Expanded extension support in Firefox for Android Nightly

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we were working on increasing extension support in the Firefox for Android Nightly pre-release channel. Starting September 30, you will be able to install any extension listed on addons.mozilla.org (AMO) in Nightly. (Update: due to issues updating the Nightly build with this override, we expect this setting to land later this week.)

This override was created for extension developers and advanced users who are interested in testing for compatibility, so it’s not easily accessible. Installing untested extensions can lead to unexpected outcomes; please be judicious about the extensions you install. Also, since most developers haven’t been able to test and optimize their extensions for the new Android experience, please be kind if something doesn’t work the way it should. We will remove negative user reviews about extension performance in Nightly.

Currently, Nightly uses the Collections feature on AMO to install extensions. You will need to create a collection on AMO and change an advanced setting in Nightly in order to install general extensions.

Create a collection on AMO

Follow these instructions to create a collection on AMO. You can name the collection whatever you like. When you are creating your collection, you will see a number in the Custom URL field. This number is your user ID. You will need the collection name and user ID to configure Nightly in the following steps.

Screenshot of the Create a Collection page

Once your collection has been created, you can add extensions to it. Note that you will only be able to add extensions that are listed on AMO.

You can edit this collection at any time.

Enable general extension support setting in Nightly

You will need to make a one-time change to Nightly’s advanced settings to enable general extension installation.

Step 1: Tap on the three dot menu and select Settings.

Screenshot of the Firefox for Android menu

Step 2: Tap on About Firefox Nightly.

Screenshot of the Fenix Settings Menu

Step 3. Tap the Firefox Nightly logo five times until the “Debug menu enabled” notification appears.

Screenshot of About Firefox Nightly

Screenshot - Debug menu enabled

Step 4: Navigate back to Settings. You will now see a new entry for “Custom Add-on collection.” Once a custom add-on collection has been set up, this menu item will always be visible.

Screenshot - Settings

Step 5: Configure your custom add-on collection. Use the collection name and your user ID from AMO for the Collection Owner (User ID)  and Collection name fields, respectively.

Screenshot of interface for adding a custom add-on collection

Before

After

After you tap “OK,” the application will close and restart.

WebExtensions API support

Most of the WebExtensions APIs supported on the previous Firefox for Android experience are supported in the current application. The notable exceptions are the downloads.download (implementation in progress) and the browserData APIs. You can see the current list of compatible APIs on MDN.

Extensions that use unsupported APIs may be buggy or not work at all on Firefox for Android Nightly.

User Experience

The new Firefox for Android has a much different look and feel than Firefox for desktop, or even the previous Android experience. Until now, we’ve worked with the developers of Recommended Extensions directly to optimize the user experience of their extensions for the release channel. We plan to share these UX recommendations with all developers on Firefox Extension Workshop in the upcoming weeks.

Coming next

We will continue to publish our plans for increasing extension support in Firefox for Android as they solidify. Stay tuned to this blog for future updates!

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More Recommended extensions added to Firefox for Android Nightly

As we mentioned recently, we’re adding Recommended extensions to Firefox for Android Nightly as a broader set of APIs become available to accommodate more add-on functionality. We just updated the collection with some new Recommended extensions, including…

Mobile favorites Video Background Play Fix (keeps videos playing in the background even when you switch tabs) and Google Search Fixer (mimics the Google search experience on Chrome) are now in the fold.

Privacy related extensions FoxyProxy (proxy management tool with advanced URL pattern matching) and Bitwarden (password manager) join popular ad blockers Ghostery and AdGuard.

Dig deeper into web content with Image Search Options (customizable reverse image search tool) and Web Archives (view archived web pages from an array of search engines). And if you end up wasting too much time exploring images and cached pages you can get your productivity back on track with Tomato Clock (timed work intervals) and LeechBlock NG (block time-wasting websites).

The new Recommended extensions will become available for Firefox for Android Nightly on 26 September, If you’re interested in exploring these new add-ons and others on your Android device, install Firefox Nightly and visit the Add-ons menu. Barring major issues while testing on Nightly, we expect these add-ons to be available in the release version of Firefox for Android in November.

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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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Extensions in Firefox 81

In Firefox 81, we have improved error messages for extension developers and updated user-facing notifications  to provide more information on how extensions are modifying their settings.

For developers, the menus.create API now provides more meaningful error messages when supplying invalid match or url patterns.  This updated message should make it easier for developers to quickly identify and fix the error. In addition, webNavigation.getAllFrames and webNavigation.getFrame will return a promise resolved with null in case the tab is discarded, which is how these APIs behave in Chrome.

