To improve the Chrome extension transparency for users, Google has announced that it will retire inline installations and said that users will only be able to install extensions from within the Chrome Web Store where they can view all the information about an extension’s functionality prior to installing. Later this summer, the technology giant will retire inline installation on all platforms.
“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,” James Wagner, Extensions Platform Product Manager, said in a blog.
According to the executive, the main reason for disabling inline installation is that it continues to receive large volumes of complaints from users about unwanted extensions causing their Chrome experience to change unexpectedly — and the majority of these complaints have been attributed to confusing or deceptive uses of inline installation on websites.
Since 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, Google emphasised that 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.
Inline installation was introduced in 2011 as a way for users to seamlessly install extensions from developers’ websites. Unfortunately, this mechanism has been abused by deceptive sites and ads that trick users into installing unwanted extensions.
Google said the process of removing the support for inline installation of Extensions will roll out in three steps. Firstly, the inline installation will be unavailable to all newly published extensions. Extensions first published on June 12, 2018 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.
Secondly, starting September 12, the inline installation will be disabled for existing extensions and users will be automatically redirected to the Chrome Web Store to complete the installation, and thirdly, by early December, the inline install API method will be removed from Chrome 71.
“We strive to ensure choice and transparency for all Chrome users as they browse the web. Part of this choice is the ability to use the hundreds of thousands of extensions available in the Chrome Web Store to customize the browsing experience in useful and productivity-boosting ways,” Wagner added.
As for developers who want to distribute an extension using inline installation, they will need to update install buttons on their websites with links to their extensions’ Chrome Web Store page prior to the stable release of Chrome 71 which is scheduled for December 4.
“We’re proud of the choices the Chrome Web Store provides users in enhancing their browsing experience. At the same time, it’s crucial that users have robust information about extensions prior to installation, so that they fully understand how their browsing experience will be impacted. We’re confident this change will improve transparency for all users about their extension choices in Chrome,” the executive noted.
This is not Google’s first attempt to protect users from deceptive inline installation. In May 2014 Google announced a new policy to protect Windows users by enforcing that extensions be hosted on the Chrome Web Store. The results were encouraging and Google saw a 75 per cent drop in customer support help requests for uninstalling unwanted extensions. Later, the company disabled inline installation for extensions linked to deceptive sites and ads.