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We all love our browsers, and we all love the extensions that you can install with them. Firefox‘s and Google Chrome‘s extension collections are quite massive, while Opera‘s is quickly growing in size.

We love browser extensions because they allow us to do what we want our browser to do that it couldn’t do before. And there are so many different things that can be added or solved by the use of extensions that it’s downright mind-blowing. But, as you install more and more extensions that you find useful, you’ll soon start to encounter some consequences of doing so.

Slow Performance Through Higher Resource Usage

While smaller systems like netbooks can be noticeably affected with just 2 or 3 extensions, even bigger systems will start feeling the pressure with 10 or more extensions. Affected? How? Well, your browser takes up system resources. Although the programmers try to make it use as few resources as possible, there are no limits to how much resources they can ultimately use.

Although the browser itself may run just fine, extensions add on to that, taking up more memory and CPU cycles. Your system will then start becoming sluggish, and all the benefits of your new extensions will be cancelled out by the slowness of your system. Sadly, there isn’t an extension which can fix that.

Higher Risk of Possible Instability & Security Holes

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I’m sure that you’ve heard the idea that the less parts something has, the less likely it is to fail. This is also true with browsers and their extensions, as those extensions could possibly crash the browser or compromise it from a security standpoint. Browser developers try to filter out bad extensions, but in the case of Google, there is absolutely no guarantee you’re safe.

If malware applications can appear in the Play Store for Android, what says that Google has a better control on what extensions reach the Chrome Web Store?

How Do You Manage So Many Extensions?

Finally, if you’re the person that has 10, 15, 0r even more extensions installed on your browser because they’re all “extremely useful and cool and whatnot,” you’re bound to find two extensions that either contradict themselves or have two different approaches of solving the same problem.

A good example is session/tab management. There are plenty of those available for Chrome, and you might feel the need to install more than one of them. Will the two extensions play nice with each other? There’s no guarantee on that either, and it could just mess up or confuse your overall browsing experience, which is supposed to be relatively simple.

Speaking of confusing, even if you don’t have contradicting extensions installed, how the heck do you quickly manage 15+ extensions? I certainly wouldn’t want to have to take time to manage the extensions themselves, the very things that are supposed to make the browser you use better.

Conclusion

In the end, I’m not discouraging people from installing extensions. Heck, I love extensions. The few I use make my life a lot easier. But there’s the key: the few. If you’re able to cut down all your extensions to the ones you absolutely know that you use every day and are very helpful, then you’ll have a speedier browser and less worry about managing your pile of extensions. As for myself, I currently only use FastestChrome and LastPass, and I’m perfectly happy with the way the browser behaves with just those two extensions installed. I’m sure you’ll find your own zen place after you cut back a bit.

How many extensions are you using? Do you wish to share any relevant secrets? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}, Wease, Lemon Seltzer

  1. dragonmouth
    October 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    It is interesting that only one poster mentioned using more than one security extension. I use Ghostery, Better Privacy, NoScript, WOT and AdBlock with Firefox. Of what use is a browser that looks all tricked and is convenient to use but is full of security holes?

  2. Mountain Man
    September 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I've found that slowdown was more a problem with older versions of Chrome. The latest versions don't seem to take any adverse hit from having lots of extensions installed. According to the Chrome task manager and even the system task manager, the extensions are using no CPU cycles when idle (I have around 20 extensions installed). So it seems the "they're going to kill your system performance" argument is no longer valid.

    As for memory usage, judging by the stats, loading a webpage into a single tab has roughly 6 to 15 times the memory impact as any one of my extensions, so the argument could be made that if you shouldn't use multiple extensions then you shouldn't have more than one tab open at a time, either.

    I suppose it's conventional wisdom that the more extensions you have the greater impact it will have on system performance, but I honestly don't see that in practice across a variety of operating systems on which I have Chrome installed.

  3. Guest
    July 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I find it funny that people use password savers like LastPass. I wouldn't touch them, I don't fancy my passwords getting stolen by an addon.

    The essentials for Chrome are:
    Adblock (I find it funny that Danny doesn't use this. Without adblock the web looks like IE6 again - aka horrible)
    Https Enforcer OR HTTPS Everywhere
    ScriptNo
    WOT

    The essentials for Firefox:
    Adblock Plus
    HTTPS-Everywhere
    HTTPS Finder (and yes, they compliment each other)
    NoScript
    WOT

    Opera:
    Adblock OR built in .ini filter
    Swiss Knife (Opera's version of HTTPS Everywhere)
    WOT
    (I would use NotScripts as well, but it does not work very nicely)

    Ghostery is also something to consider, though it broke a legit website for me (that could not be undone without disabling ghostery) so I'm not using it atm.

