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Firefox Is Going To Support Chrome Extensions

Chrome extensions will soon run in Firefox

Chrome extensions like ours will soon run in Mozilla Firefox

Google Chrome extensions will soon be ‘largely compatible’ with Firefox, Mozilla has announced. 

The browser is introducing a new extension API that will make it easier for developers to create extensions that run across multiple browsers and better protect users from rogue add-ons and malware.

Called WebExtension, the new API is Blink-compatible, better documented and easier to use. It will make it easier for developers who build extensions for Opera and Google Chrome to bring them to Firefox with minimal changes needed.

We would like add-on development to be more like Web development: the same code should run in multiple browsers according to behavior set by standards, with comprehensive documentation available from multiple vendors,” the company explains in an article titled ‘The Future of Developing Firefox Add-ons’. 

Like today, new WebExtensions will be distributed and installed through the addons.mozilla.org website.

But the move is not without drawbacks.

Mozilla say that many existing Firefox add-ons will need to be redeveloped from scratch.

While they plan to “work with the community to improve and finalize the WebExtensions API, and […] help developers of unsupported add-ons make the transition to newer APIs and multi-process support,” the news of a reset is unlikely to go down well.

Support for XPCOM- and XUL-based Firefox add-ons is to be phased out. This could see many popular Firefox themes and interface-based add-ons, like Classic Theme Restorer, no longer be able to do what they do at present.

In an effort to reassure those worried, Mozillian Kev Needham has said that personalisation is an ‘area of differentiation’ they’re keen to keep. 

WebExtensions is not the only change that Firefox’s long-established add-ons platform is shouldering. Starting with Firefox 41 due September all existing extensions will need to be validated and signed by Mozilla in order to run.

  • liamdools

    Typical Mozilla. Breaking support with existing add-ons to be more like Chrome. If someone wants Chrome, they’d use Chrome. Nowadays if you want Firefox, you use Pale Moon.

    • Communist

      This seems to have no actual drawbacks except for the recoding part for some extensions.

      I’m all for a single standard for how extensions are made, assuming firefox extensions are going to be just as powerful, i’ll actually be switching if I can get hangouts on it.

      • liamdools

        The recoding part is a huge problem. There are tons of useful add-ons on the Mozilla site that haven’t been updated since 2009 and have likely been forgotten by their developers because the addons have just worked since then. There will be a surplus of great, unsupported addons that you’ll never be able to use in Firefox again, and at what cost? Well, having some Google apps in Firefox, that’s the cost. I literally see no reason they couldn’t just port the Hangouts extension to Firefox and have it work without breaking compatibility with all existing addons.

        • Communist

          But it’s really not.

          This system is more secure, and generally better, and its not that hard to temporarily use a fork or not update, until the extensions come back.

          As long as it doesn’t make any useful extensions completely impossible, i don’t care even a little.

          • BenjaminSutton

            The problem is that the new API won’t have near as much flexibility as the old one. The only reason extensions like TabMixPlus will work is because mozilla adds API features that it needs. Now, what about other extensions like DownThemAll? They’ll have to add new API features for that too. Now what about GreaseMonkey? Are they going to add every API feature that greasemonkey needs to run, too? No, no they’re not. The API will never has 100% feature completeness.

            It’s not just a problem of the addons having to be rewritten, it’s a problem of addons suddenly /not being possible/ to exist anymore, unless mozilla deigns to add really specific API features which won’t happen /every time/ an addon dev wants it to.

          • Communist

            You say no, no they’re not, but give nothing confirmed saying they won’t.

            Do you have any evidence that they won’t get greasemonkey working, or have a built-in alternative?

            You realize this is opensource software and it’d be incredibly easy to fork it and put the old system back in, until they have the needed api’s for you right?

          • liamdools

            Even if they do, it’d still be kind of a useless change. Why have everyone else recode everything just so Firefox users can have access to some stripped down extensions from another browser? Did FF users ask for that? No, Mozilla’s just adding it in for no real reason.

          • Jordan Davenport

            XUL and XPCOM are pretty much the slowest components of Firefox. Mozilla announced a few months ago that they would like to remove them in the distant future to speed up Firefox. Doing so will break all extensions. In order to fix some of the biggest faults, they have to do it though. They’re just announcing a plan to do it as gracefully as possible. To say they have no real reason is either ignorant or disingenuous.

