Browser Add-ons, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, RSS, RSS Ticker

Major RSS Ticker Update Coming: What You Need to Know

RSS Ticker has been an alternative to Web-based feed readers since 2006, displaying feed updates directly in users’ browsers. It hasn’t seen significant change in a while, but some of the internal Firefox code used by RSS Ticker has changed enough that in order for it to remain functional in Firefox 22, its entire architecture would have to change. That’s a lot of work.

RSS Ticker

I didn’t want to abandon RSS Ticker’s users (especially with the shutdown of Google Reader imminent, already leaving one less feed reading option), but I also couldn’t dedicate the time to completely rewrite the add-on and keep all of its features. So here’s what I’ve done:

RSS Ticker has been completely rewritten. This has given me the opportunity to use the knowledge I’ve gained in the last seven years of programming to improve the overall design of the ticker and to restructure the code to play nicely with the new Firefox APIs.

What hasn’t changed? RSS Ticker will still scroll your feeds in your browser. You can still choose to put it at the top or bottom of your Firefox window. You can still exclude specific feeds. You can mark as read, mark feeds as read, open in tabs, open all in tabs, etc. You can temporarily disable the ticker. You can change the ticker speed, smoothness, and direction. You can hide the ticker automatically when it’s empty.

What has changed? In order to continue supporting RSS Ticker, I’ve had to drop a number of features. Here are some things you can no longer do with RSS Ticker:

  • Manually refresh the feeds.
  • Specify how often the feeds should refresh.
  • Randomize the order of the ticker items
  • Limit the number of items per feed
  • Display items that have already been read
  • Show unread items in bold
  • Manually limit the width of ticker items
  • Customize the context menu

I know some of you liked and used these features. I’m sorry I had to remove them, but it was the choice between removing them or abandoning the add-on altogether.

A few features haven’t been removed, but they have been changed (a.k.a. “improved”):

1. All of the remaining options (six of them, down from a total of 37) are displayed inline in RSS Ticker’s section of the Add-ons Manager.

RSS Ticker Options

2. If you want to temporarily disable the ticker, just uncheck it in the View > Toolbars menu.

Disable RSS Ticker

3. To remove a feed from the ticker (but not from your bookmarks), right-click on it in the Bookmarks Manager and uncheck “Show in RSS Ticker.”

Show a feed in RSS Ticker

This new version will be available in a couple of weeks after some more testing, but if you’d like to test it early, leave your e-mail address in a comment or ping me at chris@efinke.com and I’ll send you a copy.

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Browser Add-ons, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, OPML Support, Programming

OPML Support updated for Firefox 20

I’ve just published an update to my OPML Support Firefox extension for the first time in three years. The extension previously added an OPML button to the toolbar in the Bookmarks Manager, but as of Firefox 20, the button disappears because of a change to the way that the Bookmarks Manager’s toolbar is assembled. Version 3 of OPML Support moves the Import OPML and Export OPML options into the existing Backup/Import button’s menu.

opml-menu-mac

Thanks to the OPML Support users who alerted me to the problem via email and in the comments here, since I don’t often have occasion to check whether my buttons are disappearing.

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Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, TubeStop, YouTube

Adopt an Add-on: TubeStop

Notice: TubeStop was discontinued on December 25, 2012 and is no longer supported.

I’m no longer going to be updating TubeStop, a Firefox extension I wrote that disables autoplay on YouTube videos. I don’t have the time or the inclination to keep up with YouTube’s HTML changes.

TubeStop has been around for about five years, and it has 17,000 users. It was the first browser extension that made it possible to disable YouTube’s autoplay feature (if you don’t count the all-purpose Flashblock), and it gained notoriety in 2007 for inadvertently stripping ads from YouTube videos.

If you’d like to adopt this abandoned add-on, let me know, and I’ll transfer ownership of the extension to you on Mozilla Add-ons. If nobody wants to take over development, I’ll shut it down and the void will be filled by one of the other anti-autoplay extensions on AMO.

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Browser Add-ons, Feed Sidebar, For Sale, Mozilla, Mozilla Add-ons, Mozilla Firefox, RSS Ticker

Firefox Add-ons for Sale

The time has come for two add-ons, RSS Ticker and Feed Sidebar, to find new owners.

Since I started developing add-ons for Firefox, I’ve written at least forty different extensions: some for personal use, some as a freelancer, and some as the primary function of my full-time employment.

