We plan on switching completely to JSON update manifests on Firefox and AMO. If you self-distribute your add-on please read ahead for details.
AMO handles automatic updates for all add-ons listed on the site. For self-hosted add-ons, developers need to set an update URL and manage the update manifest file it returns. Today, AMO returns an RDF file, a common legacy add-on feature. A JSON equivalent of this file is now supported in Firefox. JSON files are smaller and easier to read. This also brings us closer to removing complex RDF parsing from Firefox code.
Firefox 62, set to release September 5, 2018, will stop supporting the RDF variant of the update manifest. Firefox ESR users can continue using RDF manifests until the release of Firefox 68 in 2019. Nevertheless, all developers relying on RDF for their updates should read the documentation and switch soon. Firefox 45 introduced this feature, so all current versions of Firefox support it.
Developers of add-ons hosted on AMO don’t need to take any action. AMO will switch to JSON updates in the coming weeks. You don’t need to make any changes for add-ons hosted on AMO to update normally. Users on versions of Firefox older than 45 will no longer receive automatic updates. However, that should be a very small number of users. It’s also a very small number of active add-ons, since Firefox 45 predates the move to WebExtensions.
The results are in for the Firefox Quantum Extensions Challenge! We were thrilled to see so many creative, helpful, and delightful submission entries.
After our judging panel selected finalists from more than 100 submitted entries, the add-ons community voted for each category winner. The winners were announced for the first time during the livestream broadcast of the Firefox Quantum Extensions Challenge Awards. A recording of the event is available on Air Mozilla.
These extensions bring great functionality and delight to Firefox, so please check them out. Congratulations to the winners!
Listen to live radio stations from around the world and create custom playlists.
“This is a really cool radio add-on with radio stations from all over the world. You can favorite stations, search by country and adjust sound. Listening to Indian radio might become my new favorite hobby.”
Utilize a suite of customizable reverse image search options in a convenient context menu.
“Somebody listens! The ability to fine tune a context add-on. This one lets you open in a new tab OR window, choose which search engines or another program to search in, as well as save your preferences. Good Show!”
Thank you to everyone who submitted extensions to the Firefox Quantum Extensions Challenge!
Our judges reviewed more than 100 submissions and have selected the finalists for each prize category. Now, it’s time for the add-on community to vote for the winners. Use Firefox Beta or Firefox Developer Edition and take these extensions for a test drive (many of the APIs used are not yet available on Firefox 59, the current release), then vote for your favorites here. (And hey, if you really love an extension, maybe consider writing a review?)
Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 29, 2018. Winners will be announced on May 8, 2018.
Please meet our newest Friend of Add-ons, Viswaprasanth Ks! Viswa began contributing to Mozilla in January 2013, when he met regional community members while participating in a Firefox OS hackathon in Bangalore, India. Since then, he has been a member of the Firefox Student Ambassador Board, a Sr. Firefox OS app reviewer, and a Mozilla Rep and Tech Speaker.
In early 2017, Viswa began developing extensions for Firefox using the WebExtensions API. From the start, Viswa wanted to invite his community to learn this framework and create extensions with him. At community events, he would speak about extension development and help participants build their first extensions. These presentations served as a starting point for creating the Activate campaign “Build Your Own Extension.” Viswa quickly became a leader in developing the campaign and testing iterations with a variety of different audiences. In late 2017, he collaborated with community members Santosh Viswanatham and Trishul Goel to re-launch the campaign with a new event flow and more learning resources for new developers.
Viswa continues to give talks about extension development and help new developers become confident working with WebExtensions APIs. He is currently creating a series of videos about the WebExtensions API to be released this summer. When he isn’t speaking about extensions, he mentors students in the Tamilnadu region in Rust and Quality Assurance.
These experiences have translated into skills Viswa uses in everyday life. “I learned about code review when I became a Sr. Firefox OS app reviewer,” he says. “This skill helps me a lot at my office. I am able to easily point out errors in the product I am working on. The second important thing I learned by contributing to Mozilla is how to build and work with a diverse team. The Mozilla community has a lot of amazing people all around the world, and there are unique things to learn from each and every one.”
In his free time, Viswa watches tech-related talks on YouTube, plays chess online, and explores new Mozilla-related projects like Lockbox.
He’s also quick to add, “I feel each and every one who cares about the internet should become Mozilla contributors so the journey will be awesome in future.”
If that describes you and you would like get more involved with the add-ons community, please take a look at our wiki for some opportunities to contribute to the project.
Thank you so much for all of your contributions, Viswa! We’re proud to name you Friend of Add-ons.
Are you an extensions enthusiast? Do you want to help people find excellent ways to improve their browsing experience? If so, please consider applying to join our Featured Extensions Community Board!
Every six months, we assemble a small group of dedicated community members to help nominate and select new featured extensions for addons.mozilla.org (AMO) each month. Their picks help millions of Firefox users discover top-quality extensions.
The current board is currently wrapping up their six-month term, and we are now assembling a new board of talented contributors for the months July – December.
All active members of the add-ons community — including fans, developers, and advocates — are invited to apply to join the board. Priority will be given to applicants who have not served on the board before, followed by those with previous experience, and finally from the outgoing board. You can learn more about the duties of the Featured Add-on Advisory Board on MDN web docs.
To apply, please send us an email at amo-featured [at] mozilla [dot] org with your name, a few sentences about how you’re involved with AMO, and why you are interested in joining the board. The deadline is Monday, April 30, 2018 at 23:59 PDT. The new board will be announced shortly thereafter.
That’s because we’re having a contest! Develop an extension for Firefox and enter it into the Firefox Quantum Extensions Challenge by April 15, 2018. Your extension could win you a brand-new Apple iPad Pro or a $250 gift card to Amazon.
