Announcement: Experimenting with a new Extensions Menu

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Simeon Vincent

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Mar 30, 2020, 7:52:55 PM3/30/20
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Greetings extensions developers,

The Chrome Extension Platform team recently began experimenting with a new extensions menu to Chrome's main toolbar. We don't normally call attention to experimental features, but I wanted to highlight this one because it changes the end user experience of installing and using extensions. If the experiment goes well, this experience could reach Stable in the next few months.

Extension icon

This experiment adds a new button with a puzzle piece icon to Chrome's UI. Clicking this button opens the extension menu. This button is hidden when the user doesn’t have any extensions installed and enabled. The following two screenshots show this button:

icon.png

In the left-hand example, the extension button is hidden because no extensions are enabled. The right-hand example shows the puzzle piece button that appears in the toolbar when at least one extension is enabled.

Extension menu

Our goal with this new UI is to make it easier for users to see what extensions can access their data. When the user clicks the puzzle piece icon, the extension menu opens and displays a list of all enabled extensions the user has installed. The extension list is grouped by the level of data access the extension has on the currently selected tab.

menu-1.png

Install flow

We've also made a small change to the install flow for extensions. After the user installs an extension, the extension's action button slides out from the puzzle piece and a prompt appears stating that the extension has been added to Chrome:

install-2.png

Once this prompt is dismissed, the action button hides itself again.

Pinning an extension

An extension's action button can be pinned to the toolbar for easy access or unpinned to keep the main UI uncluttered. This behavior is the reverse of what is in the current stable version of Chrome (M80): the user must choose to pin the extension rather than choose to hide it. The following screenshots show this user flow:

pin.png

Opening the extension menu shows a list of extensions; each extension in the list has a pin icon on the right side of the menu. Clicking this icon pins or unpins the extension. Once the extension is pinned, its action button remains in the toolbar.

Main takeaways
  • If your extension's action button is a key component of your experience, consider updating your onboarding flow to encourage users to pin the extension to their toolbars.
  • As users better understand how extensions are accessing their data, they may increasingly limit where extensions can run. Consider using the chrome.permissions methods and callbacks to detect and handle this. Specifically, be prepared for your extension to not have the host permissions you expect.
  • To experiment with these changes yourself, open chrome://flags/#extensions-toolbar-menu and enable the feature. Report any functionality bugs you encounter on crbug.com.

Cheers,

Simeon - @dotproto
Extensions Developer Advocate

May 13, 2020 update: Posted a reply discussing our thinking on the default pinned state change.

Quan Gan

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Mar 30, 2020, 8:47:03 PM3/30/20
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Just tried the experience with the flag turned on. This seems like a major blow to extensions like Gmail Checker (I'm not the developer of Gmail Checker), which uses the browser action icon as its entry point.

Our goal with this new UI is to make it easier for users to see what extensions can access their data.

I understand (and support) Chrome wants to be more transparent and provides more info to help user protect their data, but failed to see why hiding all browser actions is related to this effort. If the problem is cluttered UI, which is unrelated to the goal of this experiment, the functionality is already there, users can hide unwanted icons. If the goal is to differentiate or promote the new puzzle piece icon, then maybe the new icon should be added in a more prominent way.

Users are not forced to install extensions, they install extensions because they want to use them, hiding browser actions just makes this experience much less user friendly.

Simeon Vincent

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Mar 30, 2020, 8:57:05 PM3/30/20
to Quan Gan, Chromium Extensions
Quan,

You can pin extensions to the toolbar as described in the "Pinning an extension" section. The screenshot got scaled down a bit, but the feature is still there.

Cheers,

Simeon - @dotproto
Extensions Developer Advocate

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Quan Gan

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Mar 30, 2020, 9:03:13 PM3/30/20
to Simeon Vincent, Chromium Extensions
Hi Simeon,

I'm aware of that, my concern is the damage to the default experience, not all users will pay attention to the pinning function.

Robert James Gabriel

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Mar 30, 2020, 10:10:03 PM3/30/20
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100% agree. This seems like a huge misstep. I deal with alot of kids and schools with my business. 99% will not pin unless we can do it on install.

