Key TakeawaysApple's extension lets Windows users access their saved passwords in Chrome.The extension is part of Apple's iCloud for Windows.Apple pulled the extension soon after launch. Hopefully, it will be back soon. NeONBRAND / Unsplash
Apple has made its iCloud password manager available as an extension for the Chrome browser, meaning you can now use it on Windows.
The new iCloud Passwords extension launched as part of Apple's iCloud for Windows (Apple has since pulled it from the Chrome store, but we assume it will return soon), but why make one of your best features available for competitors' platforms? The answer is they're not really competitors, or not entirely, and this is a smart move from Apple.
"By putting this vital feature in Chrome, Apple is making itself cross-platform friendly," MalwareFox writer Peter Baltazar told Ach5 via email. "Chrome is the most used web browser on every OS, including Windows. Many people use both Windows and Mac OS for their work, and find it challenging to simultaneously work on them."
If you have used a password manager of any kind, whether the one built into your browser, or a third-party app like 1Password or Nordpass, then you'll know how frustrating it is when you use a computer that doesn't have your passwords at hand. Apple users enjoy password syncing between their Macs, iPads, and iPhones, and Chrome users get similar benefits. But what about an iPhone owner who uses a PC at work, for example?
"There is certainly no shortage of Mac users who prefer Chrome over Safari," Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate at Comparitech told Ach5 via email. "Apple is meeting its users halfway by creating an extension for Chrome."
"By putting this vital feature in Chrome, Apple is making itself cross-platform friendly."
Now, those users can access saved passwords on their Windows PC, via a Chrome browser extension. Importantly, this extension is part of Apple's iCloud for Windows platform. Perhaps users will come for the passwords, but stay for all Apple's other iCloud services.
"Apple wants its products like iCloud not only on Mac, but also on other operating systems, like Windows," password security advocate "Password Professor" told Ach5 via email. "In order to take advantage of this new Apple feature, you have to install [the] iCloud app on all your computers. The goal is to eventually start using iCloud instead of, for example, Microsoft OneDrive that a Window user may use."Apple
This move, then, is both a way to make things easier for Apple users, and a way for the company to infiltrate users' habits even further. It's also an admission that Chrome is a bigger deal than Apple's Safari.
"It's important to note that, according to Statista, in December 2020 Chrome had 65.96% of desktop browser share," Nordpass' security expert Chad Hammond told Ach5 via email, "so, naturally, every product wants to be accessible on the most popular platforms."
Effect on Third-Party Password Apps
It might seem that third-party password managers would suffer, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
"No one wants more competitors," says Hammond, "but such built-in solutions are not the primary focus of the browser. Therefore, they don't solve the same global problems that password managers do. In dedicated password managers, it's the main feature."
"Apple wants its products like iCloud not only on Mac, but also on other operating systems, like Windows."
On the Mac, to access a password stored on iCloud, for example, you must open the Safari browser, then find the password panel in the preferences section. iCloud password management also lacks key features, like support for two-factor authentication. It is, however, way better than using your dog's name as a password. Users who use password managers are the kind of users who are happy to pay for them.
"People already have a choice of storing passwords in their web browsers, and so on, and most probably do. People who use password managers either know better, or have been hacked in the past," says the "Password Professor."Apple
"The people who are more privacy-concerned will still prefer dedicated password managers for generating strong passwords and safeguarding them," says Balthazar.
Comparitech's Bischoff agrees. "It's worth noting that Chrome already has a built-in password manager, as well, and it hasn't run any other password managers out of business yet," he said. "Apple's solution will be one in a long list of options."
In the end, making it easier to generate secure passwords, and to use them across all devices, is a win for the user.