Mozilla Announces new Firefox API

Aug 26, 2015

Future Firefox extensions will be compatible with Chrome.

The Mozilla project continues its overhaul of the web browser with the announcement of a new extension API called WebExtensions. The new API and its surrounding technologies will replace the add-on architecture currently used by Firefox developers. The WebExtensions API offers several advantages, including better performance and multiprocess capabilities through Mozilla’s Electrolysis project, but the biggest reason for the change appears to be compatibility with other browsers. According to the announcement, “Extension code written for Chrome, Opera, or, possibly in the future, Microsoft Edge, will run in Firefox with few changes as a WebExtension.”

The Firefox team also reiterated that it will require “… all extensions to be validated and signed by Mozilla starting in Firefox 41,” which will arrive on September 22. The announcement also says Firefox has decided on an approximate timeline for the deprecation of XPCOM- and XUL-based add-ons.

Electrolysis, which continues to evolve in the background, is perhaps the most revolutionary component of the recent Firefox changes. According to Mozilla, the goal of Electrolysis is to “… render and execute web-related content in a single background ‘content’ process that communicates with the main Firefox process via various ipdl protocols. The two major advantages of this model are security and performance. Security improvements are accomplished through sandboxing; performance improvements are born out of the fact that multiple processes better leverage available client computing power.”

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