[Maildev] Bootstrapped extensions now require manifest.json, instead of install.rdf

Ben Bucksch ben.bucksch at beonex.com
Sat May 25 21:53:59 EDT 2019

Andrei Hajdukewycz wrote on 22.05.19 07:24:
> There are going to be major, continuing changes to add-ons with 
> frequent breakage until legacy add-ons are completely gone. To me, the 
> faster we get there, the better for everyone.

May I ask for more clarification on this, please? ExQuilla is a legacy 
extension and has tons of users. Those users completely depend on it.

ExQuilla has lots of XPCOM, all over the place. It's almost 100% XPCOM 
code. I don't think it's feasible to port ExQuilla to WebExtensions. 
That's why we wrote Owl from scratch, which took us almost a year and 
we're not close to the coverage of ExQuilla. However, ExQuilla has a 
large userbase and I am afraid to lose it. Owl is a young product, 
doesn't have the same feature set and it will be difficult to get it on 
par with ExQuilla. Exchange is a really really nasty business: Microsoft 
doesn't adhere to any standards, not even those protocols they made up 
themselves. Plus the server can be customized locally to no end - it 
works for us, but not for the user, good luck finding out why, because 
you don't have their login and cannot reproduce it. It's an utter pain 
to support. ExQuilla already works for those users who use it, and I 
have no idea what will happen once I migrate them to Owl. I'd probably 
be flooded with 1000s of support emails, and no chance to debug all of 
it. We need to fix all these bugs and incompatibilities as they come and 
as we have the resources. But enough whining. This is just to let you 
know the situation.

My plan was to keep ExQuilla alive for another 2 to 5 years, as long as 
technically and financially possible, and slowly transition users to 
Owl. This transition takes years, both for the users and for us.

It appears from the above sentence that you are actively trying to kill 
legacy extensions. Is that the case? So far, I was under the impression 
that Thunderbird makes efforts to keep them working as long as possible.

Disclaimer: I understand that there are changes beyond our control, like 
the removal of overlays or removal of XBL. That's clear. I also 
understand the change discussed here. Adding a manifest.json is easy 
enough for extensions, and seems to be a big simplification for you, so 
it seems like a reasonable trade-off (although I still think the 100s of 
small extension authors should be supported better on this and not left 

But your message seems to imply that you actively *want* to get rid of 
legacy addons, instead of actively trying to keep them working. This 
difference has very real implications. Could you please clarify that a bit?

> We can do our best to minimize the pain or minimize the duration of 
> that pain but we can't do both, and I'm definitely in the camp of 
> minimizing duration over intensity.

Maybe the explanation above shines a little different light on this.


Ben Bucksch

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