Google's next attempt to reduce spam in the Chrome Web Store

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 30, 2020
Google Chrome

Google plans to introduce changes to the company's Chrome Web Store designed to keep "spam off the Chrome Web Store".

The Chrome Web Store is the extension repository for the company's Chrome web browser and it may also be used by several Chromium-based browsers including Vivaldi or the new Microsoft Edge.

Google revealed that it hosts more than 200,000 extensions as well as themes. The attractiveness of the Store has caught the attention of outright malicious developers and companies but also those that try to game the system.

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The Store has had its fair share of abuse in the past; from theme spam to extensions that Google had to pull because they injected ads, mined crypto-currency, copied other extensions, or were abusive.

In "Keeping spam off the Chrome Web Store", Google announced changes to the store's spam policy designed to reduce the number of spam on the Store and to raise the overall quality of the experience.

We want to ensure that the path of a user discovering an extension from the Chrome Web Store is clear and informative and not muddled with copycats, misleading functionalities or fake reviews and ratings.

Google will introduce the following changes to the spam policy of the Chrome Web Store:

  • It is not allowed to publish extensions that provide duplicate experiences or functionality (e.g. publish several extensions that have a different name but offer the same set of features).
  • Extension metadata, e.g. title, description, or screenshots, may not be "misleading, improperly formatted, non-descriptive, irrelevant, excessive, or inappropriate".
  • A clear and "well-written" description needs to be provided.
  • Anonymous or unattributed testimonials are not allowed.
  • Manipulation of an extension's placement in the Store is forbidden; this includes manipulating ratings, install counts, or reviews.
  • Extensions that have the sole purpose of launching or installing "another app, theme, webpage, or extension" are not allowed anymore.
  • Extensions that abuse notifications, e.g. by "sending spam, ads, promotions, phishing attempts, or unwanted messages" are not allowed.
  • Extensions that send messages on behalf of users without user confirmation are not allowed.

The new policy goes live on August 27, 2020. Google plans to take down and disable any extension that is currently in the Chrome Store that abuses any of the new policies at that time.

Closing Words

It seems likely that lots of extensions will be removed from the Store after August 27, 2020 as they violate the new policies. It seems unlikely that Google will address the underlying spam or malicious extension problem in its entirety with the new policies.  though.

Now You: What is your take on the announcement?

Google's next attempt to reduce spam in the Chrome Web Store
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Google's next attempt to reduce spam in the Chrome Web Store
Google plans to introduce changes to the company's Chrome Web Store designed to keep "spam off the Chrome Web Store" that go live on August 27, 2020.
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  1. Ben said on May 3, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    With over 200K extensions already available, it would imply reviewing them and classifying (+/- 2K) extensions a day … easier said than done..

  2. ULBoom said on May 3, 2020 at 6:24 am

    Why? Google’s Honor System clearly isn’t working. On August 27, all the bad players will be removed? Nope.

    May as well do it now or last week, the results will be the same.

  3. Charlie said on May 1, 2020 at 6:22 am

    It’s 2020 and only now Google is saying “Oh, we should remove this spam” reallllly you think!!!??

  4. Paul(us) said on April 30, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    I am wondering knowing Google’s commercial disposition when there are two add-ons who are the same or almost the same, which add-on will remain in the Google store?
    Could this maybe be the one who is allowing Google and their business partners as much flexibility to inquire about information for there commercial use?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      I think Google means duplicates from the same developer.

  5. John G. said on April 30, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    I have installed CCleaner browser with some amazing additions for privacy and Adblock inside by default, it seems faster than Chrome itself probably due to the good mixing of features. ;]

    1. Mike said on May 4, 2020 at 7:12 pm

      ccleaner and privacy at the same sentense. yikes.

    2. ULBoom said on May 3, 2020 at 6:19 am

      Got it from the Chrome Web Store, I bet. :)

    3. Kubrick said on May 1, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      @John G.
      I certainly would not trust their browser.Avast themselves were promoting a browser so doesn’t this ccleaner browser surmount to the same thing.

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