The future of Firefox - Themes/Personas, Extensions/Jetpack

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Frank Lion

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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 6:53 pm ... nd-themes/ ... 12d64c4cb9

Well, I can think of more interesting stuff to wade through. :)

Over the next couple of posts, I'll try to bring some light, where now there is only smoke and mirrors. The story begins when Mozilla discovered that the foremost reason that held users back from updating to the latest Firefox release was that of theme/extension incompatibility. Remember this, it is the key.

So, they decided to try and put the whole lot under their direct control. The first stage of which has been that the Mozilla Labs extension, Personas, will now be built into the 3.6 version of Firefox. The Personas extension has been out over 2 years now and as you can see I was really impressed with it. :), seriously, there's no harm in it and themers have been helping users to do stuff like this for years now.

Later or sooner, same will happen with Jetpack, the 'extensions' equivalent.

Personally, I would have tackled any potential theme/extension incompatibility differently. Mozilla are investing 40+ million dollars every year and it's just sitting there doing nothing. If Mozilla wants theme/extension writers to update prior to release, then take a damn interest in them! Give them $50 each, ask how Mozilla can help, give them Mac and Linux testbeds to test on. Write to them properly and help them and encourage them!

Instead, they are treated like second class citizens who should be grateful that the God Mozilla sees fit to even host their stuff and think that they will all fall to their knees in gratitude for a $5 Mozilla T shirt! Treat people with respect and the AMO theme and extension updates will happen.

But, Frank...'Personas is merely extending user choice, isn't it?' You think? -


What does Connor mean by - 'As well, there has been signficant interest from various potential partners in providing content via this channel.'

Lucy wrote:Also, just because something is no longer needed doesn't mean it was a waste of your time. For 5 (or 9) years you were doing something very useful, especially to people who use your themes. IMO it's only a waste if you keep doing it after no one wants it.

So, let's examine this ' one wants it' part, as some seem to imply that Themes are not popular amongst Firefox users. Well, I say some, obviously that includes Asa 'Bing' Dotzler and Asa 'Not Bing' Dotzler who didn't even bother to mention the 400+ fully functional Themes hosted on Addons, here!

The answer, indirectly, lies here on Comment 75. -

Dave Townsend wrote:
Pardal Freudenthal wrote:
Asa Dotzler wrote:>> Yeah, maybe for the relatively small number of theme users we have
>> today. What percentage are they of the 1.5 billion people online or the
>> large portion of that group that would appreciate easy customizations?
>> Or even of the 350 million Firefox users and the several hundred million
>> more we'll have over the next couple of years?

> I suppose your statement is based on AMO statistics.

> There are two bugs concerning those statistics:

> and:

> At this last one there are reports about the counter not showing the
> real numbers.

Actually neither of these, we can see how many users have themes
installed and even how many users are using a non-default theme based on
the update pings. The numbers as of September of last year are that
around 7% (6.7 million) of Firefox users were using a non-default theme.

Of course it is difficult to extrapolate up from that number to the 1.5
billion of people online that Asa refers to. My expectation would be
that the percentage would drop as we gain more and more less technical

By all means read that second Bug Report link, but look at the text that I bolded. This tells us that 7% or around 7 million Firefox users are active daily users of third party themes. So what?

Well, for a start it means that the active daily user base of Firefox is around 100 million and not 350 million, but also - these are the Personas metrics -


This means - That despite Mozilla bringing out Personas over 2 years ago, despite Mozilla actively and heavily promoting Personas everywhere for 18 months, that despite Mozilla hiding the Themes section in the remotest location on AMO that they could find that still Personas only has 2% or 2 million Active Daily users (many of whom would be using these on non-default themes)

This means that Third Party Firefox themes are almost THREE AND A HALF times more popular than Personas with Firefox users.

Lucy wrote:... IMO it's only a waste if you keep doing it after no one wants it.

Now, Personas in Firefox 3.6 will only work with the default theme. Now, in Firefox 3.6 the 'Get Themes' link in the Addons Manager goes to, er, the Personas website.

Even so, Firefox themers are not opposed to the existence of Personas. Not opposed to Mozilla promoting them. What Firefox themers ask for is a level playing field where the Firefox user is given equal opportunity to make their own choice and not have that choice made for them by Mozilla. ....and also not bringing out every Mozilla brawler, thug and troll to badmouth Firefox themes would be pretty nice as well. Still, I'm sure that with a little give and take on both sides that this will all turn out well, in the end. :)

Until my next post, I'll leave you with this thought by Pastor Martin Niemöller -

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out.
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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke (attrib.)


