On August 19th, Google introduced “two significant changes in the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery: a developer signup fee and a domain verification system.” As announced on The Chromium Blog, Google implemented these changes for security reasons, to “create better safeguards against fraudulent extensions in the gallery and limit the activity of malicious developer accounts.”
Arguably, the more significant of the two changes is the $5 developer signup fee. (Note: Any developers who signed up before 11:00 AM PST on August 19th are exempt.) Five dollars isn’t exorbitant, especially when compared to the $25 registration fee for developers on Google’s Android Market or the $99 annual fee for Apple’s iPhone Developer Program, but the principle may rankle more than the financial burden for many open-source true believers.
Of course, the Chrome browser will still allow you to install extensions downloaded from anywhere on the web, but users are more likely to find–and trust–extensions that come from Google’s “official” library. As noted by TechCrunch, it’s unlikely that this is a revenue-based decision:
Google says they now have over 6,000 extensions in their gallery. And they’re downloaded some 10 million times a month by Chrome users. By the 6,000 metric, Google would have made a whopping $30,000 if they had they extension fee in place from the beginning — so clearly this isn’t about the money.
It’s unclear whether a small fee like this and simple domain verification will do much to stop fraudulent or malicious extensions from appearing in the Chrome Extensions Gallery, but since Chrome extensions can affect a user’s entire web browsing experience, any safeguards should be a net positive. In the end, requiring these two checks will at least provide tangible infractions which could speed up the process of suspending or terminating malicious user accounts.