Recently, Google radically changed the Chrome Webstore. All the extensions were taken out of the Webstore, leaving only the apps to be featured in the ‘Most Popular’ and the ‘Trending’ section. Main reason according to Google’s Developer Advocate Joe Marini, is that users have difficulties recognizing the differences between apps and extensions. Therefore, the extensions are relocated to the bottom of the webstore, and are also taken out of the default search.
Now Google does have a point, users do not see the difference between an extension and an app, and might end up installing a crappy extension that has access to all their private browsing data. This clearly compromises the user experience. However, taking all the extensions out of the ‘regular’ webstore is definitely not the way to go.
1. Why develop extensions anymore?
Popular extensions as Adblock Plus, are now hidden in the Webstore. For regular mainstream users, it is virtually impossible to locate such extensions. Since it is so hard for users to download and install extensions, this takes away the incentive for developers to develop great extensions to improve the browsing experience. It will become too much of a challenge of keyword optimization for in-line installation purposes, instead of creating great solutions that are easily accessible. The negative impact on the impressions and installations of extension confirm this. One extension developer included a graph from his extensions, showing a decline of 70% in impressions and almost a drop of 30% in installs after the changes in the Webstore.
2. Compromise of Chrome user experience
By hiding extensions, users have more difficulty locating browser-improving solutions. This means that fewer users will optimize and customize their browser with powerful tools such as Adblock Plus or Turn Off The Lights. There is a large group of potentially interested users that ‘spontaneously’ installed an extension, by seeing it ranking in the top 10 of the Webstore. This group will not be able find any extensions in the current state of the Chrome Webstore. Hence, the overall user satisfaction will decrease.
Some might argue this is a far-fetched argument, however, the recent changes could suggest that Google started to actively target adblockers. It is no secret that adblockers such as Adblock Plus were amongst the most popular extensions in the Webstore. The growth of adblockers in 2012 has been tremendous. In January 2012, a little over 5.5 million users had an adblocker installed; in december 2012 this number grew to over 18.8 million users. One can understand that this has serious implications for the ad revenue of Google. Trying to work against adblockers would be a bad development, since it is the most popular extension on Firefox, Opera and Google. Limiting the availability would potentially affect the browsing experience of many users.