by C.G. Lynch

Six Things to Expect From Google Chrome Extensions

May 27, 20094 mins
Consumer ElectronicsInternet

Google's Chrome Browser will eventually have extensions, but they will be tightly monitored to ensure that Chrome keeps its elegant and simple design, a developer said at the company's annual I/O developer conference in San Francisco.

Since Google’s Chrome web browser launched last September, it has garnered a small market share (roughly one percent, depending on the study you read). Chrome has embraced a lot of principles that has made the Mozilla Firefox browser so popular: It’s fast and open to web developers to improve it.

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But Chrome has yet to replicate the extension of “add-on” features that allow normal users to embed more functionality on top of their browser, as Firefox has done so famously. Created by third-party developers, a typical add-on (or extension) might help you preview web-pages or view how many messages you have in your Gmail, for example.

Today, at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Aaron Boodman, a Google developer, confirmed to attendees that Google has accelerated its efforts to create an ecosystem of add-ons that customize the Chrome browser. Boodman says that Google is adamant about maintaining Chrome’s minimalist and elegant design, while allowing add-ons to streamline the ability for users to access their favorite apps and web-pages more quickly.

While the presentation was very developer-based, I picked out some things to expect for the first iteration of Google Chrome extensions, which remain in pre-alpha (a tech term for “awhile” if you’re a normal end-user).

1. Extensions Will Help Keep Chrome Minimal.

Mozilla built out an incredible amount of add-ons for its browser, but it has at times crowded the browser’s look and feel. Google wants extensions to compliment Chrome’s elegant design by not capturing too much screen real-estate. Extensions will allow Chrome users to customize their browser if they want, but such features will likely never be added as default to Chrome.

“Chrome has a minimal, slick interface,” Boodman says. “In order to keep it that way, we need to have a high bar for features that we add to Chrome. We won’t add it for a majority, or a big majority of users. [It should be good for] nearly all users.”

2. Extensions Appear on Bottom of Chrome Browser.

During the demo, Boodman displayed an add-on that allows users to track new stories in their Google RSS Reader. The add-on appeared on a bottom bar of his Chrome browser, suggesting that the real-estate at the top of the browser will remain reserved for bookmarks only, and not add-ons.

3. Google Will Control Overall Look of the Extension Buttons.

The buttons that users click on to use a Google extension will look similar to that of the bookmark buttons. Developers of extensions will utilize code that will give the buttons a similar feel for the end-user. When they highlight their mouse over an extension, it will illuminate the extension, with borders around it to separate it from others.

4. Like Tabs, Extensions Will Run in Separate Instances.

One of the things that makes Google Chrome a unique browser is that it was designed to run processes on apps and web pages at the same time. So, for instance, if you opened your Twitter feed in one tab, and Facebook in another, the browser won’t favor one app just because you opened it first. It will automatically (and fairly) allocate power to running both apps.

Extensions will work the same. As you add extensions, and utilize them, the browser will fairly give them the power they need. This is also good from a security perspective, Boodman says. If one extension is riddled with malicious code, it will only affect that extension, not the other extensions or tabs.

5. Security Updates Happen Without User Involvement.

The updates to extensions will happen instantly and in the background. Users will never be running antiquated extensions with outdated security. Security, in this case, is an automatic opt-in.

“We think this is good for users, and it’s better for security,” Boodman says.

6. Google Will Build an Extension Gallery for Developers to Post (and Users to Install) the Extensions.

According to Boodman, Google is “working on it,” but he didn’t specify when this would occur.