Mozilla Thunderbird Gets Extension Support

Wednesday June 18th, 2003

New Mozilla Thunderbird builds with support for installing extensions have been released. Read Scott MacGregor's Thunderbird Builds forum posting for more details. A page of information about creating extensions has been published and Scott has already released the first official add-on, Offline Support. More extensions are available from Extension Room, which also hosts XUL-based add-ons for other Mozilla products.

#33 Agreed, partially

by jilles

Friday June 20th, 2003 3:21 PM

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I think too much functionality is currently headed for the extensions tab. I think this has two disadvantages: First, users will initially see a simplistic UI which will likely not fullfill whatever needs they have. Some of them will find their way to the extensions and be happy, some won't and will install something with a better out of the box experience. Second, the quality will suffer. Testing is hard, testing with 50+ plugins is much harder. The simplistic UI thing is also affecting firebird acceptation at the moment. The default configuration is so simplistic that many users never find out how to configure it properly. Out of the box firebird is not likely to satisfy anyone's taste. You need to configure it to make it useful.

A partial solution to both problems is to endorse and ship a number of extensions with thunderbird (and firebird). By endorsing I mean that they are included in regular regression testing and live in the mozilla CVS. If the offline feature breaks (important to a large number of users) because of a change in some API, this needs to be discovered during rtesting, not after a release has been put on the ftp server.

It might be useful to distinguish between opt-in and opt-out extensions. The latter category should be reserved for plugins that are used by a large number of users. Users can disable it if they don't need it, prefs integrate nicely with the regular prefs. Opt-in extensions need to be located and installed by users and may or may not work properly. With such a mechanism in place it is feasible to move more functionality to extensions without affecting the out of the box experience too much.

For example, the junk filtering functionality should be an opt-out extension. The only reason it's included by default is that so many people use & like it so it should be included by default. However, it is advanced functionality so novice users should not be burdened with it and advanced users should be able to remove it (e.g. because they have server side junk mail filtering).