Google's new Chrome extension policy is a step backwards
When it comes to customizing the browser user interface, Chrome was always one of the browsers that did not allow many changes. In fact, it is one of the least modifiable browsers out there. Even Microsoft's Internet Explorer offers more customization options than Google Chrome.
Some users like that, as it makes the browser interface appear slimmed down so that there is more space for websites and their contents. Others dislike it, as it takes away choice from them.
While it is possible to display a bookmarks toolbar in Chrome, that is about it when it comes to the Google Chrome interface and even that option may be ignored by a lot of users as it is hidden in the main -- and only -- menu of the browser.
If you take Firefox for example, it is up to the user how the interface looks like. With several toolbars, buttons, and even sidebars, or slimmed down to be as slim as Chrome.
In Keeping Chrome Extensions Simply, Google announced an update to Chrome's Web Store policy in regards to extensions.
The announcement featured a picture of Microsoft's Internet Explorer prominently that had more than a dozen toolbars installed. This was done to highlight what Google -- and likely every other Internet user on the planet -- does not like: toolbars that clutter up browser space.
The announcement itself on the other hand does not really have anything to do with that screenshot. In it, Google states that Chrome extensions must "have a single purpose that is narrow and easy to understand".
The company does not explain this further on the blog, leaving much of what it means up for interpretation. What exactly does single purpose mean?
It is likely that the announcement aims at what browser toolbars often offer. They ship with search, may display security related information on search results page, may offer translation, and several other services.
But, Chrome never really had a toolbar problem in first place. While many "news" site report that Google is banning toolbars from Chrome, they fail to understand that it never allowed them to be installed in Chrome.
What some extension developers did however was install toolbar controls on the web pages the user opened in Chrome. The only extension that I know thatÂ did this is SEOQuake, a SEO extension that displays information about a site's marketing metrics in a small toolbar at the top of the page.
When you open the program policies page, additional information are provided:
Do not create an extension that requires users to accept bundles of unrelated functionality, such as an email notifier and a news headline aggregator. If two pieces of functionality are clearly separate, they should be put into two different extensions, and users should have the ability to install and uninstall them separately. For example, functionality that displays product ratings and reviews, but also injects ads into web pages, should not be bundled into a single extension. Similarly, toolbars that provide a broad array of functionality or entry points into services are better delivered as separate extensions, so that users can select the services they want
When you look at the examples offered, you will notice that this will affect some extensions in a major fashion. Some developers may need to split up their extensions as a consequence of the policy enforcement, while others may prefer to abandon Chrome for that reason.
What the policy means, definitely, is the end of multi-purpose extensions for Chrome. While some users may welcome the change, it may inflate the number of installed extensions for others, or even take away functionality from Chrome that was added by extensions if the developers of those extensions decide not to update their extensions anymore.
Existing developers have until June 2014 to adapt, while new extensions will only be accepted if they comply with the new policies.
Last month, Google announced that it would block browser extensions that originate from third party websites completely for Chrome Stable and Beta users.Advertisement