Add-ons in 2017

A little more than a year ago we started talking about where add-ons were headed, and what the future would look like. It’s been busy, and we wanted to give everyone an update as well as provide guidance on what to expect in 2017.

Over the last year, we’ve focused as a community on foundational work building out WebExtensions support in Firefox and (AMO), reducing the time it takes for listed add-ons to be reviewed while maintaining the standards we apply to them, and getting Add-ons ready for e10s. We’ve made a number of changes to our process and products to make it easier to submit, distribute, and discover add-ons through initiatives like the signing API and a revamped Discovery Pane in the add-ons manager. Finally, we’ve continued to focus on communicating changes to the developer community via direct outreach, mailing lists, email campaigns, wikis, and the add-ons blog.

As we’ve mentioned, WebExtensions are the future of add-ons for Firefox, and will continue to be where we concentrate efforts in 2017. WebExtensions are decoupled from the platform, so the changes we’ll make to Firefox in the coming year and beyond won’t affect them. They’re easier to develop, and you won’t have to learn about Firefox internals to get up and running. It’ll be easier to move your add-ons over to and from other browsers with minimal changes, as we’re making the APIs compatible – where it makes sense – with products like Opera, Chrome, and Edge.

By the end of 2017, and with the release of Firefox 57, we’ll move to WebExtensions exclusively, and will stop loading any other extension types on desktop. To help ensure any new extensions work beyond the end of 2017, AMO will stop accepting any new extensions for signing that are not WebExtensions in Firefox 53. Throughout the year we’ll expand the set of APIs available, add capabilities to Firefox that don’t yet exist in other browsers, and put more WebExtensions in front of users.

There’s a lot of moving parts, and we’ll be tracking more detailed information – including a timeline and roadmap – on the WebExtensions section of the Mozilla Wiki. If you’re interested in getting involved with the add-on community and WebExtensions, we have a few ways you can do that. We’re looking forward to the next year, and will continue to post updates and additional information here on the Add-ons blog.

For more information on Add-ons and WebExtensions, see:

Note: Edited to better identify specifics around Firefox 53

85 responses

  1. disheartened addon dev wrote on :

    Yet again developers are left out in the cold. Brave Browser is the future. Bye

  2. Tim wrote on :

    Any idea when first developer builds of a xul free Firefox will arrive, so developers can look at is code?
    I mean, there will be such versions, won’t there? If add-ons have to drop xul code, Firefox will do too, right?

  3. Stephan Sokolow wrote on :

    Y’know, there was a time when Firefox’s extension API gave birth to innovations like Firebug, which browsers like Chrome and IE rushed to copy.

    Now, here I am working to move as much functionality and data as possible outside of the browser so that, when Classic Theme Restorer dies, I can move to chrome to retain access to a real menu button (rather than a toolbar in a panel) and tabs that collapse down to icons rather than scrolling.

    Sure, I’ll have to replicate some of my Firefox extensions using an HTTP proxy and an OS-level sandbox, but at least that’ll still be POSSIBLE without maintaining a patchset for the browser itself. (I suppose that’s a new reason for me to look forward to Servo. If my browser were written in Rust, I’d trust myself to maintain such a patchset without opening up security holes.)

    1. Stephan Sokolow wrote on :

      Dammit. I need to snap out of this funk. Ever since this announcement, I’ve been yanked back to dwelling on this betrayal every time I see anything Mozilla-related… to the point where it’s sapping my motivation to learn Rust every time a new post arrives via my RSS subscription to /r/rust/ …and I love Rust.

  4. Fox got trapped wrote on :

    Next logical move is to move to Webkit/Blink. (2019)

    And then kill Firefox. (2020)


    I think Pale Moon is our best bet now.

  5. Michael wrote on :

    Once again Mozilla flips the bird on users.
    Removing Sync-1.1 with the ability to run a sync server on your own server was a bad decision.
    Switching to australis was a bad decision.
    Pocket integration was a bad decision.
    But removing the support for XUL extensions is more than a bad decision.
    By throwing away the last advantage over chrome Firefox will become superfluous.

    1. Stephan Sokolow wrote on :

      They haven’t thrown out the last advantage quite yet. They still have to announce that they’re killing about:config tweaks like “un-hide http:// in the address bar” and “force target= and to navigate the current tab”.

      That said, I’ve been making steady progress over the last couple of days to produce a suitably private, expressive, and out-of-browser bookmarking and session-saving solution so it’ll be as easy as possible to wander between different WebExtensions-capable browsers.

      (At the moment, I’m focusing on the opportunity to unify disparate data silos, so I prototyped a PyQt import UI design and I’ve almost finished unit testing and debugging a parser for the syntax I habitually use to store project-specific bookmarks as TiddlyWiki outline lists. I’ve also already got a prototype “dump open tabs to JSON” WebExtension that I can repurpose.)