In order to free up more time to pursue new ideas and projects, I occasionally need to either retire or transfer ownership of add-ons that I wrote of my own volition. Some of these, like TwitterBar and FireFound, were retired by executive decision. Today marks the first time that I am attempting to actively sell the rights to some of my add-ons.

Allow me to brag about these add-ons

RSS Ticker and Feed Sidebar are my two most popular add-ons, and they’re fully functional in the most recent version of Firefox.

RSS Ticker Screenshot

Both of them have been featured as “featured” or “recommended” add-ons Mozilla Add-ons multiple times, and both maintain healthy usage by a dedicated base of users not interested in Web-based feed readers.

RSS Ticker averages 39,000 daily users and has been download 1.3 million times. Feed Sidebar averages 21,000 daily users and has been download over 900,000 times. The two add-ons are unlikely to have overlapping users.

RSS Ticker is the first Google result for firefox ticker. It is also the first result for rss ticker and feed ticker.

Feed Sidebar screenshot

Feed Sidebar is the fourth result for firefox feeds and firefox feed reader and number two for firefox feed. It’s number one for feed sidebar.

Both of these add-ons would be excellent footholds for a Web-based feed reader to attract users who prefer to consume news directly from their browsers; they would be equally beneficial for content-oriented sites to push recommended feeds to users via the already-integrated “Featured Feeds” feature in both add-ons. (Both extensions regularly check a list of “Featured Feeds” and suggest these feeds as subscriptions to their users.)

What do you get if you buy?

If you buy either of these add-ons, I’ll:

  1. Transfer ownership of the add-on(s) to you on Mozilla Add-ons.
  2. Redirect the add-on pages on my blog to the pages of your choosing.
  3. Forward any feedback e-mail I receive regarding the add-ons indefinitely.
  4. Add you to my Christmas card list.
  5. Be a good guy in general and offer free consulting and advice related to the add-on(s) for as long as I can.

If you’re interested in purchasing either or both of these add-ons and taking over their development, e-mail me at chris@efinke.com.

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AutoAuth, Browser Add-ons, Feed Sidebar, Interpr.it, Links Like This, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, OPML, Programming, RSS Ticker

Interpr.it now speaks Mozillian

My browser extension translation platform, Interpr.it, is now able to parse locale files from extensions for Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, or any other Mozilla-powered program, and it can likewise generate Mozilla-compatible locale files. The interface for translation is the same as the one for translating Chrome extensions, but when the locales are downloaded via the API, the files are returned in the format in which they were originally uploaded (either DTD files or Java-style .properties files).

This is most obviously introducing a competitor to Babelzilla, the only major site offering a translation platform for Mozilla extensions. Babelzilla is a functionally sufficient solution for translation (I’ve used it without much issue for almost six years), but I’m moving away from it for two reasons:

  1. Translation/localization is a problem that I’d like to understand better, and I find the best way to understand a problem is to try and solve it yourself.
  2. I think that the experience of localizing an extension (or developing a localizable extension) can be better, and I have the hubris to think that I can be the one to make it better.

In the spirit of putting my money1 where my mouth2 is, I’ve moved five of my Firefox extensions (AutoAuth, Feed Sidebar, OPML Support, RSS Ticker, and Links Like This) from Babelzilla to Interpr.it.

If you are interested in trying Interpr.it, upload your extension (either using the Web form or API), and let me know how it works for you.

  1. For extremely small values of “money.”
  2. For extremely large values of “mouth.”
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Browser Add-ons, Flock, Mozilla, Mozilla Add-ons, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Firefox for Mobile, Netscape Navigator, Software, URL Fixer

URL Fixer Has Been Acquired

URL Fixer, one of the first add-ons I wrote for Firefox, has been acquired! It is now being managed by the team at URLFixer.org.

URL Fixer was inspired in 2006 by this Firefox bug report. Since then, it has been a featured add-on on the Mozilla Add-ons Gallery, it was one of the first add-ons to be compatible with Mobile Firefox, and it placed in the Extend Firefox 2 contest. It used to be compatible with both SeaMonkey and Flock (remember Flock?); its functionality was included in Netscape Navigator 9, and it was at one point under consideration to be included in Firefox 3.

URL Fixer has also been the subject of several experiments: it was the source of the statistics I used in my examination of what people type in the address bar, and it was the add-on I used to test the feasibility of selling a freemium browser add-on.

