Inaugural Add-on-Con Report

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Image by King Molan via Flickr

The inaugural 1-day Add-on-Con took place yesterday, and here is some random take-away from the event.

The organisers (Kudos to the folks from OneRiot, Adaptive Blue, and Sxipper) said that the turnout and interest this year exceeded their expectations and intend to run with the event again.

Add-on Business Models

The opening keynote panel discussion not just dealt with how companies are trying to monetise add-ons, but also how they choose how to interact with users. The general trend seems to be less is more, and annoying users by taking up a lot of real estate or bombarding them with ads or other content will just alienate them. Alex Iskold talked about focusing in on some of the browsing habits of users and choosing niches and only providing choices for certain actions or certain pages occur. Think of it as conditional UI. You can see it in a pop-down bar in the Glue extension that appears only on affiliate pages such as Amazon.

Monetising is hard. It appears some are doing well, such as Conduit and Brand Thunder, but these are mass-distribution partner models that get money from partnerships, search and other. What other options are there for that startup with their great niche extension? Many were keeping their cards close to their chest but apart from search there is ad placement, affiliate programs, and driving traffic to your website where you can try to keep users attention.

Writing Cross-Browser Extensions

The general concensus is that Firefox is by far the easiest browser platform to develop against. Working versions can be done in weeks as opposed to months for IE. Hooks (think overlays in Firefox) in IE are not standardised and require some imaginative hackery that is not guaranteed to work across versions. Read more about the IE story here. The Safari and Opera story is even worse, and it appears extending there is actively discouraged. Google were represented well at the conference (including Aaron Boodman of Greasemonkey fame) but were not giving much away. All we know is their early proposal document and I expect them to not hurry and come up with a good framework from the get-go. Some on the panel said that they when developing for IE and Firefox, that it was possible to extract out 90% of the code to be browser agnostic.

Distribution

The distribution strategies session overlapped with the cross-browser talk so I was not privy to those discussions, but this seemed to be an important topic that popped up throughout the day. In general people were happy with AMO for Firefox and strived to get listed there to reach the largest number of potential users. IE now has ieaddons.com. The review queue on AMO is still an issue for many and while we felt people’s pain, we were putting out the message that we are working on initiatives to fix this.

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Image by King Molan via Flickr

The Future of the Browser

I caught only the second half of the closing keynote panel moderated by Douglas Crockford. Great to see representatives of Mozilla, Google and Microsoft on the same panel talking about shared goals. But what struck me in general was the lack of talk on how the browser will actually change. Sure, lets make it faster, but what then?

And the rest…

Thanks to Rey Bango and Mary Colvig for helping me get the talk slot. There was a great reaction to my talk and folks seemed especially happy about my advice and insights into the editorial process on AMO and how to move things along with their add-on. NOTE: I stated that the 1 billion downloads reached a couple of weeks ago includes updates, but in fact it does not. A staggering achievement!

There were some other sessions on the schedule. I saw Mark Finkle talk mash-ups and Bijan Marashi of Xoopit talk business strategies.  The general consensus was the quality was high and the day was well worthwhile. Bring on Add-on-Con 2!

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