  6. sean wrote on :

    You are removing the only thing that makes firefox outstanding. It is sad see firefox die.

  7. VDT Software wrote on :

    I guess it will finally be time to say a sad farewell to Firefox by that time, then. If I can’t use my favourite add-ons (including the ones I developed myself), there is no reason left not to switch to Chrome. Why do you keep piling on the incompatible changes that leave developers and power users stranded?

  8. IByte wrote on :

    I am very concerned about the future of Firefox.

    During the past couple of years, Mozilla have made a string of decisions that threaten to alienate users who like to extensively customise Firefox and use and/or develop (a lot of) add-ons. Many of these users have made active contributions to the Firefox ecosystem. These decisions include:

    – The removal of the status/add-on bar (add-on developers come to the rescue)
    – The awkward UI minimalism of Australis (a.k.a. “Hey, we want to look like Chrome”). Again, add-on developers to the rescue.
    – The introduction of the Add-on SDK, which restricted add-on functionality while the frequent new versions and deprecation of modules required a lot of effort by add-on developers just to stay compatible with the latest version of Firefox. Ironically, when the SDK was introduced, it was touted to have just the opposite effect.
    – The introduction of mandatory add-on signing, which means that you can’t even run the add-ons you develop yourself on release-version Firefox without having to wait several weeks for a signature. (I’m not exaggerating, I actually have one in the queue right now, going on 3 weeks. On a note of levity, it threatens to make Randall Munroe’s fictional horrors of software development a reality: see , second panel.)
    – And now, support for XUL-based add-ons (including SDK-based add-ons, apparently) is slated to be dropped entirely, making the majority of currently existing add-ons (including many very popular add-ons) inoperable in one fell swoop, replacing it with a technology that is (so far) even more restrictive and not even finished.

    It seems Mozilla have fallen out of love with add-on developers, consider the review queue a nuisance and a burden, and thank them for all their donated time, effort and skill by throwing up new hurdle after hurdle for add-on development and maintenance. When Firefox was launched, of of its great strengths was a very powerful add-on mechanism which was embraced by developers, but Mozilla seem to have trouble coping with the fallout of that power, and have decided to “fix” that problem by reducing add-ons to toys, with the browser becoming little more than an undistinguished Chrome clone for the masses.

    I urge Mozilla to reconsider the dropping of XUL add-ons, it would just amount to giving developers and users the finger. Personally, I know I will be exploring alternatives.

    1. warren-bank wrote on :

      Well said!

      I was poised to write a comment, but it would’ve just echoed all of your same sentiments.. though probably not quite as well.

      Mozilla’s recent policy changes and “strategic” pivots don’t make any sense at all.

      I suppose that after a year of grieving, I’ve reached the point of acceptance.
      For my day-to-day, I can live without addons.
      For my work or occasional special needs, I can revert to an older version or a fork.

      Accepting that (all of the more useful) addons will soon be dead,
      and pondering why anybody would use Firefox 57+,
      I can only think of one reason that I would continue to sing their praises..

      If Mozilla were to make the bold and future-forward decision to add native built-in support for IPFS (the inter-planetary file system).. with URIs that understand the “ipfs://” protocol.

      imho, THAT would be a game changer..
      as a concrete reason to use Firefox,
      as a way to drive actual progress and truly improve the web for those users.

  9. Curious Guy wrote on :

    I have just one simple question. With the switch to this webextensions thingy, can I still run Greasemonkey script I made while still disabling javascript?

    I’m asking that question because in Tampermonkey is useless if javascript disabled in Chrome. Long ago Firefox allow users to run bookmarklets with javascript disabled, but now it’s all gone and I was forced to make the switch by moving all of them into userscripts. So will you follow Chrome in that regard too?

  10. Axel Grude wrote on :

    Let’s see:

    Just looking at my own XPCOM based Addon –

    QuickPasswords uses XUL overlays to augment the password manager (in a modeless dialog to provide the current tab context) and some XPCOM functionality to find out last used timestamp. It adds auto-fill, field correction and import/export functionality. Once Fx deprecates the XUL dialog and switches to content tab fully the motivation for maintaining it will be gone.

    Zombiekeys overlays UI and content so that in all editable elements international letters with diacritics can be type using dead keys.whole it is possible to rewrite this in the content with a Web extension I am doubtful doing this with any UI element outside of the tab – this works fine in current Fx, Seamonkey, Thunderbird and Postbox. Without support for the chrome layer I am not very motivated to even start migration efforts to e10s as killing XUL will mean that it will stop working a few versions later.

