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Mozilla tries to silence add-on developers' scream

'Major technology changes, some sacrifices'

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Mozilla has been forced to justify its decision to herd third party coders, whose add-ons sometimes break the Firefox user interface, away form the browser's components directory.

In a meaty blog post on Saturday, the open source browser maker’s development boss, Mike Connor, explained the rationale behind Mozilla’s move to debut a "lockdown" feature in Firefox 3.6.

The switcheroo will compel third party application developers to toe the line by preventing them from adding their own code into the browser's components directory, thereby making the Firefox interface more stable.

“We have a lot of great extensions and themes, but developing these requires a lot of ramp-up time and technical ability, and ongoing commitment to maintaining these across versions,” said Connor.

He pointed out that some users declined to upgrade their Firefox browser because of incompatible extensions, which - for Mozilla at least - was bad for business.

Connor confirmed that the Personas and Jetpack projects Mozilla has been experimenting with would eventually replace the outfit’s “truly limitless customisations” in Firefox, to make the UI an easier platform for it to tame.

“To compete and lead in the browser market now, we want and need to be able to move faster, and not have our hands as severely tied by add-on compatibility,” Connor said.

“We also want it to be safer to run with add-ons, and less disruptive to increasingly longer-lived and more complex browsing sessions. All of these requirements meant major technology changes, and some sacrifices.”

Prehaps acknowledging there could be trouble ahead, Connor admitted that Mozilla Tower’s “strategic product decision” to remain “competitive and flexible in the long term” discriminated against the old extension model that many developers have clasped lovingly to their bosoms.

“I am personally at peace with that,” he said.

“It isn’t an easy decision, but we firmly believe it is the right one, and we will continue to work towards improving the capabilities of Personas and Jetpacks until they are powerful enough to provide the user experiences we need them to provide.” ®

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