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DownThemAll: News

Re: DownThemAll and WebExtensions [… or why why I am done with mozilla] December 14, 2016

Alright, so today I wrote a response to an email I got from mig, and while writing it, I figured it might be a interesting read for other people too, although it’s basically a huge rant.
If you cannot stomach the use of the f-word, do NOT read on.

So here is what I wrote and then sent to mig and a few other people with similar questions and also a bunch of mozilla mailing lists.
Please note that it was not about changing minds (I given up on that quite some time ago), but more of a cathartic exercise collecting and writing “away” my frustrations.

The response

Hi mig[-1], and everybody who also asked and I BCCed, and whomever it
may or should concern too,

First: the "fucks" are directed exclusively at mozilla - the
organization, not you.

If I CC'ed you and you're now thinking: Who are you even? Valid
question: I develop one of the most popular Firefox add-ons (open source
without profit motivation), and am a decade long mozilla enthusiast,
advocate and volunteer contributor.

> I'm just back from a Mozilla event where i was sorry to hear you were
> giving up on DownThemAll. I don't know the whole story, but in my
> opinion, this would be a shame to leave a 1.25M users audience.

The whole story is basically that mozilla folks are fucking up the
add-on space.

The whole story is that DownThemAll! would need a ton of niche APIs that
mozilla has neither the resources nor the will to spec, implement and

The whole story is that WebExtensions APIs explicitly are supposed to be
high level APIs, while tons of add-ons actually want, nay need low level
APIs to implement their functionality.
The rational here seems to be "Fuck yall, we consider you too stupid
and/or evil to give you low level access, also we're lazy and not good
with money so we couldn't possibly support low level anyway"
The high level API shit is what's killing the platform, not XUL or
(partial) XPCOM deprecation.

The whole story is that I just finally grew tired of the steaming pile
of utter rotten horse manure that is the mozilla decision making process.

I'll evaluate the list of forks that do exist or will exist once mozilla
pulls the WebExtension switch for real, and see if any of them will be
an alternative to the then deliberately-made-retarded mozilla browser.

I gave mozilla a list of what interfaces DTA source code contains
currently (mozI*, nsI*) either way and other feedback, since they asked.

It is my opinion that it's not me who's leaving a 1.25M Active Daily
Users DownThemAll! audience, but mozilla is abandoning them (and me) and
not just them but also the developers and users of tons of other add-ons
with small and large audiences[1].

I'll keep maintaining (most of) my add-ons for the time being, albeit
with far less enthusiasm, in case mozilla wakes up or some viable fork
comes along, tho.

> As far as i can tell, DownThemAll will be able to run on WebExtensions
> once the missing APIs (mainly file writing) will be integrated, and i
> got the confirmation this will happen in due time.

I have no hopes that they will implement proper APIs, not even for file
writing[0 again]. Other than file writing, there are no proper APIs to
do requests, there are no proper APIs for other stuff such as executing
files, other kinds of OS integration, UI integration and so on and etc
and pp.

And that's just DownThemAll!, looking at my other add-ons (public or for
personal use) and also those I use of other devs, most of them will be
dead in the water, or could only be ported with serious, serious
limitations. Some add-ons I use already were abandoned, rightfully so
because WebExtensions offer no way forward for those addons, and for now
I fix them locally for me if something breaks (I cannot take over
maintainership and publish them as I lack the time and motivation to do so)
I have no use for crappy webrequest/toolbar button APIs alone. At least
the Adblockers will survive I guess... hurray!

Dismantling the add-on system just because mozilla doesn't like the
maintenance burden all of a sudden?

"B-but we want away from XUL and a lot of XPCOM".
So what? Neither is this going to happen anytime soon realistically, nor
is that any reason not to give add-on developers access to whatever
replaces it.

"B-but add-ons will break less if ever if they are WebExtensions".
Sure, and tons of add-ons should and will go the WebExtensions route.
Doesn't mean you have to fuck over the add-ons not fitting in the
WebExtensions space. There are tons of dedicated add-on developers who
have been dealing with breaking changes in Firefox since it first got
add-ons, for better or for worse. Most of the time, we managed in a
timely fashion.

