Google Chrome Is Giving the Boot to Old-School NPAPI Extensions

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 22, 2013

As we've reported, Google is introducing big changes in its Chrome browser, especially when it comes to how the browser handles extensions. If you've regularly used either or both of the most popular open source Internet browsers--Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox--then you're probably familiar with the performance and security problems that some extensions for them can cause.

In September, Google decreed that the longstanding Netscape Plug-in API (NPAPI), which extensions have worked with for many years, is the source of many of the problems. And, Google decreed that extensions in the Chrome Web Store would be phasing out NPAPI support. Chrome version 32 has just entered the beta channel, and it blocks almost all NPAPI-based extensions, making good on Google's plans.

In late September, The Chromium Blog laid out the problems with NPAPI-based extensions:

"Today’s browsers are speedier, safer, and more capable than their ancestors. Meanwhile, NPAPI’s 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity. Because of this, Chrome will be phasing out NPAPI support over the coming year."

"Starting in January 2014, Chrome will block webpage-instantiated NPAPI plug-ins by default on the Stable channel. To avoid disruption to users, we will temporarily whitelist the most popular NPAPI plug-ins that are not already blocked for security reasons."

Those whitelisted plug-ins include Silverlight, Unity and Java.

Google's goal is eventually to jettison all NPAPI-based extensions, and the company continues to move significant parts of the Chrome ecosystem toward the Chrome Web Store, where it can exert control. These moves are going to make some extension developers unhappy, but will probably result in better raw browser performance over time.