This news is something you will applaud, but I'd ask you to also think of what is lost. The Google Chromium Blog has announced that no longer will Inline Installation of extensions be allowed. The browser has become walled garden and another piece of programmer freedom has evaporated.
Long gone are the days when a programmer was free to roam, or rather their programs were free to roam. The reason is, of course, the Internet and the web in particular. Who knows what rogue software an innocent user might download without thinking about it. It was very different in the early days and users were always very careful about what they put into their disk drives and later what USB sticks where inserted. Ah, thinking back to those halcyon days, you can see why Google wants to make the world a better place by controlling what users can install as Chrome extensions.
Until now you could write a Chrome extension and choose either to have it in the Chrome webstore or to host it on your own website where brave users could risk having their browsers infected with malware or crypto miners.
As the Chromium blog puts it:
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.
See I told you so. So, to stop people having to uninstall extensions, inline instalations are to be stopped in a three-phase roll out.
Later this summer, inline installation will be retired on all platforms. Going forward, users will only be able to install extensions from within the Chrome Web Store, where they can view all information about an extension’s functionality prior to installing.
Let's hope that Google is as good at policing the Chrome Web Store as the Android Apps in the Play store. The phased restrictions will be completed by the end of the year:
- Starting June 12, inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions. New extensions that attempt to call the chrome.webstore.install() function will automatically redirect the user to the Chrome Web Store.
- Starting September 12, 2018, inline installation will be disabled for existing extensions, and users will be automatically redirected to the Chrome Web Store to complete the installation.
- In early December 2018, the inline install API method will be removed from Chrome 71.
Of course, you will still be able to load extensions by switching to developer mode. It isn't that difficult so my guess is that anyone really wanting to continue distributing an extension without involving the Web Store should be able to tell the user how to install a download. The user might be suspicious of developer mode, but if they trusted you before having to use it, then they are probably dumb enough to follow your instructions to the letter.
Where this leaves any company wanting to develop a company-branded extension for its employees, say, is another good question. Having company software in a public store isn't usually a good idea.
It is nice to know that the world is a sightly safer place and the reach of software lock-down continues to grow.
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