Really wish Google followed the Mozilla set up for extensions.
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Adi Bhaskar

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Mar 31, 2020, 11:40:22 AM3/31/20
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The extension button is a good step. A single place for users to see what data access all extensions have on the current page.

The default unpinned browser actions are a big step back. 

As a developer, this will have a direct impact on active extension usage. The 'Install flow dialog' is small, and rarely interacted with. Depending on it to get users to pin an extension is a non-starter. The alternative will be to resort to opening a new tab on install to prompt pinning (and continue to nudge users till they pin or uninstall).

This new behaviour also doesn't sit well with the extension team's push towards using 'active tab' permission. Active tab UX works best when the extension's action button is immediately visible. This change is hiding that action button by default. 

Taken together:
  • Developers may ignore 'active tab' and accept longer review times with all tabs permission: increased security risk for users
  • Or developers may go overboard with nudging users to pin their extensions: bad UX for users
Another setback as a user: we may end up with a lot of 'hidden' extensions. Ones that were once installed, got hidden by default, and forgotten. Sitting in the background, forgotten, idly, doing dunno what.

Please, have a rethink on the 'default unpinned' stance.

Cheers!

Adi

Adi Bhaskar

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Mar 31, 2020, 11:42:16 AM3/31/20
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Another clarification needed: what happens to already installed extensions? Are their action buttons pinned by default, or do users have to pin them again?

Charlie Sheleg

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Mar 31, 2020, 12:42:28 PM3/31/20
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I agree, a "Huge step back" if not multiple huge steps...
I usually only follow comments and updates which are posted on this group but this announcement made me feel so outraged that I just had to express my humble opinion.
It seems like the purpose of the unpinned by default "feature" is to reduce the usage of extensions - very counter-intuitive.
Imagine downloading apps to your phone only to find out it is hidden from you. How does that make sense? Why would I download an app if I had no intention of using it?
Seems like Chrome is standing firm in its decision to kill as many extensions as possible.
The next step of this feature will be sending a notification to the user that he hasn't used so and so extension for a long time and prompting him to delete it.
"If the experiment goes well, this experience could reach Stable in the next few months" a very not subtle way of explaining this feature will find it's way to production no matter what. 
Very disappointing.
I only wish that the Chrome team would finally understand that each decision that they are making can damage people's livelihood and should not be taken lightly, especially in this current age (or should I say "Edge"?) 

Kent Brewster

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Mar 31, 2020, 12:48:56 PM3/31/20
to Simeon Vincent, Chromium Extensions
So ... it sounds like ... we're saying ... at some point in the future ... the only visible clue that our extension has been installed will vanish from browser chrome, to be replaced by a mysterious puzzle-piece icon? And it's on us to somehow alert our users as to what happened and how to undo it?

Looking forward to rewriting this 2014 Firefox article for 2020 Chrome:

https://medium.com/@kentbrew/what-to-do-when-your-toolbar-extension-button-disappears-from-firefox-b1059fc216ba

--Kent

> On Mar 30, 2020, at 4:51 PM, Simeon Vincent <sim...@chromium.org> wrote:
>
> Greetings extensions developers,
>
> The Chrome Extension Platform team recently began experimenting with a new extensions menu to Chrome's main toolbar. We don't normally call attention to experimental features, but I wanted to highlight this one because it changes the end user experience of installing and using extensions. If the experiment goes well, this experience could reach Stable in the next few months.
>
> Extension icon
>
> This experiment adds a new button with a puzzle piece icon to Chrome's UI. Clicking this button opens the extension menu. This button is hidden when the user doesn’t have any extensions installed and enabled. The following two screenshots show this button:
>
> <icon.png>
>
> In the left-hand example, the extension button is hidden because no extensions are enabled. The right-hand example shows the puzzle piece button that appears in the toolbar when at least one extension is enabled.
>
> Extension menu
>
> Our goal with this new UI is to make it easier for users to see what extensions can access their data. When the user clicks the puzzle piece icon, the extension menu opens and displays a list of all enabled extensions the user has installed. The extension list is grouped by the level of data access the extension has on the currently selected tab.
>
> <menu-1.png>
>
> Install flow
>
> We've also made a small change to the install flow for extensions. After the user installs an extension, the extension's action button slides out from the puzzle piece and a prompt appears stating that the extension has been added to Chrome:
>
> <install-2.png>
>
> Once this prompt is dismissed, the action button hides itself again.
>
> Pinning an extension
>
> An extension's action button can be pinned to the toolbar for easy access or unpinned to keep the main UI uncluttered. This behavior is the reverse of what is in the current stable version of Chrome (M80): the user must choose to pin the extension rather than choose to hide it. The following screenshots show this user flow:
>
> <pin.png>
>
> Opening the extension menu shows a list of extensions; each extension in the list has a pin icon on the right side of the menu. Clicking this icon pins or unpins the extension. Once the extension is pinned, its action button remains in the toolbar.
>
> Main takeaways
> • If your extension's action button is a key component of your experience, consider updating your onboarding flow to encourage users to pin the extension to their toolbars.
> • As users better understand how extensions are accessing their data, they may increasingly limit where extensions can run. Consider using the chrome.permissions methods and callbacks to detect and handle this. Specifically, be prepared for your extension to not have the host permissions you expect.
> • To experiment with these changes yourself, open chrome://flags/#extensions-toolbar-menu and enable the feature. Report any functionality bugs you encounter on crbug.com.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Simeon - @dotproto
> Extensions Developer Advocate
>
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> To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to chromium-extens...@chromium.org.
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Scott Fortmann-Roe

