During the past few days, I’ve been chatting with Firefox users, trying to separate fact from rumor regarding the consequences of the August 2020 Mozilla layoffs. One of the topics that came back a few times was the removal of XUL-based add-ons during the move to Firefox Quantum. I was very surprised to see that, years after it happened, some community members still felt hurt by this choice.
And then, as someone pointed out on reddit, I realized that we still haven’t taken the time to explain in-depth why we had no choice but to remove XUL-based add-ons.
So, if you’re ready for a dive into some of the internals of add-ons and Gecko, I’d like to take this opportunity to try and give you a bit more detail.
David Teller’s been at Mozilla for nearly 10 years, so he knows what he’s talking about. A good and detailed explanation of why Mozilla pretty much had no choice.
It’s sad to me how people complain about broken add-ons in Firefox, etc.
This blog post has been available in separate parts over the years before. But it’s not a bad write up.
You have to remember: add-ons design in Firefox meant slowed down development of Firefox and probably Chrome wouldn’t have existed if Firefox development wasn’t slow. Google has always helped Mozilla with funding and even developer time (their is still direct discussion between Firefox developers and Google developers about code that ends up in Firefox I’m not mistaken).
Firefox was bleeding users because of both issues: less addons (a much smaller group) and less fast/secure/response than Chrome (a much larger group).
But what were they supposed to choose ? I’m amazed Firefox was able to get this far as they have. Building and maintaining a competitive browser is a lot of work (being part of the standards process, designing ideas and implementing ideas and improving security and performance). Companies large and small gave up doing so: Apple (they created the fork of khtml: Webkit), Opera (went to Blink) and even Microsoft (also went with Blink)