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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 8:22 pm

Well said Frank. I salute you.


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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 8:31 pm

*Light-weight themes are neither light-weight nor themes. Discuss.*

The goal of Personas might be to get more users to be able to move through accelerated versions faster, but the result of forcing users to only use the default theme will be the exact opposite. Especially not when people have been doing it one way for all of this time. 6.7 million Theme users. 2.3 million Personas users. How many hundreds of thousands of Theme + Personas user? Those aren't trivial numbers. If Firefox usage is 350 million or 100 million, it doesn't matter. Even if *only* 200,000 users are running Themes + Personas... that's still 200,000 individual users. Advanced users. An entire small town's worth of them! There is some attitude that I have noticed within Mozilla for some time now that Advanced users don't represent *real* Firefox users because they do weird things that most users don't do. One of the weird things that Advanced users do is build Extensions, Themes, Userstyles, UserScripts and Personas for other users to enjoy. Another weird thing that Advanced users do is install Firefox on their friend's and relative's computers and teach them how to use it. Another weird thing that Advanced users do is evangelize both online and out in public through discussions and even clothing. Advanced users also do other really weird things like file bugs, leave comments, and write emails to developers to help them do their job. And they do all of that for free. For absolutely nothing. There has to be SOMEONE at Mozilla who gets that and appreciates how crucial this group of users are in building and maintaining that base of 100 or 350 million or whatever.
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Ken Saunders

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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 10:37 pm

Hey is anyone willing to adopt me since I could be ousted (not that I was ever in, insted?) for my recent comments here?

Ah, I'll just save you a trip and paste it here.
If I'm wrong, or way off, then please, feel totally free to silently disagree over there somewhere ------>>>>>>>>
(JK) (kind of) (ok, I'm JK) (but now how can you be sure?)


Despite the passion, push-back, and valid points by those who are opposed to outright traditional Theme discrimination and elimination, and not at all opposed to supporting Personas and finding a fair compromise for co-existence, I don't see the other side (however that may be defined) budging. The decision has been made, 3.6 is just about ready to be released and this issue isn't going to stop that so now what?
What's next? What is the official statement/policy from Mozilla regarding the future of Firefox Themes? I've read that a few are all for phasing them out.
Should theme authors stop developing and maintaining traditional themes since that technology will be phased out? Should others be discouraged from creating new ones?

As far as the data and feedback about themes, well, if they were promoted as heavily or as equally, or at all like extensions and Personas have been, they would certainly have been a lot more popular and widely used. The most prominent link(s) usually gets the click, and the more aggressively, and consistently promoted things gets the most use thus becoming the most popular.
To think that Firefox users aren't that interested in thorough UI customization is just way off. What about the popularity of Stardock, WinCustomize,, InterfaceLIFT, deviantART, etc and so on?
I have people within my own family that don't have any extensions installed but they do use themes and I don't know of anyone personally that's ever been polled or has provided Firefox feedback.

I don't see why both Personas and themes can't co-exists, but I do think that it's wrong to just abruptly push themes to the side in favor of Personas. They are cool, but they are not all that by any means. In a way, it's providing a dis-service to users to push half a something on them (and that's being generous) when there are more full featured and complete options available.

It also looks like there's a need to redefine the word Theme.
And is someone who can paste a graphic into a 3000x200 pixel area really a theme developer? I suppose as much as I can call myself an add-ons developer by changing a few graphics and lines in an extension that someone else wrote and calling it the about:me Toolbar Button add-on (done with permission of course).

"Heavy Weight Themes". There couldn't have been be a worse title chosen (I know it isn't official). Think about the perception by those who already think that Firefox on its own is heavy, bloated, and slow. Heavy + Firefox = no thanks.
If there were to be accurate titles used, it would be Complete Themes and Partial Skins but where's the marketing value in that? If you call them 3rd party themes, then you'd have to do the same with Personas unless you are providing official Mozilla Personas.

I sure hope that I don't earn any enemies, lose the respect of anyone that gives a damn, or that I come off as contributing to divisiveness through my comments, and I can dig the need to move forward and can embrace change, but I disagree with the way that this is being handled and it affects me directly as an end user, a themes contributor, someone who WAS interested in creating my own, and someone who has worked closely with several theme authors for whom this all impacts the most. They were unappreciated as is and as far as I can tell, some of them (very long time Mozilla contributors) are pretty pissed.

