Mozilla looks to enable Web personalisation

Paul Krill
22 May, 2009
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Mozilla Labs on Wednesday afternoon unveiled an open-source project intended to explore new ways to extend and personalise the Web via Firefox browser add-ons.

The Mozilla JetPack project features an add-on creation process for the browser that is more accessible technically. Anyone who can build a Web site can participate in making the Web as a place to work, play, and communicate, a Mozilla representative said. Developers can build features that are secure, easy to install, and faster to review, according to Mozilla. The features can be added to a browser without restart or compatibility issues, thus resulting in little or no disruption to an online experience.

The effort is being spearheaded by Aza Raskin, Mozilla head of user experience. Firefox feature development will be as easy as writing a few lines of code, Mozilla said.

“With Jetpack, we’re building upon our experience over the last four years empowering a community of more than 8,000 developers to produce more than 12,000 add-ons to imagine and build the next generation of the add-ons platform,” the JetPack team said in a Web post. “We want to grow our community of developers by orders of magnitude through making add-on creation much more accessible and yet more powerful by developing it as an extensible platform for innovation itself.”

JetPack is intended to extend development of add-ons to HTML, JavaScript, and CSS programmers.

As far as add-ons, “the amazing thing there is we have no idea what people are going to come up with,” Raskin said in an interview. Mozilla has seen extensions such as Cooliris, which provides 3-D viewing, and AdBlock Plus, for turning off Web ads, Raskin said.

“The question we asked ourselves is what [would happen] if any eighth-grader that can write a Web page [could] fundamentally enhance the functionality of the browser,” said Raskin.

The current 0.1 release of JetPack serves as a prototype and features an API, jQuery support, and an IDE via the Bespin cloud-based code editor. The initial API release does not include a fully formed security model.

A 1.0 version with a stable API is anticipated in a few months. Mozilla is looking for participation in the project via this Web page.

Although initially built to work with Firefox, developers could extend it to work with other browsers as well.

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