A Mystery Bug Caused Missing Reviews Of Google Chrome Extensions

A bug in the rating and review system of the Chrome Web Store had been causing the missing reviews of extensions. The developers of some extensions reported that the reviews of their products stop updating from June 26th and show up normally till July 13th.

The missing reviews are first found and reported by CouponBirds, a money-saving extension. However, it’s not a bug that only occurred for shopping extensions. AdBlock, a fast-growing extension, also encountered the reviews vanishing over half a month. Generally, 2-4 users will leave a review about this extension every day. Some other top extensions with millions of users also had this bug. Google Translate, with about a new comment every two days, had no reviews from June 27th to July 12th. Chrono Download Manager received no comments from June 19th to July 13th. As usual, every day at least 1 user will write a comment for this download manager.

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Actually, the missing reviews can be caused by several factors. A newly published extension with very few users will possibly receive zero comments for a while. An extension that has been released for a long time and can’t attract new users recently may only get sporadic comments from its old and less active users. Some extensions may turn off the channel that leads the user to comment during upgrades or for the purpose of a test, resulting in fewer or zero comments. 

However, the extensions listed above with hundreds of thousands or even tens of millions of users generally received comments almost every day and the number of reviews was back to normal around July 13. Moreover, there are a lot of extensions in the store that haven’t been affected and their reviews keep increasing in this period. So, it can be proved that this is a bug with the rating and reviewing system in the Chrome Web Store which leads to the missing reviews for some extensions. 

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Who should be blamed for the missing reviews? In the conversations of Chromium Extensions, there is a developer had asked what happened on his extension. He stated that the review number of his extension was fixed from 27th June and he supposed that if the reviews were being auto deleted. He asked for help about whether it was something wrong with his extension or it was something unusual in the rating and review system and if anyone else had the same experience. The only response from a developer whose extension didn’t lose reviews shows that only part of extensions is influenced. However, there are no official explanations or responses for the question right now both from social media accounts of Chrome or Google or professional websites or forums reporting updates or changes in Google. The only clue that shall be noticed is that the Chrome Web Store made an update in June. 

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After the update, the user reviews section of the extension has been changed from the default display of helpful to the default display of recent. Besides, a statement that Google doesn’t verify reviews on the top of the review section is added. Google claims that users who have installed an item from the Chrome Web Store can provide a rating and a written review. Google doesn’t verify the authenticity of reviews and ratings, but reviews that violate their terms of service will be removed. Users may report an abusive review from the review section of the item listing page.

The reviews of extension really matter for the developers, especially for those with a new-developed extension that need to acquire users in a short period of time. Reviews are most important for the potential users to know about the real function and user experience to make up their minds to download and try a new tool on their browser. More reviews and more positive feedback on the products is a free advertisements to promote the extension and lead to more installation. Thus, the missing reviews are somehow a loss for extensions, especially for the new-developed ones without abundant reviews at all.

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Missing reviews are not the only abnormal thing that occurred in the Chrome Web Store. A report from CrankWheel shows that around April 10th after one of the updates for Chrome 100, its extension stopped working for a small percentage of users, and after lots of digging, it looks like the same issue occurs in several of the most popular Chrome extensions out there.

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We all know the importance of a stable store system for software releases, updates, and user acquisition. The disappearance of reviews as a small change can have a big impact on the developers of extensions. Other bugs which made users fail to use or download extensions have a worse impact. Hopefully, every time there is a problem or a query about something abnormal, it will be answered promptly, which will help developers to better update and maintain their products. 

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