Mozilla makes Tab Hiding API a priority

Mozilla plans to switch the legacy add-ons system of the Firefox browser off in the Firefox 57 release which will be out in November.

The organization focuses on WebExtensions instead, and adds new APIs and improvements to Firefox to extend the capabilities of WebExtension add-ons.

Mozilla wants feature parity with Chrome when it comes to WebExtensions, and extend the capabilities of the Firefox browser in regards to WebExtensions beyond what Google Chrome offers.

This means effectively that any Chrome extension can be ported with relatively easy to Firefox, and that Firefox add-ons will become available that offer functionality that Chrome extensions cannot replicate.

Mozilla makes Tab Hiding API a priority

tab groups

Mozilla approved the Tab Hiding API yesterday and made it a priority 1 project. This API extends WebExtensions support in Firefox beyond what Chrome supports. As you may know, Chrome provides little to no options for add-on developers to manipulate the browser UI. Even core Chrome does not support modifications to the tab bar, for instance to change the disastrous "no scrolling on tab bar" rule of the browser.

The best Chrome extensions can do is to remove tabs from the browser's tab bar to display them in list form. Extensions like TabSense, PanicButton or Simple Window Saver improve the tab handling for instance.

Firefox's upcoming Tab Hiding API paves the way for Tab Groups like add-ons. Firefox has its fair share of Tab Group legacy extensions; Simplified Tab Groups or the excellent Tab Groups by QuickSaver are two of the most popular add-ons that provide the functionality.



The author of Simplified Tab Groups mentioned already that he would port his extension once the APIs become available.

Read also:  Firefox 54: more multi-process content processes

Basically, what the API provides is functions to show and hide tabs in the Firefox tab bar. This is the main use case for tab groups functionality, a feature that allows Firefox users to create groups of tabs and switch between them.

Since you work only with a subset of tabs at a time, it means that you have a better overview of the open tabs of that group usually.

Closing Words

Mozilla has all hands on deck for the important Firefox 57 release. It seems likely that the pressure will drop once Firefox 57 is out, and the organization will continue to improve and add APIs to the browser.

It is clear that these APIs will never reach feature parity with the legacy add-on systems though.

Raymond Hill, the creator of uBlock Origin published an interesting post recently in which he confirmed that Firefox will still be superior to Chrome when it comes to content blocking when Firefox 57 gets released.

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Mozilla makes Tab Hiding API a priority
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Mozilla approved the Tab Hiding API yesterday and made it a priority 1 project. This API extends WebExtensions support in Firefox beyond what Chrome supports.
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Responses to Mozilla makes Tab Hiding API a priority

  1. Faldorn August 2, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Gorhill:

    "There is much more I could list here. It baffles me that some people thinks Firefox is becoming a “Chrome clone”, it’s just not the case, it’s just plain silly to make such statement."

    That person is acknowledged for their competence and morals by those who usually make the statement, maybe some of them will start to hear it now.

    • HK-Rapper August 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

      Easy to say for a Chrome developer who took over a whole year (2014 to 2015) to offer uBlock as a Firefox XPI.

      I'm sure he is rubbing his hands now that Firefox uses Webextensions and his work maintaining the addon got easier.

      Hah, how can he be unbiased?

      • Faldorn August 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

        I was wondering if a person feeling disputed would actually find a pretext to turn on him from some angle or another. Nice, +1 for creativity.

      • Pants August 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

        HK-Rapper has gained +1 Creativity -10 Conceptuality :)

        Stop looking at the trees, man... and try to see the whole wood

      • ams August 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm #

        "How can he be unbiased?" That's a fair rhetorical question, so please don't shoot the messenger (HK-Rapper)

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

        He is defending Firefox over Chrome by providing four facts, not opinions, and saying there's more.

        If you absolutely want to question his expertise and consider that he may be wrong because of a bias that would blind him, and you decide in a spark of creativity that the bias is a preference for Firefox against Chrome, arguing that he comes from Chrome and was reluctant to move his add-on to Firefox probably might go against your own point.

        If you want to discuss his conclusion, go after the fact, not the messenger (Gorhill).

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

        Check your facts before you make assumptions.
        https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/FAQ
        > Why did you develop the Chromium version before the Firefox version?
        >In as few words as possible, with as little private matters disclosed:
        >Fall 2013
        >I am Firefox/NoScript user
        >Other user is Chromium/ABP
        >Worried about Chromium user not being protected against iframe loading freely (as opposed to Firefox/NoScript)
        >Looked into Chrome API to just quickly hack together a homespun iframe blocker

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

        Anonymous above me: So to sum up, still nothing to say on facts, only beating around the bush.

      • gorhill August 3, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

        > Easy to say [...]

        Any *specific* *substantive* argument opposing anything I said in my comment pointing out why I think Firefox is no clone of Chrome?

        > took over a whole year (2014 to 2015) to offer uBlock as a Firefox XPI

        What did you contribute yourself in your free time to help make this happens?