    My opinion is that if you're not running the primary security extensions (most of which are listed above) then you've no business browsing the web. This applies to everybody.

  4. Tejas K
    May 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Should I worry ?

    Adblock
    LastPass
    Currency Converter
    Download Assistant
    Edit This Cookie
    Google Dictionary (by Google)
    Tampermonkey [for greasemonkey 1.youtube downloader 2.facebook unfriends]
    Web2PDFConverter

  5. Tony
    May 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Too many extensions can be bad. First, I think it slows the time the browser takes to open. Example, you go to your desktop and double click firefox, and you are just waiting there. This is because it takes time to load these extensions. I am using chrome and I use Lastpass, Google Dictionary, WOT and Google Similar pages. While this might seem a bit too much. It hasn't affected the performance of chrome yet. It just takes a few seconds to completely load (as I had said earlier).

    Second, as Danny had said earlier, too many extensions usually do not play nicely with each other. 2 extensions which does the same thing will be a nightmare.

    But I do not completely agree that there will be a higher risk of instability or security holes. What about extensions aimed at security(like Lastpass and Ghostery), do they create a more secure atmosphere or more security holes?

    Long story short, too many extensions is an headache. I had installed many extensions in firefox before (they looked so good! :) ). But I realized that they did more harm than good.

    • Doc
      May 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      I hardly even notice the change in startup time, and (most of) the extensions I've chosen are well-behaved, proven, and so useful I can't live without them...and most of them have a lousy Chrome version, if there is one at all (DownThemAll for Chrome? Nope, and I don't want to use an external one like Orbit Downloader.)

  6. stemi
    April 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    too many, just removed a.... whoa, i have an address bar again.!!!!

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:49 am

      Feels good to know where you are on the internet, right? :)

  7. Chris Hoffman
    April 30, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Definitely true. Every now and then I take a glance at my extensions and remove ones that seemed useful but that I never use. I tend to stick to 4-5.

    Incidentally, this is true for lots of other things, too -- if you're not using something, it just takes up space and slows you down. This is as true for stuff on your desk as it is for extensions in your browser. Declutter!

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:48 am

      Ah, very true. It's one of the modern life skills that as a teenager I haven't yet perfected 100%.

  8. Doc
    April 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I currently have 34 extensions installed in Firefox, and while some of them are pretty small ("App Button Color" lets me change the color of the Firefox button, and "Personal Menu" lets me move it where I want), the majority of them (AdBlock Plus, Greasemonkey, Firebug, NoScript, DownThemAll) are proven, stable, and extensions I consider vital to the use of my browser. Firefox has proven to be much more stable than IE, even with extensions added, and is more robust than Chrome (which has a horrible, crippled extension system, IMHO...you can't even create an extension with a digital clock without using 2 extensions, one for an "hours" button and one for a "minutes" button).

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:45 am

      Oh wow! I can't imagine having 34 extensions...maybe 15-20 at the most. I have to agree that Chrome's extension system is a little strange and is one of the main reasons why I occasionally rethink whether I should use Chrome or Firefox as my daily driver.

    • Doc
      May 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Most of the extensions I've kept over the years make Firefox indispensible to me; for example, DownThemAll replaced GetRight as soon as I found it; GrabAndDrag allows me to scroll a page by dragging it, like Adobe Acrobat; I use Firebug and the Web Developer Toolbar daily; Tab Mix Plus I can't get along without (I prefer "external" links - ones that go to a different site - to open in a background tab; it also lets me choose colors and styles for tabs, etc.). Simple Clocks lets me put a digital clock in my toolbar; NoSquint lets me zoom into pages that were designed for a narrow screen, and zoom text sizes to make reading easier.

      Almost all of the addons I've installed have earned their place in the browser, or are so small and inconsequential (like Find All, that shows me all matches on a page, or Progress Meter, that replaces the end of the URL bar with a progress meter) that I'm not concerned about "stability" or "startup time."

  9. Dhruv Sangvikar
    April 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    For me its adblock plus and google shortener which are essential.. there are two more which i have installed... but they are site specific so they come in handy only occasionally. :) Nice article btw..

