Before we begin we need to be clear on the definition of on Ad-on.
1.) Applications that offer time saving benifts and enhance your online experiene
Applications that are integrated directly in the browser (Developer’s
tool kit, Flickr upload tool, Sage RSS Reader, GMail account tracker,
IE View etc..)
Ad-on’s are NOT:
1.) Links to external applications from within the browser
Applications that add completly no value or have no clear definition of
purpose (this definately comes from both sides of the camp – IE:
Developers Toolbar – Firefox: US Department of Homeland Insecurity
Ad-on’s are becoming a hot topic especially with the impending launch of IE 7 (which appears to be next month). Currently there are 1800+ Add-on’s available for the Firefox browser and approximately 435 available for IE7 (which is not to bad considering the browser is still in beta). The idea behind the growth of Ad-on’s is pretty simple – improve the experience of the online user. We are constanly on-line working in or around our browser. Whether we are searching for information on the web (hopefully work related) or we are using the Web to access information from various Web based applications. The Web browser is our window into the world of information.
A while ago the notion of the “Web browser as the desktop” became a popular topic of discussion and quite frankly it makes a lot of sense. For instance, right now I have at my finger tips (i.e. without leaving Firefox), the ability to check my email, look at all of my RSS feeds, post to my blog, upload pictures and find any information I want. Although I have other tools opened (One Note, Eclipse, Outlook and IE 7 – doing some comaprisons), a majority of what I need is all right here. Why would I leave.
With the launch of the Windows RSS Platform, Windows and IE7 are starting to tip the scales a bit. You can details here, but the general idea is that your OS would manage a Common Feeds List. Firefox Add-ons currently can post your RSS feeds (and bookmarks) to various placess, but there is no central repository. One that I feel is important. While this Platform is interesting, the only application that is currently taking advantage of this is the “Desktop Sync” application which is not truly an Ad-on since it breaks rule number one of the Ad-on’s definition.
What is interesting though is the concept of the Platform. What I could envision are many RSS applications tied into the browser as Ad-on’s that utilize this common-feeds architecture.
Accessing the outside from within
The idea of updating a hosted Web application from the browser is not totally new. Firefox has allowed developers to build unique tools which keep users up to date with their information stored in various applications. For instance, there are a few GMail extensions available in Firefox which will notify you when a new email arrives and will even show you a snippet of that email. I am actually a bit surprised that non one has written an extension which allows for easy uploads of RSS feeds to NewsGator (would be really nice if it also notified you when a feed is updated).
IE Addons – http://www.ieaddons.com/default.aspx?cid=4&scid=79 (also available from within the IE 7 browser)
Firefox Addons – https://addons.mozilla.org/ are also available within the browser.
The edge clearly goes to Firefox here and that goes even without talking about Themes (Azerty III for me currently).
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