April 23rd: Do You Control Your Browser?
Stanley Kubrick predicted first contact in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey and introduced a now-iconic, silver-tongued psychopathic A.I. by the name of “HAL” (1 character below “IBM”—get it?), but all we got in our own 2001 was United States v. Microsoft Corp. Some liked it and some didn’t but what everyone agreed on was that our freedom to choose our own browser would be integral to the Web’s success.
This week we’re focusing on how two technologies—browser extensions and bookmarklets—can expand our ability to make use of the web by customizing our browsers. Distinguished IR engineer Pat Needham documents his recent adventures in building a Chrome extension, warts and all. We’ve all been there, Pat (spoiler alert: it’s published!).
Thanks and Keep Growing,
(4 min. read)
“Curious about the process behind developing your own Chrome extension? InRhythm breaks down the steps from ideation to publishing as an individual engineer.”
What We’re Reading Around the Web
Mobile AR Experiences in Unity
(7 min. read)
“Browser extensions are like apps for your browser. Unlike bookmarklets, these are vendor-specific toolkits for extending browser functionality. Those ad blockers you keep hearing about are typically browser extensions; LastPass, a popular (and recommended) password manager is another. For-profit companies like ActiveInbox depend on browser extensions. At InRhythm we’re thinking hard about how to help our clients using these powerful tools. Thoughtbot offers a great write-up on how to dive in and start creating—Chrome and Mozilla offer detailed guidance as well.”
(9 min. read)
“Brian Donohue, former CEO of Instapaper (a company that bookmarklets essentially made possible) laments that ‘Bookmarklets are Dead (we just don’t know it yet)‘. Written in 2014, this important article was mainly reacting to security-focused technical changes that would cripple the power of bookmarklets in certain scenarios. While the reports of this demise were somewhat exaggerated, it’s true that these powerful customizations remain beholden to the goodwill of browser vendors, and there’s a risk in that. Run out and make some bookmarklets while you still can!”
Are Extensions Safe?
(5 min. read)
“Browser extensions are deeply integrated into the browser experience, which means they can ‘see’ pretty much anything you do on the Web, and have access to a lot of your data. This is their power, and when used well they function as useful apps. Extensions, just like apps, must ask for certain permissions prior to installation, and that’s good. But the vetting process for extensions is not as robust as it is for, say, Apple’s App Store. Bad actors are always searching for weaknesses, and browser extensions are not immune. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater—you can be a good actor, and build powerful tools for your customers and friends that only bring value.””