Add-ons Are Coming to Firefox OS 2.5

Add-ons – customizations and extensions of the product experience – have been very popular with our users and contributors in the Firefox desktop browser. Today, with the Firefox OS 2.5 release, we are introducing the concept of add-ons into the mobile OS. Within Firefox OS, these add-ons can be built and applied to one or several apps on the mobile device including the system app itself, helping our users and developers to deeply customize the device experience to their own needs and tastes.

Firefox OS add-ons are simply zip files containing the JavaScript, CSS, and other assets that make up the add-on. They are customizations that affect specific apps identified via the add-on’s `manifest.json` file. These add-ons use the new extension API called WebExtensions that we announced recently on the desktop browser for overall compatibility reasons.

Add-ons marketplace

Beginning today, users on Firefox OS 2.5 can find Mozilla-reviewed add-ons on the Firefox Marketplace app from their devices. Each add-on is listed with a brief description of the functionality it offers.


Submissions and review

Developers everywhere can independently build and submit an add-on for Firefox OS to Firefox Marketplace for free, for users to discover and install. To ensure each add-on provides a safe, reliable experience across the board for our developers as well as users, Mozilla has stipulated specific add-on review criteria on MDN. Through the review process, we look for security flaws in each add-on, ensure it works as described, does not compromise system performance or device stability, or incur costs to the user (e.g. use large amounts of data) without the user’s knowledge.

Hacking with add-ons

It is easy to get involved! Developers can review the links above for submissions guidelines and start hacking right away on any Firefox OS device they have access to.

You can watch the video of some quick demos here:

We will continue building the Firefox OS platform here to offer rich customizations through add-ons. If you are interested in learning more about building add-ons, please follow us here on MDN.

Firefox OS Hackathon Hits Berlin

André Fiedler

André Fiedler

Today we’re treated to a guest post from André Fiedler—a Mozillian and mobile web developer. He has contributed to various Firefox OS programs, and has even written a few apps for the platform.

André recently participated in a hackathon for Firefox OS. We invited him to share details of his intense—but fun!—48 hours of hacking. Take it away, André…

Hackathons are a great way to explore new ideas and focus on getting things done. They’re also good for testing concepts. You’ll meet a lot of motivated people with fresh ideas you cannot imagine sitting at home.

In September, the MABB kicked off the TV Hackday in Berlin with a round of pitch sessions. This basically involves everyone bouncing crazy ideas off each other to see what sticks. Thanks to Sandra Persing (Senior Events Program Manager at Mozilla) and Michael Kohler (Reps Council member and a Reps Mentor), I was able to attend the event—and even got a Panasonic Firefox OS TV to boot.

The goal of this hackathon was to gather a team and produce an idea within 24 hours. The best pitch came from Anna Kranke: “Make boring television more interesting by watching TV together with your friends, even if they’re somewhere else.” Our team filled out when Elle Langer (storyteller) and Markus Goetz (programmer) joined. We called our project Here’s the fuller vision:

Show a politician’s speech on TV. By using a mobile app, a viewer can chat with friends about what they’re watching—their conversation displayed on screen.

The chat system supports speech-to-text, voting, and emoticons. Additionally, face-detection functionality identifies the politician, allowing the viewer to learn more about the person.

Initially we wanted to set up a “chat” server that the TV app and the mobile chat app could connect with. But this was a bit over the top—we had to get this thing running in hours. We decided to embed an HTTP server directly into the TV app, so that the mobile device could connect directly to it (in the same wifi, of course). Both the TV and the mobile device are running Firefox OS, which made it very easy to hack something together, cuz hey, it’s just JavaScript. Firefox OS is really great for rapid prototyping.

Sadly we had no live TV, so we looked for a video we could embed for development and demonstration. Elle found a suitable clip and I tried to load it directly into the Firefox OS TV app. Here’s a nice detailing of supported video formats on MDN. Looks easy, right? Nope. The TV didn’t play my mp4 video file and encoding it as webm didn’t work either. Time was passing and we needed a solution; luckily the same video was available on YouTube and embedding the YouTube player directly worked really well.

