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Sunday, July 3, 2016

TooManyTabs for Firefox 1.4.8 is released!

We have released TMT 1.4.8 for Firefox 47+. The folks at Mozilla told us they expect to obsolete support for traditional addons (Yes, that includes TMT) by the end of 2017, so they think it would be great that these traditional addons would continue to work until then. So here is the new version and enjoy!

I always wanted to say a few words on TMT. Here are some of my final thoughts as a developer.

TMT was first released in 2008 and is my first Browser addon. As a "traditional" addon TMT has always been on the verge of being "phased out" ever since Firefox began to "modernize" its addon system.  I am honored that despite all that TMT has lasted for 8 years long and there are so many of you who still find it useful.

Now onto some ranting. :)

TMT is small, but developing it has never been easy. First and foremost, developing "traditional" addons (technically and specifically XUL addons) requires going through a rather steep learning curve. Documentation for an ever changing browser is always limited and often outdated. I often had to check out the source code of Firefox to find the answers. Another difficulty of developing a "traditional" addon is to provide compatibility with other addons. From the user's perspective, an addon is expected to work with every popular addon on the market. To the developer, this is actually very demanding. It's like working with different people on the same software project without any direct form of communication. When you think about it it's amazing that every addon developer find a way to pull that off.

So why persist on developing the addon when it is difficult, not profitable, and never really gets widely appreciated? For your information, TMT has never been really popular or ever featured by the browser's maker (unlike its Chrome incarnation). In fact, there was a period when I was perplexed why TMT never gather a larger audience. Some reviewers had even commented that TMT is just a glorified bookmark system. I was shocked. For a tabaholic like me I have always too many tabs open. I use TMT everyday and I cannot imagine a Firefox without it. As time goes, however, I realize there has never been a lot of people like me (or you, if you cannot live without TMT). The users of TMT is a minority. TMT offers a niche function that could only be appreciated by few people who really needs it like I do. They would email me about how TMT had improved their productivity and how devastated they would be without it. On reflection I think that is why I had persisted to support TMT all these years, when development is difficulty, support from Mozilla platform minimal, and vast majority of Firefox users don't seem to care. I am proud that I have served the many minority of us whose need were not met by the "standard".

But everything would still come to an end. The Mozilla team has decided to obsolete traditional addons by the end of 2017. It seems all traditional addons have also become too niche to be worth supporting. In my opinion, the Internet and the Open Source movement has kind of lost its original ways. If my memory serves, the Internet promised a long tail. Everyone, supposedly, can find their niche on the Internet when there is none in the real world. The Internet now, however, is too becoming more and more tailored to the sole interest of the majority, where the popularity of your product/addon/app/idea/need/self is the sole criteria of survival. We are recommended the most popular apps on our mobile phones. We are shown most popular posts on our Facebook timelines. If you are a niche, like TMT, or other traditional addons, or like Google Reader, you will no longer get support. Maybe it's because it's not profitable. Or compared to the billions of other users on the Internet, that 0.1% of you aren't important.

I do not like the direction that we are heading.

If you are reading this little rant up to this point you must be one of the loyal users of TMT. Thank you for your long time support and farewell! It has been a great time.

Best regards,

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