New add-on badges

A few weeks ago, we announced the pilot of a new Promoted Add-ons program. This new program aims to expand the number of add-ons we can review and verify as compliant with our add-on policies in exchange for a fee from participating developers.

We have recently finished selecting the participants for the pilot, which will run until the end of November 2020. When these extensions successfully complete the review process, they will receive a new badge on their listing page on addons.mozilla.org (AMO) and in the Firefox Add-ons Manager (about:addons).

Verified badge as it appears on AMO

Verified badge as it appears in the Firefox Add-ons Manager

We also introduced the “By Firefox” badge to indicate add-ons that are built by Mozilla. These add-ons also undergo manual review, and we are currently in the process of rolling them out.

By Firefox badge as it appears on AMO

By Firefox badge as it appears in the Firefox Add-ons Manager

Recommended extensions will continue to use the existing Recommended badge in the same locations.

We hope these badges make it easy to identify which extensions are regularly reviewed by Mozilla’s staff. As a reminder, all extensions that are not regularly reviewed by Mozilla display the following caution label on their AMO listing page:

If you’re interested in installing a non-badged extension, we encourage you to first read these security assessment tips.

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Download Statistics Update

In June, we announced that we were making changes to add-on usage statistics on addons.mozilla.org (AMO).  Now, we’re making a similar change to add-on download statistics. These statistics are aggregated from the AMO server logs, do not contain any personally identifiable information, and are only available to add-ons developers via the Developer Hub.

Just like with usage stats, the new download stats will be less expensive to process and will be based on Firefox telemetry data. As users can opt out of telemetry reporting, the new download numbers will be generally lower than those reported from the server logs. Additionally, the download numbers are based on new telemetry introduced in Firefox 80, so they will be lower at first and increase as users update their Firefox. As before, we will only count downloads originating from AMO.

The good news is that it’ll be easier now to track attribution for downloads. The old download stats were based on a custom src parameter in the URL. The new ones will break down sources with the more standard UTM parameters, making it easier to measure the effect of social media and other online campaigns.

Here’s a preview of what the new downloads dashboard will look like:

A screenshot of the updated statistics dashboard

We expect to turn on the new downloads data on October 8. Make sure to export your current download numbers if you’re interested in preserving them.

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Improvements to Statistics Processing on AMO

We’re revamping the statistics we make available to add-on developers on addons.mozilla.org (AMO).

These stats are aggregated from add-on update logs and don’t include any personally identifiable user data. They give developers information about user adoption, general demographics, and other insights that might help them make changes and improvements.

The current system is costly to run, and glitches in the data have been a long-standing recurring issue. We are addressing these issues by changing the data source, which will improve reliability and reduce processing costs.

Usage Statistics

Until now, add-on usage statistics have been based on add-on updates. Firefox checks AMO daily for updates for add-ons that are hosted there (self-distributed add-ons generally check for updates on a server specified by the developer). The server logs for these update requests are aggregated and used to calculate the user counts shown on add-on pages on AMO. They also power a statistics dashboard for developers that breaks down the usage data by language, platform, application, etc.

Stats dashboard example

Stats dashboard showing new version adoption for uBlock Origin

In a few weeks, we will stop using the daily pings as the data source for usage statistics. The new statistics will be based on Firefox telemetry data. As with the current stats, all data is aggregated and no personally identifiable user data is shared with developers.

The data shown on AMO and shared with developers will be essentially the same, but the move to telemetry means that the numbers will change a little. Firefox users can opt out of sending telemetry data, and the way they are counted is different. Our current stats system counts distinct users by IP address, while telemetry uses a per-profile ID. For most add-ons you should expect usage totals to be lower, but usage trends and fluctuations should be nearly identical.

Telemetry data will enable us to show data for add-on versions that are not listed on AMO, so all developers will now be able to analyze their add-on usage stats, regardless of how the add-on is distributed. This also means some add-ons will have higher usage numbers, since the average will be calculated including both AMO-hosted and self-hosted versions.

Other changes that will happen due to this update:

  • The dashboards will only show data for enabled installs. There won’t be a breakdown of usage by add-on status anymore.
  • A breakdown of usage by country will be added.
  • Usage data for our current Firefox for Android browser (also known as Fennec) isn’t included. We’re working on adding data for our next mobile browser (Fenix), currently in development.
  • It won’t be possible to make your statistics dashboard publicly available anymore. Dashboards will only be accessible to add-on developers and admins, starting on June 11. If you are a member of a team that maintains an add-on and you need to access its stats dashboard, please ask your team to add you as an author in the Manage Authors & License page on AMO. The Listed property can be checked off so you don’t show up in the add-on’s public listing page.

We will begin gradually rolling out the new dashboard on June 11. During the rollout, a fraction of add-on dashboards will default to show the new data, but they will also have a link to access the old data. We expect to complete the rollout and discontinue the old dashboards on July 9. If you want to export any of your old stats, make sure you do it before then.

Download Statistics

We plan to make a similar overhaul to download statistics in the coming months. For now they will remain the same. You should expect an announcement around August, when we are closer to switching over to the new download data.

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Changes in Firefox 68

Firefox

Firefox 68 is coming out today, and we wanted to highlight a few of the changes coming to add-ons. We’ve updated addons.mozilla.org (AMO) and the Add-ons Manager (about:addons) in Firefox to help people find high-quality, secure extensions more easily. We’re also making it easier to manage installed add-ons and report potentially harmful extensions and themes directly from the Add-ons Manager.

Recommended Extensions

In April, we previewed the Recommended Extensions program as one of the ways we plan to make add-ons safer. This program will make it easier for users to discover extensions that have been reviewed for security, functionality, and user experience.

