Support for dropping XPI files into the extension install locations might be going away

For some time now Firefox has supported a way of installing extensions that involves simply copying the extension’s XPI file into one of the extension install locations. The next time Firefox runs it would pop up the install dialog for the extension and allow the user to choose whether to install it or not.

I don’t know how many people use this feature and while the code to do it (at least for the profile folder) isn’t terribly complex, it is additional code that may not be necessary. Right now the new add-ons manager doesn’t support it and I’ve heard only a couple of people comment on its absence but nightly testers are by no means representational so I’m asking a little more widely whether people have a real need for keeping this working in Firefox 4?

To be clear we aren’t talking about the method of installing where you extract your extension into a directory in the install locations, nor are we talking about the method where you create a text file in the install location containing the path to your extension.

Where is the updated Nightly Tester Tools?

Many of you nightly testers may have noticed that Nightly Tester Tools’ compatibility override feature doesn’t work with the new add-ons manager and may be wondering when I’m planning to issue an update to fix that. The more astute of you may have noticed that there hasn’t actually been a real code update to Nightly Tester Tools in 2 years, barring a couple of simple app compatibility fixes. Those with a sharp memory will remember that I said just under 2 years ago that I was ceasing work on my extensions in my spare time. I suggested that Nightly Tester Tools might still receive the odd update but obviously that hasn’t happened and the truth is that I can’t see it happening anytime soon. I’m too busy with that whole real life thing to even be able to work on projects I do enjoy, let alone maintain old stuff that no longer really interests me.

This unfortunately leaves a sizable number of users losing a feature that they liked and still potentially have a need for. I can only really see a couple of possible roads to follow from here:

  1. Do nothing. Users will be annoyed for a time but eventually find ways around what they needed NTT for.
  2. Find someone else to pick up and maintain NTT. I’ve had numerous requests for the source code for many of my extensions over the past two years, none have ever apparently tried to do anything though. Perhaps someone out there will pick up the torch this time?
  3. Point all the users to something else, like the Add-on Compatibility Reporter (once that is updated to work on trunk). While nothing else I know of works quite like NTT at least something is better than nothing, and ACR has the benefit of being Mozilla supported, provides Mozilla with valuable information about add-on compatibility and may be rolled into Firefox at some point.

Option 3 is the only one available that involves any work on my part but probably the choice that leads to less user annoyance, unless someone reading this wants to take up the challenge or has a better idea?

Update: Part of the Mozilla QA team are going to take over development and maintenance of Nightly Tester Tools, let them know what you want to see!

Mossop Status Update: 2010-05-14

Done:

  • Relanded the new extension manager
  • Working through more bugs and issues
  • Started implementing transactions and locking for the main database

Next:

  • Fix overlays for about: urls
  • Make chrome registration possible for bootstrapped add-ons
  • Work on shipping default extensions with the app
  • Help Ben Parr, the new intern get up to speed

Mossop Status Update: 2010-05-07

Done:

  • Backed out the new extension manager
  • Fixed some of the bugs found during the extension manager testday
  • Found the cause of the Ts regression
  • Prepared everything to be landed again

Next:

  • Work out when we can re-land the new extension manager
  • Start churning through more of the known issues

Coordination:

Need to work with IT and RelEng to find out what the situation is with getting the Talos boxes all dongled up