The web giants want to standardize web extensions

Apple, Mozilla, Google and Microsoft have joined forces In order to be able to support extension developers, since without a doubt Chrome is the most used browser and on which developers also prefer to focus their efforts for the creation of extensions, leaving aside other browsers.

That is why a new community group "WebExtensions" will try to forge a common architecture for future web extensions and invites developers to join this initiative. Safari has adopted a new web extension API with macOS Big Sur that allows extensions designed for other browsers to work with it. This opened the door to new extensions, but a standardized method for developing extensions had not been defined.

The new group, abbreviated WECG, is made up of members from each of the main browser developers. Leading this new group, we find Timothy Hatcher from Apple and Simeon Vincent from Google. Current participants include employees from Apple, Mozilla, and Microsoft.

The World Wide Web Consortium, the body responsible for promoting compatibility of World Wide Web technologies, commented on the action:

“We are delighted to announce the launch of the WebExtensions Community Group (WECG). With various browsers adopting a widely supported model for extensions in recent years, WECG is excited to explore how browser vendors and other stakeholders can work together to promote a common browser extension platform. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are launching this community group, and we invite other browser vendors, extension developers, and interested parties to join this initiative *. «

The WebExtensions Community Group has two objectives his make it easier for developers to create extensions specifying a consistent model and a common core of functions, APIs and permissions. They also describe an architecture that improves performance and is even more secure and resistant to abuse.

In the job letter, they mention the following design principles:

  • User-centric: browser extensions allow users to customize their web browsing experience based on their preferences and needs.
  • Compatibility: maintain and improve compatibility with existing extensions and popular extension APIs. This will allow developers not to have to completely rewrite their extensions to work in different browsers, which can be error prone.
  • Performance: allow developers to write extensions that do not have a negative impact on the performance or power consumption of web pages or the browser.
  • Safety: When choosing which extensions to use, users shouldn't have to compromise on functionality and security. With the new extension APIs, a change will be made to the model.
  • Privacy: likewise, users should not have to compromise on functionality and privacy. Since the main point will be that the browser extensions improve the user experience while requiring the minimum necessary access to the user's browsing data to reduce or eliminate the trade-off that end users must make between functionality and confidentiality.
  • Portability: It should be relatively easy for developers to transfer extensions from one browser to another, and for browsers to support extensions on a variety of devices and operating systems.
  • Maintainability: By simplifying the APIs, this should allow the broader group of developers to create extensions and make it easier for them to maintain the extensions they create.
  • Endurance: browser providers should provide specific functionality to your browser and should also have the opportunity to experiment with new features.

The group does not want to specify every aspect of the web extensions platform or stifle innovation. Each browser provider will continue to operate independently with their own policies. Browser developers and vendors interested in contributing to the group can register through the W3C website. The WECG has a dedicated GitHub repository with a job letter and community accomplishments.

Source: https://www.w3.org/


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