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As our regular readers know I am the developer behind the CyberSearch Firefox extension, and I wanted to say thanks to all of our users for their bug reports… and especially Ronin who pointed out a doozy. He keeps up with nightly Firefox builds, and is kind enough to point out when some of our extension’s features break. This is nothing new, and I’ve always tried to be good about keeping the extension in working order even for nightly builds. Well, as Ronin pointed out to me, something kinda big came down the pipe and will be included in the Firefox 4 Beta 2 release that is just a few days away. Something that could break a lot of your favorite extensions.

What am I talking about? This XPCOM change. Many extensions, including CyberSearch, use what’s referred to as components in their code. This change landed in the nightly releases shortly after Firefox 4 Beta 1 was made available, and it reworks the way these components get registered with the browser. The fix is pretty easy, and should take extension developers very little time (took me about 30 minutes) to update their add-ons. The problem is that there are so many add-ons that have been abandoned by their developers, and that will likely leave a lot of users frustrated.

**Begin geek talk**
So why the change? Well, it’s better in the long run. Previously if you did anything with an extension (install, remove, enable, disable, etc…) you would have to restart your browser, and doing so would require ALL of your browser components to have to re-register. With the way it was set up every component would be “loaded and executed, then unloaded, then reloaded again during the restart.” You’ll still need to restart your browser after installing/updating extensions, but now the components are pulled directly out of the extension’s manifest file which avoids many of the otherwise poor side effects. Not only that, but as Mozilla points out this is a good move in helping to make Firefox multithreaded.
**End geek talk**

Why am I telling you all of this? I know I don’t typically write about developer-related things like this, but I know many of you are already testing out Firefox 4 Beta 1… and when Beta 2 is available it will seem like a no-brainer to want to upgrade. Please keep in mind that just because your extensions worked in Beta 1 does not mean they will work in Beta 2. The good news is that I’ve already seen some indications that developers of many popular extensions are working on updates, and will hopefully be ready in time for Firefox 4 Beta 2. I have an updated version of CyberSearch out to testers right now, and I will should get the green light back from most of them today. If that’s the case CyberSearch 2.0.6 will be posted later tonight.

When can you expect Firefox 4 Beta 2? The estimated release date is Friday, July 23rd, but it may be pushed back to Monday, July 26th. This should be interesting. :)

There Are 8 Comments

  1. Well, OpenDownload is in the process of being updated :)

  2. Even though I am not a developer of any kind, I find this kind of stuff interesting when it relates to something I care about. Good stuff. Feel free to share anytime.

    • Good to know David! I’ll definitely keep everyone informed of stuff like this seeing that it affects a large number of people.

  3. So it will no longer be as simple as hacking the install.rdf file and bumping the max version variable. I hope someone comes up with an easier way to updates these extensions. If it took you 30 minutes as an extension developer, I don’t think an advanced user such as myself is going to be able to make these needed changes to an out-dated extension like we can currently.

    • It is definitely not something someone unfamiliar with the extension will want to dive into. Otherwise you’ll betraying to figure out what XPCOM objects the extension is using.

  4. So looking forward to the new theme take effect on Linux.

  5. Thanks Ryan for the heads up on this. I just downloaded Beta 2 but it seems I may want to wait a bit before diving in…

    • No problem. Hopefully extension developers will jump in and soon start updating their extensions. Otherwise the Firefox 4 launch might be a disaster later this year.

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