For users, we’ve added a notification when an add-on is controlling the “Ask to save logins and passwords for websites” setting, using the privacy.services.passwordSavingEnabled settings API. Users can see this notification in their preferences or by navigating to about:preferences#privacy.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/Sy7Q3cLUc8lkcMvj6HI1hUKA7dM0YjkZnlHkFxVM3UeNjmGUzAeqbxTDlDdL2rCdZgKNa9KCkbioBvo_rQSHWkTcnSoAUIyxeBa4z7kkghffAvwfseVFopCmnJ1KX-ZF8FatwLSI

Thank you Deepika Karanji for improving the error messages, and our WebExtensions and security engineering teams for making these changes possible. We’re looking forward to seeing what is next for Firefox 82.

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Introducing the Promoted Add-ons Pilot

Today, we are launching a pilot program to give developers a way to promote their add-ons on addons.mozilla.org (AMO). This pilot program, which will run between the end of September and the end of November 2020, aims to expand the number of add-ons we can review and verify as compliant with Mozilla policies, and provides developers with options for boosting their discoverability on AMO.

 

Building Upon Recommended Extensions

We strive to maintain a balance between openness for our development ecosystem and security and privacy for our users. Last summer, we launched a program called Recommended Extensions consisting of a relatively small number of editorially chosen add-ons that are regularly reviewed for policy compliance and prominently recommended on AMO and other Mozilla channels. All other add-ons display a caution label on their listing pages letting users know that we may not have reviewed these add-ons.

We would love to review all add-ons on AMO for policy compliance, but the cost would be prohibitive because they are performed by humans. Still, developers often tell us they would like to have their add-ons reviewed and featured on AMO, and some have indicated a willingness to pay for these services if we provide them.

Introducing Promoted Add-ons

To support these developers, we are adding a new program called Promoted Add-ons, where add-ons can be manually reviewed and featured on the AMO homepage for a fee. Offering these services as paid options will help us expand the number of add-ons that are verified and give developers more ways to gain users.

There will be two levels of paid services available:

  • “Verified” badging: Developers will have all new versions of their add-on reviewed for security and policy compliance. If the add-on passes, it will receive a Verified badge on AMO and in the Firefox Add-ons Manager (about:addons). The caution label will no longer appear on the add-on’s AMO listing page.

Add-on listing page example with verified badge

  • Sponsored placement on the AMO homepage. Developers of add-ons that have a Verified badge have the option to reach more users by paying an additional fee for placement in a new Sponsored section of the AMO homepage. The AMO homepage receives about two million unique visits per month.

AMO Homepage with Sponsored Ssection

During the pilot program, these services will be provided to a small number of participants without cost. More details will be provided to participants and the larger community about the program, including pricing, in the coming months.

Sign up for the Pilot Program

If you are interested in participating in this pilot program, click here to sign up. Please note that space will be limited based on the following criteria and restrictions:

  • Your add-on must be listed on addons.mozilla.org.
  • You (or your company) must be based in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, or Singapore, because once the pilot ends, we can only accept payment from these countries. (If you’re interested in participating but live outside these regions, please sign up to join the waitlist. We’re currently looking into how we can expand to more countries.)
  • Up to 12 add-ons will be accepted to the pilot program due to our current capacity for manual reviews. We will prioritize add-ons that are actively maintained and have an established user base.
  • Prior to receiving the Verified badge, a participating add-on will need to pass manual review. This may require some time commitment from developers to respond to potential review requests in a timely manner.
  • Add-ons in the Recommended Extensions program do not need to apply, because they already receive verification and discovery benefits.

We’ll begin notifying developers who are selected to participate in the program on September 16, 2020. We may expand the program in the future if interest grows, so the sign-up sheet will remain open if you would like to join the waitlist.

Next Steps

We expect Verified badges and homepage sponsorships for pilot participants to go live in early October. We’ll run the pilot for a few weeks to monitor its performance and communicate the next phase in November.

For developers who do not wish to participate in this program but are interested in more ways to support their add-ons, we plan to streamline the contribution experience later this year and explore features that make it easier for people to financially support the add-ons they use regularly. These features will be free to all add-on developers, and remain available whether or not the Promoted Add-ons pilot graduates.

We look forward to your participation, and hope you stay tuned for updates! If you have any questions about the program, please post them to our community forum.

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