Extensions -- the software that lets you do things like block ads, manage your tabs better, explore art on your new-tab page or cover your screen with doge dogs -- can be useful and fun. Unfortunately, they can also be a conduit for malware that spies on you or cryptocurrency miners that let others profit off your computer's horsepower.
To try to squelch the problems, Google is removing an ability called "inline installation," which lets websites offer an installation button so you don't have to make a detour to the Chrome Web Store to add an extension to Chrome. Google, though, concluded that the Chrome Web Store offers necessary transparency. So it began a three-phase plan on Tuesday to make the Chrome Web Store the only way to get extensions.
It's a new example of Google sacrificing openness as it tries to reckon with the abuses that openness makes possible.
Google's initial extensions plan was to let people download them from anywhere, but it backtracked and offered the inline installation from the Chrome Web Store instead. Now even that's off the list. Similarly, Google initially promised a web-like Android Play Store, where good apps would rise to the surface on their own merits, but eventually adopted an approval process similar to Apple's approach with its App Store.
"We continue to receive large volumes of complaints from users about unwanted extensions causing their Chrome experience to change unexpectedly -- and the majority of these complaints are attributed to confusing or deceptive uses of inline installation on websites," Wagner said. "The information displayed alongside extensions in the Chrome Web Store plays a critical role in ensuring that users can make informed decisions about whether to install an extension. When installed through the Chrome Web Store, extensions are significantly less likely to be uninstalled or cause user complaints, compared to extensions installed through inline installation."
Google's extensions crackdown will take place in three phases:
First, as of Tuesday, new extensions can't be installed inline.
Second, inline installation will be disabled for existing extensions starting Sept. 12. Websites that offer inline installations will instead send people to the Chrome Web Store page for installation
Last, extension developers will have to update their websites by early December to get rid of inline installation code and simply point people to the Chrome Web Store page. That change will be necessary because Google will remove inline installation programming support with the forthcoming Chrome 71.
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