Firefox contact sync

A question: is anyone interested in Firefox contact sync?

As an experiment, the testing release of the addon now includes a built-in SQLite addressbook that syncs with Google and Zimbra.

This is three experiments rolled up into one:

  • contacts for Firefox, synced with Google etc

We figured that having working code would be a good way of finding out whether anyone has a use for syncing contacts that are local to Firefox.

Would porting the Zindus addon to Firefox be a good idea?  Why would it be useful?

  • non-Thunderbird sync

We were interested to explore decoupling the addon from the Thunderbird addressbook.

  • a better addressbook for Thunderbird

The built-in contact database looks less like the current Thunderbird addressbook and more like the Google and Windows Live addressbooks with contacts, groups and an explicit membership relation between contacts and groups.

This promises:

  • a more coherent and extensible model for grouping contacts
  • contact properties as JSON for extensibility (lists, relations and tags)
  • mailing lists replaced by auto-complete on groups

This is a thought experiment only.  Here’s the official Thunderbird AddressBook Roadmap.

How to install and use

  • download the testing release of the addon, unzip it, edit install.rdf, uncomment the firefox stanza, zip it up, and install it into Firefox
  • visit Tools/Zindus, enter your account details and select “Sync Now”.
  • the contacts.sqllite database lives in the zindus/data subdirectory of your profile folder.
  • There’s no UI to view or edit the contacts but you can use the SQLite Manager addon to read and write the database.

So…

If you’d like syncable Firefox contacts, now’s the time to speak up!

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22 Responses to “Firefox contact sync”

  1. Allan Says:

    What would contacts in firefox be used for? Is it for autofilling of forms? Is there currently an addressbook in Firefox?

  2. leni Says:

    @allan, firefox doesn’t have a built-in addressbook, though there was a contacts manager addon that the author appears to have abandoned.

    autofilling forms would be one use of local-to-firefox contacts, sure - but I wonder: how often do you need enter your friends email addresses into a web form?

  3. Sualeh Fatehi Says:

    I would use this only for contacts.sqllite. I love that idea! In fact, I could imagine using a Zindus addressbook application that goes against contacts.sqllite and Google Contacts, nevermind TB.

  4. Sualeh Fatehi Says:

    contacts.sqllite did not get created for me, when I installed the testing plpugin.

  5. Mark Says:

    Please look at this thread on Google Groups:
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/voice/thread?tid=3e8960c360ba7380&hl=en#all

    There is a LOT of interest to sync contacts directly between Google Gmail and Google GApps accounts, as well as with Google Voice.
    Certainly for those people who use Thunderbird (and I am one) the Tbird contacts sync is important, but there are many more users working with Gmail Contacts, and GApps Contacts directly.

    Please note that Google has now introduced Duplicate contact removal, so that could benefit (but also complicate?) direct sync.

    Thanks for going in this direction, I for one am very interested!

  6. Wim Kreuger Says:

    Would I like a firefox contact sync?
    I have searching for something that works on and off for a couple of years now.
    So make me a happy man!

  7. Mark Says:

    While I think this is a very powerful concept, you need some imagery or diagrams at the top of this post to explain what the hell it’s all about.
    A lot of us are coming at this from the I-have-contacts (…in Tbird, Google, etc.) and then realize the potential for what it means to sync contacts WITHOUT any app running other than Firefox.

    However, some people are coming to this page cold turkey and have no ideas what this is about. I think the analogy is … maybe … Prism for Firefox. A lot of folks have no ideas what distraction-free-browsing is til you explain it visually.

  8. Sven Says:

    In my 60+ company we are using TB for mail and Firefox for browsing. We have our own mail server, no Google mail (have you ever managed to delete a mail for good at Google? good-bye privacy). To answer the poll, I am not interested in Firefox contact list synching.

  9. skwasha Says:

    has anyone actually installed the testing release into FF successfully? Is there something that would prevent it from installing in 3.6 (assuming you update the rdf appropriately)?

