The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

The four giants formed the WECG Alliance to try to “save” browser plug-ins.

To say who is most lost when the mobile Internet is booming, there is no doubt that the browser is definitely one of them. After all, when everyone is accustomed to using island-like apps, previously used as the core of users to connect to the Internet world, browsers also lost their dazzling light in the mobile Internet era. Of course, the PC is still a very important window, and billions of users access the Internet through browsers every day.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

In order to keep the browser alive in the mobile Internet era, Apple, Google , Mozilla and Microsoft formed the WECG Alliance (WebExtensions Community Group) under the impetus of the World Wide Web Consortium and decided to develop a new general standard framework for web page extensions. It is reported that the alliance will simplify the development process of extended functions, introduce common models, functions, APIs and permission cores, and develop a common architecture that can improve performance, security, and prevent abuse.

Apple, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft are under the banner of Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Edge, the four most famous browsers in the world. Their combination can undoubtedly shape the industry standard in the browser field to some extent. The purpose of the WECG Alliance is to prosper the browser ecology and allow more developers to develop the same extensions/plug-ins for different browsers under a unified architecture.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

Plug-in refers to a component that extends the kernel function by calling the Webkit kernel NPAPI. It works at the kernel level. In theory, it can be developed in any language that generates a local binary program represented by C/C++. Among them, the most typical example is the Flash player, which has already made many users unbearable. Extension refers to a component that extends browser functions by calling the Chrome API provided by Chrome. It works at the browser level and is developed using HTML+Javascript. For example, the well-known anti-adware plug-in Adblock plus is one of them. paragraph.

In fact, browser extensions are just like small programs in WeChat. After the addition of third-party developers, colorful extensions can make the browser’s functions more diversified and provide users with a better online experience. With the support of plug-ins, users can realize many functions, such as removing advertisements, reading mode, automatic agency, collection management, and so on.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

However, despite the outstanding effects of browser plug-ins, the fact is that the browser ecology has shown a declining trend in recent years. Take Google Chrome, which has already occupied a monopoly, as an example. According to a survey released in the summer of 2019 by ExtensionMonitor, which focuses on preventing browser extensions from leaking data, it found that out of all its 188620 extensions, only 13 have been installed. Breaking through 10 million times, 87% of the extensions were installed less than 1,000 times, and the paid extension IE Tab (which calls the IE kernel in Chrome) was installed 4.1 million times, accounting for 31.5% of all paid extension installations.

The final result is that Google announced the disabling of Chrome paid projects in September 2020, and in February this year, the Chrome Web Store payment system was discontinued. As the “big brother” Chrome is so difficult, let alone other browsers. The reason for this problem is that, in addition to the fact that users do not have too many extension plug-ins, after all, users usually install the ad filtering plug-in Adblock series, translation plug-in Google Translate, password management plug-in LastPass, price comparison plug-in Avast SafePrice, and In addition to the memory usage of Chrome, The Great Suspender will not install plug-ins for games, entertainment or more tools.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

In addition to the fact that user needs are not so strong, what is more deadly is the different kernels used by different browsers, which also leads to the difficulty of developers’ development at all. Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and many domestic shell browsers use the Chromium kernel, Apple Safari is Webkit, Firefox is Gecko, and Microsoft’s abandoned IE uses Trident. Different kernels represent completely different technical routes. If a developer wants to develop his own plug-in on a mainstream browser, he needs to be familiar with the different rules of different platforms, which makes the cost of learning very high.

How to guide the needs of consumers depends on the developers, but the different technology stacks between different platforms have caused the loss of developers, which obviously also has an impact on the overall market environment of the browser, so the WECG alliance is to solve this problem. According to the work charter and related work details published by the WECG Alliance on GitHub, its current goal is a common architecture, but each browser will still work independently with its own strategy at the same time, so each company can still have its own technology, review and Editing strategies, and the extended functions created by this architecture will be available on these four different browsers at the same time.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

Imagine that if developers use a set of development tools, they can make extensions that will be launched on Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Edge at the same time, so that their products have the opportunity to face more consumers, especially when Apple just announced the extension. When the plug-in is brought to Safari on iOS and iPadOS, this will undoubtedly be an inspiration to developers. The previous failure of Windows 10 Mobile has actually told the industry that it is impossible to succeed in an ecosystem without developer support, and staying with developers is the foundation of everything.

The four major browser giants work together to bridge the gap between extensions

In fact, to some extent, the emergence of WECG is a compromise choice between Apple and Google when promoting PWA (Progressive Web Application) is unfavorable. Since the attempt to achieve the full performance of the app on the web has not been recognized by the market, choosing to stick to the existing position and let the browser extension ecology still exist under the impact of the APP, perhaps it is the top priority of Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge After all, the browser is an extremely important traffic entry in any case.

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