Over the next few hours I made progress on the TV app, Anna produced some fantastic looking smileys, icons, and layout in general. Elle wrote the story and dialogue about three “guys” watching TV. We hacked until midnight. In the end we had a working TV app prototype that showed timed chat bubbles and splashing smileys based on Elle’s story. Markus had the mobile app prototype running, too.

To get the chat bubbles timed with the video, we had to use the YouTube JavaScript API. Once again, we were forced to re-think our decision. A packaged app on the TV does not allow any external JavaScript API. Our solution was to switch from a packaged to a hosted app. At this time I didn’t think of the missing permissions for hosted apps, so I won’t be able to include the HTTP server API inside the TV app. But more on that later.

After we made tomorrow’s plan, we all got some sleep.

The next day I started work on the API stuff. And soon realized, the decision we made the day before breaks the embedded web-server. I thought about doing two prototypes—one for the live demo and one that works with the app. But at this time, the organizer told us to finish the projects at 1pm, two hours earlier than we thought! This was not enough time to get a fully functional prototype working; plus, Markus hadn’t finalized the mobile app.

Once again we had to re-plan, but hey, it’s a hackday. We decided to simply show an app graphic on the device and to just finalize the automatically timed TV app prototype, which was already working. Thus we were mainly finished and we more or less let the app just fully run through… and it failed after exactly 75 seconds. To this day, I cannot explain what the problem is; maybe I’ll investigate it later. But those 75 seconds where enough to showcase our project.

What an amazing experience. I met a lot of new and great people, had a lot of interesting talks, found some bugs and got many new ideas and inspiring impressions. If you’ve never experienced a hackathon, you should definitely give it a try! And keep in mind, it’s just fun. If something doesn’t work out as expected, that’s okay. If you can’t make it, fake it.

Check out all the other great hacks from this event at the TV Hackday website.

Taipei Hackathon Focuses on Add-ons for Firefox OS

taipei_1This past September more than a dozen web developers and UX designers gathered in Taipei to build a new breed of FxOS content—add-ons. Of course, add-ons aren’t a new idea to desktop users, but starting with the FxOS 2.5 release, add-ons finally made the move to mobile.

Add-ons offer Firefox OS users the opportunity to customize and personalize their device. Eight new add-ons were produced during the Taipei hackathon, including designs for new home buttons, navigation and notification settings, an ad blocker, lockscreen customization, a twist on the popular Flappy Bird game, and more. Further details about the add-ons created can be found here.

“Participants were mostly Gaia developers in Taipei,” said Eddie Lin, a Firefox OS product marketer and developer. “They got self organized very quickly when they found it interesting to develop FxOS add-ons. They joined the hackathon because they want to innovate and have fun.”


Premier Ringier Content Now Available for Firefox OS in Africa

MaMaison is a local favorite in Senegal for leading edge real estate information.

MaMaison is a local favorite in Senegal for leading edge real estate information.

Beginning in May, Mozilla and Orange partnered to deliver Firefox OS devices throughout Africa. Klif model phones are now sold in 15 African countries—from Egypt to Madagascar—with more launches on the way. Of course, the allure of a smartphone only goes as far as the content one can access with it. Fortunately for our friends in Africa, one of the most well known local content providers, Ringier Africa, just submitted a bevy of top tier apps, including name brand online shopping portals Pigiame, MaMaison,, and Expat-Dakar. We spoke with Julian Artopé of Ringier Africa about the company’s decision to engage with Firefox OS.

Can you tell us about the current state of online mobile shopping in Africa, and where you see it going over the next few years?
Julian Artopé: Online mobile shopping in Africa seems to still be in its infancy but this is also true for offline retail. The lack of existing retail infrastructure gives a massive opportunity for Africa to outgrow mature e-commerce markets in terms of online retail share. Because of this effect, the network of retail stores might never reach the levels of today’s developed countries and the growing internet penetration provides a massive opportunity for online retail services.

Cash payments will be outdated soon through the rise in mobile connections and mobile wallets. We are already today seeing adoption rates of more than 80% in mobile payments on our platforms. This development definitely speaks for our mobile first strategy.

Pigiame offers free classified ads for goods and services throughout Kenya.

Pigiame offers free classified ads for goods and services throughout Kenya.

