After Google's removal: how to install the ClearURLs add-on manually in Chrome

Google removed the extension ClearURLs from the company's Chrome Web Store this week. The main purpose of the extension is to remove tracking elements from web addresses to protect the privacy of its users.

The developer of the extension published the letter that Google sent on the extensions GitHub page. According to the information published, Google had several objections, including that the description did not include the functions "donate, badges, logging, export/import", that it did not require the permission clipboardWrite, and that the description of the extension included keywords that were not required or irrelevant.

The developer suggested that Google may have removed the extension because it is disrupting Google's business model. Google did remove the long-standing highly popular extension without prior notice or option to get the issue resolved.

The author of the extension appealed the decision. If past removals of popular extensions are anything to go by, it is likely that it will be reinstated eventually as the outcry is already in full swing on sites such as Reddit or Hacker News. The add-on is still available on all other stores, e.g. the Mozilla AMO store for Firefox, and on GitHub.

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While it is currently impossible to install the extension from the Chrome Web Store, users of Chrome may install it directly instead.

chrome install extension manually

The following instructions provide a step-by-step walkthrough of installing the extension in Google Chrome:

  1. Download the latest version for Chrome from the project's releases page. At the time of writing, this was clearurls-1.21.0-chrome.crx.
  2. Extract the downloaded *.crx file to a folder on the local system; this folder is a permanent location for the add-on, so make sure it does not get deleted accidentally. Tools like PeaZip or 7-Zip can be used to extract the archive.
  3. Open the Google Chrome web browser.
  4. Load chrome://extensions/
  5. Enable Developer mode on the page.
  6. Select "Load unpacked" once Developer mode is enabled and pick the folder of the unpacked ClearURLs extension.

The extension remains installed across browsing sessions. You can use ClearURLs again in Chrome just like before.

Note: the only downside to this method is that it won't auto-update. To update, download the latest package from GitHub, put it in the same folder, and activate the reload button on the chrome://extensions page to update it.

Now You: What is your take on the removal?

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After Google's removal: how to install the ClearURLs add-on manually in Chrome
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After Google's removal: how to install the ClearURLs add-on manually in Chrome
Description
Find out how to install the CleanURLs extension for Google Chrome manually from the project's GitHub page, after Google removed it from its store.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Bob said on March 25, 2021 at 12:16 pm
    Reply

    The letter mentioned logging… Does this extension send user data back to the developers and they log it?

    1. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 3:35 pm
      Reply

      No, because:

      “What do we collect?
      This extension protects and respects your privacy. We do not—and will never—collect any of your usage data.”

      By the way, ClearURLs belongs to Mozilla’s “Recommended” program!

      1. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 7:51 pm
        Reply

        “By the way, ClearURLs belongs to Mozilla’s “Recommended” program!”

        ClearURLs is trustworthy but not because of thee Mozilla Recommended program, Mozilla’s words having zero value. They recommend shady adware extensions like Cliqz’s Ghostery for profit. They gave the maximum grade in privacy and security to the Zoom teleconference software that doesn’t even encrypt end-to-end the communications and uses the data for itself, in all likelihood in exchange for help in attempting to make a web version that would work in Firefox and not just Chrome. And they did all sorts of shady anti-user actions themselves so many times that a Mozilla recommendation should be seen as repelling.

      2. Commander said on April 24, 2021 at 8:16 am
        Reply

        true that

        AMO routinely gives the stamp of ‘approval’ to extensions on windows which bundle executables acting against the best interest of the user. I would deem this malware, but other’s value of privacy or integrity might be lower.

    2. replier said on March 25, 2021 at 9:43 pm
      Reply

      Yes it does. Check your traffic and see it yourself.

    3. Commander said on April 24, 2021 at 8:14 am
      Reply

      @Bob

      if you worry about logging why are you using Chrome? or any other google web service?

  2. Jeff M.S. said on March 25, 2021 at 12:28 pm
    Reply

    Aggressive URL cleaning also often breaks functionality though, it’s not just always about tracking.

