Extension development for beta

Geoff Lankow geoff at thunderbird.net
Mon Oct 29 08:37:47 UTC 2018

We have a problem. Actually, a series of problems.

Firstly. For an extension to run on ESR60, it must be:

 1. an overlay extension with an install.rdf manifest, or
 2. a bootstrapped extension with an install.rdf manifest, or
 3. a WebExtension with a manifest.json

C is very rare, because ESR60 supports so few of the WebExtension APIs. 
B isn't an issue yet but will become one soon, so I'm ignoring it for 
this conversation.

For A to run on beta, it must have a manifest.json and /NOT/ have an 
install.rdf manifest. (At this point it's technically a WebExtension and 
we're just lying to the extensions back-end about what it's actually doing.)

This leads to the second problem: it's impossible to have an extension 
that both has an install.rdf and doesn't have an install.rdf. Therefore 
an extension developer cannot make an extension that can run on both 
ESR60 and beta.

(Side note: I've been trying to make a backport for ESR that can run an 
updated legacy extension, but I'm uncomfortable with the size of the 

The extension developer /could/ make a separate version of their 
extension which is only for beta. Given the other big changes in the 
platform, that's probably the best option anyway, but that takes us to 
problem three: they can't host the beta version of their extension on 
ATN, because ATN no longer has support for development channel 
extensions. I /think/ there's an ugly workaround involving uploading 
versions out-of-order such that the ESR version is the one displayed, 
but I really don't think developers should have to deal with that, or 
would bother. They could also self-host the extension but I think most 
wouldn't want to do that.

We're left with a bunch of not-very-nice options, as well as all the 
other issues facing extension developers, which I think is just going to 
put a lot of developers off altogether, and we'll lose a large fraction 
of our extensions.


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