Top Ten Add-ons II

One year ago today I made a blog post listing the “top 10” add-ons according to three different sources of data. The point of that post was to show the differences in the methods and highlight how a single add-on might be outstanding in one area (for example, downloads), but not in another (for example, user retention/active users). I wanted to show these lists for 2008 and take a look at how much those lists can change over the course of a year.

First, the data for 2008:

2008 Rank By Total Downloads By Active Daily Users
Source: extension and theme downloads and update pings from addons.mozilla.org for add-ons that a user must opt-in to installing. (excludes other add-on types and extensions that are bundled with 3rd party software)
1 FlashGot Adblock Plus
2 NoScript IE Tab↑2
3 Adblock Plus↑3 Video DownloadHelper↑39
4 DownThemAll!↑7 Download Statusbar↓1
5 IE Tab↑4 FlashGot↓3
6 Download Statusbar↑4 DownThemAll!↑5
7 Noia 2.0 (eXtreme)↓4 Forecastfoxâ„¢↓2
8 Video DownloadHelper↑52 Greasemonkey↑9
9 Forecastfoxâ„¢↓4 NoScript↑3
10 VideoDownloader↓6 Firebug↑6


The first, most important conclusion I came to from analyzing this data is that the Firefox add-ons ecosystem is very healthy. It’s not stagnant, and it’s not volatile.

But total download counts can be rather old and stubborn — they encompass every download addons.mozilla.org has served for an add-on since 2004 (over 900 million of them). This gives older add-ons a pretty large advantage over newer add-ons, and once an add-on makes it into the “most popular” listing, it’s downloaded simply because it’s popular.

With that in mind, I thought I’d show 2 other “top 10” download lists that paint a better picture of what’s happening right now.

Rank Downloads since Sept. 15, 2007 Downloads this week
Source: extension and theme downloads from addons.mozilla.org for add-ons that a user must opt-in to installing. (excludes other add-on types and extensions that are bundled with 3rd party software)
1 Adblock Plus Adblock Plus
2 Video DownloadHelper Video DownloadHelper
3 FlashGot NoScript
4 NoScript DownThemAll!
5 DownThemAll! FlashGot
6 Download Statusbar Fast Dial
7 IE Tab Fast Video Download
8 Greasemonkey ColorfulTabs
9 Aero Fox Firebug
10 Cooliris (formerly PicLens) Cooliris (formerly PicLens)

Some things I took away from this data:

  • Add-ons can make or break themselves. Video DownloadHelper is a great example as an add-on that was ranked #60 in total downloads a year ago, and has shot up to #8 – certainly not an easy feat. On the other hand, extensions like Fasterfox and Adblock (not Plus) have disappeared from every top 10 list because they haven’t been updated in around 2 years, among other things.

    Taking a look at compatibility of the add-ons above, 10 are compatible with Firefox 3, 5 support Firefox 3 and the latest 3.1 builds, and 1 (VideoDownloader) only supports Firefox 2 and is on track to disappear from the Total Downloads list soon.

  • Add-on types besides extensions are gaining popularity. Looking at the 4 lists above, there are 2 themes listed: Noia 2.0 (eXtreme) and Aero Fox. But what you can’t see from the above lists — because they only include extensions and themes — is that the United States English Dictionary is actually the #7 add-on by Active Daily Users and #5 in downloads over the past year. That’s users from non-en-US locales downloading the en-US dictionary, which is very interesting in itself, but better left for someone else to analyze.
  • There are popular add-ons of all ages. Of the 17 individual add-ons represented in the above 4 lists, the year of creation breakdown looks like this:

The above points are thought-provoking and interesting, but the main thing I’m going to take away from this research is reassurance that, even with Facebook, iPhone, Ubiquity, and all of the other platforms available for developers to choose from, developing add-ons for Firefox is still useful, exciting, and relevant.