          • liamdools

            The reason they need to speed up FF in the first place is because of all this stupid heavy Chrome copying they’ve been doing lately. Do you have any idea the significant weight that’s been added with 29 when they added in Australis? The only reason they’re dropping these components is to make up for the new UI’s slowness, and it’s going to soon begin coming with some serious compatibility and therefore usability issues.

          • Eyad (CTown)

            Yes, it’s sad that pretty much all extensions could become useless from this change. However, Mozilla has promised that the new API will give developers more power than what is available in Chrome (though less than XUL API).

            There are beinfits to this change. The positives of this change would be (1) more security, (2) less breaking of extensions between updates, (3) more compatible with Chrome, (4) more similar to developing a web app than just using a API only Firefox uses (XUL based apps are a miniority), etc! Point 4 means Firefox becomes easier to maintain for the Mozilla developers since that would remove a whole layer that sits upon other layers of Firefox that they will no longer have to maintained.

          • OliviaC36

            Firefox is going the way of Opera and will suffer greatly for doing it. I and increasingly picking Pale Moon over Firefox for the fact Firefox has lost its spark for me.

          • bahrta

            Greasemonkey already works on chrome.

          • BenjaminSutton

            Last I saw it had a slimmed down and neutered version– which is exactly the point I’m trying to make. Even if it has all the features now; how many years did that take just to become possible?

  • Maysara Badr

    Does this mean that Chrome users will be able to use Firefox extensions?

    • It would, in theory, be able to run *new* WebExtension add-ons made for Firefox, but not existing XUL-based add-ons.

      • Maysara Badr

        It would be nice if we could.

  • BenjaminSutton

    I find it ironic that they’re trying to be more like chrome, in an effort to be “uniquely Firefox” and “enhance the things existing users love about Firefox”, and each time they do it, they get further and further away from (at least for me,) the things that make Firefox worth using over Chrome.

    For me, the sole reason I use FF over chrome is a sheer flexibility of what I can do with it. I.E., if it weren’t for Firefox’s existing extensions I would prefer to use Chrome, because chrome runs and works better. If my current set of addons don’t get rewritten for the new API, and if the re-written versions don’t have the same feature set (and it’s unlikely they will,) I’ll give up and switch to Chrome. Not because chrome has decent extension support, but because chrome has other benefits that I may as well take advantage of now that Firefox no longer has the features that made it appealing to /Firefox users./

    /rant

    • Ayush Shenoy

      I almost thought you said Internet Explorer

  • glenstein

    First Opera falls. Then Firefox. It’s looking like Vivaldi is the only game in town for a truly independent browser.

    • Jordan Davenport

      I can’t follow your reasoning at all. Vivaldi is another Chromium fork also using Blink and V8, whereas Firefox is still using its own Gecko and SpiderMonkey.

    • OliviaC36

      Actually the only interdependent player in town is Pale Moon, even more now since Pale Moon 26 will no longer be based upon Gecko.

  • Drakenfly

    Might as well load Windeers and slap a chrome sticker on it as well…

    • Kat

      Do you really need to make a fuss out of this? They’re just support Chrome extensions, and that’s all, and they should. The Mozllia Add-on store is crap.

  • madjr

    Well am actually happy about this. I will be using firefox more now.

  • lplotkin

    The only reason I use Firefox is extensions, AdBlockPlus being the #1 reason — I can still support sites using non-obnoxious ads. Chrome’s ad blocking is lackluster by comparison, and completely absent in the mobile version.

    • shonangreg

      Yeah, I actually usually use Firefox just to keep from putting all my data eggs in one google basket, but one extension alone will prevent me from updating to this new version of firefox: Video Downloadhelper.

      I use that extension to download videos for numerous purposes: mirroring censored/endangered videos, getting local copies of music videos and short videos for classes (where I can’t depend on having a network), and several more . . . Firefox, with its grassroots community orientation, allows this to happen. Google, however, with its (youtube-protecting, Hollywood-friendly) corporate structure, actively searches out and blocks such efforts.

      • g105b

        lol @ data eggs

    • Communist

      You shouldn’t use adblock, ublock origin is a much better extension, and on both platforms.

      Adblock plus is actually garbage, some companies pay to get around their filters.

      • They do ask for a fee from for-profit websites but I think that is RELATIVELY reasonable since they have to maintain their filters. AFAIK non-profits are able to get on their Acceptable Ads filter for free. It would really depend on how much they charge companies to be able to decide whether it’s somewhat ethical or not. I really like the idea of Acceptable Ads, though, because I recognise that ads allow me to use websites without paying for them and not all ‘Acceptable Ads’ are in their filter, I now disable AdBlock altogether and only turn it on if I literally can’t get to content or ads are really getting in the way (very rarely).

