(or why I removed my extension from mozillas addons site)

In 2004 I decided to play with the addon possibilities of Thunderbird. I started to write the “virtual identity extension” and immediately published version 0.1. From version 0.2.1 on, which was published in November 2004, virtual identity was available on mozilla.org.

From 2004 up to 2011 I continued developing this extension, and always tried to get this extension published on addons.mozilla.org. Users of the mozilla mail programs Thunderbird and Seamonkey had therefore been able to find my extension just by the included search features or the main addon sites. Over the years I got around 4000(?) permanent(?) users of this extension worldwide, and publishing at the official mozilla site was one reason for getting people pointed to my work.

But over the years there had been more and more restrictions at addons.mozilla.org, and finally I decided in August 2011 that I will stop my cooperation with addons.mozilla.org by removing all my releases from their site. There are a lot of reasons, and I got asked to declare them in more detail…

  • My software started as a hack to fulfill some personal requirements. The virtual identity extension is still a hack, everybody who has a look in the code will sign this.
    Because it’s no bug-free software, my typical release-cycle is the following: I will add some features or changes for compatibility with new Thunderbird/Seamonkey releases, and publish the resulting version. Once I publish some new version, I often get a bunch of bug-reports which I can easily fix with small code-changes, and rapidly some follow-up-versions will be released.
    The problem is, that addons.mozilla.org requires a code-review of my extension before it gets published. Even if my addon fulfills all the requirements of this review, it will take time (and manpower) to get this done. Therefore it might take a week or two before any bugfix can be released.
    That’s why I published my extension parallel on my own website. There I was able to fix bugs immediately, which made the development process seen from addons.mozilla.orgs site only worse. If I uploaded another version to addons.mozilla.org while some previous version was still in their review process, I just moved my extension again at the end of the waiting-cue for a review. If I did not uploaded it to mozilla.org, the reviewer told me that it makes no sense to review some old version (he saw the new version at my own site), right…
    However, addons.mozilla.org was mostly to slow to get my bugfixes released in short time. And it’s a pity not being able to publish a bugfix immediately, seeing people downloading a broken version and getting reports about already fixed bugs.
  • The review process got more restricted with the time and now includes some more tests to improve the standards of the extensions at addons.mozilla.org. Which sounds good at the first place, just turned out to be the showstopper for me.
    After a year of quietness I continued to develop virtual identity more intense in this summer. While releasing the software at addons.mozilla.org, I got told that I should take care about some namespace pollution, which happened with my extension.
    The coding-requirements to fulfill the mozilla-standards had been changed since last year, and therefore I decided to write a new version of the extension for up-to-date Thunderbird and Seamonkey releases which takes care on the critizised issues. Mayor code-changes had been required and I expected the new release to require a while till it would be as stable as the old one.
    I decided to do the work on a new brunch and started with the 0.8-line of virtual identity. But I was not able to release this work and publish the changes step-by-step, because they had been required all together to fulfill the improved coding-standards of addons.mozilla.org.
    And the old version 0.7 was still around for users with older Thunderbird and Seamonkey versions, and even if it was stable, there had been small bugfixes and feature implementations since than. But I was prevented from addons.mozilla.org to publish these fixes and changes at their site – because of the required overall code-changes.

That’s enough. It’s me who is doing the programming work, therefore it should be me who is the one who decides if there should be an update for one of my releases or not. I like to decide what to release and when [1]. mozilla.org might give me some credits on how useful my software is or not, but I never will give them or anybody else more power then myself over the release process of my work again.

[1] even the release time can be a problem. I remember this one time, when addons.mozilla.org just finished the review at the beginning of my holiday. No Internet for me, no support for the users – I would have used a better timing on my own.