BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

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BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2015-07-07, 23:24

Note: this is a rather technical blog posting, so feel free to research some of the terms mentioned here if you do not know them.

So, a rather cryptic topic title, but I'm not sure how else to state what seems to be clear plans of Mozilla to deprecate just about everything that makes Mozilla and Gecko code what it is. I've listened with increasing amazement to some things that have been relayed to me over the past couple of weeks, to the point where I think people should be aware of what's happening and what's going to happen. We may see the end of extensions to Firefox sooner than anticipated. We may also see the last bastion of customizability gone for good on a shorter term rather than a longer term.

Deprecation of binary XPCOM components in extensions

Mozilla is working on removing support for binary XPCOM components from the Mozilla code base (this will land in Firefox 40, as far as I know, just 5-6 weeks from now -- see bug #1159737). Meaning that any add-ons that use binary components will stop working and will have to be rewritten in JavaScript or die. Of course JS is going to be far from as performant as binary components -- and that is usually the main reason why binary components have been included in the first place.
Benjamin Smedberg wrote:It is time to stop supporting binary XPCOM components in extensions. These represent significant compatibility and stability risk to Firefox users. Ideally we'd stop supporting them altogether, but they are still used by the application in a few important cases.
This may bite extension developers because so far it's only been made known in the pre-release channels that not everyone will follow.

Plans for Servo/Rust

Servo/Rust is going to be a development project for Firefox that looks like it will be replacing the gecko graphics engine -- bits and pieces at a time. Mozilla has, apparently, dedicated budget for this kind of work (see bug #1175663). See also the main repository for Servo, which looks to be an effort at completely replacing Gecko once done. https://github.com/servo/servo

Deprecation of XUL and XBL

More recently, I got information about Mozilla planning to deprecate XUL and XBL from the browser back-end as well, on the shorter term (before moving to Servo). If this happens, all but add-on SDK extensions will stop working, and a good number of SDK extensions may also no longer function if they use XBL. The following was relayed* which is... very disturbing news for the way Firefox is currently running: XUL is the language/framework used to build the interface. It is an easy to learn, extensible markup language that allows you to easily build interface modules and dialog boxes (if you've actually looked at Pale Moon Commander's code, you can see how simple it is to build something like that with XUL):
We intend to move Firefox away from XUL and XBL, but the discussion of how
to do that is in the early stages. There are a ton of unanswered
questions: what technologies/best practices for web development should we
adopt in its place? How does this affect add-on developers? Is there
space for a native-code main-window on desktop like we have on Android?
How much time should we spend on this vs. other quality issues?
So, without XPCOM binary components, and without XUL&XBL, there's no extensibility left in the browser -- you can't change a native-code main window on-the-fly that easily as is possible with XUL, since it is basically built up using a markup language that can be manipulated.

And without the Gecko web browser engine, later on, what is left of the original concept of Firefox?

*This is the original text that was relayed to me:
At Whistler last week we started to talk a bit about the fundamentals of
how we build Firefox. We want to get everyone involved as early as
possible, so I wanted to provide background and context to those who
weren’t there.


Firefox is built on web technologies*, but we could do a much better job of
capitalizing on that. The first thread of discussion was around
deployment: since Firefox began, the industry has continually evolved how
it deploys code to users, and today it isn’t done on an 18-week cycle. We
think there are big wins to be had in shortening the time that new features
reaches users. Critical fixes should ship to users in minutes, not days.
Individual features rolling out to small audiences for focused and
multi-variate testing. As Laura Thomson put it in her Whistler
presentation - “The trains have served us well, but it’s time to build a
hyperloop.”

*The second thread was about removing that asterisk from “web
technologies”. Back in the early Mozilla days, XUL was our attempt to fill
the gaps HTML had at for building large-scale web applications. Over time,
the web - and app development for the web - has evolved its own set of
standards and technologies; we should follow it.

The web development community has addressed that need through HTML in a
number of interesting and novel ways that don’t rely on Mozilla-specific
technology. There’s a huge body of shared wisdom about how to build
applications on the web. It’s time to go back and examine how we can bring
that wisdom back into Firefox.

Because XUL and XBL aren’t web technologies, they don’t get the same
platform attention that HTML does (for good reason!). Performance problems
go unfixed and it creates a lot of unnecessary complexity within Gecko.
It’s harder for even experienced web developers to get up to speed. It’s
further from the web, and that doesn’t help anybody.

We intend to move Firefox away from XUL and XBL, but the discussion of how
to do that is in the early stages. There are a ton of unanswered
questions: what technologies/best practices for web development should we
adopt in its place? How does this affect add-on developers? Is there
space for a native-code main-window on desktop like we have on Android?
How much time should we spend on this vs. other quality issues? What
unanswered questions have we not asked yet?

