Nov 19, 2017

Why I won't migrate some addons from XUL to WebExtenions?


Recently I got requests for migration of "2 Pane Bookmarks" to Firefox 57 and later. However, I won't do that. And there are more addons won't be migrated by my hand.

This article describes "why I won't", for example the case of "2 Pane Bookmark".

It was easy on legacy XUL addons, but not easy on WebExtensions

Because old XUL addons were actually dynamic-applied patches, they could recycle Firefox's internal implementation regardless they were not public APIs. Basically "2 Pane Bookmarks" was built on such characteristics of XUL addons.

Actually, it recycled Firefox's internal codes around bookmark trees and just added two changes: "filter to show only folder tree" and "filter to show bookmark items in the current folder". That was all of the addon did - I didn't have to make more effort. Moreover, to be honest, I started the project from just one reason: "Oh, interestedly it is easy to do! I try to do that!" - yes, just for curious.

On the other hand, WebExtensions addon cannot do that. If I migrate the addon to WebExtensions, I will need to implement everything from scratch: listing bookmarks, implementing drag-and-drop, context menu on bookmarks, commands in the context menu, and more. It is very tiresome.

(So I had to reimplement the tab bar completely including the context menu itself on tabs, for Tree Style Tab 2.0 and later.)

Is there any reason to do migration overcoming the tiresome?

As I described above, I started "2 Pane Bookmarks" project just because it was easy to do. However, now it is not easy but very tiresome. If I did the migration, there were any other reason.

  • If I strongly depended the addon, it is the largest reason for migration. Actually, I depended on "Tree Style Tab" and other already migrated addons and I really needed them, thus I migrated them - despite they lost some features from restrictions of WebExtensions APIs. On the other hand, I don't depend on "2 Pane Bookmark" - I ordinarily use "Bookmarks" toolbar button and its dropdown menu.
  • If it is a technically-interesting challenge, I possibly try to do it. However, I'm not interested in WebExtensions-Based 2 Pane Bookmarks - it won't be funny, ther is only tiresome.
  • If it is requested as a business on my employer company, I'll do that. But "2 Pane Bookmarks" seems not for company use, just for private. Sadly no company customer seems to hope its migration.

Basically I have very few time to develop addons in my private time, because I have to spent much time to write/draw technical comic for periodically-issued magazine. By these reasons, sorry but the addon "2 Pane Bookmarks" will never migrated by me.


Still there are some more unmigrated addons I depended on:

  • Second Search: I really want a search box to type arbitrary terms into, and I hope to search it by any web service after the input. Firefox's built-in feature "One-Off Search" does that, but it doesn't list search services I created as bookmarks with keyword. I think I need to provide new search box for bookmarks with keyword.
  • Informational Tab: especially thumbnail in each tab. It is impossible for Firefox's native tabs, so I'll implement it as an addon to extend Tree Style Tab.
  • New Tab from Location Bar: I don't know its technical possibility, but it is not supported by Firefox itself yet and it won't be done in near feature, so I need to try that.

I'm very sorry but addons not listed here won't be migrated by my hand. I hope that someone who really want develops successor version of them.


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