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Browser Extensions: the Emerging Standard and Rolling Your Own

Not surprisingly, Chrome Extensions have become very popular. They can add all sorts of nifty functionality to your web browser. Some extensions are designed to work with certain sites and even a specific page. For example, there are about 70 chrome extensions targeting Facebook. Other extensions target the overall browser experience and are not tied to a specific page or site. For example, extension that block advertising, or parental control extensions that block access to porn sites. From dev tools to shopping and social media, from horrible waste of time, to productivity boosting, “how did I live without this”!  At the Chrome Web Store, degrees of quality and functionality run full gamut.

Browser Buy-in
The relatively new development API’s, (application programming interfaces), allow extensions to be crafted with standard web development tools; HTML/CSS and JavaScript. The “standard”, seemingly with no standard name, is referred to as “Chrome Extensions”, “WebExtensions” or simple “Extensions”. Simply put, it is a well-defined set of API’s that allow developers to enhance browser functionality. So in theory there is cross-browser compatibility, but in reality, it may take a while to get there. At this point you can't take your extension for Chrome and simply install in a different browser without at least some browser-specific mod's. Chrome and Opera have taken the lead with their implementations. Other browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge are jumping on the bandwagon.  As Safari settles into its role as the new IE, it is sticking to its own, non-standard approach. 

Improved Privacy/Security
Thankfully, compared to older add-on frameworks, the new standard is more mindful of privacy and security. There are baked in constraints that make the architecture less of a vector for viruses. Given that extensions can bypass the same-origin policy (SOP), extensions pose an inherent threat to privacy. So being able to trust the publisher/author of an extension is still very important. When in doubt, an organization can build its own extension by leveraging in-house, web-dev talent.

Time to Roll Your Own
I believe there is huge potential for extensions in the enterprise; they really can make all sorts of things much easier. I’ve started a series of videos that document one common use case, and related functionality/automation.  The name of my extension is “jobChum for Upwork”. It’s designed to help me react to opportunities more quickly. And also to help me gauge trends in demand for various development tools, skills and skill sets. There is a brief video of jobChum here.