Will Extensions remain a browser selection factor?

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 7, 2016

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.

Extension landscape is changing

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.

The future

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.

Closing Words

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?

Will Extensions remain a browser selection factor?
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Will Extensions remain a browser selection factor?
With all major browser companies moving towards supporting a compatible extensions system, will extensions remain a factor when picking browsers?
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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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