Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are working together on browser extensions
Browser extensions can be difficult to develop and maintain, especially for extensions that want to support more than one browser. Firefox, Edge, Opera, and others have based their extension APIs on Chrome’s, but each browser adds their own changes and don’t always implement Google’s new APIs. Thankfully, all the major browser vendors have now agreed to form the WebExtensions Community Group, which aims to standardize APIs and functionality across all browsers.
“We’re excited to announce the launch of the WebExtensions Community Group (WECG),” the W3C announced in a blog post today. “Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla are initiating this community group, and we welcome other browser makers, extension developers, and interested parties to join this effort!”
The group is aiming for extension development to become easier, by establishing a common core of functionality, APIs, and permissions. The standardization process will follow the same pattern as the development of web standards (which generally works well), but it won’t force browsers to disregard exclusive functionality or APIs. “Each browser vendor will continue to operate their extension store fully independently, with their own technical, review, and editorial policies,” the post said.
— W3C (@w3c) June 4, 2021
WebExtensions has been used as a general term for Chrome’s extension API over the past few years. Opera adopted it when the browser switched to a Chromium base in 2013, Firefox moved to the API in 2017 (Mozilla largely coined the term ‘WebExtensions’), and Safari added support for it last year. However, the permissions and available APIs vary significantly across different browsers, so the standardization process will be great news for developers. Chromium-based browsers, like Vivaldi and the new Microsoft Edge, largely follow Chrome’s implementation with few (if any) modifications.
The WebExtensions Community Group Charter can be viewed here.