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Is Mozilla making a huge mistake by breaking add-ons so badly on Firefox 4?

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I'm stoked about Firefox 4; I think many of us are. It's a beautiful browser, and with the addition of Tab Candy (now "Panorama"), it's even cooler.

Whenever Mozilla release a new version of Firefox, add-ons break. It's become routine, so nobody's overly worked up about it by now. The Mozilla add-ons site is littered with yesteryear's great extensions, including such crowd pleasers as Hit-a-Hint, which has not been updated since 2007.

Okay, ... so with every iteration, some add-ons get left behind, and some are updated by their creators and live on. That's just how the system works, right?

In the past, whenever a new Firefox version came out, the blogosphere was soon full of posts showing how to disable the add-on compatibility check. You just make Firefox stop checking for compatibility, and all of your add-ons work again. Great!

But with Firefox 4, something has changed: Mozilla has made bold, significant, lasting changes that may drastically impact the amount of work the average coder needs to put into their extension to make it compatible with Firefox again.

That's a gutsy move. I mean, when you see a blog post aimed at developers that includes language such as "The nsIExtensionManager interface is no more, along with its RDF backend," you can tell they're not taking any prisoners in their quest for modernizing the aging browser, which now seems kind of sluggish when compared to Chrome (and even Opera 10.61).

You can see it in the adoption rate, too. I have 22 add-ons on my own system, including massively popular ones like Read it Later, Greasemonkey, Adblock Plus, Delicious Bookmarks, ... you get the picture. Firefox is now in its 4th Beta, and none of these extensions are compatible yet (at least on my system.

That's definitely an indication, at least to me. And that's a change as compared to past release cycles, where add-on compatibility updates were much swifter (and easier).

Right now, Firefox 4 is kind of like Opera. It's very neat, very sexy, and completely lacking in add-ons. Chrome definitely has the upper hand on Firefox 4 right now in terms of "working extensions."

It seems like Mozilla is taking a large step back in hopes of taking an even bigger one forward. I hope this dance move works.


Tags: compatibility, developers, firefox

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