How Add-ons Work

Also referred to as plug-ins or extensions, developers or website owners download add-ons from third-party providers to add features to a browser, website, or app that they normally wouldn’t have. Usually, the website, app, or browser you’re using will have a specific protocol you can follow to add and enable the add-on. If there isn’t a special place within the program to do so, the existing platform either doesn’t allow add-ons or you’ll have to insert it manually using code.

Add-ons for websites are usually called plug-ins. As a website owner, add-ons can exponentially increase your ability to accomplish tasks, format posts, and participate in eCommerce. There are plenty of free, open-source plug-ins you can download—a simple Google search will bring up plenty of results.

If you are looking to enhance a browser’s capabilities, you would download an add-on called an extension. Extensions are platform-specific. For example, if you download an extension specifically made for the Chrome browser, e.g., the Grammarly extension, you can’t use it for Firefox or Safari.

Real World Example of Add-on

WordPress is a popular web hosting platform, partly because it lets you customize and optimize your blog to your liking. Though the company’s made-for-WordPress-by-WordPress add-on package, JetPack, contains an extraordinary amount of functions you can take advantage of, some users prefer to look for different add ons that do similar things, or one thing very well. A notable feature of JetPack is its gallery and slideshow tools. But if a user wants to up the ante on gallery and slideshow features, they may choose from a whole host of add-ons that specialize in these features.

One of these is called Photo Gallery by 10Web. The free version is mobile responsive, adds tags to images to increase search engine optimization, and has a high level of customization capabilities. Suppose the user were to purchase the premium version of the add-on. In that case, they’d be able to display Facebook albums on their website, incorporate eCommerce options into photos, and add watermarks to images.

To use the add-on, the user would download it from the source site, and head over to their WordPress administrator dashboard. From there, they’d go to Plug-Ins and select Add New. After selecting the appropriate plug-in file, the user will upload it into WordPress and click Activate. If successful, they will now be able to take full advantage of the features Photo Gallery by 10Web added.

Add-on vs. Extension vs. Plug-In

Though we mentioned before that add-ons are an umbrella term for any software that adds functionality to something, different developers define add-ons, plug-ins, and extensions differently. Some software engineers call plug-ins and add-ons extensions and consider add-ons as browser and game software-specific. Flash is considered a plug-in, even though it allows your browser to perform a function it could not before—so shouldn’t we call Flash an extension? Either way, when you hear the three terms, just know that that particular piece of software is adding functionality to an existing program.