Some of these questions are going to take a while to answer, and will
involve a bunch of concurrent discussions. If you start seeing discussion
of the “go faster” project, that’s talking about addressing our deployment
strategy. If you start seeing people using sometimes-excessively-violent
references to removing XUL/XBL from our codebase, this is the context in
which that discussion is happening. When you see these discussions -
including now - please join in.

Thanks,
-dave

EDIT: And more! Updated Oct 2015 to add the following.

Deprecation of extensions as a whole (XUL, bootstrap and SDK alike)

As it came out, Mozilla is now planning to completely remove support for Mozilla extensions, to be replaced with Chrome WebExtensions using a limited and inflexible API. This effectively requires all extensions for Firefox to be rewritten, and only "select ones" will have Mozilla write specific APIs for them that would allow them to perform tasks no longer possible otherwise.
We are implementing a new extension API, called WebExtensions—largely compatible with the model used by Chrome and Opera
For our add-on development community, these changes ... will also require redevelopment of a number of existing add-ons.
And:
We have decided on an approximate timeline for the deprecation of XPCOM- and XUL-based add-ons.
(further down they mention 12-18 months from the date of that blog post)
Source: https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2015/08/21/the-future-of-developing-firefox-add-ons/

Deprecation of NPAPI plugins

Yes, even the plugins rooted in Mozilla's ancestral roots (Netscape) are under fire. The reasons touted for this are "performance", "stability" (crashes) and "security", neither of which are compelling reasons to remove plugin support altogether.

The "performance" part is even topsy-turvy: If plugin functionality has to move to in-browser "web technologies" then it means native code will have to be converted to JavaScript. Despite "near-native" execution of some types of JS code (but never truly native), it will inherently be less performant than a binary counterpart that is compiled into true machine language for the hardware and platform for which it is built.
The "stability" part is a non-issue, since.. we have OOPP (the plugin container). If a plugin crashes, only the plugin crashes, not the browser. So what's the bug deal?
The "security" part is the rather naive approach that users cannot make decisions based on what plugin functionality they want or need, and the extensive and user-friendly way to selectively enable plugins on individual sites is apparently "not secure enough" for Mozilla (at the surface), so the entire plugin framework will be disabled (with the notable exception of Flash being given special treatment). It's an example of "security through removing choice" like putting a browser user in a padded cell so they can't accidentally cut themselves, instead of providing a warning that a knife is sharp.

My thoughts about the real reasons

My thoughts about the real reason behind these changes? It all boils down to going for a rewrite of Firefox into something else that is merely a shell on top of a collection of system tools. This is a very common thing to see for mobile platforms where "Apps" don't have a choice but to stick to the SDK/API provided by the manufacturer of the phone OS. The underlying reason there is undoubtedly also going to be reducing the actual work Firefox needs to do.
Remember my "microbrowser"? That is doing something similar: talking to a system control to provide a system back-end with a custom front-end; but is that actually a full browser in itself? Absolutely not.
It also falls in line with moving to a second try at a "Metro-style app" (see Mozilla's browser.html effort to bring the B2G framework for mobiles (Firefox OS) to the desktop... Yes, really...). It also falls in line with what I see as Mozilla's inability to make the base technologies behind their own product work in a Chrome-like multi-process environment.
IOW: A lot of time and money was invested in technologies (e10s, b2g) that don't work with Firefox's technology or have turned out to be a flop, and instead of discarding it (and discarding non-functional code is, contrary to what some might say, a big part of programming), this investment must somehow be made to work, even if it requires a changeover of the actual product it was built to enhance.
Last edited by Moonchild on 2015-10-11, 07:54, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Oct 2015 update: extensions and plugins
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Supernova

Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Supernova » 2015-07-08, 01:34

Never got that madness about "browser built on web technologies".
Removing XUL/XBL from Firefox is madness also.

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by snertev » 2015-07-08, 08:09

I'm testing Vivaldi browser whose GUI is based on HTML/Javascript and is really slow so far, even with a i7 CPU.

I'm using Mozilla products since the pre-releases of their original web suite (that with the kitchen sink included :D ) and they had slower GUIs than a native code one like Firefox today, but they were extremely customizable too. That was their winning weapon against IE.

Now, Firefox is removing a piece of that customization in each new version, so a slow nonnative GUI is simply unbearable for users.

A perfect browser would have speed + customization, while a slow browser without customization is simply doomed to disappear from the web.And, indeed, it must disappear as soon as possible, like IE 6, because it is an abomination.