    1. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 12:39 pm
      Reply

      it’s not just always about tracking.

      But most of the time it is!!!

    2. RTFM said on March 25, 2021 at 2:54 pm
      Reply

      No it doesn’t. This addon uses rules like an adblocker to clean only those parts used for tracking. Please read the wiki how it actually works before spreading dangerous FUD here.

      Edit: The reply system seems broken and it posted my comment wrongly as new post rather than a reply.

      1. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 7:52 pm
        Reply

        “Edit: The reply system seems broken and it posted my comment wrongly as new post rather than a reply.”

        Disabling javascript does that.

      2. Peterc said on March 26, 2021 at 8:14 am
        Reply

        @RTFM: Ghacks apparently switched to a new CDN. If you use a scriptblocker, review your settings for Ghacks and whitelist the new CDN.

      3. Jeff M.S. said on March 29, 2021 at 8:11 pm
        Reply

        @RTFM It absolutely does. I know how it works. Adblocker rules are made by humans only, you think they can’t make a mistake cleaning up URLs on *third party sites* that the rule creators know nothing about?

        You are spreading FUD with your half baked knowledge of it. I spoke from my own experience and only after thoroughly testing such url cleaners. On Amazon India for example, CleanURL breaks sorting the search results. Disable it and it instantly begins to work.

      4. zed said on April 1, 2021 at 12:54 pm
        Reply

        I’ve used this extension religiously for well over a year now and have had zero problems of breakage. Scanning the issues you will find the odd reports of breakage, which you may report to the coder for quick remedy. The benefit by far outweighs the costs! Would never browse without it.

      5. Commander said on April 24, 2021 at 8:13 am
        Reply

        @Jeff

        You have now yourself refuted your initial wide claim.

  3. Klaas Vaak said on March 25, 2021 at 12:34 pm
    Reply

    I had the extension installed before Google action. Does that mean it still functions?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 25, 2021 at 2:19 pm
      Reply

      Yes, it should continue to function, unless Google decided to pull it remotely.

  4. jan said on March 25, 2021 at 12:40 pm
    Reply

    it does not please Google so it is gone!!

  5. Pierre said on March 25, 2021 at 1:02 pm
    Reply

    Your method doesn’t work
    It doesn’t find the extension in the folder although the .crx is present

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 25, 2021 at 2:19 pm
      Reply

      You need to extract the CRX file to a folder, and select that folder for load unpacked.

    2. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 6:49 pm
      Reply

      I see your one of those people that doesn’t follow clear steps, just skips to the end because you think you know what to do, and then complains it doesn’t work.

  6. Devastator said on March 25, 2021 at 1:05 pm
    Reply

    Huh. Few days ago i have returned back to firefox browser. But i use different extension to strip tracking urls.

  7. Mr. Stank said on March 25, 2021 at 4:58 pm
    Reply

    What is the difference between CleanURLs and NeatURL?

  8. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 7:26 pm
    Reply
  9. ilev said on March 25, 2021 at 7:59 pm
    Reply

    Thanks

  10. Anonymous said on March 25, 2021 at 8:03 pm
    Reply

    One shouldn’t have to do all that and to renounce to updates to install an important privacy extension that Google wants banned for bad reasons. They are testing us. As far as I know it may not even be possible at all to install a banned extension in regular Firefox, that once again aped Chrome. When enforcing their remote control on what the user may install without giving him the last word, they said “it’s for your privacy and security”. We warned that this was scummy, especially from companies like them. And now one more example of them abusing the power this system gave them, to attack user freedom and privacy.

    1. owl said on March 26, 2021 at 3:34 am
      Reply

      As helpful information,
      Wonder about the data Google collects in Chrome and links to you? Now we know | gHacks Tech News
      https://www.ghacks.net/2021/03/16/wonder-about-the-data-google-collects-in-chrome-and-links-to-you-now-we-know/

  11. Commander said on April 24, 2021 at 7:48 am
    Reply

    ungoogled chromium

    stop using chrome

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