For too long, Google’s Chrome Web Store has been an outdated storefront with abandoned items on its shelves. In 2021, Chrome extensions started moving to the new Manifest 3 (MV3) version. This new format should make downloading extensions less risky for the average consumer. On the other hand, there are legitimate fears that MV3 is hindering developers by limiting their tools. The removal of background pages, changes to how ad blockers work, and other issues bring real downsides to the plugin platform.
But I would like to talk about a major bright spot coming from the Switch: Online store cleaning. At the Chrome Developer Summit (CDS), web developers had the opportunity to chat with the Chrome team about what’s in store for their web platform. In a Discord server created for the Dev Summit, Simeon Vincent (developer advocate for Chrome extensions) spoke about some of the effects the move to MV3 will have.
With the Google Extensions team setting a deadline of January 2023 for the completion of updates to Manifest Version 2 (MV2), we’re sure to see some changes to the store content soon. Since only corporate devices will then be able to run MV2 extensions, I imagine they will no longer be visible on the store in the same way that the apps tab is only visible to Chrome OS devices.
Beyond those resulting from the switch to MV3, other adjustments to the online store are on the horizon. When the Discord user and developer of the playxylo PWA, “carlosj”, asked:
The Chrome Web Store hasn’t received any major updates, and Google Play has started listing PWAs. Will these two converge and what will be their differences if not?
Simeon responded with the comment below:
We cannot yet know what these changes are, but everything is better than what we have now. His post also brought some sad news: the merger of the online store and the play store that many of us would love to see merged, is unlikely to happen anytime soon. This makes sense, as the Web Store has extensions and themes for ALL Chrome desktop users, while the Play Store is only for Chrome OS and Android devices.
Still, the fact that the CWS team is updating the store in any way is exciting. Right now, the Web Store really seems like a formality as opposed to a real app marketplace. While there are “must install” extensions, these seem to be discovered despite the store rather than because of it. All of this comes as the Play Store web app also prepares to perform a visual update. Our own Michael Perrigo wrote an article about this recently, and as a heavy Chromebook user, it’s encouraging.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to do all of our Play Store purchases from the browser-based storefronts, eliminating the need to fight with the intended touchscreen buttons with a mouse. While we never get the Google Superstore, hopefully the upcoming changes improve navigation and discovery on both storefronts. They could use it. What are your thoughts? Does the Web Store need a revamp or should Google just ditch the store and pack everything in the Google Play Store? Leave a comment below and let us know.