Mozilla Overhauls Firefox Extensions With ‘Jetpack’

New open source API hoped to speed up and simplify development of third party add-ons.

If you ask any Firefox user why they choose this browser over the competition a large majority will say it is because of the vast array of third party extensions. Those little tweaks or add-ons that, once installed, you can never do without. Well, extensions are getting a shake up…

Mozilla has today announced ‘Jetpack’ – a “project to explore new ways to extend & personalize the Web.” Using the company’s own words: “In short, Jetpack is an API for allowing you to write Firefox add-ons using the web technologies you already know.”

Specifically, Jetpack will be looking at using the likes of HTML, CSS and Javascript amongst others and should enable anyone who can build a website to build a browser extension. As an added bonus, Mozilla believes extensions built in this manner should work without requiring Firefox to restart – a major bugbear with the current system.

Why the overhaul given the success of popularity of the current system? (over one billion installs over four years). I suspect it has something to do with the impending Chrome extensions along with the increasing customisation of other rivals such as Opera and Internet Explorer. Furthermore, many blame third party extensions for bloating Firefox and slowing down its performance – an aspect over which it is hoped Jetpack will command greater control.

As with all Mozilla projects Jetpack is open source and v0.1 (“unpolished, unfinished, and still highly prototyped”) has been made available to developers.

It may be some time before we see Jetpack replacing the existing extensions model (Firefox 4.0 maybe?) but it certainly looks a step in the right direction…

Mozilla Jetpack (Introductory video available)