The new team in charge of URL Fixer recently released version 4, which you can install without needing to restart Firefox; I’m looking forward to seeing what other improvements they make and in what direction they take the add-on. Please note: support questions should no longer go to me; please send them to info@urlfixer.org.

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Browser Add-ons, Extend Firefox, FireFound, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox

FireFound Shutting Down

FireFound is a Firefox add-on and companion Web service that I wrote for the Extend Firefox 3.5 competition in 2009. It allows users to track their device’s location via Firefox’s then-new geolocation API; additional features include the ability to view a device’s location history on the website and the ability to turn on a “killswitch” that would clear your browsing data (history, saved passwords, etc.) if someone opened your browser and could not provide your chosen password. It was the first add-on of its kind, and it has been well-received.

That being said, FireFound will be shutting down on April 1, 2012. I don’t have the time to keep it compatible with the newest Firefox and Firefox Mobile releases, nor can I keep up with the feature requests and bug reports.

FireFound users who would like to save a copy of their location data can, as always, export their data by logging in and clicking the “Download” button on the “My Data” page. Any users who have pre-paid for a Premium account past April 1 will be given a prorated refund.

For those looking for a suitable replacement, I recommend Prey. It’s an open-source implementation of a similar idea, but it runs at the operating system level rather than inside the browser, so it’s always on.

(If you’re interested in taking over FireFound, e-mail me at chris@efinke.com. If you’d just like to run your own instance of FireFound, all of the code is open-source.)

FireFound was shut down on April 1, 2012.

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Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Firefox for Mobile, Programming, Technology, URL Fixer

What do people type in the address bar?

Earlier this year, I added a feature to URL Fixer (a browser add-on that fixes errors in URLs that you type in the address bar) that collects anonymous usage stats from users who opt in in order to help improve the ways that URL Fixer corrects typos; the collected data includes domains that are typed in the URL bar as well as the locale (language/country) of the user who typed them.

I now have six months of data, and I’ve run some statistical analysis on it in order to share some interesting stats with you. (If I were more creative, I would make an infographic out of this information.) Note that this data does not include bookmarked links or links that users click on in websites. It is strictly domains that have been typed directly into the address bar.

Care to guess the most commonly typed domain? That’s right: facebook.com. It was typed almost three times as often as the second most popular domain, google.com.

The top 10 domains account for 20% of all typed domains.

facebook.com 9% twitter.com 1.1% amazon.com 0.5%
google.com 3.3% mail.google.com 0.6% reddit.com 0.5%
youtube.com 3.3% yahoo.com 0.6%
gmail.com 1.1% hotmail.com 0.6%

The most popular TLD for typed domains is .com, followed by .org, .net, and .de.

.com 63%
.org 4%
.net 4%
.de 4%
.ru 2%
.hu 1%
.fr 1%
.co.uk 1%
.br 1%


The top 17 TLD typos are all variations of .com. In order of frequency, they are .com\, .ocm, .con, .cmo, .copm, .xom, “.com,”, .vom, .comn, .com’, “.co,”, .comj, .coim, .cpm, .colm, .conm, and .coom.

The website that appears to benefit the most from users mistyping a legitimate URL is faceboook.com (count the o’s). It’s a scammy website set up to make you think that you have been chosen as a “Facebook Winner.” However, it is only typed once for every 7,930 times that someone correctly types facebook.com. (googe.com and goole.com are runners-up in this category, albeit with much less scammy sites in place than faceboook.com.)


49.5% of domains are typed with a leading “www.”.

The most popular non-.com/.net/.org domains: google.de, vkontakte.ru (a Russian social network), and google.fr.

The only locales where neither Google nor Facebook control the most popular domain are ru-RU (Russia – vkontakte.ru), fi-FI (Finland – aapeli.com, a gaming website), ko-KR (Korea – fomos.kr, an e-sports website), and zh-CN (China – baidu.com).

How does domain length correlate with typing frequency?

Domain Length vs Frequency Graph

(Facebook is to thank for the spike at 12 characters.)

How about alphabetical order? Has the old trick of choosing a site name early in the alphabet in order to show up above the fold on DMOZ had any lasting effect?

Facebook and Google certainly make their letters stand out, but there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the first letter of the domain and its popularity.

None of the domains with more than a 0.0005% share are unregistered, indicating that this kind of usage data would not be very useful to a scammer or phisher looking for new domain names.

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