Ask most folks what an Internet browser is for, and they’ll look at you as though you’ve suddenly grown an extra head. Internet browsers are for browsing the Internet, right?
Well, you’re not strictly speaking incorrect to make that assumption, but the reality is that while browsers grew as a category of software designed for Internet browsing, they’ve long since eclipsed that simple goal, offering a suite of functionalities via either in-page applications or straight up extensions that can take the humble browser in all kinds of directions. You might not want or need to install numerous applications that used to be standalone if you can get your browser to perform the necessary functions instead.
As an example, if you’ve ever used Google Docs to write out a document or even a list, then you’re word processing through your browser. Watching video via YouTube, Netflix or ABC iView in your browser, and it’s a video player. Both examples are essentially frictionless applications using the inbuilt capabilities of your browser of choice, but it’s in the ability to add extensions that you can truly leverage the power of your browser.
The range and scope of extensions is truly remarkable, whether you’re looking to maximise your broadband speed by using caching extensions such as Google’s Data Saver, create a to-do list with Any.do or just manage your spiralling quantity of open tabs with any number of different tab management applications. Most password managers also incorporate in-browser extensions that make it simple to autofill secure passwords for you on demand, keeping you safer than the still-all-too-common practices of using single passwords for multiple services, or for that matter using dictionary words for the same purpose.
Not that extensions are all flowers and sunshine. You’ve got to be careful with what you install and why, because each extension adds a certain performance load to your computer when it’s running. Poorly written or maintained extensions can pose security risks, so before you do install, read around to see if other users have complaints or if a particular extension has had any bad press lately.
Make sure you keep your extensions updated on a regular basis, because again they’re refined not only for security, but also performance and often new functionality as well. The same advice applies to browsers themselves, especially if you’re still using older browsers such as Internet Explorer (abandoned by Microsoft in favour of its newer Edge browser) or previous versions of Chrome or Safari. Browser attacks are on the rise, and old, unpatched browsers are a hacker’s delight.
While you’re pondering on extensions, it’s also worthwhile having a look at what the browser competition is doing these days. If you’ve only ever used a single browser type, be it Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer or any other , have a look at what’s being done by the browsers you haven’t tried, such as Firefox, Opera or Safari.
You might find a browser approach that suits your PC better, and even if you don’t they’re simple and free downloads that are easily uninstalled if they don’t suit your needs. Competition for features and above all speed means that you don’t have to put up with a browser clogging up your computer’s precious resources any longer.