Browsers have evolved to become far more than simple internet navigators. an enormous a part of that evolution was the introduction of “extensions.” They allow you to control how websites load and behave, and that they can add extra features to your browser.
A Brief History of Browser Extensions
Browser extensions go all the way back to 1999 with the fourth version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. However, it wasn’t until much later that extensions became the powerful tools that they’re today.
The first extensions on Internet Explorer were called “Explorer Bars.” They were simply specialized toolbars that would be added to the interface. for instance , you’ll have an Explorer Bar that displayed a ticker .
Mozilla’s Firefox browser was subsequent to support extensions in 2004, followed by Opera in 2009, and eventually , in 2010, by Google Chrome and Safari. Microsoft’s Edge browser also supports extensions, of course.
Similar to how third-party developers and therefore the App Store exploded the recognition of apps on the iPhone, once developers were ready to create extensions and distribute them in first-party web stores, they became very fashionable .
What Can Extensions Do?
Microsoft Edge extensions
The extent of what a browser extension can do depends on the browser. within the youth , extensions could access tons of internal workings of browsers, but as security has tightened up, so have the skills of extensions.
You may have heard the phrase “There’s an app for that,” and it’s similar for browser extensions. There are plenty of belongings you can do with extensions. you’ll change the way tabs work, integrate your favorite note-taking service, get Gmail notifications, grammar-check your writing, and even play games.
There are two common sorts of extensions. Most either extend the functionality of the browser itself or integrate an existing service with the browser.
For the primary category, you’ll find things like Picture-in-Picture for all video players, volume controls for every tab, dark mode for websites that don’t have one, split-screen tabs, and plenty of aesthetic customizations.
The second category encompasses things sort of a Gmail notification checker, a “Save to Google Drive” button, an Evernote web clipper, a Todoist menu within the toolbar, coupons for online stores, then far more .
The best thanks to really see what extensions can do is to explore the extension store for your preferred browser.
Are Extensions Safe to Use?
As useful as browser extensions are often , they are doing present security and privacy concerns. This has got to do with the permissions they’re given once you install them. Google Chrome extensions, for instance , can most “read and alter all of your data on the websites you visit.” Yikes.
On top of that, extensions are running in your browser all the time. They’re running once you check Facebook, once you transfer money from your bank’s website, and once you enter your mastercard information on Amazon.
A malicious extension could easily be logging your keystrokes to steal passwords and private information. It might be secretly redirecting your search traffic to a special place or selling your internet browsing data to advertisers. The list is endless.
Of course, this isn’t happening with the bulk of extensions, and therefore the companies that maintain web stores for them are cracking down on malicious behavior. But it does happen, and other people should remember that extensions aren’t harmless.
One particularly dangerous aspect of extensions is how they will be updated automatically. this suggests that a well-liked extension might be hijacked and updated on your device and begin collecting data without you ever knowing.
So are extensions safe to use? There’s no easy answer. generally , if you’re downloading well-reviewed extensions from companies that you simply trust, you ought to be safe. But the simplest practice is to use as few extensions as possible. Sure, they will be handy and fun, but you shouldn’t download them willy-nilly. Only use what you would like .
How to Install Browser Extensions
With all of that in mind, let’s mention installing extensions. It’s simply a matter of visiting the online store for your preferred browser. we’ve guides that cover Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.
The process begins by heading to the Chrome Web Store. you’ll search by name or browse by category. Once you discover an extension, simply click the “Add to Chrome” button.
Microsoft Edge extensions are often downloaded from the Microsoft Store and therefore the Chrome Web Store. It’s just a matter of finding an extension and clicking the “Get” button.
Firefox uses the term “Add-ons” tons when referencing extensions. you’ll look for , browse, and install Firefox extensions from the Mozilla add-on page.
Safari extensions are often downloaded from the Mac App Store. you’ll search by name or flick through different categories on the “Safari Extensions” pages. Simply click the “Install” button once you find one that you simply like.
Think of extensions as “mini apps” which will add functionality and integrate your favorite services together with your browser. does one absolutely need extensions to use an internet browser? Not in the least . Can they improve your experience? Absolutely. Just don’t get over excited .