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2015-07-08, 08:36

:) Maybe you don't realize but Pale Moon's customizability is because the user interface is not native code. Pale Moon's user interface is primarily built using XUL and JavaScript (remember xulrunner? You could build any application on the framework with any looks using XUL). Because XUL is a simpler markup language that doesn't try to be a Swiss army knife like HTML5 is, though, it is blazingly fast when used properly.
Going to native code will inherently mean entirely losing the customizability and cross-platform nature of the UI we have now.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by snertev » 2015-07-08, 09:34

Moonchild wrote::) Maybe you don't realize but Pale Moon's customizability is because the user interface is not native code. Pale Moon's user interface is primarily built using XUL and JavaScript (remember xulrunner? You could build any application on the framework with any looks using XUL). Because XUL is a simpler markup language that doesn't try to be a Swiss army knife like HTML5 is, though, it is blazingly fast when used properly.
Going to native code will inherently mean entirely losing the customizability and cross-platform nature of the UI we have now.
I Know all this. :D

But it isn't the current plan of Firefox.

They don't consider customization (and cross-platform too, IMO) important anymore.

It's a change of their development paradigm that I don't like, for sure.

And like me, a lot of their users that are less and less interested in a browser that has all defects (or, let's say, less performing qualities) of a nonnative and customizable GUI and few or none of its advantages.

According to their new paradigm, a native GUI is the right choice. However, others (i.e. Chrome) are on that path since long time and it's difficult Mozilla may have any relevance in that market for "the average Joe", while spoiling its base of "advanced users" that, among other things, were often contributors to the code base too.

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by snertev » 2015-07-14, 12:45

It seems evangelism for HTML5/CSS instead of XUL is already started:

https://dutherenverseauborddelatable.wo ... xul-world/

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Night Wing » 2015-07-14, 12:59

Supernova wrote:Never got that madness about "browser built on web technologies".
Just the usual case of "corporate double speak" spewed out in corporate bull session meetings. ;)
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2015-07-14, 15:02

snertev wrote:It seems evangelism for HTML5/CSS instead of XUL is already started:

https://dutherenverseauborddelatable.wo ... xul-world/
[randomlongstream.wordpress.com] eh? That would just a post to get a hot topic, or maybe even paid advertising of a concept.

Also, xul isn't slow. Certainly doesn't carry the burden that html5 would bring with it in terms of parsing/rendering.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Admin » 2015-07-14, 20:18

Maybe I'm missing something, but:
Isn't deprecating XUL in favor of HTML for the UI just another name for Metro Firefox? You know, the thing they tried and then didn't continue with?
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i4004

Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by i4004 » 2015-07-15, 01:17

which version will firefox reach in 6months time?
128? :o

will the web really change that much in that time? what for?

why are they copying chrome? i mean if they're in it for the money they might as well throw the towel right now....just remove UI, put ads and sell it to somebody...hehe...
"We think there are big wins to be had in shortening the time that new features reach users. As Laura Thomson put it in her Whistler presentation -- 'The trains have served us well, but it's time to build a hyperloop.'"
but why do you have to update the whole program so frequently?
why can't you make it so that plugins add functionality (if you want it) and core of the program stays the same?
and what new features exactly? for whom? from where? those hideously slow web-pages from cnn and others that aim for both mobile and desktop and do piss poor at both?

what exactly does browser need to do?
should i ask this question in html5.1 (.1!) consortium?
teleport us to hyperloop? :crazy:
i would swear these folks are so bored they're prepared to invent just about anything.
anything nobody needs.

let's hope this madness stops as soon as smartphones become dull and old-fashioned toys.... :mrgreen:

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by LimboSlam » 2015-08-21, 20:05

We have all seen this coming, but have not known when. Well now you can see it in action here: https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2015/08 ... ent-218633.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Night Wing » 2015-08-21, 21:13

LimboSlam wrote:Well now you can see it in action here: https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2015/08 ... ent-218633.
The comments under the article are telling. Lots of "annoyed" users who will abandon the Firefox ship just like I did only I abandoned the Firefox ship a good ways back when it came to my everyday default browser.
Last edited by Night Wing on 2015-08-21, 23:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by New Tobin Paradigm » 2015-08-21, 23:22

This will go somewhat offtopic but is related enough to be posted here. Questions relating to this post should be made into a new thread in the Add-ons Site sub-forum not here..

For users of SeaMonkey.. This completely affects you as well.. There is no way the SeaMonkey Developers and Council will be able to maintain compatibility with the older extensions and like Firefox will be incompatible.. Their entire loose model is to maintain the status quo visually while doing little under the hood.

For users of Pale Moon.. We have a couple of projects on the go which have been mentioned in recent months to deal with this.. Namely our Add-ons Site for Pale Moon Add-ons.. Now this is NOT the only avenue.. As many present day Extensions work with us (or a version or two behind).