        > his work maintaining the addon got easier

        I explicitly wrote that I do not plan to drop support for the legacy version of uBlock Origin:
        https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Firefox-WebExtensions#future-of-ubolegacy

        The meaning of this is that I took upon myself to maintain another version of the extension. Despite your attempt at trivializing, the time required to maintain that new version is not zero.

        > how can he be unbiased?

        What is *your* bias driving you to post such nonsense? I enumerated facts to debunk the "Firefox is a Chrome clone" view. You posted a rant, devoid of actual counter arguments.

      • owl August 4, 2017 at 12:09 am #

        Hi gorhill. You are awesome! Ignore the trolls.

  2. john August 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    If I want Chrome, I install Chrome... I don't need FF to look like Chrome, I need FF to be FF, as it has been.

    A lot of my plugins will stop working then... pffff.

    • Monochromatic Unicorn August 2, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Tell their developers to upgrade theirs add-ons then. If they can't make an effort to keep up with technology, then they doesn't worth our time.

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

        What does a regular unicorn know anyway. We'll hear you when you get back with more rainbows.

  3. Jeff August 2, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    They need to extend WebExtensions a LOT LOT LOT more before it can match the functionality and customization offered by its "legacy" add-ons. Because Mozilla does not understand or care about this, the version of Firefox that drops legacy extensions will spell doom for their already shrinking market share.

  4. Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    "Raymond Hill, the creator of uBlock Origin published an interesting post"...

    That discourse platform which seems to be "à la mode" (recently adopted by the DOpus forum too) is just for me (and according to what I read from others) an additional deterrent to ask a question opening a post or even give a feedback. That sucks.

    • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

      Gorhill isn't hard to reach though. He even posts here every now and then.

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

        Probably gorhill is not "hard to reach", but what I see reading this interessant info from Martin is he attack "some" who criticize Mozilla copying Chrome on another place that sucks, contrary to this blog where all can reply easily instead to have a HEADACHE.

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

        Well you can reply here, we're all listening.

      • Anonymous August 3, 2017 at 8:00 am #

        Are you my father???

      • Anonymous August 3, 2017 at 9:53 am #

        I am you from the future. There's no time to explain!

  5. Ross Presser August 2, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    What is to stop a malicious page from hiding its own tab while it does nefarious things?

    • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

      Only extension will be able to hide tabs, not websites

  6. Pants August 2, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Why all the doom, gloom and bitching. "chrome clone", "wah wah wah!!" :cryface:

    If your perspective is how the UI looks, then I think your priorities are not in the right order. What is of importance here (to some users) is the loss of work flow - eg Tab Groups, and some APIs that allowed a lot more to happen in FF than Chrome ever did. That said, the move to e10s and now 57 (with legacy addons gone), Photon, bits of Servo etc - we can finally have a more robust, massively faster, 64-bit, properly sandboxed and multi-processed (in so many ways - content/core/gpu/extension oop etc) modern browser that will kick the llama's arse.

    That has been the focus. They have a roadmap and getting to this point (57) ticks off a lot of boxes, reduces code overhead (I assume), and frees up resources. Now they can start working on adding the cool sh*t (and believe me, they will have lists of things they WANT to do). New developers will find creating extensions for FF easier (porting) and that opens up a lot of opportunities (not that we want the cesspool that is chrome extensions) - the AMO will still be kept clean.

    Mozilla is on the right path. If you want to wait for things to happen re WE APIs, then move to ESR and be happy with legacy addons until June/July next year. In other words, stop your moaning - there are no excuses. You can even move to Nightly and allow legacy addons (but they will likely do crazy things and break as legacy code is removed etc - so not really recommended)

    I also see a lot of good ideas being tried out in Test Pilot (some things are too big to try in this environment) - not everyone's cup of tea - but this is where ideas like Containers & Screenshots came from. Win some, lose some. I like the idea of Notes, others won't.

    I trawl bugzilla daily. I read a lot of Mozilla related stuff. Sorry, no links, but believe me when I say there's a lot of good sh*t still to come. Often a ticket is closed as WONTFIX - all that means is it is rejected in that implementation (maybe it was too broad). Several TAB API tickets were closed this way. This one (Martin's article) was accepted (narrower scope, right timing!). A lot more of this will happen.

    So cheer up, knuckleheads :)

    • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

      Could have been a "good" summary of the situation, but.. my comprehension in what you call "Good S..t" is probably obfuscated by the rest of your post which sounds like "you loved Firefox", soon you will be forced to use it". "S..t" is "S..t".

      A knuckleheads.

  7. Kubrick August 2, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    I cant understand all this corrosive dialogue toward gorhill,Lets be grateful his extension exists at all plus its free.

  8. pd August 2, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

    I hope this will be enough to bring Quicksaver back to port his magnificent Tab Groups which I rely on massively every day.

