Dropping legacy support: Moving forward

Tanstaafl tanstaafl at libertytrek.org
Mon Oct 14 21:09:55 UTC 2019

On 10/7/2019, 6:03:29 PM, Magnus Melin <mkmelin+mozilla at iki.fi> wrote:
> On 06-10-2019 12:33, John Bieling wrote:
>> One question is of general nature and thus I want to ask it here:
>> *Why will WebExt Experiments be disabled in a few years?*

> When everything deemed essential is available through WX APIs, there
> is little reason not to use that instead.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but... who, exactly, is capable of
making such a decision? Some one or group of TB core devs? Who may (or
may not) have thought of some of the APIs that may be essential to others?

I think the point is that the idea that 'everything deemed essential is
available through WX APIs' will never be the case.

I understand that a line may need to be drawn, but my concern is that
the ones doing the line drawing should err on the side of allowing as
much flexibility as possible.

> From the Thunderbird core point of view, we want our users to have
> long time stability, and that also includes essential add-ons.

Which is an excellent argument that whatever someone deems as 'Essential
Add-Ons' are pure WebExts, so that they don't have some of the potential
problems that WebExps may have.

The point is, you make it clear to Add-On devs - if you choose the
WebExp route, you will potentially have a lot more work keeping your
AddOn working.

As long as there are sane tests, and a process for marking broken AddOns
as broken (and blocking their installation from stable releases), who is
harmed? Certainly not the TB core devs.

> Forcing users to rely on an experiment (which can easily have a bumpy
> ride, and stop being maintained) is not ideal.
It may not be ideal, but that is a problem for the WebExp AddOn dev, and
more importantly, is simply not a valid reason not to allow the
continued use of WebExps.

> Many times with Web Experiments you'll still be using and relying on
> Mozilla internal technologies, many of which can and will change or
> disappear over the years.
And it will be the responsibility of the AddOn Devs to deal with such
cases - as it always has been. I certainly don't think anyone is
suggesting otherwise.

> There is a security issue with current style add-ons: They can do
> anything per design - but that's not a desired design related to security.

With WebExps, as I see it, we get the best of both worlds...

Stability with pure WebExts - so any Addon dev that desires stability
over additional functionality/maintenance pain works within the pure
WebExt environment.

Added functionality/capabilities to advanced AddOn devs, with the
understanding that it comes at a cost of *possibly* more work to
maintain it.

But most importantly...

Web Experiments provide a fertile testing ground for defining new APIs
that may provide more robust and safer ways to modify things, providing
both  more flexibility and more safety.

Why should this ability not be maintained indefinitely?

I can even envision some kind of program where core Devs engage with
AddOn devs (on request) to assist in helping to devise the needed API,
or even better, modify an existing one if it made more sense.

There is only one argument I can see that would be valid, but I haven't
seen anyone make it yet...

If it ever gets to the point that it is extremely difficult/expensive in
terms of resources (money) to maintain the environment for WebExps, then
and only then does it make sense to look at shutting it down once and
for all.

Ok, I said my piece...

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