A few days ago I was re-installing a laptop of mine. Downloading the default add-ons for Firefox came to a stall as I could not find SyncPlaces, which I've been using for a few years to synchronize my bookmarks between the systems I use. As I knew the author, Andy Halford, has a homepage I surfed there and found...
"So long Mozilla and thanks for all the fish
If you are here looking for any of my extensions (SyncPlaces, SortPlaces, CheckPlaces or SearchPlaces) then I'm sad to inform you that these are no longer available.
Unfortunately I do not have the time or the motivation to continue to support these in light of the close-minded, short-sighted and increasingly inflexible organisation that Mozilla has become. Apparently spending 1000's of hours promoting their products and providing my extensions to the general public to fill the gaps in their product, and repair bookmarks destroyed by Firefox Sync, counts for little and does not deserve any flexibility or support from them. Apparently add-on developers are second-class citizens to them whatever they may say. Surprising given that these are the main USP of Firefox, and developers are providing their time and efforts for free. My decision was taken after a series of problems the last one being the final straw."
Andy Halford, 17.06.12 screenshot
I was unable to find any details what caused this rant and the serious decision to remove his excellent add-ons from the Internet. There are a few discussions on the Mozillazine forums but nothing enlightening so far. Andy's personal homepage, family homepage and the TotalValidator product he and his wife offer are all still online, he just pulled all his popular Firefox add-ons.
Andy states on his homepage
"I will not be answering any further emails on this matter, I suggest that you direct any questions to Mozilla themselves and ask them why they were happier for me to leave than to use a little common sense." [ib.]
I still tried to contact him and asked for an interview but he has not come back to me so far. I've sent a second email with the URL of this blog post.
The SyncPlaces plug-in is still prominently featured on Wikipedia's Comparison of browser synchronizers at press time.
Now this is a mess. With some ungraciously licensed closed source software, you're probably used to plan migrations once license terms run out or you have to upgrade to the much improved successor product because "extended support" for your perfectly fine current version gets ridiculously expensive.
But with open source you have more rights and e.g. the security to use the product as long as you wish. If you have kept a copy of the code (and the license file). Because in this case the Mozilla Firefox installer .xpi's are hard to come by. Mozilla has a centralized add-on repository and once the files are pulled from there, they quickly vanish off the net. Now don't get me wrong, these plug-ins are now unmaintained software, so you will have to migrate at some point in time, but not necessarily now. You have some time for planning and evaluation of alternatives.
The advantage of open source licensing to the user
Luckily the ftp.belnet.be add-ons mirror seems to not synchronize deletes. So I was able to pull all of Andy's plug-ins from a known good source without resorting to somewhat dubious link spam/content duplication sites.
SyncPlaces, 8426 - Synchronize bookmarks and passwords between different installations of Firefox
(using your own ftp/webdav/file server)
v5.1.0D (patched version from gorticus, see the update from 15.12.14 below)
Local mirror: syncplaces-5.1.0D.xpi [214kB]
v5.1.0 (last original version from Andy from the Mozilla add-on repository)
v5.2.0 (last original version from Andy's homepage, see the update from 07.07.14 below)
SortPlaces, 9275 - Flexible bookmarks sorting
v1.9.2B (improved version from Marc, see the update from 18.06.13 below)
Local mirror: sortplaces-1.9.2B-sm+fx.xpi [79kB]
v1.9.2 (last original version from Andy)
CheckPlaces, 10897 - Checks bookmarks whether links are still valid and can update / fix favicons
v2.6.5 (improved version by Stefan Martens, see the update from 31.05.15 below)
Local mirror: checkplaces-2.6.5.xpi [123kB]
v2.6.2 (last original version from Andy)
SearchPlaces, 10920 - Create and maintain highly sophisticated bookmark queries using the Places API
Local mirror: searchplaces-1.4.2-sm+fx.xpi [49kB]
There was a lot of well written documentation on Andy's site but these pages were copyrighted by him and not published under a free (documentation) license so I cannot mirror these. I was able to find site mirrors from 2011 on archive.org's wayback machine. Give it a shot while it's still there.
The unmaintained status of these plug-ins
Mozilla has defined a version identifier within the install manifest contained inside .xpi's that tells Firefox whether the version of the plug-in is deemed compatible. Inside the .xpi files linked above this is:
for SortPlaces, CheckPlaces and Seachplaces. Andy already put version
14.* in the install manifest for SyncPlaces.
Firefox currently seems on a run to achieve main version jump after jump as fast as possible (marketing suggests the average customer perception will be tilted towards "surely a version 23 must be superior to a product 3.0"). But as the add-ons can hardly keep pace, the strictness of honouring those maxVersion identifiers seems somewhat reduced now. Still, YMMV. If you read this while Firefox is at version 15+ (so sometime soon ) you may need to open the .xpi and manually tweak the install.rdf file to fix, sort or sync your bookmarks.
This is unmaintained and unsupported software until Andy changes his mind or somebody picks it up.
Please refrain from asking support questions in the comments section below.
