Breaking Down the Chrome Web Store

An exploratory analysis of extensions (part 1)

Since the Chrome Web Store launched 8 years ago, the number of extensions available for users to install has grown to ~188k and the current install-base is well over 1 billion. Though the web store is dwarfed by other distribution platforms like Google Play (2.7m apps) and Apple App Store (~2m), Chrome extensions have privileged access to a particular sensitive environment, the user’s browser. The security challenges that this presents have been well known for many years and are the reason we launched Extension Monitor. In this post, we explore some of the metrics of the Chrome Web Store.

Reach / Users

By our latest count, the number of Chrome extensions is 188,620 and the lower bound of installs is 1,230,081,087 (1.2B).

The total number of installs is likely much higher, but we’re only able to get a lower bound because Google does not report full user counts for extensions with over 10 million users. That honor is shared among only 13 extensions.

If we look at the next tier of extensions, those with fewer than 10m installs, we can get a sense of what’s most popular: ad blockers, communications, coupons/shopping, security, password managers, etc…

On the other extreme, we find 19,379 extensions with 0 installs. That’s a tad bit over 10% of all extensions. 25,540 have one user (another 13.5%). 50% have fewer than 16 installs.

We took a look at a histogram to get a sense of the frequency distribution of extensions across install counts. The data skews so heavily to the right, that is to say most extensions have relatively few installs, that it’s most useful to break this down into four histograms.

~87% of extensions have fewer than 1,000 installs. The following histogram shows the counts for extensions with fewer than 1k installs, excluding those with fewer than 10 installs.

On the low end, this histogram shows extensions with fewer than 100k users bucketed by 1000 users. There's a curious spike around the 75k mark, which we haven't yet looked into.

In the mid range, the following histogram shows extensions having between 100k and 1m users bucketed by 10,000 users.

And, on the high end, the histogram shows extensions having between 1m and 10m users bucketed by 100,000 users.

Paid vs Free

The Chrome Web Store supports paid extensions of two varieties, in-app purchases and in-store purchases. They make up a small 8.9% of extensions...

...and less than 2.6% of installs (that’s over estimating because our 1.2B total installs is only a lower bound)

5,885 of the 16,718 paid extensions (~35%) don’t have any users at all.

The top paid extension, IE Tab, with 4.1m installs makes up about 31.5% of all paid extension installs. The top 5 make up 48.5% of paid installs.

namepayment typeinstalls
IE Tabin_app4,177,911
Lucidchart Diagramsin_app615,789
anonymoXin_app613,183
Gantter Project Managementin_app448,481
Polarr Photo Editorin_app441,189

These top 5 extensions are all in-app purchase extensions. In the sixth spot is the first in-store paid extension, Open SEO Stats(Formerly: PageRank Status), with 424,549 installs and currently charging $3.99/mo.

Language

The Chrome Web Store is available in 55 languages . Here's the breakdown of the number of extensions available in each, though it's important to note that a single extension can be published in multiple languages.

Coming up in future parts…

In part 2, we’ll have some fun breaking down extensions by their lexemes to finally answer some truly curious questions like, how many wallpaper extensions are there and do we need more ad blockers?

In part 3, we’re really going to get down to business and talk about permissions and content security. We are a security startup after all. This will be very revealing. Even we were surprised when we first started digging into this data.

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