Mozilla drops XUL, implements WebExtensions API that'll essentially give developers easier ways to port Chrome and Opera add-ons to the browser.

Mozilla has officially introduced a major set of changes as to how its Firefox browser will implement add-ons in the future. The most notable among them being the introduction of a new feature that will allow Blink-based Chrome or Opera add-ons compatible to work with Firefox.

These add-ons or the so-called ‘WebExtensions API’ will allow developers to make them run with multiple browsers, hence they have to make very minute changes to the code for these add-ons to run on Firefox as well.

Mainly, Mozilla is getting rid of its XPCOM and XUL technologies the company uses to build its user interfaces. Hence, this would make writing extensions for Firefox fairly simpler as the current use of JavaScript for writing codes adds a lot of complexities. Therefore, the current ‘permissive model’ will be let go off, and add-ons that specifically rely on XUL, XPCOM along with the permissive add-on model will be banished within 12 to 18 months.

These changes will be put into effect starting with Firefox 42. However, developers won’t be allowed to directly install these WebExtension API’s as they’ll need to be reviewed and verified by Mozilla before being implemented, which will then be added via the official Firefox extensions portal. With the new move to WebExtensions API, Mozilla hopes that it’ll make the whole add-on review process much faster. Moreover, the company plans to automate the review process and will try to bring down the review time for these add-ons to five days.

Meanwhile, the company is also planning to introduce another major change with its Electrolysis project. This would allow Firefox browser to separate browser tabs and user interface into different processes. Hence, a crashed web page or tab will not affect or shut down the entire Firefox process tree.

It’ll be interesting to see how the change impacts the Firefox APIs. The browser has always been known for its rather affluent add-ons ecosystem that essentially allows developers to do things they could not possibly think of in other browsers. The new WebExtensions API for Firefox is now available in Firefox Developer Edition though will be gradually rolled out for the general public.

However, the new feature has ticked off some Firefox developers who’ve expressed their contempt over the changes. As according to Nils Mather, author of the famous Firefox extension ‘DownThemAll’ believes that the idea of “deprecating’ XUL-based add-ons with XPCOM access takes the cake.” He further said that the “flexibility of what XUL- based add-ons can do’ is one of the USP’s of the Firefox browser.”

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