Chrome users attack Google for zapping unsanctioned Windows add-ons

Pitchforks and torches in hand, Chrome users take to discussion forum to assail what they see as hand-holding and nanny-ism

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The criticism of Google's plans for extensions was similar to the reaction users have had to other changes in Chrome, including a redesign of the new tab page and a push toward the user interface (UI) design of Chrome OS, Google's browser-based operating system. Both sparked a large number of complaints.

Those complaints have had mixed success in making the Mountain View, Calif. company change its mind. Even after months of griping about the new tab page revamp, Google has not caved to demands, but instead upped the ante by removing a setting in the advanced "chrome://flags" option page that once let users restore the older design. However, the company has said it will restore scrollbar arrows, also called "steppers," to the browser UI.

It looks like there's little chance it will reverse the extensions policy.

"Keeping our users safe online is a top priority and this change, along with others we're making, like enforcing our single-purpose extension policy, will help alleviate our users' top complaint: keeping browser settings and behavior from being compromised by unwanted extensions," a Google spokesperson said in a statement today when asked to provide the company's reaction to the backlash.

In a message to that thread Feb. 21, SarahMM, a Google employee who monitors the Chrome support forums and frequently posts messages, was clearer about plans. "[Chrome] Beta will remain as it is, so if you want you can move back to Stable, but be aware this change is coming to Stable," she wrote. "If those extensions are extremely important to you, please contact the developers and encourage them to apply [to] the Web store. Your other alternative is to move to Canary."

Canary is Chrome's roughest build, one even less polished than the Dev channel, and analogous to Firefox's Nightly channel.

Yesterday, Google announced it was postponing the implementation of the extension "kill switch" on Chrome's stable build until or after May 1, a new deadline it gave add-on developers for publishing their wares on the Chrome Web Store.

Under that timeline, it's likely that Chrome 35 for Windows will be the first stable build -- the one most people run -- to enforce the extension policy.

The policy does not affect the OS X or Linux versions of Chrome, or the Dev or Canary versions of the Windows browser.

Even that galled some.

"There is NO reason why a user should have to use the Dev channel to re-enable [the extensions]," said Jacob Henkel last Saturday. "As it stands, the Dev channel's ability to re-enable them should be present in all versions. If this is unacceptable for whatever reason, there should be a setting to enable this in [chrome://flags/] or as a command line argument."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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