Answering a user submitted query in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session, Jason Kersey, Technical Program Manager of Chrome for Android, explained:
“There are no plans to add extensions support on mobile. We haven’t been able to implement these on mobile and still have it be a good user experience.”
Reasoning beyond that short snippet? Not given.
It’s perfectly possible that “user experience” reasoning takes into account the feel of Chrome on mobile as much as the looks, i.e., the performance of the bells, whistles and oohs we poke at.
Extensions for Chrome on Android — Would They Even Make Sense?
Chrome extensions on the desktop are resource intensive. They run all the time in the background when the browser is open.
‘Chrome for Android is hardly the trimmest app; extensions would add more bloat.’
With smartphones and tablets often having far less RAM than a laptop or desktop PC, and Chrome itself also having to manage within what is available, it’s an obvious conclusion to just not bother adding the extra bloat.
There’s also the question of where extensions would surface on mobile. The toolbar that houses most add-ons in desktop Chrome isn’t on show the Android builds for phones, and is architecturally different from desktop to tablet mode, too.
And are we really missing out? Android has nifty features, apps and services that do the job of many add-ons we use, e.g., I don’t miss the Pocket extension in Chrome for Android as the native system sharing intent offers it. Again, the obvious conclusion is to simply not clutter up small-screens with support for superfluous extras,
A comment by redditor kitanokikori also makes a good point in mentioning that few extension developers will have given ‘[…] any thought to a mobile experience or about operating in environments where they can’t allocate all the memory they want.’
The result of this, they go on to say, is ‘[…] your phone would be hot enough to scramble eggs, while showing glitched-out unusable desktop-style interfaces designed for a keyboard + mouse.’
Other picks from the AMA
Plenty of other questions were answered during the AMA session. A few choice picks to save you scouring the entire 1000+ comments made. For clarity/brevity we have edited the questions and answers.
Are there any new features coming soon? [link]
‘A mobile-friendly new tab page is coming soon’
“We actually have a lot of new content consumption features coming out in the near future. These come in all sorts of flavors (contextual search to make finding more information on page content easier, new ways to consume web pages that aren’t as readable on mobile, a more mobile-friendly new tab page, etc).”
Are you planning to deal with Chrome’s slowness and memory usage? [link]
‘We are proactively fighting memory bloat and memory leaks’
“We are profiling Chrome to improve our startup speed and proactively fighting memory bloat and memory leaks. For example, this year the first gesture latency and mean input latency has decreased steadily.”
How much code is shared between Chrome for Android and Chromium? [link]
“Most of our code is public and shared with our other platforms. We’re actively moving the majority of the remaining private code into Chromium over the next few months.”
Are there plans for more aggressive tab syncing between the desktop and Android version, i.e. having a tab open on the desktop also then open on mobile? [link]
‘We’ve also looked at syncing more of your tab state… but there are privacy trade-offs’
“On the Recent Tabs page, you can already access your currently open tabs from all your devices. We’re only syncing the URL and title of the tab, so when you reopen it on a new device you do lose state like how far you have scrolled down, any text you’ve entered into forms, etc.”
“We have looked into expanding this this by automatically opening, reordering and closing tabs and windows across devices [but we] weren’t satisfied with the overall experience. We found we didn’t want to use the exact same set of tabs on each of our devices, and that having tabs automatically open was jarring.”
“We’ve also looked at syncing more of your tab state. This is mostly about the privacy tradeoffs involved into syncing the whole state of a page, as well as technical complexity of saving and recreating the wide variety of web pages (and apps!) that people use every day.”
And a few random factoids and items of note pulled from the AMA:
- The Chrome for Android team like building t-rexes out of Lego
- The team is “very aware” of and “actively working on fixing” Chrome’s penchant for RAM
- Reader Mode is coming to the stable channel ‘soon’
- Nexus devices are used for most automated testing
- They work ‘very closely’ with the Desktop Chrome team on new features
- ‘Low usage’ saw the ‘new tab’ button dropped from the main Chrome for Android toolbar
- Tabs in the Android Overview? Look out for it on tablets running Lollipop!