Upcoming Changes in Compatibility Features

Firefox

Firefox 57 is now on the Nightly channel (along with a shiny new logo!). And while it isn’t disabling legacy add-ons just yet, it will soon. There should be no expectation of legacy add-on support on this or later versions. In preparation for Firefox 57, a number of compatibility changes are being implemented on addons.mozilla.org (AMO) to support this transition.

Upcoming Compatibility Changes

  • All legacy add-ons will have strict compatibility set, with a maximum version of 56.*. This is the end of the line for legacy add-on compatibility. They can still be installed on Nightly with some preference changes, but may break due to other changes happening in Firefox.
  • Related to this, you won’t be able to upload legacy add-ons that have a maximum version set higher than 56.*.
  • It will be easier to find older versions of add-ons when the latest one isn’t compatible. Some developers will be submitting ports to the WebExtensions API that depend on very recent API developments, so they may need to set a minimum version of 56.0 or 57.0. That can make it difficult for users of older versions of Firefox to find a compatible version. To address this, compatibility filters on search will be off by default. Also, we will give more prominence to the All Versions page, where older versions of the add-on are available.
  • Add-ons built with WebExtensions APIs will eventually show up higher on search rankings. This is meant to reduce instances of users installing add-ons that will break within a few weeks.

We will be rolling out these changes in the coming weeks.

Add-on compatibility is one of the most complex AMO features, so it’s possible that some things won’t work exactly right at first. If you run into any compatibility issues, please file them here.

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Add-ons at Mozilla All Hands San Francisco

Firefox add-on staff and contributors gathered at Mozilla’s recent All Hands meeting in San Francisco to spend time as a group focusing on our biggest priority this year: the Firefox 57 release in November.

During the course of the week, Mozillians could be found huddled together in various conference spaces discussing blocker issues, making plans, and hacking on code. Here’s a  recap of the week and a glance at what we have in store for the second half of 2017.

Add-on Engineering

Add-on engineers Luca Greco and Kumar McMillan take a break to model new add-on jackets.

For most of the engineering team, the week was a chance to catch up on the backlog of bugs. (The full list of bugs closed during the week can be found here.)

We also had good conversations about altering HTTP Response in the webRequest API, performance problems with the blocklist on Firefox startup, and sketching out a roadmap for web-ext, the command line tool for extension development. We also had a chance to make progress on the browser.proxy API.

Improving addons.mozilla.org (AMO)

Having recently completed the redesign of AMO for Android, we’ve now turned our attention to refreshing the desktop version. Goals for the next few months include modernizing the homepage and making it easier to find great add-ons. Here’s a preview of the new look:

 

Another area of focus was migrating to Django 1.11. Most of the work on the Django upgrade involved replacing and removing incompatible libraries and customizations, and a lot of progress was made during the week.

Add-on Reviews

Former intern Elvina Valieva helped make improvements to the web-ext command line tool, in addition to doing some impressive marine-themed photoshopping.

Review queue wait times have dramatically improved in the past few weeks, and we’re on track to deliver even more improvements in the next few months. During our week together, we also discussed ideas for improving the volunteer reviewer program and evolving it to stay relevant to the new WebExtensions model. We’ll be reaching out to the review team for feedback in the coming weeks.

Get Involved

Interested in contributing to the add-ons community? Check out our wiki to see a list of current opportunities.

 

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Upcoming changes for add-on usage statistics

We’re changing the way we calculate add-on usage statistics on AMO so they better reflect their real-world usage. This change will go live on the site later this week.

The user count is a very important part of AMO. We show it prominently on listing and search pages. It’s a key factor of determining add-on popularity and search ranking.

Most popular add-ons on AMO

However, there are a couple of problems with it:

  • We count both enabled and disabled installs. This means some add-ons with high disable rates have a higher ranking than they should.
  • It’s an average over a period of several weeks. Add-ons that are rapidly growing in users have user numbers that are lagging behind.

We’ll be calculating the new average based on enabled installs for the past two weeks of activity. We believe this will reflect add-on usage more accurately.

What it means for add-on developers

We expect most add-ons to experience a small drop in their user numbers, due to the removal of disabled installs. Most add-on rankings on AMO won’t change significantly. This change also doesn’t affect the detailed statistics dashboard developers have access to. Only the number displayed on user-facing sections of the site will change.

If you notice any problems with the statistics or anything else on AMO, please let us know by creating an issue.

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Mixing Listed and Unlisted Add-ons on addons.mozilla.org

Firefox add-on developers are free to distribute their add-ons as they see fit, as long as they aren’t forced on users. This comes down to two distribution methods: list it on addons.mozilla.org (AMO), or distribute it themselves via a Web page or application installer.

The implementation of add-on signing on AMO added some unwanted restrictions to these options, essentially making developers choose one distribution channel or the other for all versions of an add-on. Switching between one channel and the other is possible, but complicated.

Today we’re removing these restrictions and enabling mixed listed and unlisted versions for add-ons on AMO. When submitting a new version of an add-on, developers will be able to choose if they want to host it on AMO or on their own. This makes it possible to quickly sign an add-on file for user-testing, create a self-distributed pre-release channel, and more. The only limitation is that version numbers need to be unique across both channels.

Part of this feature has been active on AMO for a while. You may have noticed the new add-on and version submission flows, which were the first set of changes we pushed out.

New add-on submissionToday we’ll enable the distribution channel choice for new version uploads, as well as changes to the Developer Hub to make it easier to manage mixed versions.

New version submission

This is the result of many months of engineering work. The add-on lifecycle, signing, reviews, and various add-on/version/file status combinations are at the core of AMO and are surprisingly complex. I’d like to thank Andrew Williamson and Mathieu Pillard for taking on the bulk of this monumental task, and Bram Pitoyo for doing the UX work.

Please report any AMO issues on GitHub.