RealTime IT News

Browser Add-Ons an Emerging Force

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – The burgeoning market for browser add-ons finally has its own conference. Today's one-day event drew about 160 developers and other interested parties to the Computer History Museum to hear experts talk about both the business and technical side of bringing add-ons to market.

While this may have been the first conference devoted to this market segment, browser add-ons are a big business that have also strongly influenced browser advancements. Brian King, a consultant and board member of Mozilla's Mozdev.org hosting site, noted a number of standard browser features started out as add-ons. He said Multizilla led to tabbed browsing in Firefox, just as another add-on, Total Recall, was a precursor to the Session Restore feature in the Firefox browser.

"Add-ons can be an incubator for core features that go into the browser, features we take for granted today," he said.

King noted that last month Mozilla.org announced it had surpassed a billion downloads of add-ons since it started tracking the figures in 2005. "It's a staggering number. It means people are using add-ons and it's a viable market because the browser is where people spend most of their time," he said.

Mozilla offers a central Web site to download free add-ons for its Firefox browser. Late to the party, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) offers a similar site of add-ons for the latest beta version of Internet Explorer 8.

But even with all this activity, the broader potential market for add-ons is largely untapped. "There are no really excellent consumer applications, it's largely techie stuff," Jordan Stolper, CEO of startup Gliider.com, told InternetNews.com. Stolper's company is developing a browser add-on designed to make planning trips more fun.

Stolper thinks 2009 will be a turning point for the industry with a raft of more consumer-friendly add-ons appearing. "Add-ons have great potential consumer value because they offer a way to elevate what you can get out of the Web," he said.

Changing the Web

One of those companies looking to elevate or enhance the consumer experience is Cooliris. "We think the Web hasn't changed much in the past ten years and there's a fundamental unmet need," said Alec Jeong, the lead for user growth at Cooliris. "If you have thousands of images results from a Google search, how do you get a sense of what's on the tenth page?"

Cooliris offers a three dimensional wall that puts multiple results or images on display to quickly scan and find what you want. It also provides a black background Jeong said is more aesthetically pleasing than the standard white background.

He also said Cooliris is experimenting with new kinds of large display ads that connect on a more emotional level than most ads on the Web do today. "Our goal is to bring … the visual appeal and emotional ethos of what you see in a magazine, and combine that with the interactivity of the Web," he said.

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