I sure hope that the transition to Jetpacks goes much better than this.


Update: (since I've read this comment's preview).
Mike has replied to my comments (Thanks Mike. Mike's cool).
I'm not pasting them here though. To see them, you'll have to send me a check or money order for $29.95 (100% discount for add-on developers) to,
Is It Possible That Ken Is Even More Sarcastic or Facetious Than Frank
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That Dude's Whacked, Colorado

If Ed is following this thread, sorry, a reply is on the way.

Ken Saunders

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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Ctrl+v :shock: Ctrl+v :shock: Ctrl+v :shock: Ctrl+v :shock:

oops, sorry, was that out loud?

patrickjdempsey wrote: And they do all of that for free.


Man, you guys are getting boned. For free? Really? Wow. :D

I just wanted to see my name in lights. Er, quotes.


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Post Posted January 11th, 2010, 11:25 pm

Still waiting for that stock option.
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 1:08 am

A few other things to add fuel to the fire: AMO removed Themes from being part of Recommended Add-ons. I know they USED to be there. How do I know? For one, I distinctly remember them being there, and for two, they used to show up in Get Add-ons (more on that in a minute) and lastly, there is even a page on AMO just for Recommended themes:

...which you can no longer get to through AMO, although a Google search will bring it up. Notice that the official Recommended Add-ons page contains NO themes, but does read like a check-list of the most commonly problematic extensions for Firefox:

Secondly, all theme authors know that the Get Add-ons panel has a dedicated icon for themes. But when was the last time you saw a single theme showing up in the Get Add-ons list? Well you won't see any, because the Get Add-ons list is populated by... that's right! Recommended Add-ons! Something else funny to me is the ranking stars. I don't know about you guys, but if you are going to have a short list of 43 and narrow that down to only 5 selections, ANY add-on that has less than 5 stars shouldn't be showing up in that list! And yet, 13 of the 43 Recommended Add-ons have 4 stars... probably mostly because they are problematic and create compatibility issues etc. I'm not 100% sure how rankings are calculated, but a few of those add-ons have over 1000 reviews. If you get 4 stars out of 1000 reviews, then that means we are talking about hundreds of low-scoring reviews.

Lastly, we have the Developer Hub official FAQ on Recommended Add-ons: ... ecommended

Notice it does not mention Themes specifically, but does say that all Categories have a separate Recommended section. While this is generally true, it is not specifically true for Themes. If you click on the Themes link under Categories, it takes you to this page: ... rt=popular

Notice that removing everything after "type:2/" does bring up that "secret" Recommended Themes page. Also note that on that page, there ARE recommended add-ons, they are just shown by a light green box around them and the small print "recommended" above, but not as a separate section, like all of the others! So why aren't any Themes shown in the main Recommended Add-ons list and therefore also the Get Add-ons page? Let's be fair, shall we, maybe it's simply based on statistics and there are simply no themes as popular as the least popular item in that list. Here are the top 3 ranked recommended Themes:

NASA Night Launch: 10,537,340 downloads. 69,011 weekly downloads. 378 reviews. 5 stars.
Vista-aero: 8,319,364 downloads. 40,115 weekly downloads. 557 reviews. 5 stars.
Noia 2.0 eXtreme: 18,760,118 downloads. 38,865 weekly downloads. 638 reviews. 5 stars.

And the list goes on and on and on. The fact is that based on downloads and reviews alone, the so-called Recommended Add-ons list would be just about completely overrun with themes. Heck, Noia 2.0 ALONE is FAR more popular than the Personas extension:

Personas extension: 11,152,651 downloads. 168,266 weekly downloads. 369 reviews. 4 stars.

Heck, the least popular add-on on the Recommended page, OneRiot Realtime Search has 3 of it's 21 reviewers saying that it contains malware and possibly a virus and is difficult to uninstall. Way to go AMO.
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Ken Saunders

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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 3:24 am

Geez, talk about investigative reporting.

It would be nice to see mcdavis and others open up their stats for public viewing. There are stats for overall active theme usage, but putting a face on those numbers (so to speak) for each theme personalizes them and shows that a large portion of Firefox users do use themes rather than just an overall cold and clinical view.

