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On my Ubuntu 14.04, there is a Firefox extension "Ubuntu Online Accounts 0.5", installed by the package xul-ext-webaccounts (which is in the default install).

What is the purpose of this extension? What will stop working if I disable it?

There seems to be no documentation in the package, the description page of the extension is basically empty, and the only link points to https://launchpad.net/webaccounts-browser-extension, on which I also cannot find information on its purpose.

Of course I suspect it is related to the Online Accounts dialog in the System Control Center, however Firefox is not listed as an application in that dialog, and when I visit a page such as Twitter with Firefox for which I have an account set up under Online Accounts, nothing happens.

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  • Yes, the launchpad.net/online-accounts-documentation website is very sparse.
    – Tim
    Aug 21, 2014 at 18:47
  • have you read: wiki.ubuntu.com/OnlineAccounts What the online accounts basically does is giving you the ability to be on facebook/twitter/whatever ALL THE TIME (and upload photo's etc from your desktop directly)!!!! The extension recognizes websites that are compatible and gives you the dialog to integrate facebook/twitter/whatever with your ubuntu. All it does is create the popup for a (not previously visited/integrated) website that is compatible with online accounts to integrate it into the online accounts stuff.
    – Akisame
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:07
  • not 100% sure but like 80%, so I added it as a comment and not an answer. Can someone confirm that this is ALL the browser extension does??
    – Akisame
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:12
  • @Arno I do know the popup asking for website integration, but this just adds websites to the launcher, doesn't it? I assumed the popup comes from one of the two other plugins that Ubuntu installs. Is it really related to the Online Accounts feature? It does not ask me when I log into Twitter, for example. Plus your link does not mention about the browser plugin. Aug 26, 2014 at 21:14
  • true and true, but as you said you already have an account for twitter in your online accounts program so it should just ignore it. It will add a launcher for for example gmail but if I'm not mistaken it will not generate such a launcher for for example facebook. it will just add it to the active online accounts (like your twitter). There is a simple method for finding out. Try it with a website that is compatible with online accounts and see what happens.
    – Akisame
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:21

2 Answers 2

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Ok, so I decided to investigate in the source code. The extension itself consists only of a few lines of Javascript in the file /usr/lib/xul-ext/webaccounts/content/browser.js that only loads the library /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/webaccounts-browser-extension/libwebaccounts.so and calls it with info about the currently visited page.

The package webaccounts-extension-common that contains this library also has a file /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas/com.canonical.webcredentials.capture.gschema.xml that contains the gsettings configuration options of this package. There is only a single one, which lists the sites for which the extension was already active once and won't ask again. In my case, it contained twitter.com, which is why I did not notice anything when visiting Twitter. This blacklist can be cleared with the following command:

gsettings reset com.canonical.webcredentials.capture dontask-accounts

The next time I visited Twitter, the Ubuntu Control Center opened with the Online Accounts dialog, so that is the desired effect of this plugin.

However, the source code of the library shows that there should be more. It contains a function webaccounts_store_login that has the purpose of automatically adding the Twitter/etc. account you just used in the browser to the Ubuntu Online Accounts, such that the desktop integration just works immediately after you used the site once in the browser. This is of course a nice integration. However, this does not work for me (no account is added, only the accounts window opens), and there is a two-year old bug report that indicates that this is the same for others as well.

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  • Thanks for looking into this! It's extremely annoying to find something like this installed with no explanation, even more so if it exchanges login information with the environment!
    – Bordaigorl
    Mar 10, 2015 at 10:54
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Packages like that installed by Firefox are designed to provide extra functionality, some of which isn't noticeable. Most of them make some of the settings and other data available offline, AFAIK. Removing this package shouldn't remove any functionality from Firefox or the pages it applies to.

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  • Thanks for your answer, but you also don't know what it actually does? It needs to have a purpose, otherwise it wouldn't be there, right? Aug 31, 2014 at 8:36

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