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Discovering Add-ons in Firefox 4

Back in March I blogged about an idea to make the Get Add-ons pane of the Add-ons Manager in Firefox 4 remotely hosted and much-improved. It would help users learn about and discover new add-ons through fresh content and recommendations. This afternoon we launched something extremely close to that:

screenshot of Discovery Pane

the Mozilla Hospitality Suite at BlogHer

Friday and Saturday, I and a few others were at the BlogHer ’10 conference in New York to promote Firefox Add-ons to more than a thousand bloggers in attendance. I had a great time and think our presence there was very effective.

This is the second event I’ve been to where we’ve focused on getting the word out about add-ons to consumers, the first being last year’s Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. Almost all of my time is spent talking with developers and other technical people, so getting the chance to talk to real people who use Firefox and add-ons is fun and educational. I get to learn about things that aren’t obvious to normal users and the problems they encounter.

I spent both days of the conference in our hospitality suite answering questions, telling people about Firefox, add-ons, and Personas, promoting the new BlogHer Toolbar, and showing off Firefox 4 features. Our suite was packed with bloggers all day both days; I’d estimate we saw at least 600 people come through, most of whom we had personal conversations with.

add-on hugThis week I presented a talk called Making Add-ons People Will Love at the Mozilla Add-ons Workshop in London. The event went really well thanks to engaged attendees and excellent organization by William and Julie.

Nick and Julie suggested the topic for my talk a couple months ago and I knew I’d have fun working on it, as it’s really important to me that the add-ons people make are enjoyable. A single bad experience with an add-on can turn someone off to the idea of customizing their browser for a long time, but a great experience with an add-on can have the opposite effect.

It’s been just under a year since we moved into the new Mozilla office in downtown Mountain View. When we first got settled in I started working on a little dashboard specific to AMO stats, bug counts, and our upcoming releases, but never finished it. A couple months ago a friend showed me the excellent Panic Status Board and I was inspired to start work on a new dashboard for everyone. The result:

Screenshot of the display

Since their launch last year, users have created more than 56,000 collections of add-ons. Collections and user reviews are the two ways in which everyday users can contribute content to the add-ons site.

I’ve been thinking about ways to improve collections since last year, especially as many other sites now support similar groups of content. Facebook has groups of friends, Twitter has lists of followers, Youtube has playlists of videos, and we have collections of add-ons. We’re a bit different though: collections were designed primarily as a sharing vehicle, which is why we have a public directory listing them when other sites don’t.

But one thing I really love about others’ list features is their simplicity of creation and management. We’re well underway in rewriting in Django, so now is the perfect time to make some improvements to the feature as we rewrite it for the new site. With the goals of making collections easier to create and manage, using them to power other features across the site, and making them more personal, here are a few changes in store for collections in the coming months.