Don't use the Google Chrome Extension Gallery

by Stephen Fluin 2010.04.24

Over the past week I have been doing a lot of work on Chromium Extension development. The main place people go to download extensions is the Google Chrome Extension Gallery. I assumed when I began writing the CSS Destyler that I would want to upload the extension to the main Gallery.

The Problem with the Gallery

The biggest problem with the gallery is the fact that You Lose Control. What this means is that when you compose the .zip file to upload to the gallery, you are not allowed to include an update URL in the manifest.js file. Google does this because they want to use the gallery as the update URL. This is nice for Google because they get to leverage their servers and track google extension usage.

The problem with this is clearly shown with what happened to the YouTube HTML5 extension I worked on with Mark Renouf. After several months of being online with a useful tool that improved the YouTube experience on Chromium, Google made the decision to remove our extension from the gallery. Although users with the extension installed were able to keep it, soon thereafter Google updated the YouTube HTML format and URL structure. Without the gallery, our users were unable to get updates, breaking the extension for thousands of people. By this point we had an alternative host, with working automatic updates, and a new working version. Despite this, we were unable to fix the broken code for any of our users.

Compared with Apple's market

If you look at the Apple App Store which is used by the iPhone and the iPad, there are some huge problems for developers.

  • Original Upload Approval (Many many developers and companies have been prevented from breaking into the market because of this)
  • Update Upload Approval (You have to get Apple's approval to make changes to your software)
  • Moral Absolutism (Apple considers itself the authority on morality, blocking apps with pornography, swearing, or other allegedly immoral activities)
  • Development Restrictions (Apple has recently updated their agreement to prevent applications written in other languages, or even with other tools from ending up in the App Market)

These are huge issues from a freedom standpoint. These restrictions could be considered inherently evil because of their lack of freedom, and the totalitarian control of software that Apple is trying to have. Google isn't anywhere near this level of restriction, but the their Android and Extension markets/galleries are beginning to exhibit too much centralized control from the corporation, where they decide what you can an cannot do as a developer, which ends up effecting what users can do with their computers.