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:43 am

      Thank you for the feedback! :)

  10. Kyem Ghosh
    April 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Well I generally don't use any extension for chrome and it runs best without extensions. Chrome is always my default browser. But a few weeks ago, I downloaded a new extension... and just a day later, I got certificate error from chrome. The version was 18.0.1025.150. I donno why it happened but this discouraged me to download any extension further. But firefox is good enough to handle lots of extension. Yes its good! But still chrome loads a website faster than Firefox and I think its much secure! I don't use Opera cz it has always been uneasy to use it in my PC but its the best browser for mobile. But recently tried the latest Opera 12 Beta. Its good. Loads faster than its predecessors. Waiting for its final version!!!

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:43 am

      I suppose we'll see how things evolve! A new wave of the browser wars, maybe? :)

  11. Jonathan
    April 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Good but i have xD ufff 21 Extenstions.

    I use a manager extensions is very nice: Context
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/aalnjolghjkkogicompabhhbbkljnlka

    http://puu.sh/s6Zx

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:42 am

      That's great if you can manage them well! Just don't forget the other two points of my article :)

  12. AtleticoPaco
    April 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I wanna be honest! I often add extension really unnecessary for me and in a few days I realize that and remove it. Sometimes the benefits of the most extensions are not ever more than the bother to have it.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:41 am

      Exactly! It's good to realize that and clean out your browser regularly.

  13. RDS
    April 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I'm using 18. So a question. Is 'disabling extensions' or 'removing them' will have same effect on browser or are they different from each other?

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:40 am

      They should have the same effect. Disabling them simply tells the browser not to load them, so they are not used and therefore aren't exposing possible security holes or increasing the amount of needed resources. Removing them deletes them from your system entirely, which has the same effect as disabling it except you regain a minute amount of disk space.

  14. KYH
    April 29, 2012 at 6:57 am

    For Chrome, it is quite obvious that extensions slow down the browsing speed. However, this is quite different from Fx. Unless you use so bloated extensions (like Firebug and video download helper), the speed for Fx is more or less the same. Also, installing extensions is all about effectiveness of work, which is much more important than trying all the ways for squeezing speed for 0.x sec . But I agree that if you are using a netbook or other lower-end devices users have the responsibility to choose the most essential extensions only.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Firefox may cope better with extensions as far as speed goes, but it still takes more resources which can affect other applications on your computer. And yes, problems will rise whenever a certain number of extensions are installed.

  15. Shawn
    April 29, 2012 at 1:27 am

    You're certainly not discouraging me from using extensions. In my opinion, this article makes very little sense. The only negatives I see about extensions in this article seem to be related to Google Chrome only, which is a browser I wouldn't use anyway. And exactly what sort of "management" do installed extensions require? You install them, you put the button where you want it, you change your preferences or options (if there even are any) and you move on with your life. This is done one extension at a time, not in groups of a dozen or so. Maybe extensible web browsers are too complex for some people, but I wouldn't expect one of those people to be writing for MUO.

    • Dhruv Sangvikar
      April 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Try it with any browser.. extensions use system resources and more extensions = more resources. so that part's true. Moreover not every installed extension is always in use or not even used often.. so the articles relevant.. :)

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:36 am

      They apply to any extensible browser, not just Google Chrome. You can easily find out that loading 20+ extensions into Firefox will take more resources than a "vanilla" Firefox. The security point applies because code is never perfect, even the browsers themselves. Extensions simply add more points of possible failure/safety holes. As for managing them...please read that part of the article again. Carefully picked extensions may not cause as much of an issue, but people who install extensions because they do something cool will be more likely to face that problem.

      I never said that I had issues with managing multiple extensions. It was simply a recommendation so that other people don't face such an issue.

  16. Mike
    April 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I only use like 2ish? Including Adblock plus and Test Pilot.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:31 am

      No worries there! :)

  17. Nelvin
    April 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Ugh.. I use more than 20 extensions. But every now and then I toggle them only when I need them. Except for: Adblock Plus, Ghostery, HTTPS Everywhere, FastestFox, and GreaseMonkey. The kind that can keep me untraceable... at least.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:29 am

      Try what someone else said in the comments...clean out some extensions you don't use regularly and see if you'll actually miss them. Might be helpful!

  18. Shane Phillips
    April 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I love pocket formerly readitlater,Evernote clipper and many more. I use Firefox

  19. Matt Smith
    April 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I generally agree. Usually I have no more than five extension at a time...adding more just clutters up Chrome. It's particularly bad on Chrome since (almost) every extension ends up adding a new icon to the browser.