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Mar 31, 2020, 12:49:19 PM3/31/20
to Simeon Vincent, Chromium Extensions
I think the new UI looks great and it makes a lot of sense to communicate this additional info to users. While were on the topic, it would be great to see some other data points surfaced to users (e.g. content-script impact on average page loading time -- shame those slow extensions!).

However, I share the concerns about the lack of pinning by default. It's a great idea to clarify what extensions have what permissions, but hiding extensions by default seems like a bit of a step backwards on user transparency. 

As an aside, when providing tech support it is super helpful to see what extensions people have installed at a glance. This is particularly helpful when assisting non-techies who might not fully understand what an extension is or what they've installed. Getting a single screenshot back from a user or relative of a site they are having trouble with and seeing they have XX different extensions installed in their Chrome bar gives you a lot of useful info to help debug things.

--

JM Lambert addeective

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Mar 31, 2020, 3:26:29 PM3/31/20
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JM Lambert addeective

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Mar 31, 2020, 3:35:10 PM3/31/20
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Hello Simeon,

there are 2 components in this UI change: I understand that user will have more info about extensions in a centralized place, good point. Now,  I don't get the value of the pinning/non pinning  feature which (as other users already  said) is not really in line with the security worries you were recently all about at Google. So what do you guys have in mind  with this one, really  ?

thanks in advance for shedding some light
Jean-Michel

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Bohdan Dvorianov

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Apr 1, 2020, 6:11:26 AM4/1/20
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Oh, well, one more try to kill extensions

Evan Carothers

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Apr 1, 2020, 10:13:04 AM4/1/20
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I completely agree with everyone else's sentiment, hiding icons by default seems like a terrible user experience and will cause many more issues than it fixes. The excuse of keeping the UI uncluttered makes no sense considering the users are opting to install these extensions. Giving them the ability to clean it up by unpinning if needed seems like the much better alternative, an extension usage and adoption for untrained users who are not familiar with how extensions work will be drastically hurt.

Badar ahmed

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Apr 3, 2020, 10:22:36 AM4/3/20
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This feature just crashed my chrome when I enabled one of my extension. 
Scenario is I am working on two extensions both installed through my computer in development mode. one of extension works fine while other is disabled. whenever I 
disable one ext. and enable other my chrome get crashed and I have to reopen it.

Simeon Vincent

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Apr 3, 2020, 11:50:21 AM4/3/20
to Badar ahmed, Chromium Extensions
Badar, please open a bug on crbug.com. It would be helpful if you could share the extensions you're using that caused the bug and system information. If you're not comfortable with sharing them publicly, you can upload them to Google Drive or a similar service and share them directly with me. In turn, I will only share them with chromium contributors directly working on the issue.

Everyone else, thank you for sharing your concerns. I've shared initial feedback with the team and plan to follow up with more discussions soon. 

