Google Chrome will soon tell you why an extension was removed
Google recently announced that it will provide weekly security updates for its Chrome browser. The Mountain View company has revealed a change to its safety check settings that will warn you when an extension was removed.
Oliver Dunk, a Developer Relations Engineer for Chrome Extensions, has published an article on the Chrome Developer's blog to explain the new policy in the browser. Normally, when an extension is removed from the Chrome Web Store, it is because of one of the following reasons. The add-on may have been unpublished (or pulled) by the developer. An extension may be taken down for violating Chrome Web Store policy, or if the plugin was discovered as malware.
So, when an extension that you used disappears mysteriously, it is due to one of the above cases. But, you, as the user, may not be informed about the reason for the add-on's removal. This is precisely what Chrome wants to address.
Google Chrome will notify you why an extension was removed
Google Chrome will display a notification to alert the user when one of the extensions that they had installed is no longer available for use. The notifications will be displayed in the Safety Check page under Chrome's Privacy and Security Settings. chrome://settings/privacy.
(Image via Google)
For example, when an extension has been removed by Chrome, you will see a banner about it. There is also a Review button that you may click, which takes you to chrome://extensions, and displays a list of add-ons that were removed, along with the reason why they were disabled. Users will be able to remove the extension permanently. Alternatively, you may choose to hide the warning, if you want to continue using the extension. Google says that it will automatically disable extensions that have been marked as malware. That seems like a good choice, automatically remove malicious add-ons, and let the user decide whether to retain a potentially harmless one that may have been unpublished by the author for unknown reasons.
(Image courtesy: Google)
Speaking of which, Google says that it will provide developers with a grace period during which they will be allowed to address an issue about a possible violation, or to appeal against the report. In this case, the add-on will not be removed from the user's browser, they will not be notified about the said extension, until a resolution has been reached with the developer.
The announcement, spotted by The Verge, says that this change will be shipped in the next major release in the browser's cycle, which is Chrome 117. That's the current version which is in Beta, Google will release Chrome 117 to users in the Stable channel in mid-September.
You can manually enable an option in chrome://flags/ to test the feature in Chrome 116 in the stable channel. It is called "Extensions Module in Safety Check". Enable it and restart Chrome to apply the changes. When an extension is deemed unsafe, you will be able to review it.
I like this new policy about extensions, and the fact that users are given the option to continue using an add-on, provided that it may be safe. It's much better to let users know why an add-on was removed, rather than keep them in the dark and guessing, which could send them into panic mode about whether the extension was malicious, and if their data has been compromised. This happened with the Bypass Paywalls Clean issue, which left users pondering if the add-on had been hit by a DMCA notice. A simple warning could help educate users, while keeping them safe. Mozilla, are you taking notes?