Posted by Calixte Pictet | 0 comments
It’s been shown that the availability of applications makes or breaks operating systems. Similarly, it’s functions that make or break browsers. But as our computing experiences becomes more and more complex, it becomes impossible for any one browser to have it all. That’s where plugins and extentions become vital.
The problem, however, is always the same: should we prefer security of functionality? Google Chrome (and hence the Chromium project) had initially opted for a limited functionality browser with high security. The idea (as well as the fresh interface) encountered a mild success. It was a great victory for Google in this highly competetive market, but the whole projet bumped on a large share of the market–the power users–who are among the most inclined to try out new browsers and switch. Why? Because the majority of these “power users” have gotten used to extensions.
The extention system is Firefox’s greatest strength, and that for a cause! I use Firefox daily, and it’s the extentions, not the browser, that have me addicted. There are extentions for the spead-freaks, extentions for the lazy, extentions for the news-addicts, extentions for minimalist-lovers, extensions to enhance productivity, etc. Whoever you are, there is a (therorectical) customized Firefox for you. Chrome, however, with it’s simplified interface, was not only looked limited, but actually was less functional. Chrome may be faster than Firefox, but I’m still more efficient on the latter because I have various extentions that work in my stead (i.e. that check my emails, gather news from around the web, enhance webpages, etc.). Not Long ago, Google introduced themes for Chrome, making the browser slightly more personal, but still infinitely less configurable than Mozilla’s.
Of course, Google’s choice was not bad when they decided to build a simple, fast and secure browser instead of a bulky feature-complete one, but now they’re reaching a ceilingin user adoption. It’s very probable that the great majority of users would prefer Google Chrome over any other browser due to it’s simplicity. However, these users are not those who switch browsers, but rather those who don’t (think they) care. If the browser is to reach a wider audience, it must evolve.
Of course, the folks behind Chrome and Chromium are aware of that. Yesterday, Adam Barth posted an article about the security problem with plugins on the Chromium blog. His point is that there basically “two main security concerns: malicious extensions and “benign-but-buggy” extensions”. The first are essentially malware, but it is the second that’s truly dangerous. More extentions by thrid party developpers means more code. Google will lose control on the overall experience, but also over the code. Security threats will appear exponentially. Luckily, the same blog post gives us an idea of how these threats can be reduced (by clever restrictive policies and a good dose of hunting). I’d also like to add that exentions slow down the browser and often make the overall UI feel less consistent. If Chrome can bring us the power of plugins without losing it’s speed and overall security, It’ll land one step in front of it’s rivals.
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