The 2023 State of Browser Extensions
Browser extensions have become ubiquitous in the workplace, serving as indispensable tools for optimizing web browsing experiences, streamlining tasks, and improving efficiency.
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has acted as a catalyst for the evolution of browser extensions. AI-powered extensions have introduced automation, personalization, and intelligent decision-making, further enhancing their utility in professional settings.
Usage of browser extensions is projected to increase significantly in the next year, driven by the ongoing demand for improved productivity and the continued development of AI-enhanced solutions.
Businesses are leveraging extensions to streamline internal processes and improve productivity. Extensions that integrate with popular business applications offer opportunities for automation and efficiency gains.
Companies are taking a variety of approaches to roll out and manage browser extensions within their work environments. Some are embracing off-the-shelf solutions, while others are developing custom extensions tailored to their specific needs.
93% of enterprise companies use browser extensions.
72% of IT departments use browser extensions in their work.
75% of companies require approval for browser extensions.
70% of respondents noted AI as the most popular browser extension category.
83% of companies plan to use extensions more in the next 12 months.
70% of respondents have internal browser extensions at their company.
The consumerization of enterprise SaaS is mostly good. “Consumers” have more freedom and choice than ever before, and SaaS providers are forced to improve their user experience (UX). A side effect, however, is the explosion of enterprise applications: companies use 130 apps on average, and some employees toggle between tabs 3,600 times per day.
Browser extensions have emerged as a solution, helping employees to more easily fetch information, update data, navigate across apps, and more.
At the same time, two key trends have fueled the popularity of browser extensions:
- The API-fication of everything: Software functionality is increasingly being packaged into API services, which can easily be embedded in applications.
- The rise of Large Language Models (LLMs): LLMs like ChatGPT enable a new wave of capabilities that assist employee activities across applications.
With browser extensions on the rise, companies have some critical choices to make. What types of extensions should we consider? How do we rollout and manage extensions? Should we be building vs. buying? And so on.
To help answer these questions and more, we surveyed 200+ IT Departments and have published our findings in this report.
Let’s explore the state of browser extensions in the workplace in 2023 and open a discussion for what to expect in the future.
Browser extensions are certainly popular tools amongst the U.S.-based business crowd. An overwhelming majority (93%) of enterprise companies use browser extensions in their day-to-day operations.
According to survey respondents, over 70% of IT departments use browser extensions in their work. The other departments that use them most frequently are Operations (55%) and Customer Support (42%). Product teams reportedly use them the least, with only 21% responding positively to the question.
With their advanced knowledge of and responsibility for cybersecurity in the workplace, IT teams primarily use browser extensions for improving security (e.g., web encryption services, password managers, ad blockers, etc.) and assistance with network diagnostics and system troubleshooting. Many also use browser extensions for enhanced productivity, streamlining everyday routine tasks like documentation, monitoring web page performance, project management, editing HTML, and more.
For Ops teams, the focus is less on cybersecurity and more on productivity. Extensions are useful for automating repetitive tasks (e.g., form fills, data entry, data extraction, expense tracking, scheduling, etc.), contributing to smoother, more coordinated interdepartmental activities.
Customer support agents, on the other hand, might use browser extensions to quickly access a knowledge base, improve their response times, or more easily manage their tickets.
It also shows that companies are taking a nuanced, multi-faceted approach towards browser extensions, balancing security with operational efficiency and recognizing that browser extensions are too crucial to business operations to ignore entirely.
Speaking of ignoring, though, ⅓ of respondents reported that their companies block the use of browser extensions. It’s worth noting that companies that deal with sensitive information (i.e. finance and/or healthcare) have extensive processes in place to approve any software. With Spin.ai reporting that 51% of all extensions are high security risk, it’s understandable why certain companies would block the usage of browser extensions.
50% of respondents reported that their companies actually require downloading specific extensions, highlighting the essential functions that these tools serve in business operations.
The majority of respondents’s companies rely on Google Workspace to manage and roll out extensions to employees, followed closely by Users Self-Manage and/or Enterprise/Mobile Device Management (i.e. Intune, Jamf, etc.). Only 1/3 of respondents have internal web stores for extensions. This indicates a general preference for leveraging established, external platforms over investing in proprietary, internally managed solutions.
It’s no surprise that the recent excitement around AI tools has lead to an influx of AI-based browser extensions — extensions that are highly popular among business professionals for their ability to help with writing, ideation, and productivity on the fly, as well as their enhancement of the browsing experience (think Merlin and ChatGPT for Google, both of which can answer search queries alongside Google and summarize long articles for key takeaways). In our survey, AI browser extensions were the most popular type of extensions to be downloaded among respondents (nearly 70%). It’s interesting to compare the rise of AI over the past 18 months to Google’s favorite Chrome extensions of 2021…productivity and learning were on the rise.
The other most popular categories of extensions were developer tools and education-focused tools. Developer tools help users build, debug, and test web applications, while education tools are extensions that help with learning and also that make web pages more accessible.
Our survey shows that the popularity of browser extensions will continue to grow throughout 2024, especially with the proliferation of AI extensions and as users increasingly seek to customize their web browsing experience. Furthermore, the availability of high-quality and secure extensions is increasing, as well as a general awareness of the benefits that extensions can offer businesses.
70% of companies have already created internal browser extensions at their company. First let’s review the definition of an “internal browser extension” a.k.a a custom-built browser extension specifically designed and developed for internal use within a company or organization.These types of extensions are typically created to address an organization’s specific needs, workflows, or security requirements. Just like regular extensions, they can be used for a variety of purposes, including improving efficiency, enhancing security, enforcing compliance, and more.
The vast majority of respondents in our survey reported building custom browser extensions for their companies, noting the following purposes:
- “knowledge sharing to quickly access relevant info”
- “internal search and development”
- “remote development and remote work monitoring”
- “accurately perform analytical functions”
As some of the most cybersecurity aware individuals out there, it’s no surprise that Ad blockers and other privacy-related extensions are popular among IT professionals.
Browser extensions are here to stay in the enterprise workplace. They offer a variety of benefits, including improved productivity, security, collaboration, and knowledge. While browser extensions offer many benefits, there are also some trade-offs to consider. For example, extensions can slow down browser performance and introduce security risks. It is important for businesses to carefully evaluate the extensions they use and to have policies in place to manage their usage.
Despite the trade-offs, browser extensions are likely to continue to grow in popularity in the enterprise workplace. This is because they offer a simple and effective way to add new features and functionality to browsers. Browser extensions solve real problems for businesses. For example, "Grammarly" helps employees write better emails and documents, "LastPass" helps employees manage their passwords more securely, and "Loom" helps employees create and share videos quickly and easily.
When deciding whether or not to allow browser extensions in the workplace, organizations should consider their specific needs and requirements. They should also have a plan in place to manage browser extensions effectively, including whitelisting approved extensions, monitoring usage, and educating employees about the risks and best practices.
To create this report, we surveyed senior-level (and above) IT professionals at U.S.-based companies with over 1,000 employees about their use of browser extensions at work. The survey took place from Sept. 29 through Oct. 4, 2023, using SurveyMonkey Audience, a survey panel targeting platform. We used the Chrome web store categories to inform the definitions of and questions about our browser extensions.
Browser extension: a type of software add-on that adds extra capabilities to a web browser, enhancing and personalizing the browser experience.
Internal browser extension: a custom-built browser extension specifically designed and developed for internal use within a company or organization.