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Google is making a major change to one of the best Chrome features

Published Sep 23rd, 2020 6:06PM EDT
Google Chrome
Image: Syda Productions/Adobe

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  • Google announced that the Chrome browser will shut down support for paid extensions, advising developers to make appropriate changes as the feature is deprecated.
  • Google explained that the web has evolved dramatically since the introduction of the Chrome Web Store, and developers have other tools at their disposal to monetize content.
  • The deprecation of the extension payments feature should also bolster the security of Chrome, preventing spammy extensions and scams from harming users.

Google’s Chrome internet browser may be a resource hog that kills laptop batteries, but it’s still the most popular browser in the world. One of the things that make it so popular is the support for extensions that can significantly improve one’s browsing experience. That’s an area where Apple’s Safari lags behind, and one reason I’ve stayed with Chrome on the MacBook for years.

But Google plans a significant change for Chrome shortly — well, another major change — that will impact Chrome extension developers directly. Google is now shutting down paid Chrome extensions, telling developers that they will have to find a new way to charge their customers.

Google put up a support page that addresses the change and the timeline for the update. The Chrome Web Store Payments deprecation will not happen instantly, so developers have time to make the appropriate changes. But all payments will be disabled by February 1st, 2021. Here’s what will happen once we reach that deadline:

Your existing items and in-app purchases can no longer charge money with Chrome Web Store payments. You can still query license information for previously paid purchases and subscriptions. (The licensing API will accurately reflect the status of active subscriptions, but these subscriptions won’t auto-renew.)

Developers who want to charge money for new extensions will not be able to do so and will have to find other ways of monetizing their Chrome apps.

Google isn’t shutting the door to monetization completely, it’s just the Chrome Web Store Payments system that’s shutting down, and Google. Developers will have to migrate to a different payment processor, and they’ll have to migrate license tracking as well. This may sound like a task for developers only, but Google does not that users might need to “help:”

There is no way to bulk export your existing user licenses, so you need to have your users help with this part of the migration.

In other words, if you’re paying for any Chrome extension, you should make sure you have your license ready when the time comes to transition to something else, especially if you’re on some subscription plan.

Google explains that the web “has come a long way” since the Chrome Web Store was launched, and that’s why things are changing. “In the years since, the ecosystem has grown, and developers now have many payment-handling options available to them,” Google says.

One other reason to remove Chrome Web Store payment support concerns user security. Google confirmed earlier this year an uptick in the number of fraudulent transactions that involved Chrome extensions, having temporarily disabled publishing paid items in late January.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.