[Go Faster] Do we want system add-ons to update without restarting?

Dave Townsend dtownsend at mozilla.com
Fri Sep 25 21:55:09 UTC 2015

Support for updating system add-ons has landed in nightly (it isn't turned
on yet but that is just a pref flip) but for the moment it still requires a
restart to activate the new add-ons.

We need to think about whether activating new versions without a runtime is
something we want and if so whether we need some UI to allow the user to
control when it happens. The problem is that at the moment the update
process happens randomly during runtime. Imagine for a second that Firefox
Hello is a system add-on and you're in the middle of a call to a friend
when the update check finds an updated Firefox Hello. What happens next?

For regular Firefox add-ons we just deactivate the old and activate the
new. Presumably this would make the Firefox Hello call end abruptly, that's
assuming it has been written well enough to do that when deactivated.

Other choices include:

1. Leaving updates till after a restart, basically what a user is used to
2. Giving the user the choice of when to apply the updates, perhaps with
some UI explaining what features might be interrupted. I'm not sure there
are a lot of benefits to this above a restart.
3. Giving the add-on an API to delay updating. This makes the update code
quite complicated and in a bad case might stop updates entirely.

I'm leaning towards requiring a restart for now, it is the safest option
and means we would need less QA around releasing new system add-ons since
you wouldn't need to test updating with Firefox in various different states.
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