WebExtensions Community Group formed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla

Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla formed the WebExtensions Community Group to specify a model, permissions, and a common core of APIs for web browser extensions. The newly founded group is part of the World Wide Web Consortiums (W3C) and inviting "other browser makers, extension developers, and interested parties to join this effort".

The core goal of the group is to create future standards for WebExtensions to make it "easier for extension developers to enhance end user experience, while moving them towards APIs that improve performance and prevent abuse".

The group plans to use the existing extensions model and APIs of the browsers Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge as a foundation to work on a specification that brings current implementations "into closer alignment" and to "chart a course for future evolution".

webextensions community group

Browser makers are free to develop their unique additions to the common ground, e.g. by creating APIs that are unique to the browser.

The current WebExtensions system, that is used by browsers of the founding members of the group, has lots of resemblance with the goal of the group. All four browsers support WebExtensions, after Apple announced last year that its Safari browser would switch to the extensions system as well. Mozilla specifically has created Firefox-specific APIs that extensions for the browser may utilize. These extensions are not supported in other browsers then. The controversial Manifest V3 for extensions will also not be implemented fully by all browsers who support extensions.

As far as compatibility is concerned, the group strives to "maintain and improve compatibility with popular existing extensions and extension APIs" to ensure that developers can release their extensions for different browsers without having to rewrite them completely.

The scope of the work is revealed on the project's GitHub page:

  • An extensions model—the basic architecture of extensions and how the different pieces interrelate. This definition will include a description of the trust model, the differing trust between browsers and extensions and between extensions and web pages.
  • A permissions model—what sorts of powerful features extensions may access, and how extensions may request user consent to access them.
  • WebExtensions APIs—the interface extensions are built on.
  • A packaging format, including a manifest format and how extensions are localized.
  • Native Messaging—the API surface extensions use to exchange messages with native applications running on the host system.

The group won't define deployment mechanisms, including methods for signing extensions, and WebDriver integration.

Closing Words

From the sounds of it, it looks as if the group plans to use the current WebExtensions system as the fundament for creating a common grounds version of WebExtensions that all of the four major browsers will support in the future.

Now you: what is your take on the development?

WebExtensions Community Group formed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla
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WebExtensions Community Group formed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla formed the WebExtensions Community Group to specify a model, permissions, and a common core of APIs for web browser extensions.
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  1. Zelanium said on June 7, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    Asking Apple, Google and Microsoft to produce anything that respects privacy and is truly based on openness is a truly baffling idea.

    That said, I don’t really see the point. I never had trouble to find either Chrome-based or Firefox extensions for my need. If it helps to liberate the users of Chromium-based browsers from Google’s censored store, it’s a good thing. But if it leads to a corruption of addons like uBlock it’s a disaster. Time will tell.

  2. Yuliya said on June 7, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I’m sure this will turn out well. My advice is quit relying on browser extensions for anything. Find alternatives, the sooner the better. These muppets in charge will ruin the model, by the looks of it sooner rather than later.

  3. 83dk said on June 7, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    Microsoft uses google’s blink engine, firefox stays afloat with google’s money, apple’s safari is too insignificant to go against the grain. In practice it’s just google’s club.

    1. ChromeFan said on June 7, 2021 at 3:08 pm

      It’s open source, anyone can contribute.

  4. Juraj M. said on June 7, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    As extension developer I’m super happy about this!

    There is like 0 new cross-browser API being added to the web-extension ecosystem for the past many years!
    All additions are browser specific :(

    …and then there is Safari :D, I can’t express the pain I had to go through with Safari…

  5. Herman Cost said on June 7, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Why would Mozilla be part of this group? Its not like the other three would listen to anything they had to say. Its also clear that Mozilla will follow anything that Google does whether they are in the group or not. My guess is that Google wanted them there because of their antitrust concerns (as well as knowing that Mozilla wll do as they are told, anyway)

  6. ExFirefoxEmployee said on June 7, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Why is Firefox there? 3% market share, and falling. Firefox has no place there.

  7. ChromeFan said on June 7, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    I am happy to see Google there, never forget they have revolutionised the browser space with Google Chrome, and are the pioneers of the free web.

    Long live Chrome!

    1. Anonymous said on June 7, 2021 at 4:00 pm

      this is sarcasm right?

  8. Iron Heart said on June 7, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Anyone still believing that Mozilla is going to keep the webRequest API after this? Manifest V3 incoming, hehe. Still laughing at the idea of built-in adblockers (e.g. Brave, Bromite)!?

    1. Anonymous said on June 7, 2021 at 4:02 pm


    2. Unknown person said on June 7, 2021 at 7:03 pm

      Oh hey, Iron Heart the idiot is back. And still support Chrome’s a-hole decision it seems

  9. Mystique said on June 7, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    Once upon a time Mozilla was the rebel that stood against the then landscape of browsers and was driven by community values fast forward to today it is an absolute shell of it once was.

    Chrome was and is just the generations IE. I don’t credit it with much to be honest. It does not align with community values. Further proof as to how Chrome is this generations IE is by virtue of the power it now holds. Remember when IE was the be all, end all back then…yeah…
    Hello Chrome!

    Mozilla is too far gone, the old guard is gone and has been replaced by puppets…
    A revolution is needed.

    Cross platform isn’t gonna be a happy ending for anyone other than Google which will happily force everyone to accept its terms and system under the guise of cross platform compatibility. Honestly its disgusting.
    Maybe this is the push that is need for a brand new browser to be born from the ashes and give everyone the finger and take back the internet and put it back into the hands of the community where it belongs.

    I can absolutely see Manifest v3 coming and worse regardless but this will just expedite the process.

    Browsers like Brave, vivaldi, palemoon, waterfox, otter etc are just small fries really and until they completely become independent in every single way they won’t be much of a real browser. I am sorry if people find that statement offensive but those are the absolute facts and I am one that uses such browsers. Don’t get me wrong, they are great browsers but how much are they shackled to their dark lord masters pulling the strings on a higher level. Pale Moon Probably has less ties back than the others but even then there seems to be a few growing pains and struggles there but I digress. Some of you know what I mean even if you are in denial, deep down you now it.

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