When Google launched the Chrome web browser in 2008, it was one of the fastest browsers around… and also one of the simplest. Menu buttons were tucked away out of sight. The URL and search bar were one and the same. And there was no support for add-ons or extensions.
The eventually changed, and now Google maintains a Chrome Web Store for apps, extensions, and themes. These plugins can enhance the functionality of Google’s web browser — but they can also consume system resources and slow Chrome down.
Google’s decided to simplify things a bit again by insisting that extensions distributed in the Chrome Web Store serve a single, easy-to-understand purpose.
Developers have until June, 2014 to modify multi-purpose extensions, or they’ll be booted from the Chrome Web Store. Users can still install those browser extensions manually by visiting third party websites, but Google won’t distribute them anymore.
So what kind of multi-purpose extensions are we talking about? Toolbars, among other things. Once upon a time adding a toolbar to the top of Firefox or Internet Explorer provided a way to enhance your browser experience. Google even offered a popular toolbar for those browsers.
But eventually toolbars became more of a way for companies to hijack your browsing experience. If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone with 3 different toolbars stealing screen space at the top of their browsers, I’d have a lot of nickels. More often than not, they didn’t remember how they got there and weren’t sure how to uninstall them.
Of course, there are some multi-purpose browser extensions that might actually be useful. Google’s advice to developers of those tools is to unbundle the functions and release multiple extensions so users can just install the ones they want.
More details are spelled out in Google’s developer program policies for Chrome apps and extensions.