Chrome Extension Development


Chrome Extensions and You

A Google Chrome extension is a software application that extends the functionality of Google Chrome. They are hosted in the Chrome Web Store and are installed, uninstalled, and managed directly from the Chrome browser. 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.

Chrome extensions are typically built using the same basic tools that websites are built in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Like a native app — a standalone application built for a specific operating system, like Android, iOS, or Mac OS — before an extension is published it must be reviewed and approved by the Chrome Web Store.

It’s possible that you may have encountered the terms “plugins” or “add-ons” in addition to “browser extensions.” Historically, the term “plugin” referred specifically to an extension that added new functionality to a browser. However, it is now often used interchangeably with "extension." Additionally, it's worth noting that developers can also publish plugins for large applications like WordPress. "Add-ons" are usually defined as extensions developed by the publisher of a website to enhance its functionality. It's worth noting that the terminology in this space has evolved over time, and there is not always a clear consensus on the specific meanings of these terms. However, it's important to keep in mind that, when referenced in the context of a browser, all of these terms - “extensions,” “plugins,” and “add-ons” - generally fall under the umbrella of “browser extensions.”

What do Chrome Extensions do?

When it comes to Chrome extensions, it's important to keep in mind that they're designed to solve specific problems for users. Because an extension runs while you're using your browser, it's important that it's simple and doesn't slow down or negatively impact your browsing experience. Google specifies that extensions should  “... fulfill a single 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 perform a single service for its users. 

Browser Extensions vs Page Extensions

When discussing the different types of functionality that extensions offer, it can be helpful to divide them into two main categories: Browser Extensions and Page Extensions. 

Browser Extensions are designed to address use cases that involve browsing multiple websites. They can be applied either to all the pages you view in Chrome or to certain features of Chrome itself. These types of extensions are useful when you want to add functionality that will be beneficial across different websites, such as a password manager, a translation tool, or a tool that blocks ads.

Page Extensions, on the other hand, are specifically designed to enhance the functionality or interface of a specific website. These types of extensions are useful when you want to add functionality that will only be beneficial on a specific website, such as an Amazon price tracker, or a tool that highlights reviews for a specific product. These extensions are limited to the specific website that you are visiting and are not actively running on other websites.

So, the main difference between the two types of extensions is the scope of their functionality. Browser Extensions are designed to work across multiple websites and provide a more general functionality, while Page Extensions are designed to work on a specific website and provide more specific functionality.

When is a Browser Extension a good idea?

Browser Extensions are commonly used to address a variety of different needs, including social media, entertainment, shopping, marketing, research, and other domains that involve browsing multiple websites. They also can be used to enhance Chrome's features such as cursor or browser tabs. Some of the most common use cases for Browser Extension type of extensions include:

When is a Page Extension a good idea?

Page Extensions are designed to leverage features or data found on specific websites, and are most often used for business and productivity purposes. For example, many people who use Gmail or Google Calendar may have ideas for new features they'd like to see added. However, since these web applications have a large user base, it can be difficult to get new features added through traditional means. Building a Page Extension can be a more efficient way to add new functionality as it can be done relatively easily.

Some Page Extensions allow users to access a web application's feature from any page in Chrome, while others connect data or functionality between two or more separate web applications. For example, Zoom Scheduler allows users to create Zoom invitations directly from Google Calendar. Some other common use cases for Page Extensions include:

What can I do with an Extension?

When building an extension, it's important to consider whether the site data or feature you want to augment is already available to the end user. For example, if you're running an eCommerce site that competes with Amazon and you want to know when the price drops for a specific item on, you could build a Page Extension to do it, as the data is already available to you. However, if your desired feature requires data or functionality that is not already exposed to the end user, then it may be best to look into using an API or scraping the data with a custom application.

This principle applies to Browser Extensions as well. For example, LastPass, a popular password manager, seems like magic, but it only does what it does by identifying login fields for a given site, storing the credentials entered, and suggesting your credentials when you visit the site again. LastPass cannot, for example, solve a Captcha, since the solution for it isn’t exposed to the end user.

It's worth noting that extensions can also be monetized. Some Chrome extensions can generate significant revenue, costing upwards of $50 annually per user. In contrast to native apps or web apps, a browser extension subscription is an easier sell as it doesn't require the user to visit a specific page or switch apps to use it, and demands a minimal investment in setup time before the value offered is apparent.

In summary, extensions are easy to install, user-friendly, and generally more cost-effective to develop than apps with the same functionality. If you or your business frequently use the internet for work, or if you are using a large platform that lacks a specific feature you need, using a Chrome extension could be a great solution. As long as the desired feature involves data or functionality that is already available to the end user, an extension can be developed to enhance or utilize it.

Do you Have an Idea for a Browser Extension?

As more and more companies are looking to introduce Chrome extensions to their employees' devices to increase functionality and control, it can be challenging to identify the best extension for specific business needs among the vast number of options available. As a result, many businesses are now turning to custom-made extensions to meet their specific requirements. It's important to work with reputable and reliable developers when creating custom extensions to ensure that the final product is of high quality and performs as expected. This not only guarantees the effectiveness of the solution but also provides the assurance that the extension is reliable and secure for business use.

The SilverLogic can help you develop a Chrome Extension. Email us at to find out more or contact us here.

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