Add-on vs Plug-in: Difference and Comparison

Web browsers are the software applications that are used for accessing the information on the WWW (World Wide Web). There are many web browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and so on. 

These web browsers use add-ons, plug-ins, and extensions. Web browser add-ons and plug-ins are programs that are integrated into the web browser to expand its capabilities and add certain features to it.

Though add-ons, plug-ins, and extensions are almost the same, there are some differences between these.

Key Takeaways

  1. Add-ons enhance existing software functionality, while plug-ins add new features or support for additional formats.
  2. Plug-ins require a specific host application, whereas add-ons can work with various software.
  3. Add-ons can include plug-ins, but plug-ins cannot include add-ons, as plug-ins are a subset of add-ons.

Add-on vs Plug-in

An add-on is a software component that adds new functionality to a program or application as a whole. A plug-in software component adds specific features to an existing application. Add-ons are installed on top of the main application, while plug-ins are designed to work within the host application.

Add on vs Plug in

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An add-on refers to an extension of the software which is used to add some extra features to a program.

An add-on extends some functions within the program, provides the program some additional capabilities, or adds some new items to the interface of the program.

For instance, Mozilla Firefox has some add-ons like web developer tools, ad blockers, and Google toolbar.

A plug-in refers to a software addition that helps to customize computer programs, web browsers, and apps. It also customizes the content within the websites.

Plug-in is a complete program that also consists of all of the little add-ons optimizing the content of the websites. It is also seen in websites and web pages which helps to display YouTube videos on the website, or even customize the fonts of the websites.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAdd-onPlug-in
DefinitionAdd-on refers to a program utility or a hardware unit that can be added to a computer for enhancing its capabilities.     Plug-in refers to a small add-on program that is used to extend the functionalities of the desktop program and web application. 
Complete programAn add-on doesn’t work as a complete program.     A plug-in works as a complete program.
BrowsersAdd-on is supported in Mozilla Firefox.     Plug-in is no longer supported in Mozilla Firefox.
BoundariesThe usage of the add-on has a limitation, it only works in web browsers.     The plug-in, apart from the usage in web browsers, is also used to run files.
ExampleCards for memory, graphics, sound accelerations, and modem capability.     Adobe Flash Player, Unity Web Player, QuickTime.

What is Add-on?

An add-on refers to an extension for a computer upgrade or for operating software. It helps to expand the existing features in applications and web browsers and can be uninstalled anytime without affecting the original application or the web browser. 

By using an add-on any web browser can expand its features. Add-on allows adding several features to the web browser, according to the need of the developer, which is absent in the web browser.

In most cases, an add-on is available in a self-installing package. The users can install an add-on by simply double-clicking on the add-on package. Since add-on provides several benefits most of the programs are now developed with add-on support.

The most popular add-ons are-

  • Social media tools, like Pinterest, Instagram, and so on.
  • Password managers, like LastPass.
  • Several video downloaders.
  • Online conference features, like Hangout of Google, Skype, Webex of Cisco, and so on.
  • Language support like Grammarly, Google translate, and so on.
  • Website screenshot tools like Evernote Web Clipper, Fireshot, and so on.

In Google Chrome the add-on is known as an extension. In Firefox of Mozilla, the add-on can be found in the Mozilla store. In Opera, the add-on is also called extension. The Microsoft edge has it in its add-on store. In Safari the add-on can be found in the browser menu.

What is Plug-in?

A plug-in refers to a software add-on that is installed on a program for improving its capabilities. For instance, a plug-in can be seen on a website to play a video on that particular website.

Without the plug-in, the website cannot run video. It is considered an integral part of web browsing, creating content on the internet, and computing. 

It is a software addition that helps to customize web browsers, computer programs, and apps.

But the popularity of the plug-ins has decreased as many of the web browsers don’t support plug-ins, rather they support browser extensions. There are very few plug-ins that are still in use. The popular plug-ins are-

  • Bukkit Plug-in: It provides many ways of customizing sandbox video games. It allows its users to create their own wold in their own server, and protect their creation from other servers. It also allows the creation of a customized map in the game.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader: This plug-in helps its users to view and access PDFs.
  • HP Print Service: It allows its users to send printing commands from an android device to the printer. HP Print Service is available in the Google Play Store.
  • Samsung Print Service: It also allows its users to print from any Samsung device and almost any other android device. A wide range of printers supports this plug-in. 
  • WordPress Plug-in: It helps content creators customize their content and look at the content on their websites.

Main Differences Between Add-on and Plug-in

  1. Add-on refers to a program utility or a hardware unit that can be added to a computer for enhancing its capabilities. On the other hand, Plug-in refers to a small add-on program that is used to extend the functionalities of the desktop program and web application.
  2. Though an add-on doesn’t work as a complete program, a plug-in refers to a complete program. 
  3. While add-on is supported in Mozilla Firefox, the plug-in isn’t supported here.
  4. An add-on only works in web browsers, it can’t work in Operating Systems. So add-on has some boundaries. On the contrary, the plug-in doesn’t have boundaries as it is supported in many programs rather than web browsers.
  5. Some examples of the add-on are Social media tools (Pinterest, Instagram, and so on), Password managers (LastPass), Several video downloaders, Online conference features (Hangout of Google, Skype, Webex of Cisco), etc. Some examples of Plug-in are HP Print Service, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Bukkit Plug-in, Adobe Flash Player, Unity Web Player, and so on.

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