Obviously the Add-ons Site as you know it is managed under a project we call Phoebus (which is another name for the greek god Apollo whose name was used for the manned missions to the Moon). This will be that ever so elusive "Second Generation Add-ons Site".

The second that you guys don't know about yet is Project Looking Glass. This project will require the help of the Pale Moon community quite a bit more than even our add-ons site. We are under the gun with Microso... I mean Mozilla making major breaking changes and AMO is becoming increasingly unreliable.

The goal of Project Looking Glass is to mirror unmodified, working out of the box Firefox extension at a version that is compatible with us.

As I said Looking Glass will need your help. Once that site is online we will need you to help verify compatibility of said extensions as we will be starting with Firefox extensions that have passed through AUS as a baseline to make sure users of Pale Moon come first and foremost and have the extensions they are using today.

Also with Phoebus and Looking Glass working in tandem we can catch update requests for problematic extensions that have a tendency to "upgrade to a broken version".

Stay tuned to the Add-ons site sub-forum for more information!

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by LimboSlam » 2015-08-22, 01:58

Sorry Matt, I thought this article fit better here then what has been posted in these threads: https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=9226 and https://forum.palemoon.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=9227. Should these threads be merge with this one?


FIY: yes I know that you know about these threads.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by RandyMcD » 2015-08-22, 10:23

Don't know if this is the right place - but - Moonchild responded to my post re:Firefox Extensions change - and I'm not sure I agree with your answer - I don't know crap about most of this stuff but, "http://thenextweb.com/apps/2015/08/21/f ... r-changes/ " gives me the impression that something major is changing and all extensions have to be re-written - I agree with you in that Firefox has gone completely downhill and like that Palemoon is not following in their footsteps Now if I could just get "Strict Pop-up Blocker" to work - I'd make the switch to Palemoon.

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Moonchild » 2015-08-22, 10:31

I know very little about Chrome extensions, but I'm quite sure that dropping XUL extension support is not a prerequisite to add support for them.
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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Go_To » 2015-08-22, 13:35

Is there a way to maintain multicore support without breaking compatibility with XPCOM-based addons? Mozilla stated that CPOWs (a workaround) has its own problems.

There's also a fair number of addons that will not work on Palemoon (the Adblock team being one of those that don't see a need to support Palemoon), but will also no longer work on Firefox down the road, especially if the developers decide to abandon the addons. Aka, a situation where lots of addons aren't compatible with any web browsers.

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by Trippynet » 2015-08-22, 15:36

Interestingly, although probably not too surprisingly, the mood on Mozillazine also seems quite sombre: http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic ... &t=2956553

Taken from there (and originally from the Mozilla blog), is this wonderful bit which sums up Mozilla's confused thinking nicely:
XPCOM and XUL are two of the most fundamental technologies to Firefox. The ability to write much of the browser in JavaScript has been a huge advantage for Mozilla. It also makes Firefox far more customizable than other browsers....

...yadda, yadda...

...Consequently, we have decided to deprecate add-ons that depend on XUL, XPCOM, and XBL. We don’t have a specific timeline for deprecation, but most likely it will take place within 12 to 18 months from now.
:clap:

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by SvenG » 2015-08-22, 16:43

LoudNoise just made me laugh... :?

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Re: BLOG: Mozilla to deprecate... itself, really.

Unread post by LimboSlam » 2015-08-22, 16:55

You have guys read all of the Mozilla blog, there are lots of people suggesting Pale Moon! Here I'll quote you some:

"Yes it was, I think it’s time for a browser with it’s own direction. How about Pale Moon (an Open Source web browser forked off from the Firefox/Mozilla code)?? This snappier and lighter browser does not implement all this bloatware that is prone to vulnerabilities (Hello, Pocket, Reader+, Share, Telegram, Tab Groups, built PDF reader, WebRTC related code and the newly privacy features being tested) and continues support for XUL, XPCOM and XBL source code for any add-on devs that wish to use it."


"Yes it is, so f***ing sad and terrible!!! I think I will go ahead with using Pale Moon now as some here have suggested, seeing as Firefox has deprecated and Pale Moon does support the XUL, XPCOM and XBL source code for any add-on devs that are using it. Maybe I’ll start developing for them?"





"Well, I now have Pale Moon installed in my 64bit Linux.

Most of my essential FF addons installed into Pale Moon directly from addons.mozilla.org. For example, all of the following installed:

Adblock
A cookie manager
DownThemAll
Flash Block
LastPass
Lazarus
RequestPolicy
Session Manager
Tab Kit 2nd Addition
Web Developer Toolbar
WOT

Unfortunately, Ghostery and Greasemonkey both said they were incompatible. Hopefully I can edit their source files to hack the allowed version numbers.

Goodbye, Firefox, it was fun while it lasted."



WOW!!
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