WebExtensions Community Group formed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla formed the WebExtensions Community Group to specify a model, permissions, and a common core of APIs for web browser extensions. The newly founded group is part of the World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C) and inviting "other browser makers, extension developers, and interested parties to join this effort".
The core goal of the group is to create future standards for WebExtensions to make it "easier for extension developers to enhance end user experience, while moving them towards APIs that improve performance and prevent abuse".
The group plans to use the existing extensions model and APIs of the browsers Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge as a foundation to work on a specification that brings current implementations "into closer alignment" and to "chart a course for future evolution".
Browser makers are free to develop their unique additions to the common ground, e.g. by creating APIs that are unique to the browser.
The current WebExtensions system, that is used by browsers of the founding members of the group, has lots of resemblance with the goal of the group. All four browsers support WebExtensions, after Apple announced last year that its Safari browser would switch to the extensions system as well. Mozilla specifically has created Firefox-specific APIs that extensions for the browser may utilize. These extensions are not supported in other browsers then. The controversial Manifest V3 for extensions will also not be implemented fully by all browsers who support extensions.
As far as compatibility is concerned, the group strives to "maintain and improve compatibility with popular existing extensions and extension APIs" to ensure that developers can release their extensions for different browsers without having to rewrite them completely.
The scope of the work is revealed on the project's GitHub page:
- An extensions model—the basic architecture of extensions and how the different pieces interrelate. This definition will include a description of the trust model, the differing trust between browsers and extensions and between extensions and web pages.
- A permissions model—what sorts of powerful features extensions may access, and how extensions may request user consent to access them.
- WebExtensions APIs—the interface extensions are built on.
- A packaging format, including a manifest format and how extensions are localized.
- Native Messaging—the API surface extensions use to exchange messages with native applications running on the host system.
The group won't define deployment mechanisms, including methods for signing extensions, and WebDriver integration.
From the sounds of it, it looks as if the group plans to use the current WebExtensions system as the fundament for creating a common grounds version of WebExtensions that all of the four major browsers will support in the future.
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