Catching the Acts – Firefox Extension Development

For a presentation at the workshop Web 2.0 and Social Software in Technology enhanced Learning at the DelFI 2007 I am currently knocking up a Firefox Extension, that aims at

  1. recognizing a search act (e.g. via Google)
  2. recognizing a bookmarking act and
  3. displaying the ratio between the number of aforementioned acts.

Should be straightforward, shouldn’t it? But noooo, there have been a few problems up to now. Firefox development is not a really easy task, current documentation is sparse, and debugging and building the extension can be a pain. Especially as there are so many ways to do things, it is hard to see the “right way”. As for the problems:

  1. Recognizing Search Acts: Actually this seems to be the easiest part: registering a listener at the onload-Event of the appcontent-Element should do the trick. As this part should be as extendable as possible, I plan a central Singleton, where other code may subscribe to this listener handing over a URL pattern (e.g. a regular expression). The Event is forwarded to the other code only if the pattern matches the called URL.
  2. Recognizing a Bookmarking Act: Difficult, difficult. I have a general idea how to do this, but as there are different ways of bookmarking (Ctrl+D vs. Drag’n’Drop) there doesn’t seem to be a central Observable that could be observed (at least in Firefox 2.x). The much-anticipated Places in Firefox 3 may solve this finally… My post in mozilla.dev.ext didn’t get any answers to this questions up to now, so either it is pretty easy or pretty difficult. Anyone any ideas?
  3. Displaying. There are so many ways of doing this I am just overwhelmed with possibilities… The 1M$-question is which one to decide on. We’ll see…

Apart from that my colleague Doreen (no blog yet!) and I try to bend our minds around communicating between JavaScript (Firefox) and Java. But that is a sad story for itself…

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