File Under: Browsers

Google Chrome Working on Extension Syncing Feature

Google Chrome appears to be gearing up for another web-browser first — syncing extensions among your various Chrome installations. Chrome already syncs bookmarks, preferences and themes. Adding extensions makes for a universal browsing experience no matter what computer you happen to pick up.

The feature isn’t part of Chrome just yet. In fact, Google hasn’t even mentioned it. But the eagle-eyed folks over at Download Squad noticed that someone recently checked in some extension-syncing code into the Chromium project.

Chromium is the open source project that Google’s Chrome is based on. We’ve been using Chromium nightlies for some time now, but sadly, testing last night’s build did not reveal any extension-syncing. (Download Squad also failed to get extension-sync working.)

So, while Chromium’s extension-syncing is thus far embryonic, it is nevertheless a work in progress. This means Chrome will likely beat Firefox Sync to incorporating extension-syncing: Despite being at version 1.3, Firefox Sync still does not sync extensions.

Firefox Sync does, however, sync several things Chrome doesn’t, including your browsing history and currently open tabs. And to be fair, Mozilla’s extension system is quite a bit more powerful and complex than what Chrome offers, and that complexity likely makes extension-syncing somewhat more difficult to build.

Browser extensions in Chrome are especially lightweight. Developers can write extensions that alter a web page’s behavior or add buttons or other elements to the browser’s skin. All of the coding is accomplished using simple web standards — HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

By contrast, traditional extensions for other browsers are more powerful, but their file sizes are larger. The lightweight approach makes it easier to sync extensions between two installations of a browser quickly.

Mozilla is encouraging developers to experiment with its own lightweight-extensions model for Firefox called Jetpack, which also uses add-ons coded in web standards. Safari 5, released this week, is using a similar HTML-JavaScript–based model.

Although Chrome’s extension-syncing isn’t working at the moment, and there will no doubt be some wrinkles to iron out even once it is, we’re looking forward to seeing it turn up in developer builds, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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