  10. open seo Says:

    See http://mozillalabs.com/blog/2010/03/contacts-in-the-browser/

    The Contacts prototype consists of these pieces:

    * A browser-based Contacts database that stays in sync with your address books (so far, it supports GMail, Twitter and Mac OS Address book)
    * A generic importer system for Contacts from desktop or web-based address books (so you can implement missing ones)
    * An email autocompletion feature, which demonstrates how the browser can auto-complete email addresses on any website. The autocompletion is performed entirely in the browser, without sharing the your list of contacts with the website.
    * A Javascript API that websites can use to access the Contacts database, with explicit user permission and filtering

    Stimulating competition, or time to work together ?

  11. Mark Says:

    I’m using Mozilla Weave a lot lately, to sync across profiles and across different machines.

    What’s starting to happen is that addons like NoScript are storing their settings in special bookmark files so that they can be sync’d with Weave.

    Now they are putting out the contacts prototype.
    Whatever happens it would be good to ensure that a contact syncher in browser has smart sync capability, works with Google gmail and Apps, and can be managed via weave so that the settings and sync states can be carried across to other profiles.

    Thanks

  12. leni Says:

    @sualeh - visit Tools/Zindus, enter your google email address and password. Select “test connection” then OK then ‘Sync Now’. contacts.sqllite is created in the zindus/data subdirectory of your firefox profile directory.

    @skwasha - the addon works fine in firefox 3.6 (with install.rdf tweaked). If you encounter a problem - feel free to file a bug report.

    @mark - thanks for the feedback. Contact syncing between google accounts is a great idea - will consider it. Anyone else thinks this is a good idea - please speak up!

    re: Mozilla’s Contacts addon.

    Mozilla’s Contacts addon has pretty broad scope, and (aside from Mark’s idea above) it is really unclear to me what a ‘zindus for firefox’ would do that Mozilla’s addon won’t.

    Whatever happens, there’d be no point for ‘zindus for firefox’ to compete with Mozilla’s Contacts addon.

    However … one thing that zindus does well is state-based synchronization. It means that users can make local changes while offline and when the addon comes online again, the local changes will sync reliably. It’s seems a bit early to know what the sync strategy will be for Mozilla’s contacts addon but there might be some interesting use cases around that (eg. Firefox Mobile). Hardly seems compelling though.

  13. Mark Says:

    Cannot install addon - FF 3.6.2 claims it is incompatible

  14. leni Says:

    @Mark - fixed!

  15. Mark Says:

    @Leni - tested and installs fine on 3.6.2 and .3

    Questions:
    How do we track the sync functionality as compared to the Tbird addon?
    I see no group sync, but in Tbird I think this is happening.

    Just trying to get my head around what to test, and how to provide feedback.

    I currently have it synching GApps with Gmail accounts, include Google suggested contacts, sync Google Groups with FF addressbook.

    Not seeing groups come across from Gmail to GApps

    Also what’s confusing about “FF addressbook” is … where is it. Is there a FF addressbook or is that just a term?

  16. Mark Says:

    Has there been any progress on synching GROUPS with Google Groups?
    They do not sync from what I can tell
    I have the latest version (as of 6/17/10) running on 3 machines, 2 Windows7 and one OSX and the groups are all different on 3 machines.

    Thanks

  17. leni Says:

    Hi Mark, although the firefox version of the addon uses an sqlite db, the data format it stores is a json version of tb’s contact format. Incrementally adding support for groups onto that architecture is tricky.

    What really needs to happen is a rewrite of that part of the code to make the addon store google’s gdata xml. It would then support sync of both:
    * the entire google contact (not just the subset that maps to tb) and
    * groups.

    Work hasn’t started on that yet. Partly that’s because it’s not clear how zindus-for-firefox might sit alongside Mozilla’s contacts addon and partly because the Thunderbird development team has finally allocated some resources to contacts and it makes sense to wait and see how that plays out. And … other things are cooking which it’s premature to talk about!

  18. Wholesale Replica Watches Says:

    Hi, admin, can I copy some information from the post?

  19. Peng Says:

    It is a great idea.

  20. cabotine Says:

    I would love to have a way to sync the firefox contacts with my zimbra-server. This would be a missing link.

  21. Open Seo Says:

    @cabotine

    Zimbra Desktop seems to perform this, have you tried it ?
    http://www.zimbra.com/products/desktop.html

  22. Firefox è il mio browser preferito, grazie Says:

    Grazie, ho molto apprezzato questo post, non lo sapevo, W Firefox :)

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