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Apple beats Google with web extensions on mobile



Safari extensions.
Apple

Technology companies have a reputation. Google tends to push the boundaries, while Apple takes its time to fine-tune things, without worrying about being “first.”

; That’s why it’s so strange to see Safari on iPhone getting extensions for Chrome on Android.

As of iOS 15, Safari for iPhone and iPad can download extensions from the App Store. And these extensions aren’t just from Apple. Third parties can also make them. It’s the same functionality that’s been in Safari for desktop for years.

RELATED: What’s New in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey

What other popular web browser has had extensions for years? Google Chrome of course. Chrome and Safari even added extensions in 2010. Extensions are a big part of what catapulted Chrome to the popularity it has today. So what’s holding back the Android version?

It is certainly not impossible for Android browsers to have extensions. Dolphin Browser was one of the original third-party browsers on the platform and it still exists with support for “add-ons”.

Install add-on on Firefox for Android.
Add-ons in Firefox for Android

It’s not just smaller, niche browsers that do it. Mozilla Firefox for Android also includes a limited number of add-ons that work on mobile. You can’t access the large library of add-ons from the desktop, but there are a few more useful ones that enhance the experience.

RELATED: Install extensions (add-ons) in Mozilla Firefox

But what if you’re really specifically tied to Chrome extensions? You might think you’re stuck waiting for Google to follow Apple’s lead and bring them to Chrome for Android. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Google has been beaten not only by iOS, but also by developers on its own platform.

Kiwi Browser is an open-source browser based on Chromium. That’s the same backbone for browsers like Microsoft Edge and of course Google Chrome. However, Kiwi allows you to download extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

uBlock in the Kiwi browser.
Desktop Chrome extension installed in Kiwi

That’s right, the entire Chrome Web Store is available in the Kiwi Browser. You can install the extensions in the same way as on your PC. You’re using a desktop website on a phone so the process is a little fiddly, but it definitely works – with one problem.

Since Kiwi is based on Chromium, you lose some of Chrome’s more Google-esque features. Namely, you can’t use the extremely handy Chrome sync feature that keeps all your bookmarks and history synced across browsers. But you do get extensions!

Kiwi is proof that Chrome extensions can run in a mobile browser. There’s no technical reason Google couldn’t have added this feature to Chrome on Android a while ago. It could even have followed Firefox’s lead and offered a smaller selection of extensions.

Apple and Google are constantly pushing each other to use features that people want. We see this happening all the time. Currently, Apple is taking a big step in privacy features, making Google take it more seriously. Will extensions in Safari on iOS 15 eventually lead to Google bringing them to Chrome on Android? We can only hope.

RELATED: What is a browser extension?




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