Browser manufacturers want to standardize web extensions

Now that Apple’s Safari also uses web extensions, the add-on technology is to be jointly developed by all browser manufacturers. The major browser manufacturers, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, want to work together on the so-called web extensions with which browsers can be expanded. To this end, those involved have initiated a corresponding working group within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

A similar idea existed a few years ago, but its initiative did not succeed in the long term. This may also have been due to the technology for browser extensions that were still too different at the time. With the change from Apple’s Safari to the so-called web extensions, which was announced last year, the browsers Chrome, Edge Firefox and Safari now use largely similar or even the same interfaces.

The declared aim of the working group is to facilitate the creation of browser extensions. This is to be achieved “through the specification of a consistent model and a common core of functions, APIs and authorizations”. An architecture model is also to be developed for the extensions that are even more secure and protect against misuse.

On the other hand, there is no explicit plan to standardize every single aspect of the web extension platform or existing implementations. The individual browsers should be able to implement their own ideas. This procedure is already being implemented in practice, which can be seen, for example, in the so-called Manifest v3. The Firefox team wants to adopt this new set of rules for web extensions from the Chrome browser in principle. However, the manufacturer Mozilla is not implementing the so-called Declarative Net Request (DNR) without replacement and will continue to offer the web request API in parallel.

The procedure for signing and distributing the browser extensions will also not be uniformly regulated in the future. The manufacturers want to continue to operate their add-on stores completely independently of one another and also enforce their own rules here.

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