Plugins that became mint companies
What do Grammarly, AdBlockers, Java and Adobe Flash Player have in common? These are all plugins. These tools are add-ons or extensions added as new functions on a host program or software – mainly web browsers – without modifying the host program itself.
According to a report per TrueList, Google Chrome has around 188,620 extensions with over 1.3 billion installs. However, only 13 of these extensions have reached the ten million user mark, namely Cisco Webex Extension, Google Translate, Avast Online Security, Adobe Acrobat, Grammarly, Adblock Plus, Pinterest Save Button, Skype, AdBlock, Avast SafePrice, uBlock Origin, Honey and Tampermonkey.
Most web-based plugins start by offering a free service to users on their browser as extensions. Although the main source of income from plugins is paid tools, by offering a free service companies are able to pull users into paid versions of the tool.
Grammar, the most widely used auto-editing tool, started as an extension for Chromium in 2009, raised $200 million in funding with a valuation of $13 billion. The company has now started investing more in its natural language processing and launched Grammarly apps for Mac and Windows like Office, Discord and Slack, breaking the shackles of a browser extension.
Also in 2012, Honey started as a plugin for browsers, evolved into a platform for free shopping tools like price drop notifications and lowest price displays, attracting 17 million users monthly. In 2020, PayPal announced its acquisition of Honey for $4 billion in cash. Toucana language-learning extension startup recently raised $3 million and $4.5 million from investors.
In the same year, Factor The founders started with the idea of creating a tool to simplify the API testing process. The tool was originally intended for their use, but was later released on the Chrome Webstore as an open source client. In April 2022, Postman celebrated 20 million active users.
Notably, Metamask, also, started as a chrome plugin in 2016. It is a cryptocurrency software wallet that helps users interact with the Ethereum blockchain. MetaMask’s monthly active users have exploded over the past year, from 1 million to 30 million. MetaMask and NFTs have played a critical role in each other’s growth over the past year by enabling consensual and transparent crypto relationships.
In 2019, AdBlock Plus’ parent company, Eyeo GmbH, generated revenue of $47 million. Surprisingly, the company makes money by allowing “acceptable ads” that are whitelisted and meet criteria like size, placement, and distinction. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft pay AdBlock Plus a fortune to have their ads whitelisted or unblocked.
Not just browser extensions
Extensions or plugins on existing software date back to the 1980s when John Warnock and Chuck Geschke launched Adobe with their first release language called PostScript, which was used to control output devices such as printers. Warnock was an engineer at Xerox, who later joined Geschke to start his own company with the intention of building powerful printers. Later, they decided to develop tools for other manufacturers, instead of building their own.
Czech software development company JetBrains, started as a plugin called Renamer for Borland JBuilder in 2000, which was an integrated development environment (IDE). With the advent of javathe company focused on creating software that specializes in smart tools that promote productivity and allow users to write clean code in Python, PHP, C# and C++.
Plus, data- and developer-focused support tools New relic and Sentinel started as an add-on for Heroku – a cloud platform – as a service supporting programming languages such as Python, Java and Node.js.
In 2021, Klaviyothe company that started as a plug-in for e-commerce platforms, last raised a total investment of $9.5 billion, is now a unified customer platform that delivers email , SMS and other advanced marketing solutions for businesses.
Even the best-selling game, Counter-Strike, was designed as an extension of Half-life. Developed by Valve in 2003, it was an in-game mod, later integrated into a separate game. It still has one of the highest active online player bases.