virtual id

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what’s wrong with

Posted by on 24 Sep 2011 | Tagged as: Hacking, virtual id

(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

From 2004 up to 2011 I continued developing this extension, and always tried to get this extension published on 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, and finally I decided in August 2011 that I will stop my cooperation with 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 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 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, 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, 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 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, 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
    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 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]. 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 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.

pre-release of Virtual Identity 0.4.3

Posted by on 25 Jun 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

Once again some days passed by, but a lot of things happened, so can’t say I was completely lazy 😉 But it was time to come back to the Virtual Identity extension and repair some bugs and add some options to make all of us more happy these days. The result is the new version 0.4.3, which is by now available as a pre-release cause some testing and translation-work has to be done before the ‚real‘ release.

Whats new?

  • added a new option to dynamically switch on/off an email signature if using a virtual identity. To use this option you have to install the Switch Signature Extension. Thanks to Alex for the idea and thanks to Achim Seufert for the nice extension which I could use for this feature.
  • added a feature called ‚Smart Timestamp‘ which simply changes the address of any new email you are going to compose by adding a epoch-timestamp in the name. This way you can use a unique address for any message you send and check where your mail-addresses go. Thanks to JensMartin for the idea.
  • added an option to warn you if the mail should be sended with any stored (unchanged) identity. Valdaran had the idea to blank the From: field, which is not really an option, to many other things are relying on this. But maybe a warning will do nearly the same nice job? Thanks to Valdaran for the idea.
  • removed some old bugs, added some fresh ones 😉 Thanks to all who reported their problems.

The new version is now available for testing. Feel free to use it and report bugs and problems or help to translate the extension.

Virtual Identity bugfix release 0.4.2

Posted by on 20 Mai 2007 | Tagged as: Hacking, virtual id


after being quiet for a while I just went through all bug-reports and finished a new version of virtual identity.


  • If Smart-Reply found (for instance) an existing identity, sending works ok and was not tampered by the extension. But Thunderbird doesn’t remove the window, it ‚recycles‘ the window. Next time you compose a message, this one shows the same old identity but uses a different one behind the scenes. So I changed Virtual Identity to remove Window completely if message was sended, Window-Recycling is this way disabled (thanks to Charles, john and Henrik for the report).
  • repaired Dialog to choose which Virtual Identity to choose, was completely broken (thanks to Mark for the report).
  • Connected (and this way limited) usage of newsgroup Identities to the switch which enables Virtual Identity for newsgroups (thanks to Dave for the report).

You can download the new version at
and soon from

Virtual Identity 0.4.1 is released

Posted by on 25 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

It took longer than I expected, but I think it was worth to include a lot of feature-requests and get rid of some bugs. Many thanks to you all who gave me reports and suggestions and translations and thank-you-mails, without this feedback the extension would have been not even half as nice as it is by now. So as you see, I like the result of the last weeks work, and I hope you will enjoy it too. Don’t like to mention the list of bug-fixes again, just the list of new features compared to version 0.4.0:

  • you can now sort the header any way you like, also exclude ‚to‘ or ‚cc‘ as you like it, but you have to tell Virtual Identity that it has to use those headers. So change your settings and add ‚to‘ and ‚cc‘ to the list of headers. A header name now refers to all headers of that name, not like before only the outmost one of you mail. To select a specific header, just use the number of it’s occurrence, so for instance „:3“ and add it to the headername. And if you wish to use only the email address and not the name, then simply add „:@“.
  • reading the headers was in version 0.4.0 dependent on installed mnenhy or enigmail. Now it’s independent on other extensions, so you are free to use whatever you like (but to protect the freedom of having secrets the same way as the freedom of choice or the freedom of speach, you might choose to install enigmail anyway)
  • added a nice debug-window, which helps you understanding what Virtual Identity really does. using complex filter rules you might get very creative, and this is the place to look if it doesn’t work as expected. This debug information is also helpful for me to understand how and when problems occur if you are sending a bug report.

Ok, here you can find the recent release 0.4.1, and, tadaa, there will be a documentation soon (have a look at the work in progress)

Virtual Identity extension 0.4.1pre4 released

Posted by on 22 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

A small bug in pre3 caused disabled the whole extension if in the preferences for the place where sended messages should be saved the settings of the default Identity were selected. Thanks to Guy for reporting and helping tracing the bug. New pre-release 0.4.1pre4 fixes this issue.

0.4.1pre3 … „Release early. Release often. …

Posted by on 19 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

… And listen to your customers.“ So Keith had a good point in telling me that version 0.4.1pre2 destroys the HeaderView. Yes, I managed to read all headers without any other extension in 0.4.1pre2, but ignored existent (already showed) mail headers. Cause the extension adds new headers to the HeaderView and hides them, also existent Headers where hidden.

So, repaired this one and the now released pre-version 0.4.1pre3 should solve the problem. Thanks Keith (and all the others) for testing and reporting.

Virtual Identity 0.4.1pre2 released

Posted by on 18 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

Few days ago I released the preview of Virtual Identity and thought of finishing the programming on it for a while. But usually if you think thats it you’ll enter the next level. Olav and Patrick, programmers of the enigmail extension, told me that they changed their extension for the new upcoming Thunderbird release. And cause of that I couldn’t rely on their extension for retrieving the headers, so one of the main features of Virtual Identity 0.4x (looking for Identities in additional headers) would not have worked in the future.

But much better, they gave me the hint about how to retrieve all mail headers in Thunderbird, so I was able to implement a much nicer solution than the one Virtual Identity used before. And (if you are running at least Thunderbird or Seamonkey) it’s now completely independent from any other extensions like mnenhy or enigmail. Additionally I cleaned the option to select a specific header out of headers with the same name (now a mentioned header will match all headers with that name, for selecting the first one just add ‚:1‘). Ok, the new version is pre-released now, download Virtual Identity 0.4.1pre2, try it and report any problems.

Virtual Identity 0.4.1pre released

Posted by on 09 Apr 2007 | Tagged as: ... ? ..., Hacking, virtual id

After the release of the completely rewritten version of Virtual Identity I had a lot of feedback, some bug-reports and also some good suggestions how to make more out of the potential from the extension. Therefore I decided to change small parts of the extension in the last days, and now the new preview is ready. It still misses the translation, I’ll post it on to let it localized. Else it should be completely working, so please feel free to download the pre-release 0.4.1pre, test it and give some feedback.
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Virtual Identity 0.4.0 finally released

Posted by on 26 Mrz 2007 | Tagged as: Hacking, virtual id

after the new – page is online, the now nearly one month-old version of Virtual Identity is released. Automated update should install the new extension on a lot of machines, so hope it works the way it should.

Virtual Identity extension 0.4.0pre2 released

Posted by on 01 Mrz 2007 | Tagged as: Hacking, virtual id

Looks like it’s nearly done. While translations are in progress at Babelzilla, I removed some small bugs in the last week and adapted the extension to work with the upcoming future Versions (Thunderbird 3a and Seamonkey 1.5a) too. So, I’ll wait some days for any response and than the whole thing will be published at You can download the new preview at virtual_identity-0.4.0pre2-mz+tb.xpi

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