Google Changes Chrome Web Store Policy To Stop Spam

Chrome Web Store Extensions AH 2019
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Google is instituting new changes to its Chrome Web Store policies in a bid to remove spam from the browser's dedicated extension market. Announced via the official Google Chromium Blog, the change won't take immediate effect. But it will put a tighter leash on what, exactly, developers are allowed to publish on the store.

To begin with, Google says that with the change in place, neither developers or their affiliates will be able to publish duplicate extensions. More succinctly, multiple extensions from those sources that either offer duplicate functions or experiences will be allowed. That means that developers and affiliates can't garner more users by publishing multiple extensions that effectively do the same thing.

Those extensions also can't have any "misleading, improperly formatted, non-descriptive, irrelevant, excessive, or inappropriate metadata." That's a fairly extensive list. But that applies unilaterally across the extension's description, developer name, title, screenshots, icons, and promotional images. Each app should, instead, be placed with a "clear and well-written description."

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More abusive behaviors are prohibited too, with the updated policy. For starters, extensions cannot be published that just serve as an installation or launch platform for other services. That includes any other app, theme, webpage, or extension.

Testimonials that aren't directly attributed or that are anonymous aren't allowed anymore either. And manipulation of ratings, reviews, install counts, whether directly or by incentivized downloads, reviews, and ratings, aren't allowed.

Finally, abusive extensions that send notifications by sending spam, ads, promotions, phishing attempts, or unwanted messages aren't allowed either. Extensions can't send messages on behalf of the user anymore either. That's unless the extension lets the user confirm the content and intended recipients.

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Spam prevention is just one of many recent Web Store changes

Google is no stranger to changing its Chrome Web Store policies. Especially where things like spam, privacy, data, or users' finances are concerned. This is just the latest in a string of changes incorporated over the past several years. The obvious goal across those has been to ensure users have control and that they aren't being disrupted while browsing. Transparency, as with the latest changes, has often been at the center of that.

In fact, Google has also proven it isn't averse to simply shutting down entire subsets of functionality when compliance isn't found. One recent example of that is its decision to suspend paid extensions near the beginning of the year. Google did that to prevent any additional fraudulent transactions after an uptick in those was noted, until a solution could be found.

It's not unlikely that a number of extensions are going to stop working when this latest change goes into effect as well.

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When will this be fully in effect?

Google certainly isn't taking spam lightly. But it is giving developers plenty of time to comply with its new spam policies for the Chrome Web Store. Once the policy is fully enacted, extensions found to be in violation of the policy will be not just taken down. They'll be disabled by default too. But that's how Google has been handling violations in Chrome for quite some time now so that should come as no surprise.

As to an exact timeline, the search giant is giving developers until August 27 of this year to bring their Web Store submissions into compliance.