Google’s Chrome browser is closing the feature gap with Firefox by adding some early support for browser extensions. While savvy users have been able to run Greasemonkey scripts in Chrome for some time, recent developer builds include some new APIs for genuine extensions.
The latest developer channel releases of Chrome offer improved APIs and tools for developers who’d like to start building Chrome add-ons. So far there are two useful offerings from Google, an extension that adds your Gmail Inbox message count to the bottom of your browser window, and an extension that adds a one-click checkbox for subscribing to a website’s RSS or Atom feed in Google Reader.
While both extensions are understandably Google-centric, the APIs themselves offer quite a few new features and we suspect it won’t be long before outside developers start doing interesting things with them. Naturally it will probably be some time before Chrome enjoys an extensive add-on ecosystem like Firefox, but clearly extensions are a priority for Chrome.
There are still two awkward steps necessary before you can install the extensions. First, you’ll need make sure you’re receiving updates from Chrome’s developer channel. If you haven’t already, download the Chrome Channel Changer and switch channels to “developer.” Then, you’ll need to launch Chrome from the command line adding the
--enable-extensions flag to the end of the application path.
The Chrome team is also making progress with the Mac version of the browser. If you tested the very early Mac builds that appeared several months ago, there’s some good news in the new releases: Chrome for Mac has come along way since then.
Of course, while the PC version is solid, I still wouldn’t recommend the Mac version for everyday use. But if you want a glimpse of what’s in store for Chrome on the Mac, you can grab the latest developer snapshot from the Chromium website.