Why You Should Use Userscripts And Not Extensions When Possible

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 4, 2010
Updated • Mar 27, 2019
Internet, userscripts

If you want to add functionality to your web browser, you have the option to install extensions - or add-ons and plugins as some browsers call them - or userscripts usually.

Extensions are small programs that are loaded at the start of the web browser while userscripts only become active on the pages they have been designed for.

That is the biggest and most important difference between those two but there are other. Extensions are offered from official repositories such as the Chrome Web Store or Mozilla AMO, and scripts on third-party sites.

Extensions vs. user scripts

Lets look at an example on the main difference between extensions and scripts. Lets say you are a big Facebook user and want to improve your experience on the social networking site by adding features and shortcuts to it.

Facebook Fixer is a userscript that might offer exactly what you are looking for. It can do all sorts of things like displaying bigger album pictures and photos, showing age information and signs, enabling keyboard shortcuts or automatic reloads on page errors.

A similar functionality is also provided by extensions like the Better Facebook Fixer extension for Google Chrome. It basically offers the same functionality as the userscript but with a small but noticeable difference.

I'm using Google Chrome for the example because it offers a task manager that lists the memory usage of all open tabs and extensions.

If you install the extension you notice that it uses about eight Megabytes of computer memory constantly. It runs in the background all the time even if you are not on Facebook or don't have a single website open in Chrome.

The userscript on the other hand will only run when you visit Facebook.

It can generally be said that userscripts are more resource friendly than extensions. The situation is a little bit different for Firefox users who have to install an extension to use userscripts, and for scripts that require an extension like Tampermonkey in other browsers such as Chrome.

But it is beneficial for them as well if we assume that the extensions will likely use a similar amount of computer memory meaning it is a tie if only one userscript is installed and an improvement if you install more than one.

This theory obviously only works if the extension and userscript offer similar functionality.

There are a couple of other differences. Extensions may offer preferences or options that you can control from a manager that the browser ships with, while userscripts may require manual edits or provide you with options to change options when you visit one of the supported sites.

Last but not least, it is necessary to talk about security. User scripts are not inherently less secure than extensions but they don't get reviewed like extensions would. While extension stores accepted listings for malicious or problematic extensions in the past, it is more Wild West when it comes to scripts.

Closing Words

User scripts are very useful when it comes to changing content on websites that you visit frequently or regularly, and there is nothing wrong in using them if you take the time to go through the code to make sure that they are clean and not malicious or otherwise problematic.

What do you prefer to use: Extensions or userscripts?

Why You Should Use Userscripts And Not Extensions When Possible
Article Name
Why You Should Use Userscripts And Not Extensions When Possible
Find out why it is usually better to run userscripts instead of extensions in your web browser of choice.
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between name.com domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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