    Menu on Top is a quite cute little thing that makes the menu customizable with avatars and a mini bookmark menu and is 100% reliant in overlays. It also shows the remote port which is helpful when doing browser debugging. With deprecating XUL this will be useless just as Firefox Themes. Pity about all the work I put into creating League of Legends icons for it. It also made my profiles easily distinguishable – and I will continue to enjoy that on Thunderbird – (over there) of course my power addons like QuickFolders, SmartTemplate and quickFilters would be absolution impossible without these technologies.

    If you really seriously intend to kill overlays maybe you should invest in some one on one workshops to help Addons developers migrating to the new technologies? All the focus seems to be on the chrome Addons crowd to come over and port their stuff rather than preserving existing functionality.

    Not looking forward to the backlash from my users… I gutes i will have to recommend the ESR route or cut their loss…

    Sad day.

  11. erosman wrote on :

    Firefox has been keeping a 10-11% market share in the browser usage, comparing to Google Chrome which has 57% market share.

    Beside the heavy tracking and privacy concerns of Chrome, the shinning glory of Firefox and where is has excelled, has been its addons.

    Chrome has more addons but Firefox addons have traditionally been immensely more powerful since they had access to APIs that WebExtensions don’t.

    Removal of this powerful feature, makes Firefox a clone of Chrome, and a poor one of that.
    If users wanted a Chrome compatible browser, they would have chosen Chrome.

    While unification of addons is a good move so developers can develop cross-browser compatible addons, WebExtension, once fully implemented, are too limited in certain aspects. It is understandable that probably 90% of addons won’t need the more powerful APIs, but those 10% were the ones that made Firefox great.

    Addon signing caused considerable dissatisfaction among the developers (and there are still reservations on its usefulness). Some developers left Firefox as a result.

    Removing access to powerful APIs will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on Firefox market-share in the long run.

  12. Why, Mozilla? wrote on :

    “By the end of 2017, and with the release of Firefox 57, we’ll move to WebExtensions exclusively”

    Why would you do that?!

    The only reason I still use Firefox is because of Tree Style Tabs, DownThemAll, etc. Firefox has become very slow compared to other browsers, but no other browser can do these things, because their extension framework is too limited.

    You’re killing the only thing that differentiates Firefox from other browsers. If I wanted to use feeble Chrome extensions, I’d just use Chrome.

  13. Sigh wrote on :

    What’s the best Firefox fork to use instead?

    Mozilla Firefox will be useless because it won’t support XUL.

    Pale Moon is committed to supporting XUL but has already broken compatibility with Jetpack extensions making it also useless.

    Which fork is committed to maintaining compatibility with all extension formats?

    1. George wrote on :

      There’s work in progress for making Jetpack/SDK extensions work again in Pale Moon (some already do).

  14. Irvin wrote on :

    Please consider those add-on builders who spend hounded of hours in the past year porting from XUL to addon-sdk (I know some). And now we told them we’re going to drop addon-sdk. What?

  15. Mozai wrote on :

    Well if you do that I will switch browser.

  16. Clif wrote on :

    So Firefox essentially wants to become Chrome, eliminating all the reasons we wanted and loved Firefox in the first place? Just skip Firefox altogether and get dweeble feeble Chrome. Mozilla shoots us the byrd again. There will soon be no real advantage to Firefox so save your old Firefox installs and downloaded XPI’s and keep running the usable Firefox versions from back when Mozilla cared. Otherwise your only option is to dump Firefox for good. I hate to see a good software product go the way of the dodo bird, but Firefox as the great browser it once was will soon be all but extinct.

  17. Peter Nemšák wrote on :

    I’ve been with Mozilla since its infancy. Mozilla browser, Firefox, Thunderbird, heck even the XUL based music players and chat apps like Instantbird and Songbird, and XULrunner apps, and … everything.

    Followed the development, engaged in addon creation, hell even started a crucial part of a big open source framework – CMS frontend based on XUL. Which is still in development, still 100x better than any HTML5 based anything, that aims for web content management. You know why it’s better? Because it’s XUL BASED!

    We bit through XPCOM, modules, addon rules and signing and everything. We will get through this too. Just … we will kick Firefox in its cute orange foxy ass. And choose another browser that will support XUL. And as I use one browser for development and browsing – bye Firefox. Because I just won’t have another chrome installed for everyday use. I already got 2. Chrome, and Opera. Because guess what, both use the same engine for everything.

    And yeah, guess where Opera is. And note it with big black letters on your fridge. Because Firefox will be in the same place after you take this step. Nothing whatsoever will be worth switching to Mozilla’s browser anymore. So, I’ll enjoy my XUL-based Nightly as long as it goes. And then farewell, friend. Even with a tear running down.

  18. firefoxisdead wrote on :

    Why is Mozilla so obsessed with alienating all their users and developers?

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