What Are Browser Extensions? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

What Are Browser Extensions?

Browser extensions are small software programs that customize the browsing experience. Some are created to sync with other services, some add additional features, and some change the appearance of certain websites you might visit. These extensions can usually be installed from the browser’s store. Most of these extensions are free, but some are paid. And while they add to the functionality and appearance of your browser, it’s important to know which ones you should use and how to use them.

Types of browser extensions

There are browser extensions for just about everything you do online, be it shopping, surfing, working, communicating, or anything else. For shopping, you can find tons of money-saving extensions such as Honey that will automatically try coupon codes across the web when you go to the “shopping cart” in an online store. Another popular option is PriceBlink, which gives you popups showing where you can find an item you are looking at cheaper.

If you are concerned about your level of productivity, there are plenty of extensions to keep you on-task. One is an extension called StayFocused that allows you to block certain websites or pages of websites you choose. The purpose is to keep you from wasting time aimlessly surfing the web while you should be focused on more important tasks.

How to install browser extensions

Each browser has its own store where you can download or buy themes or extensions. The Google browser, called Google Chrome, has the Chrome Web Store. Firefox is the browser run by Mozilla and has an online store called Mozilla’s Add-ons. And Apple’s extensions can be purchased from its Safari Extensions Gallery. You can visit these sites and search for add-ons or extensions specifically, by recommendation, or by category.

It’s important to note that you should avoid downloading too many extensions. Because each one is essentially a small software program, you can easily overload your computer by running too many at once. If you do find your computer or browser running slower than usual, try opening your task manager by holding down “control”, “alt”, and “delete” at the same time. You can then pick extensions to stop running or uninstall those that are no longer used. It’s also a good idea to use only one browser on your computer or at least, only install extensions on one, so that you can more easily keep track of what you’ve installed and what you still use.  

Are browser extensions safe?

Unfortunately, not all browser extensions are safe to install. Some include malicious viruses or spyware, and others may have missed bugs that can cause data breaches or server problems. Extensions run in your browser, so if you install a malicious one, its developers could be spying on your activity and stealing credit card and other personal information. Even though browser stores do their best to police this type of thing, some do sometimes slip through briefly and can destroy your hardware or steal your information if you don’t know what to look for.

For one thing, always read the privacy policies of any extensions you plan to install. They have to ask your permission before accessing private data in order to work properly. Don’t skim over the fine print. Find out what information they will be able to obtain. Secondly, check out reviews. Trusted extensions usually have lots of great reviews and have lots of users. They will also usually be created by trusted and reputable developers. And finally, if you have your own website, protecting information is vital to keeping it safe from information breaches and malicious installations. Your best line of defense, in this case, is to use a service such as Link Laboratory to build your links safely and reliably.

Browser extensions are great in customizing the user experience. Just be sure to practice safety when downloading and browsing online, as you wouldn’t want to deal with possible viruses or problems down the line.

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