Google announced today that extensions for its Chrome browser not available in the Chrome Web Store have been blocked for all Windows users, and that Mac users will follow come July of this year.
The Mountain View-based tech giant previously blocked extensions for people who were running the consumer distribution of Chrome, but allowed those people who opted in to a Developer “channel” to continue using extensions from outside the Chrome Web Store. After that, Google said that it saw a 75 percent reduction in the number of support requests it received for removing unwanted Chrome extensions, but developers of malicious extensions began requiring users to opt in to the Developer channel in order to continue spreading their software.
In Google’s view, that’s doubly bad, since not only are users running extensions they don’t want, they’re also running a version of Chrome that they didn’t want. To curb that behavior, Google is now putting a stop to all extensions that don’t have a place on the Web Store.
It’s good news for less security-savvy users who don’t want to worry as much about whether they’re installing something onto their computer that’s trusted or not. Now, all of the extensions will have to play by Google’s rules and be approved for use in its store in order to be green-lit for broader use.
The side effect of Google’s move is that developers who don’t want to put their extensions in the Chrome Web Store are out of luck. It’s not clear if the policy will expand to Canary builds of Chrome, of if it will also come to users of the Linux version of Google’s browser, but even so, this policy shift will affect the vast majority of desktop Chrome users.
Developers who are building extensions will still be able to deploy them locally for testing, but won’t be able to distribute them more widely.
The news comes as Microsoft is gearing up to launch its new Edge browser with Windows 10, which will also include support for extensions. It’s not clear yet what distribution mechanisms will exist for Edge extensions, of if they will also have to go through an approval process.