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December 2, 2008

On Google Chrome's Future Support for Extensions

When Google Chrome was launched, many people wondered why there's no support for Google Toolbar or for extensions that are available for Firefox. After fixing the glaring bugs reported by users, improving bookmark management, adding autocomplete and starting to work on Mac and Linux versions, the next step is to open the browser to developers.

Google published a document that details how extensions will work in Google Chrome. "Chromium can't be everything to all people. People use web browsers in a variety of environments and for a wide variety of jobs. Personal tastes and needs vary widely from one user to the next. The feature needs of one person often conflict directly with those of another. Further, one of the design goals of Chromium is to have a minimal light-weight user interface, which itself conflicts with adding lots of features."

The extension development should be similar to developing web pages, the browser should include support for silent autoupdate, extensions should not be able to crash the browser process and they should be run in sandboxed processes. An interesting side-effect would be that you won't have to restart the browser after installing an extension, like in Firefox.

Google lists some extensions that should work in Chrome: bookmarking tools like a toolbar for Delicious, content filtering extensions like Adblock (sic!), download managers like DownThemAll and other popular extensions that are available for Firefox.

"We should start by building the infrastructure for an extension system that can support different types of extensibility. The system should be able to support an open-ended list of APIs over time, such as toolbars, sidebars, content scripts (for Greasemonkey-like functionality), and content filtering (for parental filters, malware filters, or adblock-like functionality). Some APIs will require privileges that must be granted, such as access to the history database or access to mail.google.com."

In the end, we should see an extension gallery hosted by Google that will initially include a list of popular Firefox extensions. Chrome won't support XUL, so the extensions aren't going to be ported automatically. The latest Chromium buils already include an initial Greasemonkey implementation, so there's one less extension to build.

{ via Webware }

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