With ubiquity comes a measure of uniformity -- such is the plight of the modern Web browser.
True, subtle differences in features, flexibility, and performance set some browsers ahead of the pack for particular uses. For the most part, however, sucking down text and rendering HTML, even as the breadth of computing activity in the browser has increased, make most browsing experiences similar, regardless of the frame in which you surf.
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Enter the browser hack -- mechanisms by which users can customize their Web experience and tweak the performance of their browser of choice. All the major browsers make such customizations easy, though each employs a different mechanism and uses different labels for each one. For Internet Explorer, they're add-ons; for Opera, widgets; on Chrome, extensions will do the trick, as they will on Safari; Firefox is so open that you can customize your experience via add-ons, extensions, jetpacks, personas, plug-ins, and themes.
What's great about these additional blocks of code and images is that they're usually packaged for easy installation. In most cases, one click starts the process. And there's little reason to worry about the mechanism itself. The process works smoothly -- most of the time.
Anyone looking to make their browser faster, more functional, or just plain prettier can do so by following these seven steps to a richer Web experience.
Step 1 to a better Web browser: Know your platform
Browsers differ greatly in their openness to being improved. Among the first to open up its API, Firefox still offers the most complete API for programmers to navigate, boasting the widest variety of add-ons. Apple, on the other hand, opened up Safari only recently. As such, far fewer options for customizing Safari are available.
Depth of access plays a significant role in developers' ability to customize browsers as well, as plug-in developer Jason Barnabe notes.