Role of addons

Mark Banner mbanner at
Wed Sep 19 08:09:44 UTC 2012

On 18/09/2012 17:19, Kent James wrote:
> On 9/18/2012 6:23 AM, Mark Banner wrote:
>> Generally, I'm not yet convinced moving items to add-ons that are 
>> shipped with the core product, will actually benefit us - the 
>> maintenance of those add-ons would be approximately the same, or even 
>> slightly more. From the user interface perspective, we'd have the 
>> same UI with the add-on enabled and we'd need to do some kind of 
>> dance for having the add-on enabled for existing users, and some sort 
>> of UI to enable it for new users if they wish to (including 
>> explaining the feature).
> The benefit does not come "with the add-on enabled" but with the addon 
> disabled.
Agreed, I approached that from the wrong angle.

> The main point of this is not to start a round of featurectomies 
> moving things to addons, but rather to upgrade the role of addons in 
> the application so that we could have a class of addons that is 
> considered part of the "core product", but does not add to the 
> complexity of the standard user interface.
What I would like to mention, is that I think we could potentially be 
more clever around features that are included in Thunderbird that are 
not currently being used by a user i.e. do we really need the Chat 
status and Join chat options in the Tools menu when no chat accounts are 
set up, as there's other ways to get into chat? (this is probably a good 
question for the UX folks, but this is just an example I'm offering)

> Right now, addons are second class citizens, so we cannot really 
> leverage the power of addons as well as we could. Can we have addons 
> that are not considered second class citizens? Addons are one of the 
> most powerful advantages that our platform has, and I want to be able 
> to increase their value to our users.
What would you say an add-on that is a first-class citizen looks like? 
What is the differences to existing second-class citizens?

> Some would argue that the answer to that class of problem is to 
> integrate Calendar and Google Calendar Provider into the core code. I 
> am arguing that we need a class of addons that has features that we 
> consider critical, that watch as part of release, and that have 
> increased visibility.
Lightning is already considered more than a second-class citizen, but 
maybe not quite first-class depending on your definition. We do our best 
to make sure it is published before release, and we'd certainly consider 
holding a release or delaying significant roll-out if there wasn't a 
compatible version. What we don't currently do is actively monitor 
Lightning bugs for significant issues affecting users in the run up to 
releases - we leave that to Philipp and the team.

I think Lightning has generally had this status for two reasons: 1) it 
is by far the most used add-on (1.4M+ users, the next highest is about 
320k), 2) it is a binary add-on that needs updating for each release.


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