Aug 23, 2015

Casual cooperation of addons

This is a reply to the blog entry: Firefox Add-on Changes | Bill McCloskey's Blog

Hello, I'm the author of the listed addon Tree Style Tab.

You mean that we can rebuild Tree Style Tab with the sidebar API. However, I think that you don't find out what is the essence of TST.

I believe that TST's unique value is a natural compatibility for other tab-related addons, and sidebar API based TST loses the value.

If I rebuild TST using such a sidebar API, it can probably provide tree-like GUI in a sandboxed frame, working instead of Firefox's native tabs. But, probably other addons can't cooperate with it, because most addons' authors think about only their addons and Firefox's native tabs. Even if new TST became available based on the sidebar API which can't cooperate with other addons, it's useless. Moreover, then I'll receive more and more requests for the sidebared TST, like: Please add the feature provided by another something major tab-related addon, like "copy tab title"!

On the other hand, current TST changes just the appearance of Firefox's native tabs, so other tab related addons also work with it seamlessly even if they don't know TST. If an addon provide a new menuitem "copy tab title" in the context menu on tabs, it is also available even if TST is installed, because TST's "tree item" is truly Firefox's native tab. I mean that this is TST's natural compatibility for other addons. I think this value is never available with isolated addons based on sandboxed sidebar. Like the UNIX strategy, one addon should not include too much features, because one author only can do a few work. Instead, one addon should cooperate with others casually. I think this is why Firefox is loved by many power users.

The reason, why TST seems unstable and fragile, is that there are too less entry points for addons which work on Firefox's low level layer. Because we never can insert our custom operations to Firefox's features (like dragging of tabs, bookmarking of webpages, etc.), we have to replace it entirely or rewrite internal functions. If more stable entry points become available, TST will be more safe, stable, and compatible with other addons.

Anyway, my conclusion is: I believe that low-level extensibility for addons should be kept, even if new extension APIs become landed. Extensibility based only on isolated APIs will kill addons' casual cooperation.


One addition.

If addons based on new APIs can cooperate with others casually around Firefox's native features like current TST, I passively agree to the decision of killing low level extensibility for legacy addons. Basically Firefox should be more safe and stable for non-power users - I think so. If new APIs truly can build addons which cooperate with others seamlessly with enough rich entry points, then I'll have no reason to negate migration from legacy way to the new way - except that it is a hard work.


wikieditish message: Ready to edit this entry.