27.09.2016: Disabling the add-on signing requirement in Firefox 48 and later
Dave Charlton wrote in to point out an article from Martin Brinkmann at ghacks.net How to override the Firefox Add-on Signing requirement. For those who still haven't migrated away from Andy's plug-ins and don't want to do the Mozilla signing process themselves like pointed out in the comments section by Gelfy.
18.12.2015: Firefox 43 requires signed add-ons
Firefox 43 is out and this version requires signed add-ons now. It still can be disabled via a config entry, see the Mozilla Wiki but this in turn will be removed again for the next release, Firefox 44.
So the grace period preserving these add-ons originally authored by Andy Halford has finally come to an end.
We squeezed out another 3 and a half years, so this has been a very long period to eventually say good bye to bookmarks. Or at least to a sensible way bookmark collections were manageable. When the web was still distributed and people had a life outside of Facebook .
31.05.2015: Release of checkplaces v2.6.5 by Stefan Martens
Stefan collected the patches available elsewhere and combined them into a checkplaces v2.6.5 that works again with the brand new FF 38.0.1.
Thank you very much for your effort, Stefan!
Grab a copy of checkplaces-2.6.5.xpi [123kB] while its hot and take a look at the checkplaces changelog [5kB].
15.12.2014: Release of syncplaces v5.2.0D by gorticus
Jason Mitchell (gorticus) patched syncplaces to get rid of the PlacesUtils.history.getCharsetForURI(uri) that broke in FF 34. He set up a Github repository for his code and I provide a local mirror again as this one is compatible with Andy's licenses.
Maxversion is set to FF 34 on this .xpi, so get it while it's hot . syncplaces-5.1.0D.xpi [214kB]. The syncplaces changelog [8kB] has been updated as usually.
07.07.2014: Original v5.2.0 of syncplaces recovered from archives
Pavel wrote an email to submit links to a syncplaces v5.2.0 that Andy apparently published on his homepage (and some people used, see the comments section below). He pointed me to the download page mirror at archive.org and the corresponding changelog page mirror at archive.org.
The changelog contains just:
May 26th 2012 - SyncPlaces v5.2.0 released:
- Added interface to logging system to the Advanced tab
The diff of v5.1.0 and 5.2.0 shows that additionally translations were updated and a stray ^M (CR) that broke the en-US locale a bit was fixed into a proper line ending.
diff -r old/install.rdf new/install.rdf
makes we wonder though whether that glimpse into history hints at what got Mozilla and Andy so much disgruntled with each other.
Andy: "I ain't no updating my plugin every few weeks 'cause every tiny release now ups the major version."
Mozilla: "Well, that won't go into the add-ons repository then. It is your duty to test each and every version [... lots of explanatory motivation blurb ...]".
Thanks again for the pointers Pavel.
02.09.2013: Improved version v5.1.0C of syncplaces
Graham packaged the patches TheChief and Strony Internetowe contributed in the comments below and I've tweaked the version number in
install.rdf and the maxversion setting to create syncplaces-5.1.0C-sm+fx.xpi [217kB]. This one will work with Firefox 23 but I have had a report that it does not work with an HTTPS server. YMMV.
Review the syncplaces changelog [7kB] for the full account of the continued hacking on Andy's former masterpiece.
25.07.2013: Improved version v5.1.0B of syncplaces
Frank Kirchner packaged the patches Klaus, V and TheChief contributed in the comments below and sent me syncplaces-5.1.0B-sm+fx.xpi [221kB]. This one will work with Firefox 22 but may stop working again with Firefox 23+ as Frank indicates in his comment below. Thanks Frank!
Please check the usual syncplaces changelog [6kB] for the quick & dirty fixes applied.
14.07.2013: Improved version v2.6.2B of checkplaces
Scott Sanders writes:
I have modified CheckPlaces as you suggested and was able to repack it and have it work properly. Attached is the file that I have renamed checkplaces-2.6.2B-fx+sm.xpi that works just fine for me with Firefox 22. This add-on is by far the best bookmark checker I have used and was hoping you could put it on your site for others to use.
27.06.2013: Belnet mirror changed directory structure and (unfortunately) re-mirrored
Apparently the Belnet mirror has been re-worked and now uses e.g. http://ftp.belnet.be/ftp.mozilla.org/addons/9275/ dropping the
"mirror" top-level directory. Sadly so with that change apparently deletes were synchronized so the
addons/xyz directories for Andy's plugins are now empty as on the other mirrors.
18.06.2013: Improved version v1.9.2B of sortplaces
Marc from Montreal, Canada, writes:
Thanks for keeping those excellent plugins. I was dismayed like everybody else when SortPlaces was failing with the "Livemarks" bug so I made a simple mod to remove it and I renamed the plugin as 1.9.2B so nobody gets confused. I tested it and it works great. Considering that I have close to 3000 bookmarks that were "accidentally" sorted alphabetically with another plugin, let's say I was very motivated.
He disabled special livemarks handling code in Andy's last version and updated the sortplaces plugin to be compatible with Firefox versions up to 22.x.