Browser extensions let you do things like block ads, enter passwords, and find coupons while you shop. Try adding it to an app.
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Apple’s Safari beats Google’s Chrome to the punch with extensions that customize your browser on smartphones and tablets. The software add-ons will be available in Apple’s upcoming iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 operating systems, which are expected to arrive this fall.
For example, extensions extend browser capabilities, allowing them to block ads and prevent online tracking. Others fill in passwords, translate text, decorate Wikipedia and track original photos online. Extensions are already available for the Mac version of Safari.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant announced the expansion of its expansion technology earlier this week. Apple is testing a Mobile Safari extension with three developers: Grammarly, a grammar checker; Honey, a coupon finder; and Momentum, a tab manager.
Browser extensions are not for everyone. But they show just how much power the web can provide to your online life — a power not usually available through apps.
Many Safari extensions built for Mac will work without significant changes. Still, developers may have to make some adjustments, like making sure their extensions don’t look bad with smaller screens, said Safari engineer David Quesada in a WWDC talk.
Apple isn’t the first company to roll out a mobile extension. Firefox and Kiwi allow the browser to be expanded with new software when running on Android. But the iPhone maker beat out Google, which pioneered the extension for its Chrome browser. The technology has now been adopted by all major browser manufacturers.
Google declined to comment.
Like Safari for Mac, you’ll find and install extensions for mobile Safari using Apple’s App Store.
Google modernized browser extensions with Chrome, using the approach other browser makers have taken in general. Now Google, Apple, Mozilla and Microsoft have banded together to try.
At WWDC, Apple introduced a new programming interface designed to prevent extensions from draining your battery too quickly. Extensions often operate in invisible “background” tabs that consume computing resources.
Apple’s fix is non-persistent background pages, which allow Safari to run extension code only when needed, Safari engineer Eli Epskamp-Hunt said in a talk at WWDC. To use them, an extension tells Safari to check for specific actions that will trigger the extension to run. At other times, Safari closes its background pages to save memory, processor power, and battery life.
Appscamp-Hunt said non-persistent background pages are an option for the upcoming Safari 15 on Mac and iPad, but will be needed on iPhones to save resources.