Mozilla introduced the SocialAPI in Firefox 17 as a way to make interactions with social network services like Facebook easier and faster.
The API offered access to various browser components, a chat window, sidebar, or share buttons, and allowed social providers to create add-on like extensions that users could install in Firefox.
One of the first services to take advantage of Firefox's new SocialAPI was Facebook. Messenger for Firefox added support for Facebook chat directly in Firefox's interface. This allowed Facebook users to use chat functionality without being on Facebook at all.
Mozilla plans to deprecate a large part of the application programming interface in Firefox 51. The following SocialAPI parts will be removed:
This leaves only the share functionality which will remain for the time being.
SocialAPI is not the first controversial part of Firefox that Mozilla plans to remove in the next couple of release cycles.
The organization announced last week that it plans to remove Firefox Hello in Firefox 49. The removal of parts of SocialAPI is related to that, as Hello uses SocialAPI's chat window.
The main reason for the removal is lack of use. The chat window is only used by Hello for instance according to Mozilla. Socialmarks and socialstatus are not used at all, and the few services that make use of social sidebar functionality have an "insignificant userbase" according to the bug report on Bugzilla. This leaves share functionality which "has a good set of users and providers" according to Mozilla.
All providers that provide Social Sidebar functionality have been informed about the deprecation according to Mozilla.
The organization plans to begin with the removal of SocialAPI components after the removal of Firefox Hello. This makes sense considering that Hello relies on SocialAPI to function.
The components will be removed in Firefox Nightly first. The change is then pushed to other channels during updates.
The removal of the SocialAPI in Firefox 51 has no effect on traditional browser extensions for Firefox. These may continue to use the sidebar just like before.
I never used SocialAPI providers apart from running tests to write articles about the functionality. I have to admit that I'm not overlay active on social networking sites and thus not really part of the target audience.
It appears however that the functionality that the SocialAPI provided, apart from sharing, was not overly popular.
Considering that Mozilla has been criticized in the past for integrating the API in Firefox in first place, I think it is a good idea to remove it after all again. (via Sören)
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