Who Will Solve the Browser Plugin Problem?

Like Nathan Bowers, I've been feeling for the past year or so that Firefox has gotten "slow, bloated, and 'high ceremony.'" But while Bowers uses this observation as a lesson on usability (which he is dead-right about), for me it's also a study in the complicated dynamic between simplicity and flexibility. One of the things that has always made Firefox a compelling browser has been the array of extensions available. But on the flip-side, trying to run too many of these at once can greatly impact the browser's performance, and it only takes one bad add-on to ruin the party for everyone else. Extensions add a layer of complexity that makes the overall experience kind of annoying.

Because of this, I had switched to Google's Chrome for a while, which was nice and fast and had a really simple, elegant UI. But was it so fast because it was simply more optimized than Firefox to run things like Javascript? Or was it just that I simply didn't have any extensions installed yet? Hard to say, because at that point Chrome didn't even support extensions.

Then as I continued to use Chrome, it started to do this weird thing where color palettes would suddenly change for no reason, which really bothered me. So I switched to Safari. Again, it was nice and fast, but I still kind of missed my old extensions. Where were Firebug and YSlow, AdBlock and HttpFox? I really missed having those handy, and I started to feel like it was worth the slowness of Firefox to have those tools at the ready.

Well, now Chrome supports extensions and perhaps they've fixed the color issues. Should I switch back again to give it a try? They still only have about one third to a half of the extensions that Firefox has. And what happens if I start trying to run a bunch of extensions in Chrome? Will it get slow as well? At least in Chrome if an extension causes a problem, it only kills the tab it's running in but doesn't cause the whole browser to come crashing down.

In any case, if Chrome hasn't yet solved the browser plugin problem, then there's still an opportunity out there for someone to crush everyone else in the browser space. My hunch is that you'd really need to lock down the extensions in order to contain their potential for damage--kind of like Apple does with iPhone apps. Is anyone working on this?

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