Chrome Extensions and You
Chrome extensions are programs that can be installed onto Google’s Chrome browser to augment an interface or functionality. Other popular browsers like Safari, Edge, and Firefox also allow browser extensions, but since they all work pretty much the same, we’ll just discuss them as published for Chrome here.
In addition to browser extensions, you may have also heard of “plugins” or “add-ons”. At one point plugin referred to an extension that adds a new feature to the browser, but is now often used interchangeably with extension. In addition to browsers, WordPress and other large applications allow developers to publish plugins. Add-ons are most typically defined as extensions developed by the publisher of a site to extend its functionality. The terminology has morphed over the years and isn’t universally agreed upon, however. So just know that, if referenced along with a browser, all of the above – extensions, plugins, add-ons – all fall loosely under the term “browser extensions”.
What do Chrome Extensions do?
A Chrome extension typically solves a single pain point for its users, by design. Since an extension typically runs the entire time you’re using your browser, it needs to be as simple as possible to avoid slowing down or otherwise negatively impacting your browsing experience. Google stipulates that extensions “... fulfill asingle purpose that is narrowly defined and easy to understand.”Let’s say your native tongue is Klingon, which isn’t supported by Google Translate. You could build a Chrome extension that translates the text you see in Chrome into Klingon. Even the more sophisticated ones, like Honey, which finds coupon codes for sales items in the shopping sites you visit, essentially performs a single service for its users.
Browser Extensions vs Page Extensions
For purposes of discussing a range of functionality, we can group extensions into two buckets: Browser Extensions and Page Extensions. Browser Extensions address use cases involving visits to multiple websites and can apply either to all of the pages you view in Chrome or to features of Chrome itself. Page Extensions, on the other hand, augment the functionality or interface of a specific website, like Amazon.com.
When is a Browser Extension a good idea?
Browser Extensions generally address social media, entertainment, shopping, marketing, research, and other domains involving multiple sites, in addition to those that enhance Chrome's features, such as your cursor or browser tabs.Use cases common to Browser Extension- type extensions include:
- tracking prices for a sales item across multiple shopping sites (Otsledit Price Tracker)
- automatically saving coupon codes for sales items (Cently)
- blocking ads, cookies, and other tracking software in the sites you visit (AdBlock)
- modifying audio streamed via Chrome (Audio Equalizer)
- automatically downloading videos from web pages (Video Downloader Prime)
When is a Browser Extension a good idea?
Page Extensions leverage features or data found in specific sites, most often under business and productivity use cases. Virtually anyone who’s used Gmail or Google Calendar can think of a relatively simple feature that they’d love to see added. But since such web applications exist on a massive scale, simply clicking Send Feedback and suggesting your new dream feature to Google would likely prove fruitless. It’d require months of market research, development, and testing before your new feature would be available – and that’s assuming Google deems your suggestion as warranted for its nearly two billion users in the first place. However, you may be able to build a Page Extension that adds your dream feature with relative ease.
Some Page Extensions allow users to access a web application’s feature from any page in Chrome. Others connect data or functionality between two or more separate web applications. Zoom Scheduler, for example, allows its users to create Zoom invitations directly from Google Calendar. Some other common use cases for Page Extensions are:
- displaying stock prices for companies mentioned in Reddit posts (Reddit Stocks)
- finding a page in a given site more easily (Search eBay™ by Image)
- hiding Tweets from your followers (Twitter `Likes` Hider)
- auto-refreshing & expanding upon your SalesForce dashboard (Enhance SalesForce Dashboard)
- automatically syncing your Gmail contacts to HubSpot (HubSpot Sales)
What can I do with an Extension?
As long as the site data or feature you wish for the extension to augment is already available to the end-user, you can likely build an extension to expand upon or utilize it. Let’s say your eCommerce site competes with Amazon and you want to know when the price drops for a given sales item on Amazon.com, you could build a page extension to do it since it’d use data already made available to you – if you were only to remain on the sales item page and repeatedly refresh it until the price changes. If, however, your feature requires features or data not already exposed to the end-user, then it’s probably best you look into using an API or scraping the data with a custom application.
This also applies to Browser Extensions. LastPass, one of the more popular password managers available, may seem downright magical, but all it really does is identify login fields for a given site, store the credentials entered, and then suggests your credentials when you visit the site again. LastPass cannot, say, solve a Captcha, since the solution for it isn’t exposed to the end-user.
Extensions can be monetized, too. Some Chrome extensions rival native apps for revenue, costing upwards of $50 annually per user. A browser extension subscription can be an easier sell than a subscription for one for a native app or web app with similar features. In contrast with apps, an extension doesn’t require that the user visit a specific page or switch apps to use it, and demands a minimal investment in setup time before the value offered is apparent.
To summarize, extensions are simple to install, straightforward to use, and generally cost less to develop than apps with the same functionality. If you or your business spend a lot of time surfing the web for work or are locked into using a large platform lacking a single, sorely desired feature involving data or functionality already available to the end-user, then a Chrome extension could be ideal for you.
Have an idea for a Chrome (or any other browser) extension?
Many enterprises are working to introduce chrome extensions on employees’ devices to add more functionality and control. However, given the hundreds of available chrome extensions, it is not always feasible to find the best extension for your business needs.
For this reason, businesses are now exploring more options and developing custom-made extensions to meet particular business needs. But it is important to stick with only the most reliable developers to get the most expected and effective outcome while guaranteeing the quality and performance of the product!
We can help you develop a Chrome Extension. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more.