Mozilla's Jetpack builds on Firefox's top strength

The move comes as Google is pushing developers to create add-ons for its Chrome browser

Ask people what they like most about the Firefox browser and the answer is almost unanimous: The add-ons. Though blamed for slowing browser performance, the downloads allow users to customize the Firefox experience. Jetpack, announced yesterday, hopes to make these extensions easier to create.

The move comes as Google is pushing developers to create add-ons for its Chrome browser, which yesterday got a performance bump. Mozilla Labs hopes Jetpack, an API for applications developers, will help continue its add-on dominance.

"We want to grow our community of developers by orders of magnitude through making add-on creation much more accessible, and yet more powerful by developing it as an extensible platform for innovation itself. Many useful Jetpack features can be written in under a dozen lines of code," wrote Aza Raskin, Atul Varma and Nick Nguyen in the Mozilla Labs blog.

Jetpack allows users to create add-ons using technologies they already know, lowering barriers to would-be developers.

"Specifically, Jetpack will be an exploration in using Web technologies to enhance the browser (e.g. HTML, CSS and Javascript), with the goal of allowing anyone who can build a Web site to participate in making the Web a better place to work, communicate and play," the Mozilla team wrote.

Significantly, Jetpack will allow new features to be added to the browser "without a restart or compatibility issues, resulting in little to no disruption to the online experience."

Currently in v0.1 release, Jetpack is "unpolished, unfinished, and still highly prototyped" admitted its developers. More information for users is available on the Mozilla Labs site, where demos are available for download as well as a tutorial.

Over the last four years, more than 12,000 add-ons have been created for Firefox, generally available as free downloads. Included are ad blockers, translation utilities, site monitors, security enhancements, and many other user-created new features for the browser.

David Coursey researched this story using Firebox and has several add-ons he uses everyday. He tweets as dcoursey and can be reached via email using www.coursey.com/contact.

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David Coursey

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