Google Extends Firefox

Google plans to sweeten up the release of the Google Toolbar for the Firefox browser with two extensions: Suggest and Send to Phone. The beta extensions will be released on Thursday, along with the toolbar.

Firefox extensions are plug-ins that add extra functionality to the browser.

“The Firefox browser supports a lot of extensions,” said Sundar Pichai, Google product manager. “We’re adding to them by launching standalone separate extensions only for Firefox.”

Google Suggest is a feature already available in regular Web search that auto-completes search queries and suggests refinements. Starting tomorrow this function also will take place in the query box within the Firefox toolbar.

Google Send to Phone, only available in the United States, lets users quickly save Web information to mobile phones.

“If you find any information on the Web that you want to keep handy, you can SMS it to your mobile phone,” Pichai said.

Users must enter the phone number and the name of their network operator to send the SMS. Pichai said the service, which supports most U.S. operators, takes advantage of wireless telcos systems that let users send e-mail to phone numbers.

The extensions will be available as “experiments” in Google Labs, according to Pichai. He said a Firefox toolbar was one of the most-requested features from users.

According to WebSideStory , a marketing and analytics firm, use of Firefox in the U.S. had grown to 7 percent in early May. (WebSideStory also said that more than 52 percent of all searchers clicking through to other sites had been referred by Google.)

Pichai said the extensions were “20 percent work”; Google engineers are encouraged to spend that much time of their working hours on projects of personal interest without worrying about utility or profitability.

While the extensions, like Firefox and, reportedly, most of Google’s infrastructure, are built on open source code, Pichai wouldn’t comment on why Google hadn’t released the code to the community, nor would he say whether the company has any plans to do so.

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