Add-ons at the San Francisco All Hands Meeting

Last week, more than 1,200 Mozillians from around the globe converged on San Francisco, California, for Mozilla’s biannual All Hands meeting to celebrate recent successes, learn more about products from around the company, and collaborate on projects currently in flight.

For the add-ons team, this meant discussing tooling improvements for extension developers, reviewing upcoming changes to addons.mozilla.org (AMO), sharing what’s in store for the WebExtensions API, and checking in on initiatives that help users discover extensions. Here are some highlights:

Developer Tools

During a recent survey, participating extension developers noted two stand-out tools for development: web-ext, a command line tool that can run, lint, package, and sign an extension; and about:debugging, a page where developers can temporarily install their extensions for manual testing. There are improvements coming to both of these tools in the coming months.

In the immediate future, we want to add a feature to web-ext that would let developers submit their extensions to AMO. Our ability to add this feature is currently blocked by how AMO handles extension metadata. Once that issue is resolved, you can expect to see web-ext support a submit command. We also discussed implementing a create command that would generate a standard extension template for developers to start from.

Developers can currently test their extensions manually by installing them through about:debugging. Unfortunately, these installations do not persist once the browser is closed or restarted. Making these installations persistent is on our radar, and now that we are back from the All Hands, we will be looking at developing a plan and finding resources for implementation.

Addons.mozilla.org (AMO)

During the next three months, the AMO engineering team will prioritize work around improving user rating and review flows, improving the code review tools for add-on reviewers, and converting dictionaries to WebExtensions.

Engineers will also tackle a project to ensure that users who download Firefox because they want to install a particular extension or theme from AMO are able to successfully complete the installation process. Currently, users who download Firefox from a listing on AMO are not returned to AMO when they start Firefox for the first time, making it hard for them to finish installing the extension they want. By closing this loop, we expect to see an increase in extension and/or theme installations.

WebExtensions APIs

Several new and enhanced APIs have landed in Firefox since January, and more are on their way. In the next six months, we anticipate landing WebExtensions APIs for clipboard support, bookmarks and session management (including bookmark tags and further expansions of the theming API).

Additionally, we’ll be working towards supporting visual overlays (like notification bars, floating panels, popups, and toolbars) by the end of the year.

Help Users Find Great Extensions Faster

This year, we are focusing on helping Firefox users find and discover great extensions quickly. We have made a few bets on how we can better meet user needs by recommending specific add-ons. In San Francisco, we checked in on the status of projects currently underway:

Recommending extensions to users on AMO

In May, we started testing recommendations on listing pages for extensions commonly co-installed by other users.

A screenshot of the recommender feature on AMO.

Results so far have shown that people are discovering and installing more relevant extensions from these recommendations than the control group, who only sees generally popular extensions. We will continue to make refinements and fully graduate it into AMO in the second half of the year.

(For our privacy-minded friends: you can learn more about how Firefox uses data to improve its products by reading the Firefox Privacy Notice.)

Adding extensions to the onboarding tour for new Firefox users.

We want to make users aware of the benefits of customizing their browser soon after installing Firefox. We’re currently testing a few prototypes of a new onboarding flow.

And more!

We have more projects to improve extension discovery and user satisfaction on our Trello.

Join Us

Are you interested in contributing to the add-ons ecosystem? Check out our wiki to see a list of current contribution opportunities.

 

2 responses

  1. kjemmo wrote on :

    Great to see that a toolbar API is finally scheduled. Any chance that the bug could be updated with relevant info like target version. It would also be nice to see the comments restriction removed as it is now very relevant the discuss implementation.

    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1215064

    1. Caitlin Neiman wrote on :

      Hi there! It’s still a little too early to be able to assign a target version — we have a couple of other areas that we need to focus on before getting to toolbars. Once we get a little bit closer to being able to work on it, we’ll likely either re-open bug 1215064 for comments or open a new bug that starts off with implementation discussion so folks don’t have to scroll through a lot of old comments to see what’s happening. 🙂