Damned by its own success, Google is cracking down on a glut of Chrome add-ons that are as noxious to the browser as spam is to email.
"The increase in adoption of the extension platform has also attracted spammers and fraudsters introducing low-quality and misleading extensions in an attempt to deceive and trick our users into installing them to make a quick profit," wrote Rebecca Soares and Benjamin Ackerman, the policy manager for the Chrome web store and associate principal for Safe Browsing Operations, respectively, in a post to a company blog.
"We want to ensure that the...Chrome Web Store is clear and informative and not muddled with copycats, misleading functionalities or fake reviews and ratings."
To give itself authority to scrub spam-like extensions from the e-market - the only sanctioned source of Chrome add-ons - Google added some new rules to its developer program policies. They will be enforced starting August 27, or two days after the currently scheduled release date for Chrome 85.
Stop repeating yourself. Stop repeating yourself
Soares and Ackerman lumped the anti-spam guidelines into five categories, disallowing:
- Multiple extensions that perform the same task or provide the same experience
- Add-ons that include more than five keywords embedded in the metadata, or use the same word or phrase more than five times in the Chrome Web Store description. Potentially misleading or irrelevant metadata is also forbidden
- Extensions whose only purpose is to install, launch or open another app or a website. Google might have some clean-up of its own to do, as the Chrome Remote Desktop add-on does only one thing, open this Google website
- Developers from trying to game the placement of add-ons in the e-market by, for instance, inflating installation counts or reviewing their own wares
- Add-ons that use notifications to deliver spam, ads or unwanted messages
Google has long worked on ways to get a handle on Chrome's extension library, but those have usually focused on making the Web Store the sole source, such as this move seven years ago and this one from 2018, or when it cited security reasons for why it had to have the ability to disable already-installed extensions en masse.
Having concentrated add-ons in the Web Store and more importantly, crushed Chrome's competition, Google faces too much of, if not a good thing, then a thing: Soares and Ackerman boasted that the Chrome Web Store housed more than 200,000 add-ons.
Apparently, not all deserve to be there. "After [August 27], extensions that violate the updated policy may be taken down and disabled," Soares and Ackerman said, threatening not only to yank violators from the mart but also switch off in copies of Chrome.
For more information about the new anti-spam rules, developers can look to this Google-made FAQ.