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Mozilla to breed prepubescent add-on developers

Straps on Jetpack

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Mozilla has unfurled a new API designed to expand the worldwide population of Firefox add-on developers.

The open-source house boasts that over the last four years, more than 8,000 developers have built more than 12,000 add-ons for its Firefox browser. But with its new API, dubbed Jetpack, it hopes to breed many more.

"We want to enable more people to participate in the creation of browser functionality, following the Mozilla mission of making the browser yours, making the web yours," Mozilla's head of user experience Aza Raskin told The Reg. "What if any eighth grader with a little skill could change the browser? What would that mean for the web?"

The idea is to give anyone who can build an ordinary web page the ability to write add-ons, as well. If you know a little html, a little javascript, or a little CSS, Raskin says, you can code with the Jetpack. "If you're a web developer normal, you can now change the browser around."

Or at least a short time from now. Jetpack's initial release is merely a prototype, and Mozilla is still seeking input on the API design. Truth be told, the 0.1 release isn't for the hoi polloi. It's for hardcore developers interested in building something for the hoi polloi.

The prototype includes both the API and, well, an add-on, which provides a simple development environment, a test suite, demo, tutorials, and more. If you like, you can also integrate Jetpack with Bespin, Mozilla's online code editor - and yes, you can debug with Firebug.

Eventually, Mozilla will roll the platform into the shipping browser. Raskin expects to complete a 1.0 release within the next six months, and it could reach the hoi polloi with Firefox 3.6.

You can download the Jetpack API and add-on from Mozilla Labs here. The source code is here. And you can report bugs here. ®

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