In the less-than-week since launch, we’ve seen more than 25,000 downloads of Jetpack and nearly 100,000 watches of the tutorial movie. There seems to be a particularly interested in Jetpack from the Web developer world. In the few days since launch, we’ve had over 20 Jetpacks written by people who previously had only written web sites.
This release of Jetpack is a 0.1 prototype, meant mainly for developers and testers. That there has been this much response speaks to a deep-set and unmet need to allow creators on the web to be able to participate in making the browser better for everyone, regardless of their depth of technical ability.
These are questions and answers from an interview.
Q: Why is Jetpack important now?
The add-ons community for Firefox is arguably one of the largest, most vibrant sources for innovation on the Web today. If you want to affect people, to reach them and make a difference in their daily lives, the Firefox add-ons platform is hard to beat, with over one billion installs of Firefox add-ons to date.
We’ve only scratched the surface of its potential.
Jetpack is about lowering the cost of participation. The number of people who come online for the first time in the next 10 years will dwarf the number of people online today. If the browser is to stay relevant in an increasingly global context, anyone with a source of inspiration will need to be able to create the innovation that meets their needs. With Jetpack, what used to take 100s of lines of code now takes 10s of lines of code; and what used to take carefully-cultivate domain specific knowledge now simply requires standard Web developer skills.
On the user front, the Jetpack experience enables a tighter integration of 3rd-party features with Firefox. You no longer have to go through laborious restarts to try a new add-on. You just click and go.
Q: Does Jetpack ‘compete’ against regular add-ons? Eventually could Jetpack be the default mechanism by which all add-ons are created?
Jetpack is one potential future for what add-ons might look like. Eventually, Jetpack could be a default mechanism for extending Firefox, but it is too early to tell. We are looking to wider feedback to guide development and direction.
Q: Is Jetpack competitive against the Greasemonkey add-on or is the goal really something different?
They are different. Jetpack is informed by the success of Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is awesome. It’s an add-on that makes it easy to make the current page you are looking at better. Jetpack is about making the entire browser better. We plan on adding support for Greasemonkey scripts to Jetpack to allow them work even better together.
Q: Is there a way to port/migrate existing add-ons to the Jetpack model?
Currently, the Jetpack API is limited so not everything possible in current add-ons is possible in Jetpack. Over time, more and more add-ons will be portable to Jetpack.
That said, we plan on creating a converter so that any Jetpack can be turned into a standard XPI-style extensions.
Q: Jetpack is now an early development project. What does Mozilla see as the key development challenges to getting Jetpack ‘production-ready’?
In any platform, there’s a delicate balance of author generativity, platform security, and end-user usability. You can easily end up with a system that is so secure, that you can’t do anything innovative with it; or a system that’s so generative that everything works so differently from everything else that it isn’t usable. Finding that right mix is a key challenge, one that can helped be gotten right by learning from our vibrant community of current add-on creators.
Q: Is the goal for Jetpack to be included by default (perhaps like TaskFox?) in a future version of Firefox?
Depending on the success of Jetpack, that is a possibility.
Q: When do you expect the next Jetpack release to be out and how often do you expect releases to occur?
We’ve already released four updates to Jetpack since the launch, adding a number of bug fixes and new API features. You can expect a bigger release of Jetpack in the next week or so. Releases will happen early and often, as we work closely with the add-on and Web developer communities to determine the highest priority directions to go.