Why bad press makes Chrome a better browser

Chrome’s security team is everyone.
Chrome’s security team is everyone.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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Google’s Chrome browser has been hit again by extensions that inject ads into search results.

Similar to last week’s story, these extensions started out as wholesome, honest productivity helpers. But then they were sold to third parties who used the extension’s good name and existing user base to add hidden “features” that replace search results with sponsored links. The news has more people questioning whether Google should better enforce its rules for browser extensions.

Chrome’s security team maintains a comprehensive set of rules for its developers, but prefers that the bulk of policing happen through user reviews. Top-down oversight, they believe, would stifle creativity and scare away talented developers. Its policies need to be strict enough to keep out the riffraff, loose enough not to put artificial limits on good ideas, but effective enough not to scare away users.

In the end, the recent bad press could actually be good for Google. Chrome is still the world’s top desktop browser, and this news hasn’t stalled its growth. Stories about hijacked adware are at worst embarrassing, and they might chase a few skittish users away, but the stories pay Chrome back with a more educated (and suspicious) community of users.

Adware is annoying, but there is still lurking danger that someone will use one of these ninja updates for more malicious ends. Judging from the quick rule update after last week’s news, Google looks like its taking a more proactive role in enforcement, but it is still a long way from Apple’s in-house regulatory commission, or even Firefox’s less-rigorous editorial review.