How did you end up with the web browser that you are using right now to read this article? Was it installed with the device, or did you install it manually? If the latter is the case, why did you pick it, and not another browser?
There are plenty of possible reasons: you like the company, the browser is fast or secure, offers better privacy, more control, more customization options, extensions that you rely on, a recommendation, or it was offered to you and you kept using it.
For instance, one of the reasons why I use Firefox as my main browser is the NoScript add-on. It is only available for Firefox and no other browsers. Sure, there are comparable extensions but they don't offer the same functionality, and probably won't ever.
But the extension landscape is changing, and heading towards an extensions system that is largely compatible between browsers.
All Chromium-based browsers for instance, Google Chrome Opera, Vivaldi and others, share the same extension system. While Chrome is the primary driver behind extensions, Google maintains the largest web store of Chromium-compatible extensions after all, most install just fine in other compatible browsers.
As a Vivaldi user for instance, you can simply hop over to the Chrome Store, and click on the install button next to extensions to add them to the browser; and most will work just fine.
Microsoft introduced the Edge browser in Windows 10, and recently extensions support for the browser. While you cannot visit the Chrome Web Store to install extensions in Edge yet, Microsoft did release the Microsoft Edge Extension Toolkit recently which turns Chrome extensions into Edge extensions nearly automatically.
As far as Firefox is concerned, its add-on landscape is changing as well. Mozilla launched the first stable version of WebExtensions in Firefox 48 recently for instance. This lets Firefox users head over to the Chrome store to install Chrome extensions in Firefox.
Not all Chrome extensions are compatible yet with Firefox, but compatibility will improve over the next releases of the Firefox browser. Firefox users will be able to install a large part of Chrome extensions eventually.
Mozilla wants to deprecate much of the organization's old add-on system in the process. It plans to migrate add-on features to WebExtensions however giving developers access to additional functions.
Microsoft and Mozilla focus on bringing extensions closer to Google's system. This leads to extensions becoming available for all browsers with little effort for the developer.
One has to ask whether the move will remove extensions from being a browser selection factor. If all extensions you rely on are available for all browsers, there is little need to it being a factor after all.
There will be differences still. Mozilla plans to make WebExtensions more powerful and if the other browser developers don't support these add-on features as well, will see add-on ports and new add-ons that won't make their way to Edge or Chrome.
Some extensions may focus on browser features that the other browsers don't support. These will also be exclusive then to select browsers. The vast majority of add-ons however will become available across browsers.
The time where every web browser used its own extension system, or none at all, will be largely over soon. While some differences remain, with Mozilla probably offering extension developers more features than other companies, the bulk of extensions will be compatible across browsers.
Now You: Are extensions a deciding factor for you?Advertisement
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.