Distance from the default: Web browser extensions

There is a nice page of web browser extensions on Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki.
This includes things like bookmarklets, toolbars, greasemonkey scripts, and so on. For a nice discussion which puts some of these in context see Ross Singer’s Access 2005 presentation. He talks there about the ‘sloppy underbelly of the web’. I used intrastructure for a while to talk about this type of thing, but as nobody else does I gave up 😉
Recently, I have been wondering about the impact of ‘distance from the default’ on take up. One might surmise that the more a user has to do, or in other words the more they have to adapt their default settings, the lower the uptake will be, other things being equal. And most of these tools do require installation of some sort. Even small effort dampens use. Greasemonkey allows you to do very nice things. What proportion of your user population will you reach though? Well, IE is still the default browser for many. So you immediately have a narrowing to those who have installed Firefox. And then a further narrowing to those who have installed Greasemonkey. And then a further narrowing to those who have installed a particular script. You are getting down, unfortunately, to small numbers at this stage. You can tell a similar story with toolbars, widgets, extensions, dashboards, and so on, with different degrees of narrowing as the distance from the default changes.
And the issue is compounded by the variety of approaches. We do not have a generally adopted, simple ‘composition’ framework in the browser which narrows the ‘distance from the default’.
The ability to very simply compose external services in your browser/desktop/devise seems to me to be so valuable that it has to happen 😉 Something will come along that unifies our work environment more. We know some of the candidates, but maybe something new will appear.
Incidentally, Kudos to Meredith Farkas for setting up the Library Success Wiki. A good and simple idea which is valuable and deserves to succeed.
Link to the browser extension page via Science Library Pad.
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3 thoughts on “Distance from the default: Web browser extensions”

  1. It would seem to me that Flock is something of an attempt at providing “the ability to very simply compose external services in your browser”. Perhaps it’s not general enough in this context, though. One wonders if a “Get GreaseMonkey” or “Spread GreaseMonkey” campaign (ala Get Firefox/Spread Firefox) might not be helpful…

  2. Presumably one way to get GreaseMonkey closer to the default is to have it included in Google Pack – doubtful that they would do that though as there are many GreaseMonkey scripts for avoiding Google ads.
    I discussed the default issue recently in Google Pack and the assault on defaults.
    I also mentioned this issue as one of the major challenges for libraries trying to deploy these technologies in my presentation on Firefox extensions at Internet Librarian International 2005.

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