In a major announcement, Mozilla has announced that Firefox will be implementing a new extension API that will be compatible with the one used by Chrome and Opera. Basically, many Chrome extensions could soon be coming to Firefox.
The API, called WebExtensions API, will mean that developers will only need to make a few small changes to their code in order to bring their extensions to Firefox. So, while users won't be able to install Chrome extensions themselves to Firefox, many developers will likely make the small alterations in order to cater to Firefox users.
"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," said Mozilla product manager for Firefox Kev Needham in a blog post.
The announcement is significant because of how difficult it previously was to write extensions for Firefox. Even those with the same functionality were far more difficult to write for developers than if they were writing for a browser like Chrome.
Firefox extensions and add-ons are a big part of the success of Firefox, but lately Google Chrome has become more popular as the market share of Chrome continues to grow, taking chunks out of the share for Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Another browser on the market, however, is Microsoft's Edge. While the browser does not yet support add-ons, it will this fall, and when it does it will support similar extensions to Google Chrome. What this means is that the extensions between Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Opera should be compatible with a few small alterations to their code. This also means that the companies behind browsers won't be able to rely on extensions as much for their success, meaning that we might see other interesting features being added to browsers in the near future.
In the blog post, Needham also went into detail about the fact that developers will have to get their extensions and plug-ins reviewed by Mozilla before they can be deployed. This will begin in version 42 of Firefox, and while reviewing of extensions can, according to Needham, take weeks or months, the hope is that the move to the WebExtensions API will help speed that process up.
Photo: Mozilla in Europe | Flickr