What are browser extensions?

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Firefox Add-On Store

No matter what browser you use on a daily basis, you’ve probably heard of browser extensions, sometimes called add-ons. Firefox and Chrome have the best selection of extensions, while Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera have a smaller inventory.

Browser extensions are little pieces of software that extend the functionality of your browser in some way. They add features to a website that you can use as opposed to plug-ins (like Flash or Java), which add functionality that the website can use. You probably already use extensions but may not know it:

  • The “Pin It” button for Pinterest is an extension. It lets you pin any webpage to your Pinterest boards without being on the Pinterest website.
  • The LastPass extension stores passwords and other sensitive information. That extension can also create logins for you.
  • InvisibleHand and other shopping extensions tell you when you can find an item cheaper at another website.
  • The HootSuite extension lets you add any website to your social media schedule without having the HootSuite dashboard open.

In fact, if you browse through the extension “stores” for Firefox and Chrome, you’ll find there’s an extension for nearly every need, from blocking advertising to managing cloud storage accounts. And this is where we urge you to exercise some caution and restraint.

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Chrome Extensions Store

Like all pieces of software, extensions can contain malware and viruses. Bad extensions can snoop on your browsing and capture information like credit card numbers or passwords. It’s best to choose extensions from websites and companies you know and trust. Or, use ones that are well-reviewed by other users. It pays to read those reviews to learn how the extension works and what effect it has on your browser.

Extension Overload

When you’re browsing through the list of available extensions, it can be tempting to add every one that sounds cool and even remotely useful. Resist the urge to download them all, though – adding too many extensions to your browser can slow the performance of your browser. It’s best to think about how you use the web and only install the extensions you will actually use.

Where to Get Them

Each browser is different, and what’s available for one may not be available for another. Firefox and Chrome have the largest selection, and Chrome has a system for permissions that may restrict what is available to Chrome users. Here’s where to find what’s available for your browser of choice:

If you’re wondering how to maximize your website browsing with extensions, PNSolutions is here to help! We’re happy to answer your browser extension questions.

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