        And the AA filter doesn’t make ABP garbage, you can disable it!

        • Communist

          Ublock origin still uses substantially less ram and cpu, and is completely foss, soooooooooooo…

          • Maybe it’s less resource-heavy, but both ABP and UBO are FOSS, it’s just that ABP has an Acceptable Ads programme as well (which I think is a good idea if you want to dampen down ads but still give websites a revenue stream). Though I suppose if you want 100% privacy then UBO is a good way to go, but that isn’t a concern of mine.

    • view2share

      I use AdBlock Plus on Chrome and Firefox. Works the same.

  • bahrta

    If there will still be something like “Stylish” that lets me create themes for Firefox (it’s not just for websites), then fine. “Stylish” is really the only thing I care about in Firefox honestly. That & maybe extensions like firebug & Web developer toolbar. If they no longer work I’ll just go to chrome. It already has a “Stylish” version although it can’t theme chrome itself like the Firefox version can.

    • Communist

      This article is about firefox getting chrome extensions, and you’re saying if this happens you’ll switch to chrome? what?

      • BenjaminSutton

        If he’s like me, he probably knows that chrome performs better than firefox. That being the case, why would he keep using firefox if it becomes a poorly-performing chrome wannabe?

  • OliviaC36

    Why heck at this point lets just have Firefox drop Gecko for Blink for all the good it will do. Firefox has stopped being original and has moved into “Lets copy everything Chrome does” now. Well looks like I’ll be dropping Firefox for good and picking up Pale Moon as my new default browser.

    • Communist

      Name one bad change that has occurred due to this “copying”

      Do you not understand that this is an objective positive long-term?

      • OliviaC36

        No, in the long term Firefox and Chrome will look alike and uniqueness of the browser I loved will completely disappear. I don’t want a chrome copy I want the features Firefox stipped away back (The Status Bar, Customize Window, Fully Drag and Drop UI and the old UI from FF 28 back). I feel Firefox heading the way of Opera with this striping features and not listening to the community anymore.

        • Communist

          They are only removing two pairs and they specifically said that they’re making a goal to keep all function, and that they are willing to talk to developers and work on a solution when a developer says they cannot make an extension, your claim is full of assumptions that are almost entirely baseless

          • Lord Lestat

            Not true. Mozilla has killed since Australis all UI customization, customization in Australis today= Being able to move buttons around

      • Ronnie McCullough

        Apparently IT doesn’t understand!

      • I recently could not open the hamburger menu in Firefox beta, but also could not show the normal menu bar so i can’t say the hamburger menu is worse. It does make me confuse Firefox and Chrome, though.

        • Communist

          Yeah i gotta say i vastly prefer a tiny button vs a whole huge menu bar.

          • How’s pasting into the text areas of Facebook? That always ends up failing in Firefox for me, so i’ve taken to using AutoHotkey to type my clipboard there. Strange, as Firefox (beta and current stable) does keep working properly on other sites like this one while not even showing the cursor in Facebook.

            Speaking of copying, Firefox seems to have copied the “saving….. silent fail” bug from Chrome.

    • Ronnie McCullough

      Bye……Bye! Instead of posting your intentions just leave! I DON THINK YOU’LL BE MISSED, if firefox has the foresight to make their already good product better and you don’t agree STEP OFF! keep up the awesome advancement Mozilla! HATERS GONNA HATE!

      • Lord Lestat

        And Firefox becoming a Chrome clone should be better? Firefox was all about customization and not about simplicity and minimalism. They will soon lose quite a lot of their advanced users.

        • The only thing i sort of miss in Chrome is MAFF, but that often fails to save a page.

  • Marky

    FirefoxBook. We might hear something like that in the near future.

  • Dominik Grzywak

    R.I.P. Firefox :(

  • BadBityy

    I’m for this—especially if they can handle browser and extension updates like Chrome does.

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  • omg omg. what is best chrome extension today?

    • Session Buddy is better than the old and unreliable Session Manager, but Chrome also needs Lazy Tabs (and maybe FooTab) to load quickly like Firefox does. The Great Suspender is also great, possibly better than UnloadTab in Firefox as that seems to conflict with Session Manager.

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