Google plots death of inline installation for Chrome extensions

All install paths will be rerouted through the Chrome Web Store

Google on Tuesday said it plans to discontinue inline installation of Chrome browser extensions, by which code on third-party websites can trigger the installation of extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

The decision, which will be implemented in stages, follows a series of complaints in recent years about malicious extensions distributed through the Chrome Web Store and via malware.

Google has even written a research paper on its extension cleansing efforts. According to the researchers, almost 10 per cent of extensions submitted to the Chrome Web Store between 2012 and 2015 were malicious.

Chrome browser users have three ways to install extensions: They can use Google's Chrome Web Store; they can use a link on a third-party website to fetch an extension from the Chrome Web Store via inline installation; or with developer mode enabled, they can download the code from an open source repository and install it.

It's this second option that will be gradually be phased out.

The reason, explains James Wagner, extensions platform product manager, in a blog post, is that Google has received a noticeable number of complaints from users about unwanted extensions causing unexpected browser behavior, most of which involve confusing or deceptive inline installation.

"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," he explains.

The Chrome Web Store contains information about extensions that help people make decisions about installation, he suggests.

Pennies in a jar. Photo via Shutterstock

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In 2015, Google tried to prevent abuse of inline installation, specifically for extensions that employed obvious deceptive tactics. Evidently, that was not enough.

Starting on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, inline installation will no longer be an option for newly published extensions. Newly published code that makes use of the chrome.webstore.install() function will present a Chrome Web Store tab to carry out the installation instead of triggering that action directly.

Older extensions will continue with established behavior – showing an installation confirmation dialog that's distinct from the Chrome Web Store display.

On September 12, 2018, any code invoking chrome.webstore.install() will be rerouted to the Chrome Web Store installation process.

And in early December, 2018, the inline installation API will be removed from Chrome 71. Anyone using a button on a third-party website that invokes inline installation is advised to update the applicable link to point to a Chrome Web Store extension listing. ®

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