Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are teaming up to develop browser extensions. The tech behemoths have initiated a community group called WECG (WebExtensions Community Group) as part of this effort.
Developing and maintaining browser extensions can be a backbreaking task. This is particularly harder for extensions that are designed to support more than just one browser.
Several browsers such as Opera, Firefox, and Edge have based their extensions APIs on Chrome’s. However, each browser integrates their own changes, and do not necessarily implement Google’s new APIs.
Leading browser vendors from WebExtensions Community Group
The W3C announced the launch of the W3C Community and Business Groups in a blog post on June 4. The W3C pointed out Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have collaborated to initiate the community group.
Moreover, the group encouraged other interested parties, browser makers, and extension developers to be a part of the effort. The WECG said it is exciting to see how interested parties can come together to develop a common browser extension platform.
— W3C (@w3c) June 4, 2021
It is worth noting that multiple browsers have recently adopted a widely compatible model as far as extensions are concerned. The community group will be focusing on achieving some specific goals.
The community group’s goal
The goal of the community involves aligning on a common vision for browser extensions and pave the way for standardization. Aside from that, the group will try to simplify the process of extension development.
To achieve that, the group will establish a common core of functionality APIs, as well as permissions. Moreover, the standardization process will follow a pattern similar to the development of web standards, which usually works well.
However, the standardization process will not force browsers to ignore exclusive functionality or APIs. Browser vendors will continue to operate their extension store independently like before. They will continue using their editorial policies and technical, review, the post said.
Chrome’s extension API has been referred to as WebExtensions over the past few years. While Firefox moved to the API in 2017, Opera began using it after switching to a Chromium base in 2013.
The term WebExtensions was largely coined by Mozilla. Last year, even Safari added support for it.
The permissions and available APIs significantly fluctuate across different browsers. Thus, the standardization process will be a piece of good news for developers. Chromium-based browsers such as the Microsoft Edge and Vivaldi largely adopt Chrome’s implementation with barely any modifications.