Another point is the fast growing middle class whose buying power and higher average online spend is rising. By 2020, over 125 million African households will have discretionary income to spend, of which 70 million will be deemed the “consuming middle class,” thus opening a massive market for digital consumer services.

Why is it important to Ringier to engage with the Firefox OS content ecosystem?
JA: Same as Ringier, Mozilla is active in Africa, thinking future-focused and seeing the massive potential of mobile users in this continent. The strategy of Firefox OS to build an open-source ecosystem and use already existing web standards is innovative and reasonable for emerging markets. We are convinced that the future success for our businesses in Africa is dependent on recognizing the continent’s potential, using the available talent and assets accordingly and adapting to the sphere. That’s why we are very happy about this great partnership.

Friend of Marketplace: Trishul Goel

Our newest Friend of Marketplace is Trishul Goel! Trishul is a web developer, tech evangelist, Marketplace code mentor, and community builder based in Jaipur, India.

He is also a Mozilla Rep, Marketplace app reviewer, and India Task Force member. When he’s not contributing in all these areas within Mozilla, he enjoys exploring on his motorcycle. He feels “awesome and super excited” about being the newest Friend of Marketplace, and we feel awesome and super excited that he is a member of our community.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Marketplace codebase in August, including several brand-new contributors! If you’re interested in contributing code, please check out our new onboarding process.

The new contribution wiki for September is now available. Please check it for projects that might interest you, and be sure to report your contributions as well as the contributions of others in your community!

Games! Games! Games!

Race down mountains in Trigger Rally.

Race down mountains in Trigger Rally.

Firefox Marketplace just introduced a big change for the desktop experience—starting today it’s all about the games.

Over the past several months we’ve listened to users and closely analyzed content trends. The picture is clear: when it comes to the content folks want on desktop, they overwhelmingly want games. Lots and lots of games. (To be clear, Marketplace on mobile devices will continue to feature a wide array of apps in addition to games—utilities, social, productivity, etc.)

We’ve opted to showcase a very specific type of desktop gaming—browser-based games—which is to say, these are games you play right in your browser. Nothing to install. No special software needed. All that’s required is an internet connection and game URL.

This is an exciting shift in focus for Marketplace for a couple of reasons: 1) Mozilla strives to empower people’s lives through the power of the Web. By helping to promote browser-based games, we are demonstrating the capabilities and potential of pure Web gaming; and 2) There are some pretty fantastic browser games out there.

For proof, I dare you to play Swoop for less than five minutes.

Or see how far you can get in the TRON-inspired 3D puzzler CycleBlob.

Wanna compete against others online? I highly recommend and Tanx.

Have fun…

Friend of Marketplace: Atique Ahmed Ziad

Our newest Friend of Marketplace is  Atique Ahmed Ziad! Atique is an app developer, Marketplace code contributor,  and evangelist based in Bangladesh.

He is also an avid bug-squasher and app curation board member, and has been mentoring other code contributors to fix bugs on Marketplace.

“I love to contribute to Mozilla’s codebase, since it gives me a chance to make my written code visible to millions of people. It gives me a chance to take part in something big, which I can surely be proud of.”

Thanks to Atique for all his contributions to Firefox Marketplace!

A special shout-out goes to everyone who made a difference in June, including Shivee Gupta and Zunaid Amin Enan, who were mentored by Atique.

The new contribution wiki for July is now available. Please check it for projects that might interest you, and be sure to report your contributions as well as the contributions of others in your community!

Firefox Marketplace Introduces Mobile-Optimized Websites Into Content Fold

Is this an app or a website? Does it matter?

Is this an app or a website? Does it matter?

Good content is good content. It doesn’t matter if that content comes in app or web form, as long as it offers a great experience on your mobile device. That’s why Firefox Marketplace just introduced mobile-optimized websites (MOW) into our ecosystem.

From the name you can probably interpret what this type of content entails. Websites. Optimized. For mobile.

The web is the greatest content ecosystem of all. It only makes sense to blend appropriate web content into Marketplace’s mobile discovery experience. We also want to help content creators by providing a distribution platform for which they can choose to develop just an MOW if that makes sense for them—as opposed to developing and maintaining both an app and website.

There’s no need for apps and websites to compete. Should you engage with a news app or a website? Do you really care if you’re reading a breaking news headline in app or web form?

