During the Firefox Summit, there was a lot of healthy discussion regarding the immediate future of addons.mozilla.org (AMO). We came up with a solid plan and timeline for top-priority items. The general idea is:
- Split public and admin pages into two separate appliations.
- Re-use core libraries, store them in a separate place in CVS.
- After the rewritten public site is re-launched in January, start development on admin CRUD pages and inremental rewrite of all developer tools.
- Profit! (just kidding)
The topics covered in the AMO breakout session ranged from standing problems, project overview, and additional resources needed to improve progress. I think it was a valuable discussion. Mostly I was happy that people recognized the importance of AMO. I left the room with a much better feeling about the future of the project (and also the knowledge that I need to work on my public speaking skills).
That said, I’d like to talk about why AMO is actually so important, because I don’t think everyone truly understands how vital it is to Firefox and Thunderbird, and consequently the entire Mozilla Foundation and Corporation.
It comes down to feature coverage, really. Most projects can hit 70-80% of the core feature requests. Firefox or Thunderbird don’t differ from this norm — Mozilla as an organization can only get so much done until they have to make the decision on where to draw the line for the next release. At some point project managers have to say, “Ok, these features are the most important and they will be what we focus on. These other ones will be slated for the next release, or whenever we get to it.”
And it’s not something unique to Mozilla — it happens everyday in projects across the world. The key, though, is managing what happens to the other 20-30% of the features. You might want to read a Wired article passed to me by Scott Kveton called The Long Tail — it explains the concept in more detail.
Successful projects today realize the value in developing for the developer — empowering the community to improve the application on their own. And I think that so far we have hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of getting a return on the ingenuity and open-mindedness of the general community.
We are already seeing a trend in more popular projects like Flickr or Google Maps where these services kick ass and deliver some awesome features just out-of-the-box, but what makes these apps _really_ special is their APIs. It’s also what makes Firefox and Thunderbird so special.
Coming down the pipe we are starting to see uses of these APIs that are mind blowing. With Katrina we saw an interesting use of the Google Maps API to report area status updates in Louisiana. On AMO we have seen some awesome extensions that have actually been integrated into 1.5 because they were so, “Duh, we should have done that from the beginning”.
For Mozilla, AMO is the playground for the determined user to do their thing and get exactly what they want to get out of their web browser or email client. It covers the extra 20-30% and best of all it benefits the product, the community, and the world (yeah, melodramatic, I know) by improving an already sound base of features.
Over the past year I’ve developed an appreciation for the importance of AMO. I’ve learned about its challenges, all the players involved, and hopefully we’ve come up with a solid plan for 2006. I’d like to see us provide a better tool for the community to develop, submit and distrubute great ideas. With that in place, Firefox and Thunderbird will continue to have a community-centric family of extensions that sets them apart from all competitors.