Better Understanding Web Browser Extensions

You've heard your friends and colleagues discussing browser extensions time and again but aren't sure about how helpful they can be to you? The following article should help you get a fair idea about browser extension.

The Wikipedia defines Browser Extensions as, "a computer program that extends the functionality of a web browser in some way". They can be in the form of add-ons or plug-ins and improve the user interface without directly modifying the viewable content on a web page.


Why use browser extensions?

Browser extensions facilitate:

  • Integrating with various other services that you're using. For instance, an extension offered by Evernote allows users to clip together different website and store them in the Evernote account.
  • Adding more features to a user's browser. For instance, Google Chrome's JoinTabs extension helps bring together multiple windows together into one window.
  • Modifications of a website's view as per the user's convenience, adding, modifying or removing content. For instance, the InvisibleHand helps online shoppers get information on cheaper prices available with other vendors on the product that's being viewed.

Are they secure?

Browser extensions are just like any other software. That said, if they are malicious they'd certainly harm your system's performance and if they're well reviewed and obtained from trusted developers, they'd pose little or no risks. The risks however, cannot be completely eliminated.

However, it's always advised to install choose trustworthy extensions because malicious extensions can intrude your personal space, snooping on your browsing and in extreme cases, capturing your credit or debit card details.

As for the caveat, Chrome helps you check if the extension is solely operating on one website or is used by quite a number of them (see image below). This helps you judge the credibility of the extension. However, Firefox doesn't offer such a fine grained permission system so the extension needs to access the entire browser. And, Internet Explorer offers limited even more limited features.

Do such extensions slow down the browser?

Overloading your browser with extensions will surely slow down your system's performance. Keep the extensions you use and uninstall the rest. While Chrome a number of extensions run in the background at all times in a separate process. However, Firefox runs all of the extensions in the same process which is why overloading it with too many extensions will slow down the performance.

However, performance concerns should not hold you from using extensions. If an extension helps improve your browser's usability and performance, you should definitely go for it. Simply take care not to overload your browser as it will affect its performance.

Browser extensions can be a great way of boosting revenue from the point of view of a business.

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