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Firefox To Support Chrome, Opera Extensions
Posted August 24, 2015
Firefox To Support Chrome, Opera Extensions
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By Dan Heilman. Updated August 24, 2015 1:11PM

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Mozilla, the maker of open-source Web browser Firefox, is implementing a new extension application programming interface (API) that it said will increase the browser’s compatibility with the Chrome and Opera browsers. The new Blink-compatible API, called WebExtensions, is aimed at making it easier for developers to create extensions across multiple browsers, rather than having to create different versions for different browsers.

The WebExtensions API will allow extensions code for Chrome and Opera to run on Firefox with only minimal changes. Mozilla said it also hopes to have WebExtensions run on Microsoft’s Edge browser.

"We would like add-on development to be more like Web development: The same code should run in multiple browsers according to behavior set by standards, with comprehensive documentation available from multiple vendors," Mozilla said in a blog post.

Some Not Happy

According to Mozilla, WebExtensions will behave like other Firefox add-ons. With the new API, extension developers should be able to make the same extension available on Firefox and Chrome "with a minimal number of changes to repackage for each platform," the company said.

WebExtensions is currently available in the Developer Edition of Firefox 42. Mozilla has begun talking with other browser vendors to start the process of standardizing at least some of the API, and will continue to release more information and details about WebExtensions as they become available.

Mozilla said it will solicit feedback from the development community, and will continue to develop and extend the WebExtensions API "to support as much of the functionality needed by the most popular Firefox extensions as possible."

Some feedback has already emerged from the developer community, with some criticizing Mozilla for turning Firefox into a clone of Chrome instead of leaving the browser as it was with the XPCOM interface and XUL markup language.

Mozilla countered that developers who already support Chrome extensions will benefit from the move since they will have one codebase to support instead of two. At the same time, it conceded that "developers of Firefox-only add-ons will have to make changes. Those changes may require considerable development effort up-front, but we feel the end result will be worth that effort for both Firefox's users and developers."

On his blog, Mozilla developer Bill McCloskey added, "We’re open to ideas about how to do this. Moving away from XUL will be a long process."

Electrolysis Coming

Mozilla also released details on the Electrolysis version of Firefox, which uses a separate operating system process to run Web content. Using a separate rendering process will allow Mozilla to make performance and security improvements to Firefox.

User testing will determine when Electrolysis is ready for release. Electrolysis will be available to users as an opt-in feature on Mozilla’s beta channel on September 22. The new version will also be compatible with WebExtensions.

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An ominous cow herd:
Posted: 2015-08-24 @ 6:21pm PT
Yep. Turning Firefox into Chrome doesn't seem to be "good thing" to happen. And, from what I've seen on the mailing list, 43 is when Electrolysis will be turned on by default, although that has been happening for awhile if you run Nightly. Sadly, I have extensions that don't allow it to work correctly. And since they took out the ability to start a new window with it enabled, I really can't test anymore, although I was trying to. They thought that they were close enough. Sorry, they are FAR from it.

I currently run Nightly (as my daily driver), portable Release (for an online game that practically requires me to be online 24/7) and portable Beta (same game, different account, and yes, I could run both accounts on two tabs in one browser, but it works better for me this way in the game). Figuring out to run non-signed extensions (yes, that is coming to release, and there will be NO opting out of it, you'll either have to run Nightly or Developer if you want to run unsigned extensions) was a bit of a puzzler, but I think it's finally out there to be found easier than I found it. You will be able to upload an extension that isn't signed, have it go through the review process (how long that will take, that's a good question, apparently scanning the extension will either sign it if it appears to be non-harmful, or have somebody actually review the code), and then you can expect to get the signed .XPI that will then work. And you can do it non-publicly. Which I guess will work for an abandoned extension that is still working. Not that that there seem to be too many of those left.

I'm still holding on until Mozilla really torques me good. Seeing full themes disappear from Firefox was about the first time that I was thinking that I might want to switch browsers. Mozilla has finally come up with the alternative Developer's theme, which is an improvement over the Chrome look that I just despise. Then I lost a bunch of extensions because of internal changes. Some of which were abandoned, but I've found replacements for most of them now, so far. It seems that I get closer to switching after each announcement. I don't know what I'd switch to today if I decided to change. I doubt that it would be Chrome, even though I already run that. Chrome has its own problems, and I'm thinking about just uninstalling that, even if it gets rid of my Google Drive. I'll just run with the web version then.

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