It's easier to make judgments and generalize things when things are viewed collectively.
Kind of like how the tough decisions in War are made.
Some will find it easy to estimate causalities looking at troop levels and maps, but try telling someone to their face that chances are that it will be your husband, wife, son or daughter that will die.

I've never subscribed to the "needs of the many outweighs" etc, bullshit etc some more. I value individuals more than that and that's easy for me to say in this instance because I don't hold the responsibilities of a large and significant organization but...

I manage a very modest add-on that I almost pulled support for before 3.5 was released (Page Zoom Buttons), and there were only about 3500 active daily users, but I thought that's a large number of individuals who have chosen this add-on out of the trillion other ones who have all had nothing but good things to say, that most downloads for it were accrued when people HAD to login and implicitly choose to view experimental add-ons, and they would very easily find a replacement add-on if I dropped support because there are a ton of zooming add-ons and much better ones, but why would/should I. Even if it were only 200 users, they're worth it.

For the record, I do recommend Default Full Zoom Level on the Page Zoom Buttons AMO page.
I do so because I believe in putting choice in the hands of people.
The same positive approach could be taken here.
Promote Personas, fine, but let people know that there are other options that offers much more.
That's what I do.

Oh, add this to the record, I use Default Full Zoom Level and not my (partially) own Page Zoom Buttons. It's a great extension. Page Zoom Buttons isn't bad at all, and neither are Personas, but Page Zoom Buttons isn't Default Full Zoom Level and Personas aren't Themes.


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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 6:04 am

I agree. In fact, I promoted AnyColor when it first came out... unfortunately it very quickly turned incompatible with non-default themes. I started kicking myself when my recommendation to use AnyColor had to turn into a warning against using it. In fact I still have at least one long-term user who put ups with glaring rendering problems simply because they cannot live without having sky blue behind Stratini, and they have for almost a year now!

Percentage games are sticky business. We hear that 69% of Firefox users do not use any add-ons. OK. That sounds like a big percentage, but out of 350 million users, that leaves over 108 million users who DO.
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 6:52 am

Silvermel - A Theme for Firefox and Thunderbird
YATT - Yet Another Theme Tutorial
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 7:14 am

For now anyway.
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 7:26 am

patrickjdempsey wrote:Percentage games are sticky business. We hear that 69% of Firefox users do not use any add-ons. OK. That sounds like a big percentage, but out of 350 million users, that leaves over 108 million users who DO.

Don't let the Mozilla devs hear you. They might hit the brilliant idea of removing extensions entirely next ("Our users want it!").


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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 10:16 am

There is no "Get Themes" Toggle, Hotspot, Gspot or any other spot on add-ons panels (any of the four) in this latest update of Firefox for Ubuntu Hardy Heron Long Term Support.
There is the one theme and that is it. It also has bothered me there has never been a direct statement in most of the add-ons, extensions or themes whether they were compatible with "systems." Granted they are supposed to work but it seems the compatibility statement would help keep the "bug" reports at a minimum and be more revealing of actual conflicts, not manufactured by user assumptions.

In a way this is similar to the disregard of those folks who, while not the most computer literate, some of you actually are more literate, contributed time and energy in support. Themers have always been supportive, suggestive and are probably one of the main reasons this browser is what it is.
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 10:23 am

ShareBird wrote:Add-ons are here to stay

This reminds me of something else...

Oh yes, [This post censored upon request of the moderators, due to it's dubious potential of misinterpretation of what I still feel is an accurate example of deceptive information in the face of clear indications of behavior].

Yeah, that worked.

[Contextually associated statement also removed].

It's a shame I can't find a good example of a politician that made a perfectly blatant lie that didn't lead to genocide or something similarly drastic. Politicians are very good at lying, and normally leave themselves a loophole by which they can escape - unless those they oppose are expected to be nullified as a result of breaking a promise.
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Post Posted January 12th, 2010, 12:16 pm

Does anyone else find it ironic that the link directly above "Add-ons are here to stay" says "« 2.1 launches"? I know that it's just a link to the previous AMO blog entry, but it's still pretty funny. What's not so funny is that 2.1 does NOT include any mention of themes as we've seen discussed in terms of the "Get Themes..." button. In fact, there is not one single link to AMO AT ALL on main page (I haven't delved into sub-pages to confirm my suspicion that you won't find any there either). And yet the AMO blog calls this it's "sister site". What a sister! So AMO is the really nice older sister who is always showing off her pretty but somewhat dim and cruel younger sister, who never mentions her older sibling?
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