Firefox addon hell is reminiscent of Windows DLL hell

Remember “Windows DLL Hell”? Well it seems the phenomenon is ubiquitous, it’s actually a “feature” of popular and extensible platforms. There’s a new article on The Washington Post about Firefox insecurity due to badly written addons. Folks at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group might be feeling vindicated by this kind of article: we told you so, as your technology becomes popular it attracts malware. Wink! wink! Eh! eh!

Indeed Microsoft had been down this path before many, provide a rich framework for developers to freely extend your platform with a lot of you-can-safely-ignore-this guidances saying “developer should…” “developer may…”, “developer should remember to…”.

Microsoft architects were not to be disappointed. This being mainly a marketing-driven product development, many took shortcuts (who needs all that security and robustness crap, they’re not flashy features that can sell after all) when creating their Windows products, leading to an insurmontable array of backdoors and frailties to the Windows platform. Amazingly, as i can recall my MFC and Windows SDK developer days, most of the optional elements were centred around management and security. If you must ask I can also reveal that I discovered Unix server programming (kernel mode, user mode, curses, X Window, the whole shebang) round about the same time and was struck by the difference in the approaches taken by the two platforms. I had infinitely many more sleepless nights fighting DOS/Windows memory models and stuff like that than i had with Unix programming. I had no idea that what i was learning would be of such tremendous benefit in the future, i was simply curious and excited to learn the stuff.

Now it’s super convenient to keep bashing Microsoft Windows, but what have we really learned guys? Come on! Oh yes of course, there’s a lot of modern dis-n-dat to go around. It’s funny how many people are busy (re)inventing age old concepts and techniques. Don’t worry if you’ve already fallen for this, a patch or upgrade is soon on its way to fix this. After all modern technology is agile and what-not.

Just a few days ago i posted an entry on my blog complaining about Plugin Technology. I wasn’t aware of anything specific about Firefox at the time but I’d already come to the conclusion that there was a kind of Firefox Addon Hell in motion. My search for a simpler and snappier web browser lead me to Camino. I’m happy with it so far and it’s devoid of addons. Maybe somebody’s been working to overcome that limitation already. 😉

Incidentally, since i migrated to Mac OS X I rarely (if ever) experience “guru meditation” with my laptop. What stopped Microsoft from buying someone like SCO and rebuild Windows on Unix? Apple’s decision all those years back to rebuild their OS on Unix is obviously a case study in architecture strategy: simultaneously broaden your developer base, create an open platform, build it on a solid and “easy to secure” bedrock. There’s a lot more “sex” in the Mac today than ever before, every layer, every aspect seems more confidently done and more comfortable to use.