Google today announced that Chrome will no longer support the inline installation of extensions. New extensions lose inline installation starting today, existing extensions will lose the ability in three months, and in early December the inline install API will be removed from the browser with the release of Chrome 71.
Disabling inline installation, which lets users install extensions directly from websites, will affect Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS users. Unlike Firefox, Chrome still does support extensions on mobile platforms.
Google regularly cracks down on apps and extensions that cause a poor experience for Chrome users. In April, for example, the company outlined its ban for cryptocurrency mining extensions.
But this change, which ensures the Chrome Web Store is the only way users of the browser can install extensions, is really an evolution of a shift that started three years ago. In May 2015, Google began blocking extensions not listed in the Chrome Web Store, and in September 2015, the company disabled inline installation of some Chrome extensions.
Both moves were made in the interest of control and security: Google wanted to block extensions that didn’t adhere to its rules or that were tricking users into installing unwanted tools. Critics have pointed out such moves make the Chrome Web Store a walled garden, while Google insists pushing users to the store ultimately protects them.
That thinking has only cemented itself further over the years. Here is Google’s stance now, as articulated by Extensions Platform product manager James Wagner:
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. As we’ve attempted to address this problem over the past few years, we’ve learned that 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.
Forcing users to the Chrome Web Store results in less uninstallation and fewer complaints because Chrome users are more informed about an extension’s functionality prior to installing. In other words, installing from the Chrome Web Store reduces the chance of disappointment or unexpected changes to Chrome.
Chrome gained inline extension installation support in 2011. The goal was to let users seamlessly install extensions from developers’ websites. But after seven years, Google has decided that the cons outweighed the pros.
Here is the timeline for the feature’s removal:
- June 12: Inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions. Extensions first published today or later that attempt to call the chrome.webstore.install() function will automatically redirect the user to the Chrome Web Store in a new tab to complete the installation.
- September 12: Inline installation will be disabled for existing extensions, and users will be automatically redirected to the Chrome Web Store to complete the installation.
- December 4: The inline install API method will be removed with the release of Chrome 71.
Chrome 71 is currently slated for release on December 4, but that date could shift. Either way, developers that distribute extensions using inline installation should update the install buttons on their website before December (best practices and install badges).