Google continued its push to make its Web browser more than just an engine that renders Web pages by bringing 1,500 extensions to the masses through the latest stable build of Chrome for Windows Jan. 25.
Extensions, popularized in Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, are lightweight applications that developers create that let users customize the Web browser. Google has created this extensions gallery where users can install the apps in seconds.
Extensions typically appear as little icons next to the address bar that provide hooks to third-party applications. Or they may be alerts that pop up and let a user know when something is happening in their chosen Web services.
eWeek posted a cross-section of Chrome extensions here last month, including the Google Wave notifiers, Gmail mail checker and other apps to make Chrome more useful.
Google positions extensions as a case for improving efficiency and convenience, but what that translates to for Google is that users may never have to leave Chrome.
And that's great for Google, which can keep serving users ads. Ideally, if users install enough extensions, they may not have to leave Chrome for much of anything else online.
Check out how many extensions Google Chrome Product Manager Nick Baum uses in this demo, where he explains: "Everyone has apps and Web sites they can't live without. Extensions can make those services even more useful by providing quick access directly from the browser toolbar."
Baum uses the Shareaholic extension to share Web content; the Amazon.com Universal Wishlist extension to add items to a wishlist; and the 3D picture extension from Cooliris.
Also new today is Google's Chrome extension for its Google Voice phone management application, letting Voice users see how many messages they have; view recent messages; and click to call people.
With extensions like these, who need leave Chrome? And that's Google's idea, or one of them, for extending its Web advertising purview.
Another key feature Google is shuttling from beta to stable mode is the Windows version of Google Chrome is bookmark sync, which lets users port their PC bookmarks across all of their personal computers. This is a must-have feature for power users who juggle multiple PCs at home and work.
What about Chrome extensions on other platforms? Baum said extensions for Chrome on Linux are still enabled on the beta channel, with extensions and bookmark sync coming to the Google Chrome for Mac beta soon.
Chrome enjoyed a nice use bump when Google released beta versions of its browser for the Mac OS X and Linux, along with beta build of extensions for Chrome for Windows and Linux.
The browser grew to 4.63 percent, up from 3.93 percent in November 2009 and passed Safari's 4.46 percent for the last month of the year. That growth was almost certainly attributed to the number of Mac users who were able to try Chrome on their machines en masse for the first time.
With extensions, Google may well extend its browser market share. Chrome currently notches 4.63 percent. Next up: Firefox, at 24.6 percent.
It will be interesting to see what impact the release of the Google Chrome Operating System on netbooks could do for Chrome market share later this year. Those who bought Chrome OS netbooks would almost certainly use Chrome to propel their Web apps.
It may well be a few years before Chrome challenges Firefox, if it gathers the kind of momentum to do so at all.