Coming Soon To Chrome: Extensions That Can Alter Your Browsing History

Simply put: Google Chrome is amazing. Ever since it was finally released for the Mac late last year, I’ve been blown away by its big things (speed) and little things (search box that is also the URL box). But the true power of Chrome may lie in what third-party developers are able to do with it. This is what helped Firefox rip market share away from Internet Explorer over the past several years. Chrome is still young, but already making impressive gains in share each month as well. And the browser could be about to get even better.

In a post today on the Chromium Blog, software engineer Erik Kay notes the existence of experimental APIs for Chrome. Basically, these are new APIs that aren’t yet ready for prime time development, but are available on the dev builds of Chrome for developers to play with right now. The first two experimental APIs available sound very interesting. One, “experimental processes,” allows third party developers to access Chrome’s process model. This allows for extensions that could monitor CPU processes for individual tabs, for example. But the other is potentially more interesting. “Experimental history” is described as follows:

The history API lets you query and modify the user’s browsing history. When it’s finalized, we’ll also allow you to replace the history page with your own, just like you can replace the new tab page today.

While the initial reaction may be to freak out about an extension with such power, Google has so far been very good about keep malicious extensions out of the Chrome Extensions Gallery. While it is mostly open, Google does monitor extensions that attempt to access files on your computer, for example.

Still, having a browser API that an extension could use to read your history sounds a bit scary. But imagine some of the cool things it could do too, such as suggest better web pages for you to browse. Or, you could maybe even create a browser-based game that makes you go through this altered history to look for clues on something (seems natural for a movie promotion, or the like).

And remember, these are just the first two experimental APIs. The power lies in what else the Chromium team opens up to be modified. Already, Chrome Extensions have stuck it to Firefox ones by being arguably easier to create, and inarguably easier to get to users quickly. Now, it appears that Chrome Extensions are about to get even more powerful. And that should ultimately be good for both web developers and users.

[image: Columbia TriStar]