    Mozilla has fumbled this whole concept enormously. The end result is not the only point. Whether Firefox has WebExtension feature parity with Chrome, or feature parity plus a lot more (but still less than XUL APIs) is not the only point. The way Mozilla has treated some of it's most important stakeholders - those willing to selflessly write new features for Firefox whilst Mozilla sits on it's laurels - is beyond a joke. Some companies have excitable middle-aged managers dancing around big stages feting developers to come to their platform. Mozilla beats developers with a stick, invalidates their work, prods and pokes them with one hand, then begs them to come back with the other.

  9. TelV August 2, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    I don't need my tabs to be hidden: I just want them displayed below the location bar.

    I created a new profile over the weekend and tried using the tabs-on-top concept for a couple of days, but it just gave me a headache. So come FF57 it'll be bye-bye Firefox until Mozilla comes to its senses (if ever).

    • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

      I don't have facts here but there shouldn't be a problem with placing tabs under the address bar. They're already allowing tabs on the side and they were talking about letting the lateral tab bar sliding in and out of view.

      • Mistral August 2, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

        I think, you think, he/she thinks....

      • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

        That was constructive. Maybe you could have looked it up instead ?

        If there can be tabs on the side, then I don't see what opposes that there be a way to get tabs under the address bar. If the various API don't already allow it, and no such API is in the works yet, I don't THINK Mozilla has any reason to refuse it.

        Moreover, a WebExtension is already going to be allowed to create its own bar and populate it however it wants, so it can recreate the tab bar below the address bar and hide the original tab bar even if there is no specific API for that.

        If you are weary, stop acting like a couch potato that I have to spoon feed and go get what you need.

  10. Clairvaux August 2, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Functionality is important. Security and privacy are critical.

    Absent security and privacy, features are a moot point. Unless, of course, you don't own a dime, you don't care about your accounts being hacked and your identity stolen, you don't care about your data, etc.

    Only very young and very foolish men like fast cars with no brakes and no safety belts.

  11. Clairvaux August 2, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

    Raymond Hill's comment is on a place named discourse.mozilla.org (what a pretentious name...). Now I'm lost. I knew developer.mozilla.org, support.mozilla.org, forums.mozillazine.org, kb.mozillazine.org... All those sites are still alive, apparently.

    What's the difference ? Why do we need so many ? How can one keep up, apart from being a professional Mozilla-zer, which most people aren't ?

    • Anonymous August 2, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      The four sites you mentioned are clearly different so of course they all have their own servers.

      I don't know the purpose of discourse. You don't need to know all those sites more than you need to know all subs of Reddit. Just keep around what you need and use search for the rest. Well, same as with all other websites...

      • Clairvaux August 2, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

        Precisely : it's completely unclear to me why Mozilla needs to have five different sites to help with its products. And I don't understand the difference between those sites. Where do I go when I need to know something ? Where is Mozilla's main page, explaining people each site's purpose, and which one to use according to their needs ?

        I can see the need for one site catering to the general public, and maybe another one for developers. Beyond that, it's obfuscation and bureaucratic layering up : you never replace something to make it better, you just create another department next to it.

        Search is not a solution. Search is not a thinking man's tool. Search is when you're desperate and you have no other way. Also, the situation is not comparable with Reddit. There are thousands of Reddit threads because Reddit covers thousands of unrelated fields. Mozilla is one center of interest, so it should have one front door, and obvious directions from there.

        I have just poked mozilla.org for a while (that's the guys making Firefox, right ?), and I found no mention of the five official Mozilla sites I have already collected. Fun game : try and find a link named "Help" on this site...

        On the other hand, you'll find tons of hugely important information about their "values", their "mission", how they "advocate" about stuff, and how they are superior human beings because they are supposedly "non-profit"...

  12. Dave10 August 2, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I was unaware that anybody would open so many tabs at the same time in their browser that they needed to group them.

    You can only view one page at a time, whats the point of keeping open multiple tabs you cannot see?

    • Martin Brinkmann August 2, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

      Easier access is one reason, and it is sometimes more convenient, for instance when you switch between different tasks regularly.

  13. Jay August 3, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    Try being a developer or someone who works on a ton of projects at once.

  14. Owl August 4, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    Someone is using my handle. I have not posted here for months. I'm out for good. Good Bye.

    Martin: you need to start moderating the posts. Reader: What if this happens to you?

    • Martin Brinkmann August 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

      Anyone can use any username, that is the beauty and pitfall of anonymous commenting. Supporters get a unique username if they want.

      • foolishgrunt August 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

        I set up a Disqus account because it seems to be used by a fair amount of sites I care to comment, but other than that I refuse to register an account for any site simply to comment. I therefore appreciate Ghacks' commenting system. (I guess it also helps that nobody else wants to use my screenname.)

  15. Anonymous August 4, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Someone is using my handle. I have not posted here for months. I'm out for good. Good Bye.

    I will not post here again or anywhere using this name.

    Owl

  16. Anonymous August 4, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Someone is using my handle. I have not posted here for months. I'm out for good. Good Bye.

    I will not post here again or anywhere using this name.

    Owl

    3rd post and counting - you may have to insist on burner emails to avoid this happening again?

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