The Revenue Model of Firefox Extensions

Mozilla has announcedthe winners of the previouslymentioned extend Firefox contest, with the threegrand-prize victors carrying home a beefy PC, alongwith a considerable amount of developer credibility. Categorywinners earned some decent prizes as well.

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Congratulations to the winners on a job well done.

Having said that, I’ve tried out the winning extensions, and Ihave to confess that I’m underwhelmed. Not to take away from theiraccomplishments, but for a challenge of such magnitude, for acore product with millions of software developer fans, Iexpected some awe-inspiring, revolutionary products to emerge.

Firefox has an enormously robust and feature rich extensionmodel, where almost anything is possible, yet the roster ofavailable extensions is dominated by trivial tools with simplistic,archaic interfaces, too many of which seem like hack jobs (theexception being the extensions by bigcorporations — Corporations that spit and polish theiroffering to reap the benefits of tracking your habits andencouraging you to use of their search).

Of course I’m complaining about something that is generallyfree, so as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for…In factyou get far more than you pay for, but it demonstratesthat there are limits to the sacrifice and resources someone willcommit to a product that they find difficult to monetize.

Not only is it close to impossible to achieve revenue from anextension unless you’re pushing a different product (such assearch), but the skills and technologies that you learn buildingextensions is hard to leverage for professional gain (e.g. knowingXUL and the Mozilla extension API is of marginal value outside ofbuilding extensions, where the C skills gained doing kernel hackinghas tremendous professional value).

Nonetheless, at least the winners weren’t gadgetclocks. Gadget clocks and basic arithmetic web service examplesalways strike me as a sign of a technology or platform that isbeing oversold.