Firefox Add-ons, Major Compatibility Changes Coming

In a recent announcement, Mozilla revealed that it will deprecate support for its current add-ons and go the Chrome route. The four major changes in the pipeline that will affect developers and users alike are:

  1. Implementing a new extension API called WebExtensions
  2. The multi-process architecture “Electrolysis”
  3. Add-on validation and signing
  4. The deprecation of XPCOM- and XUL-based add-ons.

Bottom line is that, under this new system, add-ons will pretty much follow the Google Chrome model and existing Firefox add-ons will eventually become incompatible. Which means, of course, that existing add-ons will need to be rewritten in order to meet the new standards – Mozilla has set a time frame of 12 to 18 months for the period of deprecation

While this move will see a uniformity of add-on compatibility across a number of popular browsers, it’s been met with understandable hostility by some Firefox add-on developers. One such developer, Nils Maier, has already responded that this will likely mean the end of his popular DownThemAll add-on, saying that the new APIs will severely limit functionality and allow for only simple add-ons “that don’t do anything fancy“. Nils concludes:

It is safe to say, that Firefox will not be Firefox anymore as far as extensions go, but instead will become yet another Chrome-clone. I am just sad. Right now, it feels like I just learned my dear old friend Firefox is going to die. <source>

I must say, I tend to agree. In an ultra competitive market place, the one thing that has always set Firefox apart is its comprehensive range of fully functional and effective add-ons. Even though this move will undoubtedly help Chrome extension developers readily port their extensions over to Firefox, I fail to see how doing away with its one unique feature and emulating its biggest rival can help Firefox in any way. Let’s face it, users who want Chrome extensions are surely going to opt for Chrome, aren’t they?

As Firefox add-on consultant Mike Kaply commented:

Now developers are being told in the next one to two years they will have to completely rewrite ALL of their add-ons. What are the odds that these hobby add-on developers are going to do that? Let’s be honest. Availability of APIs isn’t the difficult part of the discussion. Availability of time and energy to even attempt to rewrite all of our add-ons is the problem.

I will say this, though. It’s a great day to be a Chrome developer. <source>

Is this yet another self-destructive move by Mozilla – what do you think?


15 thoughts on “Firefox Add-ons, Major Compatibility Changes Coming”

  1. Jim, I’m not sure what will happen when Firefox dies. I detest Chrome (ever after trying it out several times in the past). Oh well, everything living expires, Mindblower!

  2. I don’t get it, it seems a suicidal move. They are dropping the major element that differentiates them from their competitors, it makes no sense. I can understand Nils Maier’s dismay, I’m feeling quite sad as well.

  3. This is so sad. I have used FF for years and simply love it. I also use Down Them All and it simply wotks. I too, havr tried Chrome and came back to FF within a couple of days. When my add-ons no longer work I will leave FF and have to find another browser, UGH! This is HUGE mistake for FF. I can hardly believe it.

      1. That is the problem Paul. I have no idea what to use. This is truly a sad day in Windows computing. Maybe I will just buy a Mac and be done with it.

  4. If Firefox will be going the way of Chrome, why would I not want to switch to Chrome? I already have problems with websites not being compatible with Firefox that I need to open up IE to use them. Firefox’s IE View extension ceased to work a long time ago.

  5. Another nail in FF’s coffin. But like Paul H, I’m wondering where to go for a browser. I loved Opera before they committed suicide. When they buried it, I went back to FF. Now this.


  6. Gene De Lorenzo

    This move convinces me that Firefox management is on a suicide mission. Their “upgrade per week” war with Google Chrome of a year or two ago killed off a significant number of extension developers, and I guess the desire is there to eliminate more of them. The hard part for me is finding a new browser that doesn’t begin with “goo”, since I don’t care for the one that does. Maybe a new look at Internet Explorer might become attractive. Good Luck, Firefox. It was nice while it lasted.

  7. Well, since the powers that be at Mozilla are becoming increasingly nihilistic and completely oblivious to, if not contemptuous of, their long-time committed base, this future former Firefox user wonders what will be in store for the Pale Moon fork.

    Though not my first choice at present, Pale Moon may advance to that ranking by default. (Of course, it remains to be seen whether such add-ons as DownThemAll! will be compatible; also, perhaps some enterprising developer will offer an equivalent to MozBackup… .)

    On the other hand, if the pre-Australis version 28.0 continues to function (and will work with the handful of add-ons I use), perhaps I’ll just revert to that (and run it in Sandboxie for security).

    What a pity.

  8. Jee, it sounds like FireFox has been taken over by MS (mis-)management (can you say Office “ribbon”, Win 8 “Metro”, no start menu … etc).

    I tried chrome a few years ago and hated it. Personally I prefer to stay away from IE, but it looks like I will be going back to it.

    I’m with AJ North. I will probably have to run a virtualized copy of FF to keep the addons I want working. Now I have to find a full installer for a current version, rather than the stupid installer stubs they are distributing.

    This really SUCKS. I really DON’T want what ever they are smoking, it has obviously fried their brains …. .

  9. So much for loyalty and all the Mozilla Firefox supporters who helped to make it what it is to-day.
    Open Source with a lot of people giving their free time, etc., etc., and a half a billion Firefox users around the world !!
    Why is the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation wanting to make the change ?
    OK so who is buying it ?

  10. The more I read on this topic the angrier I get. What is going through the heads of Mozilla’s management, other than air, that they would make this suicidal move to trash an incredibly feature rich set of extensions and completely abandon their “identity” as the most customizable browser in order to be a Chrome clone. With total disdain for the wishes of a dedicated user base the clowns at Mozilla are hell-bent to march the Firefox web browser off a cliff to its death. What a sad day this is for me, as I’m one who uses a great many extensions in my Firefox and will, no doubt, be severely affected. The proposed changes will radically alter the extension landscape much the way the bubonic plague altered the demographic landscape of Europe in the 14th century. What will survive? This browser will be totally denuded of all the things that make it unique and popular. What an ill-thought-out move by management!

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