Today, Marketplace offers a selective subset of MOWs across various categories. As the program evolves, we’ll explore ways the broader Mozilla community can submit MOWs to expand the breadth of content and participate in the curatorial process (if you’re interested in helping to curate content, please feel free to reach out to and we’ll keep you informed of program developments).

Worldreader Mobile Advances Literacy and Education

worldreader2Consider the case of Charles Madhara. He is a second grade teacher in rural Zimbabwe. There is no electricity in his village; they use solar power to generate energy. Teaching tools are in short supply. So Madhara was very pleased to stumble upon Worldreader Mobile, a reading app loaded with more than 15,000 free e-books, developed by the non-profit Worldreader Foundation.

“It was the only place that offered free books. The children love it,” explains Madhara. “I can read them new stories every day.” Madhara also uses the app to access health information, so he can educate his students on Ebola, HIV, and other essential subjects.

Madhara is also pursuing a Master’s Degree, which he claims would not be possible without Worldreader. “It’s the only place I can obtain the right information when I do research for my assignments.”

worldreader3Firefox Marketplace is thrilled to announce that this revolutionary literacy app is now available on our store. To learn a bit more about Worldreader, I spoke with Elizabeth Wood, Head of Mobile at Worldreader…

Is Worldereader content best suited for a particular age range?
Elizabeth Wood: Our current readers are primarily teens and adults, so most of our book titles are geared towards these two groups. We also learned in our research study with UNESCO, called Reading in the Mobile Era, that over 30% of Worldreader Mobile users are parents, teachers, and caregivers who use Worldreader Mobile to read to and with young children, so we also have a large collection of children’s titles.

Worldreader offers more than 15,000 e-books in 40+ languages, but can you give us a sense of proportion to which languages are best represented?
EW: Currently most of the book titles are in English. We also have 30-75 titles across each of more than 20 African languages including Kiswahili, Twi, Igbo, Zulu, Kinyarwanda, and others. We also have a dozen titles in Hindi and are adding more Indian languages. We have just added a few hundred titles in French, mainly classics, but are working on building out our French library.

worldreader1What literary genres primarily comprise your catalog?
EW: Because we want to provide each person access to the books they need and want to read, this means that our literary offering has to be vast and varied. Worldreader Mobile has over 70 categories—from romance to inspirational to fantasy to educational. Our most popular genres, though, across all geographies are: romance, education, self help/inspirational and religion, respectively.

In addition to offering free e-book content, in what other ways does Worldreader help promote literacy?
EW: Worldreader is on a mission to provide access to relevant and compelling digital books so that people can improve their lives. We promote reading and literacy through our mobile phone applications available to anyone, anywhere and through e-readers in schools and libraries in sub-Saharan Africa. We do this with the end goal of creating a world in which every child and her family have the books they need to improve their lives, the practice of reading is commonplace and where illiteracy is a thing of the past.

Beyond our mission, we are always seeking for ways to improve and provide quality service to our readers. For example, we are currently working on building features in our app to would drive engagement, such as offering rewards for reading more, completing collections of books, etc.  We also strive to offer a wide range of educational materials so that Worldreader Mobile becomes a go-to resource for students.

Friend of Marketplace: Ram Dayal Vaishnav

IMG_0642Our newest Friend of Marketplace is Ram Dayal Vaishnav! Ram is a passionate evangelist and community-builder in India, who organized the first-ever regional Marketplace Day in May.

In addition to being a Mozilla Rep, he is an avid code contributor, app curation board member, a leader of the Mozilla India Task Force, and contributor to L10N, Webmaker, and SUMO.

When he’s not fixing bugs and hanging out in IRC well into the night, he enjoys playing piano and drums, mountaineering, and inventing things (he holds four patents).

Thanks to Ram for all his contributions to Firefox Marketplace!

A special mention to Atique Ahmed Ziad, and all the participants of Marketplace Day in Hyderabad, who rampaged through a bunch of bugs and are helping to shape our engagement with new contributors—thank you all!

Thanks also to everyone who contributed to Marketplace and AMO in May—your efforts are greatly appreciated.

The new contribution wiki for June is now available. Please check it for projects that might interest you, and to report your contributions.