Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.
Earlier this week, Google launched browser extensions for Chrome for Windows and Linux users, but not for the newly released Mac version of Chrome. That may all change very soon, however, according to TechCrunch, as the search giant hopes to bring extensions to the Chrome for Mac developer channel by the end of the week. Beta users can reportedly expect to see extension capability by early 2010.
Similar to Firefox add-ons, Chrome extensions are small widgets that sit on your toolbar and extend the functionality of your browser. There are hundreds of extensions currently available for Chrome, including a Gmail notifier, ad blocker, Google Wave notifier, ChromeMilk (Remember the Milk widget), and Chromed Bird (the Chrome equivalent of Echofon, aka TwitterFox).
Extensions and more available now
If you can’t wait until early next year to start trying out Chrome extensions, you can sign up for the developer version of Chrome for Mac. (You will have to reinstall the browser.) Or, you can grab the latest build of Chromium, the open source version of the Chrome browser. Google has been turning extensions on and off in Chromium, but in my tests Chromium build number 34243 released on 10-Dec-2009 03:22 was able to run extensions.
As an added bonus, this build of Chromium also has bookmark syncing, which is currently unavailable in Chrome for Mac beta. However, Chromium for Mac still lacks a complete in-browser bookmark manager.
But before you download Chromium, you should keep in mind it’s a test versions of what will become Chrome for Mac beta. That means your Chromium browsing experience may be a little buggy, unstable, or possibly unsafe. That may sound alarmist, but just remember that using early versions of any software always comes with risks.
Extensions and speed
Although extensions allow you to do more with your browser, there is a concern that these mini-applications could slow down your browsing experience. Slower speeds have always been a concern when using Firefox’s ever-expanding library of browser add-ons, and it remains to be seen how extensions will affect Chrome. I haven’t been using Chrome extensions long enough to say whether they cripple the browser, but so far in my tests using four extensions on Chromium, I haven’t noticed any changes in browsing speed.
There are a wide range of Chrome extensions currently available, and more are coming every day. One interesting extension that may be coming in the future is a browser version of Google Goggles, the newly released mobile search feature, CNET reports. Goggles allows Android smartphone users to snap a photo and use that image as a search term instead of entering text-based search queries. This extension is still a long way from reality, but you can read about early plans for Google Goggles for Chrome on this Google Groups page.