Add-ons Takeaway from Mozilla Camp Europe 2008

I got back from the great event in Barcelona a week ago and am just finding the time to write about it. There are quite a few blog posts in the wild about what transpired (see Tristan’s post for a summary with some good linkage), so what I want to do is focus on the Add-ons part of the Dev track.

Walled

Image by King Molan via Flickr

I didn’t get to the Prism talk after lunch on Saturday, opting for the L10n-Drivers Team Presentation instead. I use Prism and have always wanted to see it rolled into Firefox, and some see a sense of urgency about this now that Chrome and other browsers have a similar feature. From what I heard, the Prism team are moving towards a 1.0 release and it will be integrated into Firefox in some form or other at some point. Correct me if I am wrong.

Matjaž Horvat’s talk in the last slot on Saturday was a good case study of utilisiing the Firefox extension system to provide a window into your Web services. Not only does it give you access to potentially hundreds of millions of users, but has much easier hooks than most of the other plaforms. Read more about it here.

My own ‘State of the Add-ons Universe‘ talk on Sunday before lunch went really well. The audience was a mixed bag but they were engaged and even passionate about some issues. I talked a bit about the history of extensions which was fun and had a few heads nodding and smiling. About 40% of the talk ended up being directly about AMO, but it got the most questions and feedback from people. The main take-away for me was the locale story on AMO needs a little more attention. I am not talking about the site, but rather:
a) Some public add-ons have broken locales. This can seriously break Firefox as well. We need to formalise locale testing more in the review process.
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=461805
b) Authors run their add-ons descriptions, instructions, and whatever other text when uploading through translate tools that are not accurate. Some refuse to change the text if it is wrong. I am not sure if this is even widespread and if we can/should even do anything about it.
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=461795

Some other highlights from my talk:

- People are excited about Mossop’s upcoming EM changes

- I demoed the Bandwagon extension, a tool for sharing and discovering add-ons via feeds, and the feedback was positive. I’ll talk more about this as release gets closer.

- Extensions of extensions, and the whole dependency story, is hot now and a real issue for Firebug. I talked to Honza of the Firebug team some about this. It is being tracked in bug 462111.

Rapt Audience

- Meeting Tony Farndon, the author of the Mini Map Sidebar extension. Tony’s achievement is staggering. Coming in with no programming experience, he has created one of the most popular extensions on AMO. He nabbed me after the talk and I hooked him up with Tomcat to set up Leak Gauge (a must for all extension developers). Tony nearly fainted after seeing dozens of leaks after the first run, but then realised he had other extensions installed. Running with a fresh profile revealed no leaks, nice!

Mark Finkle’s back-to-back talks on Fennec Add-ons and XULRunner were top-notch as usual, and the Fennec talk especially got me excited enough to want to do my first Mobile extension. With AMO support now in place, and some live examples in the wild, there is nothing stopping us. The XULRunner talk diverged from the usual format and took the form of a hand-ons tutorial on how to use the Mozilla build system for XULRunner applications. Very useful

It was great to meet some other people from the Add-ons world. Ian Hayward of Glaxstar and I had a chat about a few things and shared experiences on running a business on top of Mozilla technologies. Daniel Glazman and I met for the first time since FOSDEM in 2003. And as an AMO editor, it was great to talk to one of my fellow editors, Archaeopteryx.

I know I have missed some things, but that pretty much sums things up from an Add-ons perspective.

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