    • Shawn
      April 29, 2012 at 1:27 am

      Most things are particularly bad on Chrome.

    • Chris
      April 29, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Such as? Chrome is one of the best browsers out there.

    • Dhruv Sangvikar
      April 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      u kidding or trolling?

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:28 am

      That's true. I need to compare the resource usage of Firefox extensions vs. Chrome extensions...that would be interesting! As for Chrome icons, thankfully those can be hidden via the right-click menu. Otherwise it would most definitely be a pain.

  20. Dan
    April 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I only use 2 extensions in Fx, Chrome, and Opera: LastPass and Adblock. In IE9, the tracking protection takes care of adblocking so I only need LastPass there.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Sounds good to me! :)

  21. Donald V Dunham
    April 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I do a lot of web work and I use 23 extensions on Fire fox and use most almost every day.
    I have had no issues with my browser.
    I don't understand why everyone says Its so hard to manage.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

      You're probably just used to them if you use them every day! Just be aware of the resource requirements of 23 extensions as well as the possible undetected security holes. Your system might still run fine with 23 extensions, but trust me that Firefox would be faster if that number was cut down a little bit (any browser would react that way).

    • Donald V Dunham
      May 3, 2012 at 12:37 am

      I've been on the net since 94 and I cant stand a computer that Is slower than my brain so I know what speed Is.
      So I still don't know what your talking about.

    • Donald V Dunham
      May 3, 2012 at 12:49 am

      Especially the management part, Takes no time at all.
      Just wondering that's all.

    • Prashant Mohta
      June 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

      if your PC is a top notch PC it may not make a huge difference also your browsing style determines weather the load is gon slow severely or just a niffy

  22. Dave
    April 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    i use these chrome extensions:
    #Adblock Plus: the name says everything
    #Auto-Translate: english is not my native language, so this is useful when i dont know some word
    #Bookmark Search: to search over the +1000 favorites sites i have bookmarked
    #Disconnect: to disconnect the social networks i'm logged in
    #Google Dictionary: english is not my native language, so this is useful when i dont know some word
    #Sexy History Viewer Lite: to see for the History very easy
    #Sexy Undo Close Tab: to open some tab closed
    #Webmail Ad Blocker: to block adds in live mail and gmail

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

      Good variety...adding any more might start causing some issues though. For example, do you really need Webmail Ad Blocker when you already have Adblock Plus?

  23. JohnBUK
    April 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I have 4 extensions running on Google Chrome in Linux.
    1. LastPass
    2. Evernote
    3. Cleansave (quite brilliant)
    4. KlipMe (send to Kindle) also excellent.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

      Cleansave seems interesting...what does it do?

  24. Brian
    April 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    That's why I use IE9 no need for pesky extensions.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

      No LastPass? ;)

  25. themainliner
    April 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Every so often it worth flushing them all out and then seeing what you really can't live without. It's amazing how few actually miss.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

      That's what I had to do at some point, and now I don't even remember which ones I used to have installed. I actually recently cleaned out my extensions list because I had a lot of them that were disabled but not actually removed.

  26. Dutch Viking
    April 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    As I use more computers, with different operating systems (XP - Ubuntu - Mac OSX), I try to use the same settings in all my browsers (daily use restricted to Firefox, but native browsers kept as standard: IE8 and Safari). So I always use Xmarks to sync my bookmarks, and I use AdBlock Plus to block unwanted ads. Of course Flash/Shockwave, Java(script) and Silverlight(Moonlight) are added, and that's about it.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:22 am

      That's a nice, compact list. I don't see any problems there! :)

  27. Tony Silva
    April 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    If you use chrome check this extension to solve the problem

    Context
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/aalnjolghjkkogicompabhhbbkljnlka

    • Adrian
      April 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

      @Tony, that won't 'solve' the problem, it only makes it attractive to install more extensions for each situation: work., chilling and what have you. Your system still gets cluttered. The extension you mention makes it only easier to manage.

    • RandyN
      April 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Was going to recommend the same extension. It's great and allows for easy switching of extension sets.

    • Danny Stieben
      May 2, 2012 at 6:21 am

      That's a cool extension, Tony. That does help manage them better, but the other two points in my article still apply (even more now since there's another extension that helps manage all the other ones). Just food for thought. :)

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