Happenings in Extension Land

There has been a lot happening around Mozilla Extensions with implications for developers and users. And much has come to a head in the last few days. For my own benefit but also for everyone in case you missed something, here’s an aggregation of what I found. If there is anything else, let me know.

  1. Wladimir Palant is always on the ball when it comes to informing us about best practices (especially security), new developments, and leading the way trying new things out. His post ‘How many hacks does it take to make your extension install without a restart?’
    does exactly what it says, in reference to traditional extensions and not ones using the new SDK where it comes out of the box. And although his hack-o-meter exploded, it is very informative and perhaps can help other with different types of extensions. Expect at least a few happy users, if not developers.
  2. The Error Console is hidden by default in Firefox 4 betas/nightlies leading to final. While this will have little impact on devs as it can be shown easily via a pref, for the curious user it will be harder to track down problems and make decent reports to extension authors. There is also the task of running test code. But Edward Lee points out that giving users code to run and test quickly is another advantage of of the SDK. Again, not ideal for all add-ons (yet), but a nice trick.
  3. Extensions are now installed packed to help Firefox startup time, great work by Michael Wu. This is transparent to users, 99.5% of whom won’t even see the profile directory and probably should not poke around in there. Extensions devs sometimes do have to poke around in there post-install from time to time, for example check the integrity of their package if something is not working. This only means an extra ‘unzip’ and is not much of an inconvenience. Upside — no more jars needed inside your XPI, though that is still supported which means you can package up things nice and tight to support Firefox 4 and previous versions.
  4. Remote XUL/XBL support has been blocked / turned off (gory details in the bug). It was buggy, and a security hole so this is right thing to do. While some ‘Dark XUL’ deployments out there are hurt by this, no doubt some add-ons will be affected. Also note is it is blocked for file:// urls as well.
  5. Justin Scott informs us that the shiny new Discovery Panel is now turned on in the almost shiny new Add-ons Manager. Go forth and try it.
  6. The Add-ons blog informs us that the Collections feature on the site has been overhauled. I Heart! Create and share.
  7. Last but not least, developers should keep an eye on Jorge’s weekly reports on the Add-ons blog wherein amongst other things he gives us the last Firefox 4 compatibility news

19 Replies to “Happenings in Extension Land”

  1. Note that point 3 means if you’re one of the rare people poking into your own extensions directory, you’ll have to disable the not-unpacking. (That would be people who do things like running executables from there, or load data files manually without going through a chrome URL.)

    Since the extension directory wasn’t always writable before the change, writing into it should continue to be avoided ;)

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