And if you want to make your extension even better, consider using some of the new WebExtensions API discussed below. These new and improved API are available in Firefox 60, recently released to the Beta Channel.
A Profusion of Theme Properties
Since “Best Dynamic Theme” is one of the award categories for the Firefox Quantum Extension Challenge, let’s start with improvements to Themes. Release 60 adds a pile of new items to the list of elements that can be themed, doubling the number of individual components. These include:
tab_line – Line color of the selected tab.
tab_selected – Background color of the selected tab.
popup – The background color of popups (such as the arrow panels).
popup_border – The border color of popups.
popup_text – The text color of popups.
tab_loading – The color of the tab loading indicator and the tab loading burst.
icons – The color of toolbar icons.
icons_attention – The color of toolbar icons in attention state such as the starred bookmark icon or finished download icon.
frame_inactive – The same as “accentcolor”, but only applied to inactive windows, provided for Chrome compatibility.
button_background_active – The color of the background of pressed toolbar buttons.
button_background_hover – The color of the background of toolbar buttons on hover.
toolbar_field_separator – The color of separators inside the URL bar (also available in Firefox 59; note that in Firefox 58 it was implemented under toolbar_vertical_separator)
toolbar_vertical_separator – The color of the separator next to the application menu icon (also available in Firefox 59; note that in Firefox 58 it corresponds to the color of separators inside the URL bar).
Also new for Firefox 60, the headerURL property is no longer mandatory, removing a somewhat arbitrary condition that made themes a bit clunky in the past.
Remember, the contest awards a prize for the best Dynamic Theme, so use the theme API to control and change the various UI elements in creative ways. Want an awesome tutorial that talks about Dynamic Themes? Check out the video below.
More Tab Features
Consistent with each release since Quantum 57, tabs remain a focus of WebExtension growth and improvement. Several bigger features will land in release 61 (expert Bugzilla miners are likely aware of them already), but Firefox 60 still offers a number of important items:
The tabs API now supports a tabs.captureTab method which can be passed a tabId to capture the visible area of the specified tab (as opposed to the tabs.captureVisibleTab API, which only captured the active tab of a window).
The proxy API is quickly maturing, and Firefox 60 adds more functionality by adding the asynchronous proxy.onRequest API. This API is ideal for extensions looking to deal with proxy requests in a background script. Details are still being documented on MDN at the time of this writing but should be available soon.
Network Extensions Get DNS
Extensions now have access to Firefox’s DNS service to resolve hostnames. The new browser.dns() API takes a hostname string (with optional parameters) and resolves it to a DNS record for that hostname. To use this new API, your extension must declare the “dns” permission.
Dynamic Keyboard Shortcuts
Two new API were added to the Commands namespace that allow extensions to change their keyboard shortcuts at runtime. The first, commands.update, allows an extension to change the shortcut key and/or description associated with a command, while the second, commands.reset, reverts a command back to the keyboard shortcut and description originally specified in the manifest file.
Keeping Users Informed
In keeping with our mission to ensure that users are always informed and in control of what extensions are doing, a few new messages have been added to the browser interface:
The items mentioned above highlight some of the bigger and/or more visible changes that appear in Firefox 60. As always, though, many other minor or less visible improvements to WebExtensions also landed, including:
This post is going up a bit later than normal and there are already several additions and changes to the WebExtensions API in progress for Firefox 61, so continue watching this space for more information. In the meantime, please continue to send us your feedback.
Correction An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the theme properties popup_highlight and popup_highlight_text were available in Firefox 60, and that popup and popup_text could be used to style the URL and search bar autocomplete panels. All four of those things will actually appear in Firefox 61 (which is available in the Firefox Nightly channel right now).
For the last five years, Mozilla has participated in the Outreachy program to provide three-month internships for people from groups traditionally underrepresented in tech. From December 2017 – March 2018, interns Ravneet Kaur and Natalia Milavanova worked under the guidance of Christopher Grebs and Luca Greco to improve the add-ons linter.
The add-ons linter is a tool that warns of potential problems within an extension’s code. Developers can use the web-ext command line tool to run the linter locally to check for potential issues during development, and addons.mozilla.org (AMO) uses it to validate an extension during the submission process.
Ravneet’s internship project was to land a localization feature to the add-ons linter. By offering the option to see errors and warnings in multiple languages, the linter can be more accessible to add-on developers who prefer to work with non-English languages. Ravneet successfully adapted Pontoon’s localization method for the add-ons linter and extracted about 19,000 lines of code in the process.
Outreachy internships are a great way to gain real-world experience working with distributed teams and grow software development skills. “This project was the first time I was introduced to the idea of bundling code using technologies like webpack,” Ravneet says. “After going through its documentation and reading blog posts about it, I was fascinated about the idea of bundling code together and building small, minimalistic projects in production, while having a wide variety of maintainable files and folders in the project’s source.”
Natalia tackled a different challenge: improve the linter’s validation by rewriting a large chunk of the code and test suite into async functions. For a long time, the linter’s code had been cumbersome to work with. After refactoring the code, Natalia removed approximately 3% of the code. Luca notes, “Thanks to Natalia’s hard work on this this project, our ability to debug and handle errors in the add-ons linter has been greatly improved. It’s now easier to read and understand the sources, and prepare for the changes that are coming next.”
Thank you for all of your contributions, Natalia and Ravneet! We look forward to seeing your future accomplishments.
If you’re interested in learning more about Outreachy, please visit their website. While you’re at it, check out our own Outreachy alum Shubheksha Jalan’sblog post about her experience applying to the program.