We won the battle but not the war.
I got lucky. If I didn’t win the internet attention lottery that day, we may have shutdown and left our users stranded with an unmaintained tool that their daily lives depend on. The fate of web accessibility for thousands of people with disabilities, and our business lie in the hands of a single faceless gatekeeper who made a mistake.
The story may sound familiar. In short: our Chrome Extension was taken down because it supposedly didn't meet policy. After lots of development work, numerous failed resubmissions, and a week delisted from the store without communication – we complained loudly on Reddit. Noticing our post, someone with internal access to the Chrome Webstore reached out to us on Twitter, they said that it was a mistake and apologized. We resubmitted and were restored later that day.
Complaining on the internet should not be a support channel. Developers should not have to rely on the internet attention lottery. The Chrome Webstore has been around 10 years and needs to get its act together. We, at LipSurf, want to use our temporary position of attention privilege to improve the system and help other extension developers.
Although @DotProto says CWS is working to improve internally, it would be foolish for us to stand on the sidelines, just waiting , hoping. The issues are clearly systemic, as cries for help litter the CWS forums, and our Reddit post was full of “me too” stories.
This can and will happen again.
Therefore, we are starting a group today for Chrome Extension developers to work together in check with CWS. It's not a technical support channel, nor a platform to get attention when CWS is unresponsive. It's a place for Chrome Extension developers to rally together and discuss improving the foundation we stand on (it also won't be hosted nor managed by Google).
United, we can have a stronger, common voice to:
- Pressure Google Chrome to allow for 3rd party extension stores.
This would break down the walled garden of extensions, give extension developers a leveler playing field, and lower the risk of getting wiped out on CWS's whim.
2. Pressure CWS to be more fair and communicative with extension publishers.
Canned emails about rejections with only general policy information are “lose-lose” for publishers and CWS alike. Both parties waste time because of all the guesswork involved currently — especially when CWS makes a mistake.
We need to start building our defenses and forging relationships today. If we don’t unite and speak together, we will forever be powerless and at the mercy of our gatekeeper. We also open our forum to CWS staff, and extension advocates like @DotProto. We don’t want to work against each other, after all – a good platform should work with us not against us.
If you are a extension developer, or know any extension developers, please share or start by joining us by filling out the form below. We plan to open the forum once we know that there's enough interest.
What power will we have together?
Building awareness to start. We will rally support from other developers and end users alike. One extreme example could be a coordinated a Chrome Extension blackout date. A less extreme example would be proposing ideas as a group, instead of as individuals to Google Chrome that would improve the experience for extensions (eg. improved permissions).
What about adware, or privacy intruding extensions?
If 3rd party extension stores were possible, they would be free to setup their own barriers – monetary or otherwise. It's very possible for a 3rd party extension store to do a better job than Google at blocking malicious extensions.