Google's Plug-In Strategy for Chrome

Those who follow this blog know that I'm a big fan of Google's Chrome Web browser. Lightweight and fast, Chrome epitomizes the kind of "less is more" philosophy that has always appealed to my inner geek. However, I, like many Chrome enthusiasts, lament the lack of an established framework for implementing the myriad plug-ins and extensions that made IE bearable and Firefox one of the hottest Web development platforms going.

So, I was understandably pleased to hear that Google is finally beginning to flesh out its plug-ins strategy for Chrome. In a document published to the Chromium developer site, Google outlined its design goals and methodologies for developing a comprehensive extensions framework for the Chrome browser platform. At first glance, they seem to be taking the right steps to ensure success, with an emphasis on isolation and control over when, where, and how a plug-in will interact with the browser process and its host operating system.

Of course, it's still very early in the process –- the document specifies no timelines or target dates. However, the fact that Google has put the document out there, and that they put as much thought into it as my first glance tells me they did, is itself quite encouraging. And, of course, I can't help but start thinking about which of my favorite browser tools/extensions I'm most looking forward to having available under Chrome:

Top of my list is seamless integration with Free Download Manager. As a person living in a bandwidth-challenged region (the Indian Ocean has many things, but excess bandwidth isn't one of them), I live and die by my ability to maximize what little throughput I can muster (usually around 512Kbps). Chrome's built-in download manager is anemic (inconsistent resume behavior and no BitTorrent support), so the ability to hand requests off to FDM would be a welcome addition.

Another thing I miss from IE/Firefox is a bookmarks "panel." I became a fan of the bookmarks/favorites panel back during the early days of IE 4/5, and I've never felt comfortable browsing without that expandable tree view running alongside the content. I'm especially fond of the "open in new tab" button Microsoft added next to each entry when they released IE7 . Nothing could be easier than scrolling down this list and firing off each desired target site into its own background tab –- all with a single click.

Note: I've been able to replicate this ease of access somewhat by using the middle mouse button on my Precision M6400 (i.e. click once to open in a new tab, click again to close the tab). However, it would be oh-so-much more convenient to do this from a dedicated bookmarks panel (drop-down menus are so 1990's). Seems like an obvious candidate for some plug-in love.

Also useful would be integration with Skype. Though I don't make extensive use of the "call to:" type links on Skype-aware Web pages, when I do use the feature it has always proven to be a real time saver. Since I can't expect Google to support this functionality directly (its own Talk platform is a competitor), a plug-in architecture would hopefully inspire some creative third parties to fill this void.

Stuff I haven't thought of yet. I'm not a big picture uploader, and I don't make my own viral media productions, so various media library managing toolbar thingies are'’t really my, well, thing. I guess I'm just eager to see what those crazy hippies in the open source community come up with once they have a chance to tap into all that Chromium goodness.

So, what's your take on Google's plug-in plans? Got any must-have extensions that keep you tied to Firefox or (gasp!) Internet Explorer? Maybe now would be a good time to start that running "wish list" so that the peace and love crowd doesn't run out of ideas before they even get started.

And for all you Randall haters out there who are no doubt disappointed to see me writing about something unrelated to Windows 7, here's your "red meat" quote of the day so you have something write in about (and so I can justify misappropriating the corresponding meta tags for the search engines):

Microsoft sucks! Vista sucks! Windows 7 is going to suck!

There. Are you happy now?

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