Even those add-ons which can be reasonably ported need to be ported in
the first place. Somebody will have to do the actual work, which is on
entirely different scale than a "few" "let's move this shit into a
framescript so it works with e10s" fixes.

Frankly, it's add-ons which contributed a lot to Firefox' success, and
it's add-on which eased Firefox bleeding users to Chrome, and once the
add-ons that go beyond WebExtensions stuff are gone, the bleeding will
only increase again.

> To tell the truth, i have been myself very frustrated just a few weeks
> ago, and considered giving up VDH on Firefox. Now i can see a clear
> future (even if there is a lot of development work to be done).

Quite honestly, I'm over the frustrated stage and arrived at the furious
anger stage. And I grow only more hopeless about mozilla as time progresses.

WebExtensions are far off from feature parity, let alone bug parity for
even the Chrome extension APIs, yet announce EOL for new add-ons in 53
and EOL for all add-ons in 57 [0 again]?
What the fuck are they thinking?
Whoever was involved in that decision with actual say: Please do us all
a favor and just step down from any leadership position you might have.
Or better yet, apply for a leadership position in the Google Chrome
team; Firefox can use some help from you eventually ending up
inadvertently sabotaging Chrome sooner than later.

What's even more discouraging is that mozilla will be using their
"signing required" Walled Garden they installed because "reasons, not of
them actually sane or good" that they swore they will not use to fuck
with add-ons[2] - just to do exactly that, and fuck with add-ons,
stopping to sign new non-WE add-ons with the Firefox 53 release.

Does the Walled Garden help make Firefox more secure? Nope.
Is it abused to force unrelated policy changes instead? Yep!

mozilla has been a huge clusterfuck for years now, not just in the
add-on space; lacking proper (tech) leadership, lacking vision, focusing
on the wrong things at large more often than not, fucking with their
core users for no apparent reason other than "but we have to do
*something* to stay relevant". And even stupid stunts like force
bundling crapware (pocket) isn't too goddamn stupid to do these days.
"1 million mozillians!", yeah, you will certainly achieve this by
alienating everybody on many fronts at once.

I've been part of the mozilla universe for almost one and a half decades
(or almost 15 years in "metric") now. I'm doing DownThemAll! and other
extensions since about a decade now. I've seen tons of fuckups in that
time, and produced a few myself; but that was OK because none of those
were deliberate and we always worked together on fixing things.
Not ever before did I think mozilla is hopelessly fucked at a
fundamental level. But the last one or maybe two years changed that.

I have to admit that I failed to see this for a quite some time,
deluding myself into thinking "it's not that bad", "they'll will do it",
"temporary setback", "they will recover", "I can learn to live with
that"... Tried to rationalize all this away...
But that's ended.

I'm fed up as an add-on developer, I'm fed up as a mozilla advocate, I'm
fed up as somebody who used to help the other add-on devs, I'm fed up as
somebody who contributed an enormous amount of volunteer time directly
in many different ways, I'm fed up as a Firefox user.

In conclusion, let me end with two quotes from[3] (second one quoting

"It’s fascinating how Mozilla manages to always find the exactly right
words — to make their most avid browser enthusiasts feel absolutely

"I honestly hate you [mozilla] right now."


PS: If anybody feels the inexplicable urge to reply and wants me to know
about it or even respond, make sure to CC me.

[-1] who is on BCC because publicly posting his email address might be rude.
[0] I'm explicitly not dumping on the team that actually implements the
WebExtensions support and APIs, they seem to be doing a fine job with
the resources they got from mozilla. And I am not opposed to
WebExtensions, quite the opposite. But I am opposed to WebExtensions-only!
[1] Well, unless you're NoScript and get special treatment. Well again,
DTA is probably large enough to beg and get special treatment, but I
don't actually want better treatment than others.
[2] And that's still a large legal gray area; e.g. can mozilla legally
sign add-ons of devs from countries with US sanctions/embargoes