May 14, 2015 · 1 minute

Google is once again prioritizing consumer security over ideological "openness."

The company has announced that Chrome users will no longer be allowed to download extensions from anywhere but the official Chrome Web Store in July. Why? Because malicious software has become too large a problem to ignore.

Google actually tried to stop malware from spreading via Chrome extensions last year when it announced that Windows users would be restricted to the Chrome Web Store, unless they were using the browser's development build.

That didn't work out. As Google explained in a blog post about the change:

We originally did not enforce this policy on the Windows developer channel in order to allow developers to opt out. Unfortunately, we’ve since observed malicious software forcing users into the developer channel in order to install unwanted off-store extensions. Affected users are left with malicious extensions running on a Chrome channel they did not choose.
Chrome isn't the first platform Google has had to lock down in recent months. The company also made it harder for developers to publish their apps to the Play Store in March to help slow the spread of malicious Android software.

I argued at the time that, even though ideological purists who hate "closed" systems will be upset, this is good for consumers:

Most consumers should welcome this change. It will make it harder for developers to sneak malware into the Play Store, and given the amount of malicious software on the marketplace, that could end up helping hundreds of thousands of Android users.

App sellers have to choose between offering a 'walled garden' they control, which could mitigate risks to consumers, and offering a freer marketplace that could be filled with malware. It's hard to convince people that they should use open platforms that leave them vulnerable to attack. There are good reasons to support those platforms -- like limiting the influence tech companies have on the world's information and avoiding government backdoors -- but those pale in comparison to everyday security concerns.

Google seems to have realized this. The chaos of openness has been replaced by the order of closed-off systems, not because the company has abandoned its ideals, but because protecting consumers is more important than ideology.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]