mozdev needs your help! Please read below and let us know if you want to help find a new path for the site.
The mozdev.org site has been around since the early days of the Mozilla project (it just turned 9 years old) and is home to hundreds of active projects. It started out as a personal project and grew into a non-profit (the Mozdev Community Organization) that employs a small development team.
At one time, the site was the main place to go for Mozilla extensions and it served as an incubator for many of Firefox’s popular features and add-ons. The community has evolved though and hosting is no longer a big problem and AMO and Labs have taken over the distribution and incubation roles.
Even with these changes, there is a dedicated community that uses mozdev. The current board feels that we can serve these users best with a new approach and new faces. If you are interested in becoming a part of a new community council, please let us know.
At mozdev.org we are currently hosting extensions, themes and other add-ons for over 15 different Mozilla-based applications. We are interested in working together with the organizations making these applications to help us with our mission of establishing Mozilla as a viable development platform, helping proliferate Mozilla technologies and increasing the user base of Mozilla-based applications.
We would like to give organizations that are using Mozilla technologies an opportunity to sponsor extensions for their applications that are hosted on mozdev and to find ways to work together to grow their extension developer communities. A few ideas we’ve had about possible ways to integrate the mozdev community with an application’s add-on developer community include:
- Promoting an application’s extensions on the mozdev.org home page
- Creating a branded and customized extensions portal (see the just launched Songbird portal for an example of what’s possible)
- Subscribing team members to a sponsors group where they can talk to other people working on Mozilla-based applications
Every organization will have their own unique needs, so we are open to any other ideas about how we can help grow the extension developer community around a particular Mozilla-based application. If sponsoring extensions on mozdev is something you’d like to talk more about, please feel free to post here or contact us.
Many people who host the development of their extension on mozdev also distribute their work on addons.mozilla.org and not surprisingly we’ve received a number of requests to make managing projects in both locations easier for developers.
From these requests and from other discussions with project owners, we’ve known that more integration would help some developers but we haven’t had any specific information about how many people would benefit. Well, today I had the idea that I should just go and look at how many add-ons on AMO have mozdev listed as their developer home page. The results for the 50 most popular add-ons are below:
I think there are a few interesting things to see here. First is that most people are hosting their own developer site, but of the project hosting sites mozdev is by far the most used (I have no idea if this ratio holds across all of AMO and would be interested in doing a more complete survey). There are also a number of projects that had hosted their project on mozdev at one time and are now hosting their own sites (although some of these are still using some of mozdev’s developer tools). I think this number is encouraging since it’s natural for projects to want their own site once they’ve reached a certain size and this fits in with our ideas of having mozdev serve as a community incubator.
To answer the original question though, it looks like we could make things easier for a significant fraction of the developer’s on AMO by making it easier to manage projects in both places. There are a lot of potential things that could be done (have download files sync across sites so you just need to update once, share account information so people don’t need to remember multiple passwords to deal with one extension…). If anyone has ideas for what would be helpful here, please let us know.
The roadmap for mozdev.org was updated earlier this week. The motivation behind these changes was to refocus our efforts on functionality that will benefit Mozilla developers and to address the concerns we’ve been hearing about the usability of the site. More details about our thought process can be seen on the recent post about the proposed changes.
I wanted to point out some of the bigger changes that were made. We’ve been planning on adding at least one new version control option for a while and we had initially considered going with Subversion support first. In the roadmap, one of our new top priorities is to add Mercurial support (Subversion support is still planned, but it will come later). Since our mission is to support Mozilla developers, and not open source developers in general, we feel that it is important to stay in sync with Mozilla’s development tools and provide other tools that are specific to the Mozilla community.
A number of tasks that should help with the usability of the site have also been added, including making edits to a project’s web pages easier, making the creation of new projects a quicker process and redesigning the look of the site. We feel that there are many reasons why a developer working on Mozilla extensions or applications would choose mozdev.org over a general purpose hosting site, but there is no denying that the current design and layout of our site is a far cry from the usability of Google Code.
If there are any comments or suggestions about these changes, feel free to let us know.
The Mozdev Community Organization (the non-profit organization that runs the mozdev.org site) has just posted it’s 2007 annual report (PDF file). The document contains an overview about what was accomplished last year, a look ahead at some of the organization’s plans for 2008 and a financial summary of the last four years of operations. This information is being provided so that community members and donors are kept informed about how contributions are used. If you have any comments or questions about any of this, feel free to leave a comment.
There have been some discussions recently about how mozdev‘s hosting service compares to Google Code. The feedback we’ve received so far has been very useful, so I wanted to talk about this topic with a wider group to get more comments and suggestions.
I think that one of the biggest advantages that mozdev has is that it is dedicated exclusively to people who are using Mozilla to build extensions and applications. This means that we can focus on providing features (such as creating a way to serve downloads that will work with Firefox 3’s secure installation requirements) that a general purpose hosting site, like Google Code, wouldn’t offer. I think there is a lot of potential in providing more of these features that apply only to Mozilla developers (for instance, one person mentioned that they had to use 4 different sites to manage their extension, so maybe we could sync information between AMO and mozdev to make developers’ lives a little easier).
Another thing that became clear from the discussion threads is that we haven’t done a good enough job talking about all of the new functionality we’ve added to the site recently or that we are planning to add soon. For example, someone mentioned that it was a negative that they couldn’t get admin access to their project’s Bugzilla account on mozdev. This had been true for a long time, but a few months ago we enabled this option when we upgraded to Bugzilla 3.0. There have also been many complaints about how limiting CVS can be, but the next item on our roadmap (after finishing the secure installation work) is to add at least one more version control option to the site.
Google Code certainly does have an advantage in some areas, but I think it misses the point a bit to compare mozdev with any general purpose hosting site just by looking at the different features available. Over the last eight years, a community of Mozilla extension and application developers has grown up on mozdev and it is these people and their collective experience that is the site’s most useful feature. No matter how great Google Code may be, it can’t offer that.
When mozdev.org was started several years ago, there was no big vision for the site—it was created because a few people wanted a place to work on their Mozilla-related projects and there was a thought that other people might also find this useful. This is a pretty typical open source type of story in the sense that some people had an itch that they scratched and then things went from there.
Another thing that happened with mozdev that also typically happens with open source projects is that it became whatever the community of people interacting with the site made it. Looking back at how the site has been used by the community, it seems that one of mozdev’s functions has been to act as an incubator for new ideas for applications, extensions and features.
As an example, Camino started out as a mozdev project called Chimera. The project soon moved off of the site since it got very popular, but hopefully mozdev helped get this project to the point where it was big enough that it needed more than we could offer. This same thing has happened with extensions such as Greasemonkey and Firefox features such as session restore (I don’t think the Total Recall project directly contributed to this feature, but it was an early working implementation of the idea).
There have been several other extensions and applications that started on mozdev that then matured and left the site. I think it would be interesting to get a list together of these projects, so I’ve created a wiki page where we can start working on this. If you know of other examples of projects that have started out and then moved on from mozdev, feel free to edit the wiki or add a comment on the page.