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Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge join forces to improve browser extensions

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James Martin / CNET

The teams behind Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge have teamed up to improve extensions, add-ons that you can download to customize the software. This should mean that your extensions will work better and have a better security foundation to protect you from malware.

On Friday, the teams presented a discussion and forum development forum at the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, dedicated to developing standards for extensions. The forum, WebExtensions Community Group, gives engineers a place to build a single and more secure baseline for extensions.

The group also hopes to make it easier for developers to write extensions, because the shared standard will help bridge the gap between browsers.

“We strive to identify common ground, to bring [browsers] more closely and draw a course for future evolution, “said the members of the community group for their purposes. There is still no public timetable for publishing a draft of the standard or for embedding it in browsers.

Extensions are crucial for computer browsers. Software bits can block ads, integrate with password managers, remove code that tracks you online, and find coupons as you place items in your shopping cart. One extension allows users to replace photos of Donald Trump with cats.

Google Chrome is the most used browser in the world. But differences between browsers mean that an extension developer is less likely to support other browsers. Standardization should rank browsers to reduce developer hassle. There will still be differences between browsers, but the community group plans to provide a common core of capabilities.

Chrome has upgraded its extensions to adopt some of the same technology, JavaScript, and cascading style sheets used to display web pages. Firefox and more recently Safari have followed Chrome’s lead. Edge also joined the Chrome extension when Microsoft adopted Chrome’s open source Chrome technology.

The news comes on the eve of WWDC, Apple’s developer conference, which runs from June 7-11. At WWDC in 2020, Apple announced that it was adopting Chrome’s approach to expanding into Safari, although significant differences remain in the packaging extensions for Safari.

The idea of ​​standardizing extension technology has been around for years. Opera, another browser maker, tried to unify extension technology when it adopted Chrome’s 2010 expansion approach.

One thing that won’t change is how you get your extensions. Each browser manufacturer has its own site for downloading extensions, as well as procedures for checking them. The discussion group will not discuss this topic.

But several other aspects of the technology are under discussion, according to the browser extensions charter group. The group hopes to set as many programming interfaces as possible that are compatible with today’s extensions that don’t slow down website performance, compromise privacy, or increase security to “reduce the damage that compromised or malicious browser extensions can cause.” . . “

Compatibility is a top priority on the list. “Developers should be relatively easy to transfer extensions from one browser to another, and browsers should support extensions to different devices and operating systems,” the group’s charter said.

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