Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla Partner on Browser Extensions

Posted on June 4, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Web browsers with 14 Comments

The makers of the world’s most popular web browsers are teaming up to improve the security and usability of browser extensions.

“With multiple browsers adopting a broadly compatible model for extensions in the last few years, the WebExtensions Community Group (WECG) is excited to explore how browser vendors and other interested parties can work together to advance a common browser extension platform,” the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced. “Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are initiating this community group, and we welcome other browser makers, extension developers, and interested parties to join this effort.”

The new community group will work towards standardizing how extensions install and work across different web browsers using the existing extensions model and APIs supported by Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. “Specifically, we plan to make extension creation easier for developers by specifying a consistent model and common core of functionality, APIs, and permissions; [and] outline an architecture that enhances performance and is even more secure and resistant to abuse.”

The first step, they say, is to create a specification. Then, it can chart a course for future evolution. There are, however, no plans for a single extension store that all browsers will use. Instead, each browser vendor will continue to operate their own extension stores independently.

You can learn more by reading the WebExtensions Community Group Charter.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla Partner on Browser Extensions”

  1. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    You can include Mozilla if you want to, but I figure it'll take YEARS for Mozilla to change enough to be able to use Tab Modifier (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tab-modifier/hcbgadmbdkiilgpifjgcakjehmafcjai).


    Firefox does some things so much differently than Chromium-based browsers that there are going to remain broad swathes of Chromium-etc extensions which won't work with Firefox. OTOH, Firefox seems STILL to provide a level of CSS theming support which Chromium-based browsers simply don't. In an ideal world, Mozilla would try to make that difference into a strength. However, in the actual world Mozilla wants to be as much like Chrome as it can, making greater privacy its main advantage, as if Brave and Vivaldi couldn't make the same case while also being Chromium-based.

    • Avatar

      MikeCerm

      If Firefox wants to be as much like Chrome as they can be, then why are they the only browser out there that's not based on Chromium? Firefox is still doing their own thing.

      • Avatar

        pecosbob04

        Safari is based on Chromium?

        • Avatar

          bettyblue

          Chromium was originally a fork of WebKit. How different they are today I have no idea.

          • Avatar

            hbko

            WebKit/Blink is just the browser engine (what deals with layout, CSS, HTML, JavaScript etc). Things like the shell, bookmarks, extension etc. are vendor-specific.

        • Avatar

          MikeCerm

          When I said "the only browser out there" I was thinking about standalone cross-platform browsers, not Apple's proprietary stuff which obviously is on it's own path.

      • Avatar

        hrlngrv

        Let me clarify.


        For more than a decade Mozilla has been trying to make Firefox look as much like Chrome as possible, hoping that greater UI familiarity for Chrome users could increase Firefox usage. This was a very flawed view around 2010, when Chrome was fairly new and much faster than Firefox in many things. To Mozilla's credit, they've improved Firefox performance considerably over the last decade. However, they also dropped XUL, which means A LOT LESS UI customizability in Firefox than there used to be.


        Firefox still supports a lot more UI customizability than most other browsers via userchrome.css. May that never change! OTOH, Firefox does some things, such as favicon customization, sufficiently differently than Chromium-based browsers that common extensions for Firefox-based (so also Waterfox and Pale Moon, maybe also Sea Monkey) and Chromium-based browsers may not happen for some things.

  2. Avatar

    chriscarstens

    Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla team up to help us out . . . . . What could possibly go wrong?

      • Avatar

        jmawgdog

        Pihole. In addition to browser adblockers, I really recommend folks read up on Pihole. Install it onto a Raspberry Pi and block ads at the entry point.

      • Avatar

        bettyblue

        This is my fear.


        On the Mac I was a Safari diehard as it works so well with the OS/eco system. Then Safari 12 or whatever killed extensions with a new layer of “security”. Basically UBlock stopped working and I was done with Safari.


        Google tried this with Chrome for a moment until enough people freaked out and they backed away.

        • Avatar

          hbko

          Safari 12 blocked support for legacy Safari extensions and instead encouraged developers to use Safari App Extensions which are much more robust and secure (Safari 12 Release Notes | Apple Developer Documentation) Since Safari 13, it's possible to convert extensions made for Firefox or Chrome using Xcode so currently there are a lot of content filter extensions to choose from and that is on top of the already robust built-in tracking protection features.

  3. Avatar

    ronv42

    We will end up with 4 standards as each company departs the group to make their implementation the standard.

  4. Avatar

    waethorn

    Big Tech colluding on stuff. What could possibli go wrong?

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