t the other way around? are you sure someone in the marketing department didn’t want “Persona” as a brand name for browser id, and in preparation for that, you decided that project was more important than “Personas” background themes???

    or are we to believe that for years, the name “Personas” was ok with everyone, and you just woke up one day, decided to change it, and it just happens that 2 weeks later, at MWC, someone else at mozilla had the great idea to reuse the brand?


    1. Amy Tsay wrote on :

      Hi Tom, as mentioned in the original announcement (, we had intended to change the name for a while because new users found it confusing and tests showed that people were more likely to try it when called a different name. Admittedly, announcing the rebranding of BrowserID to Mozilla Persona at MWC accelerated the timeline for our own name change, and we agree it was confusing and less than ideal. But the issue here is timing, not whether one product took away another product’s name because it was deemed “more important”. Hope this helps to clarify…

  6. Robert Kaiser wrote on :

    BTW, did you consider to call current Personas “lightweight themes” (instead of “background themes”) in those places where a difference needs to be made? “Lightweight themes” would fit the internal name they have in the code right now (in some places we refer to them as “lwthemes” there, in some fully as “lightweight themes”, AFAIK). Might be nice to have code and marketing finally match. 😉

  7. keeg wrote on :

    Will it be possible to separably browse for themes and themes(personas) ?

    I use only personas. Personas are nice and lightweight, and I don’t want to accidentally install some bloated theme because they are located on the same webpage.

    And by the way I agree with what malliz said above.

  8. BrianZ wrote on :

    I agree with Tom Jones’s assessment. It’s too bad that the Browser ID people couldn’t come up with a name of their own instead of stealing the Personas identity, which IMO appears to be what is happening here. This change comes as a disappointment to many Persona designers as well as Theme designers. And by the way, there are many Persona designers who also work hard at their craft. Robert Kaiser has a good point also. Once Personas have lost their more artistic name, you might as well just call them Lightweight Themes like the programmers do. Or a Background Lightweight Theme – who doesn’t like a BLT? ;o)

  9. Glenn wrote on :

    You really think that we believe this is what was going on behind the scenes? when actually you wanted to use “persona” for the “new” BrowserID from the beginning and came up with this excuse to “re-purpose” the term for that (as well as wanting to “merge” the personas into AMO no doubt). I find Mozilla’s whole attitude towards its users nowadays to be quite disenchanting.

  10. Nuss wrote on :

    Great! Personas wasn’t really a good name for the finished thing anyways IMO. Merging personas and themes is the most rational thing to do.

    malliz: the poll ignored? Mozilla isn’t democratic, it is meritocratic.

    Glenn: how is Mozilla’s attitude disenchanting? I can’t think of one thing that has made things worse for the users lately, quite the opposite. E.g. I get a faster, leaner, snappier browser almost every month nowadays. Awesome^2.

    1. Ngamer01 wrote on :

      At what cost though. Shoehorning Personas into sharing the same space as Themes will lead Themes to be crowded out. Then a major part of Gecko customization will die leaving Chrome, Seamonkey, Opera as the only places for browser customization fans.

      There are 30,000+ Personas at AMO alone. There are only about near 500 Themes on AMO with about 82 compatible with Firefox 11 (the next version slated to go to the Release Channel soon).

      The best way for Mozilla and AMO to resolve it is to:
      1) Don’t shoehorn Personas into the Themes category.
      2) If Personas must be renamed: Backgrounds or Decals.
      3) Enable Personas to be used with Themes without having users jump through hoops. Not every user wants to reboot Firefox five times to make a Persona appear over a full theme. Nor does every user want to hack or is capable of hacking a theme to overlay a custom toolbar and Add-on Bar background.
      4) Have the Firefox devs make one Australis default theme fit all OSs instead of making multiple Australis default versions for every OS. With a stabler default theme, more theme makers may come back or new ones will emerge to usher in a new renaissance of theme development.
      5) ???
      6) Profit. Everyone’s happy and Mozilla gets to use saved resources for better things.

      But I know I’m not getting anywhere. Mozilla is quite happy in shooting itself in the foot over and over and over.

