Chrome Extensions Likely by May

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We know that extensions are a priority for the Chromium team (Chromium is the open source project that backs Google’s Chrome web browser). Google engineers wrote in a design document a couple of months ago that they would like to create an extension infrastructure that is able to support “an open-ended list of APIs over time, such as toolbars, sidebars, content scripts (for Greasemonkey-like functionality), and content filtering (for parental filters, malware filters, or adblock-like functionality).”

However, even though extensions are by far the most request feature on the Chrome issue tracker, the document never mentions any specific timelines for delivering such an add-on system.

We noted in December that one of the main reasons many users hadn’t switched to Chrome from Firefox is the lack of such an extension system. A number of users, both on SitePoint and on the official Chrome discussion lists, have said that they really like Chrome, but can’t live without certain Firefox extensions upon which they have come to rely. So Chrome is a no-go without plugin support.

For Chrome, the best user base to target early on is early adopters — and those are people who are already using Firefox and likely already have an extension or two they don’t want to give up. “Once Google adds the planned extension framework to the Chromium project, [we] think we can expect to see its market share jump considerably. It won’t overtake Firefox overnight, but it will become a fairly major minor player — by which [we] mean: watch out Firefox, Opera, and Safari,” we wrote in December.

Now it looks like we may have a tentative date for extensions in Chrome: No later than May 27. That’s the day Google annual developer conference, Google I/O, is set to kick off in San Francisco, and one of the sessions spotted by eagle-eyed developer Nicholas Moline is called, “Developing extensions for Google Chrome.”

“Learn how Google Chrome makes it easy to write extensions using the web technologies you already know. This talk will cover the basics of the extension system (distribution/packaging, installation, updates), as well as the different APIs to enhance with the browser,” is the description of the session on the I/O site.

Likely, that means that by May 27 — and possibly earlier — Google’s Chrome browser will have extensions. Or, at least, the means for developers to create them. The Google Operating System blog points out that developer versions of Chrome already have support for user scripts, which could be a precursor to a broader extension system.

The browser war is about to get even hotter.

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