Google plans to revoke others’ Chromium-based browsers’ access to a long list of APIs that power such popular services as bookmark and settings synchronization.
“We discovered that some third-party Chromium-based browsers were able to integrate Google features, such as Chrome Sync and Click to Call, that are only intended for Google’s use,” Jochen Eisinger, Chrome engineering director, wrote in a Jan. 15 post to a company blog.
Access to what Eisinger labeled “our private Chrome APIs” will be blocked starting March 15.
Although Eisinger mentioned only two APIs by name — Google Sync and Click to Call — as effected by the new rule, a link he offered led to a page that lists 20 APIs, including those for calling on services like Google Translate and Safe Browsing. The latter warns users when they try to steer to potentially dangerous websites.
Some or all of those APIs may also be out of bounds come the middle of March.
“Many of the Google APIs used by Chromium code are specific to Google Chrome and not intended for use in derived products,” that page stated.
Eisinger did not specify which APIs would be out of bounds to all non-Google browsers built atop Chromium, nor which browsers had improperly integrated Google services into their end product.
It’s almost certain that Edge, the year-old Chromium-based browser developed and maintained by Microsoft — and the one with the largest share of the market absent Chrome — was not among that group. Not only did Microsoft make a point to tell users that it was stripping Google’s services from Chromium and replacing them with its own homegrown alternatives, but it could recreate those services it did not already have much easier than smaller browser makers.
Several browsers are, like Edge, founded on Chromium and may have attracted the ire of Google, among them Brave, Opera, Epic and Vivaldi.
It was unclear what prompted Google to throw the API book at its small fry rivals, which collectively don’t account for more than a rounding error on Chrome’s current more-than-dominant share. That others can build browsers atop Chromium was always part of the deal, what with Google’s original decision to take the open-source route for the project.
Hijacking Google’s own services, though, was likely a borrowing too far.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.
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