In Firefox 68, you may begin to notice the first small batch of these recommendations in the Add-ons Manager. Recommendations will include star ratings and the number of users that currently have the extension installed. All extensions recommended in the Add-ons Manager are vetted through the Recommended Extensions program.

As the first iteration of a new design, you can expect some clean-up in upcoming releases as we refine it and incorporate feedback.

recommended extensions card in about:addons

On AMO starting July 11, Recommended extensions will receive special badging to indicate its inclusion in the program. Additionally, the AMO homepage will be updated to only display Recommended content, and AMO search results will place more emphasis on Recommended extensions.

AMO recommended extension badge

As the Recommended Extensions program continues to evolve, more extensions will be added to the curated list.

Add-ons management and abuse reporting

In alignment with design changes in Firefox, we’ve refreshed the Add-ons Manager to deliver a cleaner user experience. As a result, an ellipsis (3-dot) icon has been introduced to keep options organized and easy to find. You can find all the available controls, including the option to report an extension or theme to Mozilla—in one place.

new about:addons look

The new reporting feature allows users to provide us with a better understanding of the issue they’re experiencing. This new process can be used to report any installed extension, whether they were installed from AMO or somewhere else.

report option in about:addonsselect issue type when reporting extension

Users can also report an extension or theme when they uninstall an add-on. More information about the new abuse reporting process is available here.

Permissions

It’s easy to forget about the permissions that were previously granted to an extension. While most extensions are created by trustworthy third-party developers, we recommend periodically checking what you have installed, what permissions you’ve granted, and making sure you only keep the ones you really want.

Starting in Firefox 68, you can view the permissions of installed extensions directly in the Add-ons Manager, making it easier to perform these periodic checks. Here’s a summary of all extension permissions, so you can review them for yourself when deciding which extensions to keep installed.

permissions panel in about:addons

In upcoming releases, we will be adjusting and refining changes to the Add-ons Manager to continue aligning the design with the rest of Firefox and incorporating feedback we receive. We’re also developing a Recommended Extensions Community Board for contributors to assist with extension recommendations—we’ll have more information soon.

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The future of themes is here!

Firefox

Themes have always been an integral part of the add-ons ecosystem and addons.mozilla.org (AMO). The current generation of themes – also known as lightweight themes and previously known as Personas (long story) – were introduced to AMO in 2009. There are now over 400 thousand of them available on AMO. Today we’re announcing the AMO launch of the next major step in the evolution of Firefox themes.

If you follow this blog, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’ve talked about theme updates a few times before. We actually turned on the new theme submission flow for testing a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t remove the old one. We’ve now flipped the switch and AMO will only accept the new themes.

What’s new about themes

Lightweight themes allowed designers to set a background image for the main browser toolbox, as well as the text color and background color. With this update, themes let you do much more:

  • Change other aspects of the browser, like the color of the toolbar icons, the color of the text in the location bar, and the color of the active tab.
  • Set multiple background images, with different alignment, and tiling. You no longer need a massive background image, or make guesses about the width and height of the browser toolbox.
  • Use color transparency to make interesting color blends.

Here’s an example of one of the recently-submitted themes using some of these new properties:

Orange theme

A detailed list of the supported theme properties can be found in this MDN article. If you scroll down to the compatibility table, you’ll find many properties that only very recent versions of Firefox support. That’s because Firefox engineers are still adding new theme capabilities, making them more powerful with every release.

How to submit themes now

If you’re a theme designer, the submission flow for themes has changed a bit.

  • In the Developer Hub, the Submit a New Theme button will take you to the new submission flow, which is the same used for extensions.
  • You’ll be able to choose if you want to host your theme on AMO or distribute it yourself. This feature has been available for extensions for years, and it allows you to create files you can host on your website or keep for personal use. More on Distribution.
  • On the next step, you can choose to either upload an XPI file or Create a Theme. The outcome of either path is the same.
  • These instructions explain how to build a theme XPI. If you prefer using a wizard like the one we had for lightweight themes, click on the Create a Theme button.

Themes Creation Wizard

  • The new wizard supports the theme features of its predecessor, as well as some of the new ones. To take advantage of all new properties, however, you’ll need to upload an XPI.
  • The browser preview image at the bottom of the screenshot is what becomes the main image for the theme on your theme page. It better reflects how Firefox will look after you install the theme, instead of just showing the background image.

If you run into any problems with these new tools, please report it here.

What about Personas Plus?

The Personas Plus extension has been a handy companion for theme designers for years. It makes it easy to create themes, preview them, and use them locally. Its successor in the new world of themes is Firefox Color.

Firefox Color is exclusively a development tool for themes, so it doesn’t match all features in Personas Plus. However, it should cover what is needed for easy theme creation.

Migrating Lightweight Themes

What about the 400K+ themes already hosted on AMO? We’re keeping them, of course, but we will transform them to the new format later this year. So, if you’re a theme designer and want your theme to be updated, don’t worry, we got you covered. And please don’t submit duplicate themes!

After the migration is done, we’ll notify you about it. The main difference you’ll notice is the new preview image in the theme page. You’ll then be able to submit new versions of your theme that take advantage of the new theme properties.

You’ll also notice that all new and migrated themes have different editing tools to change their descriptions. They are very similar to the tools we use for extensions. They may take a bit of getting used to, but they provide great benefits over the lightweight theme tools. You’ll be able to set a Contributions URL, so your users can compensate you for your work. Also, you get a detailed stats dashboard so you can learn about your users.

uBlock Statistics Dashboard

This level of success not guaranteed

This may seem like a small step, but it’s actually been a large undertaking. It’s taken years and over a dozen people on the Firefox and AMO teams to finally get this out the door. I won’t even try to list everyone because I’m sure I’ll forget some (but thank you all anyway!). We’re very excited with about these new themes, and hope they will lead to even more and better Firefox customization.

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