Tabs are central to the modern browsing experience, so much so that it is hard to imagine that we once browsed the Internet without them, one single window at a time. Now, it’s common to have several tabs open at once — perhaps one playing music, several with online articles you want to read later (pro tip: check out Pocket for this use case), and of course, a few tabs with whatever you are supposed to be working on at the moment.
From the start, Firefox extensions that dealt with tabs were a natural fit and have proven to be quite popular. The good news is that there are already hundreds of extensions written with the WebExtensions API to help you configure, organize and otherwise manage your browser tabs. You can arrange your tabs as tiles or in a tree, put them on the side of the browser, or control where new tabs open, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, not every feature that was available in the past can be offered using the WebExtensions API. Several of the most popular tab extensions under the legacy add-on system used the unrestricted nature of that environment to offer powerful and unique features. Along with that power, however, came security risks. The WebExtensions API seeks to temper those risks by providing limited access to browser internals.
We’re working to support additional tab features, but how we achieve this goal will be shaped by our dedication to Web standards, the speed and stability of Firefox, our product vision, and especially our commitment to security and privacy and the principles of the Manifesto. It’s clear that some previously available tab features will not be available under the WebExtensions API; they just can’t be accommodated without potentially compromising user security or privacy.
However, we believe many other features can be added. Providing as much tab-related functionality as we can within these constraints is a high priority. Starting with tab hiding, you can expect to see additional functions added to the WebExtensions API over the next several releases that will allow developers to create rich, compelling extensions to style, manage and organize browser tabs.
All of this, of course, will be part of our push for open Web standards. However, while that process proceeds at its own pace, don’t expect to see us stand still. Using feedback from developers, we will continue to innovate within the WebExtensions API, providing new ways to surprise and delight users. As always, thank you for using Firefox and helping ensure that individuals have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on it.