Cheers,

Simeon - @dotproto
Extensions Developer Advocate

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Guilherme Dellagustin

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Apr 4, 2020, 6:08:40 AM4/4/20
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I think it is fair to say that any additional step a user have to perform in order to access the full functionality of a piece of software is bad for UX.
Users have already the tools that they need in order to keep a clean toolbar by hiding the extensions they don't want to see there.

For my extension this will be a huge blow, as I can predict that many users will give up using it even if I do explain to them upon install that they must pin it to the task bar so that they can use it as normally.

Please go back in this decision of hiding all extension buttons by default.

Guilherme Dellagustin

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Apr 4, 2020, 3:59:31 PM4/4/20
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I found a bug, the extension buttons are shown on installed PWAs when the flag is enabled, reported here: https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1067903


Em terça-feira, 31 de março de 2020 01:52:55 UTC+2, Simeon Vincent escreveu:

Matt Light

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Apr 4, 2020, 10:22:28 PM4/4/20
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Hi Simeon,

If the change to extension icons showing up in the puzzle icon submenu goes forward unchanged, is there any way for Enterprise / G+ Suite customers to pin an extension's icon by default (or by force) when an extension is force installed through G+Suite?

We have an extension that we force install and have enterprise customers force install via G+ Suite, and we want the extension icon to continue show up for easy access without having to have all of our customers' G+ Suite users pin the extension manually.

If there is not currently a way to allow for this, could you please add this use case to the feedback for your team's consideration?

Thanks so much,

Matt Light
Kelvin Education

Badar ahmed

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Apr 6, 2020, 5:29:20 AM4/6/20
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Hi,
I have created the bug on crbug.com (https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1068104)
and I have uploaded the code on google drive but don't know how to share them directly with you. Please guide me

Regards,
Badar 


On Friday, April 3, 2020 at 8:50:21 PM UTC+5, Simeon Vincent wrote:
Badar, please open a bug on crbug.com. It would be helpful if you could share the extensions you're using that caused the bug and system information. If you're not comfortable with sharing them publicly, you can upload them to Google Drive or a similar service and share them directly with me. In turn, I will only share them with chromium contributors directly working on the issue.

Everyone else, thank you for sharing your concerns. I've shared initial feedback with the team and plan to follow up with more discussions soon. 

Cheers,

Simeon - @dotproto
Extensions Developer Advocate


On Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 7:22 AM Badar ahmed <badara...@gmail.com> wrote:
This feature just crashed my chrome when I enabled one of my extension. 
Scenario is I am working on two extensions both installed through my computer in development mode. one of extension works fine while other is disabled. whenever I 
disable one ext. and enable other my chrome get crashed and I have to reopen it.

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Thierry Régagnon

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Apr 6, 2020, 5:59:08 AM4/6/20
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Will this experiment be shown to users without them activating the Flag?
If yes, would you be able to share a percentage (or range) of users that will be exposed to this experiment?

I am also concerned by the inversion of the "Extension pin" default behavior. I think it will create many issues.

First because all current extensions expect Extension to be pinned.
Then, as Adi Bhaskar explained very well, this will make moving from a broad Host Permission to an Active Tab permission more difficult.

And finally, it think it should not be to the installed Extension, to explain this. Chrome is doing the installation, and is in a better position to bring a unified and safe UI to all users explaining that the extension should be pinned if they want to use it.
We can see confusing messages in the Chrome dialogs shown in this announcement. The "Install confirmation" dialog tells to click on the Extension icon to use it. But with this experiment, there will be no icon for the user to click on.

While the new "Extension management" button in the toolbar seems to be an interesting change. Please reconsider the "unpinned default".

Kos

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Apr 8, 2020, 7:08:41 AM4/8/20
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What on earth is "Access requested" ??

Why there is no option to pin extension from post-installation message? Are you kidding me?

Also, say hello to your UI designers, if they don't know how dumb average user is, they shouldn't use pin icon at all, there should be visible text label with checkbox "Show this extension in toolbar".

And if it's not a lot to ask, what does "well" means in terms of human words from "If the experiment goes well"?

vend awe

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Apr 9, 2020, 1:13:45 AM4/9/20
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lol more reach suppression, how surprising 🙄

In case you were wondering why they are doing this - If less users have properly activated your extension then you will need more users than normal. This forces more people into spending money on ads.