      1. Nuss wrote on :

        They will still be there. AMO have revised their categories before. I really don’t see the problem.

        And when is Mozilla shooting itself in the foot over and over? They are merely merging two similar categories on a website.

    2. malliz wrote on :

      @Nuss I could care less what Mozilla is but I wish they wouldn’t do the “We care what you think” BS because lets face it they don’t. You wouldn’t happen to be a paid Mozilla employee by any chance? you sure make a lot of excuses for them

  11. Aris wrote on :

    I would prefer you to let two groups of “themes” on Mozilla addons: “Full themes” (Themes) and “Light themes” (Personas) and not mess around with both in one category. Or just rename “Personas tab” on to “Light themes” and anything would be OK.

  12. Majken “Lucy” Connor wrote on :

    I’m also curious what the reasoning is for ignoring “skins.” For the sake of openness and helping other people learn it would be really nice to follow that up. The way you’ve presented it now makes it look more like “well we didn’t like it, so we did what we want” which I really don’t want to believe is what’s going on.

    You had good reasons not to use the term, so why not share them?

    1. Justin Scott (fligtar) wrote on :

      Hey Lucy,

      We heard from several people that skins creeped them out (as in wearing a human skin) and it’s also well-known slang that invokes thoughts of drugs and sex. But, even more than that, as the article mentions we didn’t want to have both “themes” and “skins”, “themes” and “backgrounds”, or “themes” and anything else. Users don’t know the difference between a theme and a skin and they just want their browser to look awesome, so we simplified and optimized for that use case.

      1. malliz wrote on :

        Several people? come on you could have come up with a better excuse than several people. Winamp and other programs have obviously missed out on finding this cross section of the public

  13. JanW wrote on :

    Renaming it to “Toolbar Background” or “Toolbar Skins” would’ve been a more accurate description to what the former personas actually are and without creating any confusion whatsoever and avoids making a forced and fake distinction between a “background” or “full” theme.

    But, what do I know…

  14. Sailfish wrote on :

    Taking the Personas brand and using it for BrowserID not only shows a lack of imagination, it’s an unforced branding error.

    Be that as it may, rolling Personas into the Theme category is another example of muddled branding thinking. If it has to reside there, it would be better to position it as a sub-category; perhaps positioning it something like, Themes:Decors

  15. Axel wrote on :

    We had made quite a few useful alternative suggestions, why were these ignored? Themes are way more work, and feature more integration with the browser and require actual User Interface Design, so I cannot really understand why they would have to be lumped in with personas.

    backgrounds / tattoes / imagos anything creative like that would have been acceptable and I am sure there are many more alternatives to “skins”.

    Theme development is still alive and kicking, but you are marginalizing the developers. Really, personas should just be one addon (no matter what you name it) and the images and color choices should be featured on this addon’s site.

  16. SBME wrote on :

    I think this is a very bad idea.

    I have over 5 separate Firefox’s that I have installed (only recently), each with only one profile. Just in case get a virus… and some are sandboxed with Sandboxie. Each one I use for different purposes.

    Truth be told I only found the Persona’s last night even though I’ve been using Firefox before it was Firefox.

    I read that some Themes can slow down Firefox in some cases, since they can change the; back button, reload button ….. So I searched for a way to just change the color background when I finally came across the Persona’s. How I missed this before is beyond me.

    However I think the __REAL__, yes I mean “real themes” should be separate. They will be lost with all of the Persona’s.

    But like others have said, this makes 0 sense. If you already made up your mind to steal the Persona’s name for something else, then fine.

    However I think it is VERY foolish to lump these in with themes, just come up with a different name, don’t know why “Skins” wouldn’t fit. It’s just an image and color change.

    Please keep the Themes separate. There is no reason why you can’t fix this now. Your last line makes no sense at all, I think it makes it way more confusing. I swear when I was looking at Themes two nights ago one of them had a bar graph showing that his/her uses a lot less resources and or is faster, so Themes must use more resources. I don’t see these Persona’s or Skins really effecting the speed of Firefox, even if it’s a 3-6 year machine.