The extensions have been banned from the ‘regular’ store, and are hidden on the bottom on the page and taken out of the default search.
Currently, only the apps rank in the critical ‘Popular’ and ‘Trending’ sections of the store. In addition, the search function of the Webstore is ‘broken’, and is by default set to only search for apps. So why these changes all of the sudden? The apps and extensions stood side-by-side for a long time in the webstore, until Google decided to do something against this on December 7th. The extensions were banned from the store and search, causing a sharp decline in impressions and installs for some of the world’s most popular extensions such as Adblock Plus.
The detrimental decline in installs and impressions
One extension developer made a screenshot of the effect of the banning of the extensions. It is easy to see the detrimental result in installs and impressions for this extension. Google made extensions very unattractive to the general public. It could even be argued that the average user is currently unable to identify and install the extensions in the Chrome Webstore.
Google’s point of view
So why did Google make this somewhat awkward and game-changing move? According to Joe Martini, Developer Advocate for Chrome, gives the argument that users could not easily identify the difference between extensions and apps. By separating these two, it is argued that both apps and extensions get higher quality users, and the overall satisfaction with the Chrome Webstore would increase. Finally, it is argued by Google that users should know the difference between apps and extensions, because extensions have more powerful capabilities as apps do.
The actual consequence
Now Google does have a point here. It is important for users to know the difference between apps and extensions. There might be some crappy extensions available in the Webstore, and Google does not want unknowing users to provide full access to their own browsing habits to these dodgy extensions. However, banning and hiding the extensions from the store and search is definitely not the way how to address this problem. Extensions provide browser-users with huge additional value. It augments the user’s online experience by offering a set of powerful tools to customize the way users want to browse the web. For example, the lack of availability of easy access to extensions such as Adblock Plus, will in the longterm effect the satisfaction of Google Chrome users.
It might be argued that extensions (or Add-ons) for Firefox have been one key arguments why Firefox became so popular in the early 2000′s and elevated Chrome’s success in the 2010′s. Google seems to neglect the value that extensions create for Chrome users. This negligence might lead to developers to start creating apps instead of extensions, negatively influencing the overall browser’s capabilities.
Instead of separating apps and extensions, Google could have considered a better visual representation of the difference between the two, as well as start educating the users. Both solutions would accomplish the same goal, and did not need such a radical solution.
Google promised “We will closely monitoring the results of these changes”, so they know the effect of the current changes. We will closely monitor Google, and report on any changes that will happen in the nearby future.