What is a Firefox Extension or Add-On?

This article was last updated on November 22, 2015.

Mozilla's Firefox browser has developed a loyal following since its release over a decade ago. According to W3Schools' October 2015 trend analysis report, the open-source browser holds about 20% of the overall market share. There are many reasons that can be attributed to Firefox's popularity including privacy, security, speed, and ease of use.

One of the main attributes of the browser that attracts users, however, is the large number of free extensions available.

What Are Extensions?

Extensions are add-ons to Firefox that give your application new functionality. These range from customized news readers to online games. These extensions also provide the ability to tailor your browser's look and feel in several different formats. In order to utilize these extensions, you must first have the Firefox browser installed. If it is not currently installed on your computer, download the latest version of Firefox.

How Do I Find Them?

The add-ons have major appeal due to their ease of installation and wide realm of uses. The safest, most reliable place to download these extensions is through Mozilla's Firefox add-ons site. A visit there will provide you with a seemingly endless collection of add-ons to choose from, as well as hundreds of thousands of themes if you are looking to modify your browser's appearance. Most are accompanied by a detailed description, screenshots, and even user reviews to assist you in making your choices.

The majority of extensions and themes can be installed within seconds, many with just a click or two of your mouse.

Most of these add-ons are created by everyday people, albeit people with a solid level of programming skill. Because of this, you will find a good amount of the extensions are very practical and can be used to improve your life on the Web in many ways.

Developing Your Own Extensions

The add-on developer community continues to blossom in both size and knowledge thanks in large part to the Mozilla Developer Network. As the technology expands, so does the sophistication of the add-ons. Only time will tell how far these eager developers can stretch the limits of our imagination, but if the last several years are any indication then the best is yet to come.

Potential Pitfalls

Typically when something in the technology world becomes widely utilized, there is always a group of people who look to exploit it with a less than positive motive behind their actions. In the case of Firefox add-ons some rogue developers have used their easy and free appeal as a malware delivery device, coupling what appears to be a legitimate functionality set with software that can prove harmful, or at the very least annoying, to you and your computer. To avoid this potentially dangerous situation, the golden rule should be to only install extensions from Mozilla's official site and nowhere else.

Another problem you may run into with Firefox add-ons is conflicting behavior, which usually occurs when you have several programs installed with some overlapping functionality.

While most extensions tend to play nice together, some may negate others in terms of common feature sets. If you find yourself encountering some strange behavior, it is best to disable or uninstall one extension at a time until you are able to isolate the culprit.

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