Apple's Safari has beaten 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 operating systems, which are expected to arrive this fall. (The is here now, but .)
Extensions expand browser capabilities, allowing them to block ads and prevent online tracking, for example. Others fill in passwords, translate text, spruce up Wikipedia and track down original photos online. Extensions are already available for the Mac version of Safari.
The Cupertino, California-based tech giant announced the expansion of its extension technology earlier this week at Momentum, a tab manager.. Apple has been testing mobile Safari extensions with three developers: , a grammar checker; , a coupon finder; and
Browser extensions aren't for everyone. But they illustrate how much power the web can offer in your online life -- a power that's typically not available through apps.
Many Safari extensions built for Mac will work without significant changes. Still, developers could have to make some adjustments, such as ensuring their extensions don't look bad with smaller screens, Safari engineer David Quesada said in a WWDC talk.
Apple isn't the first company to roll out mobile extensions. Firefox and Kiwi allow the browsers to be extended with new software when running on Android. But the iPhone maker did beat Google, which pioneered the extensions for its Chrome browser. The technology has now been embraced by all major browser makers.
Google declined to comment.
As with Safari for Macs, you'll find and install extensions for mobile Safari using Apple's app store.
At WWDC, Apple introduced a new programming interface that's designed to prevent extensions from draining your battery fast. Extensions often perform tasks in invisible "background" tabs that consume computing resources.
Apple's fix is non-persistent background pages, which let Safari run extension code only when needed, Safari engineer Ellie Epskamp-Hunt said in a WWDC talk. To use them, an extension tells Safari to check for particular actions that will trigger the extension to run. At other times, Safari shuts down its background page to save memory, processor power and battery life.
Non-persistent background pages are an option for the upcoming Safari 15 on Macs and iPads but will be required on iPhones to save resources, Epskamp-Hunt said.