Can't wait for those antitrust lawsuits to hit.

Jason Savard

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Apr 13, 2020, 12:04:54 PM4/13/20
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I have to agree with Quan, as the developer of a Gmail Checker extension that unpinned default is not desirable. I do like the extension menu though.

Displaying the action button icon and the unread email count is the main purpose of the extension. If it were unpinned by default many users would try reinstalling the extension and give up. I can already confirm this user behaviour since many users accidentally hide the icon by dragging it to the menu and they resort to reinstalling the extension - as discovered in my uninstall surveys.

Jason

Nicholas Stanford

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Apr 17, 2020, 6:33:30 PM4/17/20
to Chromium Extensions
@simeon or anyone else -- is there a programmatic way to determine the pin state of an extension? 


On Monday, March 30, 2020 at 4:52:55 PM UTC-7, Simeon Vincent wrote:
Message has been deleted
Message has been deleted

Likely Logic

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Apr 17, 2020, 7:51:22 PM4/17/20
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Regarding the "Turn on sync" button...

install-2.png

...I think it's a really bad idea to include it in the installation confirmation prompt.

As a developer, I onboarded a user recently where my role was to simply watch what happened, and the "Turn on sync" button came up.

The user asked me "should I click it?" and I said, "it's your computer, it's up to you".

The next minute, we're off on Google's sync flow, with them having to enter passwords and navigate new screens, and my user onboarding is forgotten.

Please just let users install extensions and keep the sync separate.


Simeon Vincent

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Apr 17, 2020, 8:22:08 PM4/17/20
to Nicholas Stanford, Chromium Extensions
There is not currently a programmatic way to check the pinned state of an extension. I'd recommend opening a feature request on crbug.com for this.

Simeon - @dotproto
Extensions Developer Advocate

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Don Schmitt

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Apr 18, 2020, 9:36:06 PM4/18/20
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And post here when you do so folks can up-vote it.

Stefan Gündhör

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Apr 24, 2020, 4:34:36 AM4/24/20
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We might want to add another feature-request in order to add a button "Add/Pin extension to toolbar" to the post installation popup.
Most users stick with default settings on the things they install. It is indeed forseeable that the proposed change (unpinned per default) will decrease usage of extensions that use the popup menu as their main entry point.

Regards,
Stefan
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Eugene Riabchenko

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May 3, 2020, 9:54:48 PM5/3/20
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Simeon Vincent

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May 13, 2020, 8:55:13 PM5/13/20
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Hey all,

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on the new extension menu and changes to the default pinned state of action buttons. Many commenters have expressed reservations about action buttons being unpinned by default. We understand this concern. An extension's action in the toolbar is an important interaction mechanism, and we don't intend to decrease extension usage. However, after several discussions and lengthy consideration, we think that leaving actions unpinned by default is the best course for our longer-term plans for the Chrome extension platform.

We view the extension menu as more than just a place to list your active extensions; it's the user's primary entry point into the Chrome extension experience. It provides a quick, high level overview of the user's active extensions; helps contextualize extension data access; and adds prominent, unambiguous UI controls for previously easy-to-miss features (namely managing action visibility and context menu controls). We're also going to continue developing this UI surface in order to make extensions even more useful to users. 

But in order for the extension menu to fill that role, we need to make space for it in the end user experience. Users need to discover, experiment with, and use this menu in order to understand and leverage its capabilities. We think the best path towards that is to leave actions unpinned by default, cementing the menu's role as the go-to interaction point. Users who frequently interact with their extensions through the action interface can choose to explicitly pin them, maintaining the low-friction path for their most valuable experiences.

Thank you again for all the feedback. One of the advantages to developing an open platform like Chromium is the ability to have these conversations. During the course of this rollout, we'll be monitoring metrics to look for any unexpected behaviors or outcomes.

Andrew Pellerano

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May 14, 2020, 12:34:09 PM5/14/20
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Are the longer-term plans for the Chrome extension platform posted anywhere? The broader community could have more productive conversations, and make better suggestions, if everyone understood where this is all headed.

Presumably the Chrome extension platform is headed downhill from a local maxima so that it can summit a much larger peak. But without some vision-setting to make that larger peak apparent, it's easy to get swept