Writer & Artist | PR & Events @Streamr
Honey, Lolli, Swash. No, these are not the names of a colorful mix of sweets, but three of the latest browser extensions out there. Browser extensions? Yes, those things you can install in Chrome , Firefox or Edge to customize your internet experience, or – as most of us do – in order to block ads. But there’s much more to these small apps.
As recent developments show, it’s no longer just ad-blockers like uBlock Origin vying for a spot next to your browser’s address bar. Honey and Grammarly paved the way for a second wave of innovation within the ecosystem of browser extensions. Both firms made headlines last year by reaching unicorn status. Honey got acquired by PayPal and Grammarly raised $90M at a $1B+ valuation.
Looking at recent funding rounds and developments, there are most likely a few more unicorns to come within the browser extension space. So far, founders haven’t been scared off by Google’s prolonged neglect of the developer ecosystem of its Chrome Store.
Browser extensions that let you save or earn money are particularly interesting. With Lolli you can earn Bitcoin for every online purchase you make, in a “simple and fun” way, as the company’s website states. Honey searches the internet for discount codes for any given product and automatically adds them for you, helping you save money when shopping online. And Swash lets you crowdsell your browsing data with other Swash users.
Last week, Lolli closed an oversubscribed M3$ Seed II funding round led by Pathfinder and Founders Fund. Scott Nolan, Partner at Founders Fund, said: “Lolli became the leader in bitcoin rewards by making it frictionless to own bitcoin. That initial friction has always been the biggest barrier to bitcoin adoption, and with the launch of their mobile app this year Lolli will take the next step in making bitcoin accessible to everyone.”
Lolli is not the only browser extension breaking down the barriers of the crypto space. The mother of all crypto-focused browser plugins is probably Metamask, a wallet for the Ethereum network, with which you can log in to Web3 applications, make ETH payments or hold your favorite ERC-721 collectible. Moreover, Brave Browser, which is a Chromium flavour, Chrome’s open source version, plus a fixed Metamask integration, shows the rising demand for browser customisation.
And Swash pays its users in cryptocurrency, too. In return for their browsing data, users receive payments in DATA, the protocol token of the Streamr P2P network, through which the data of Swash users is distributed in real time to its buyers. Swash uses the Streamr Data Union framework, which allows for the easy monetisation of any given data points within a browser or an app. Currently, the app is still in beta, but it shows how many more use cases are still thinkable.
We all produce thousands of data points when browsing the internet, but we’ve hardly reaped the benefits. Instead, Google, Facebook, and ironically a former anti-virus browser plugin have made millions by selling people’s data. But, we could do that ourselves, using the right add-ons when surfing the web. For instance, I personally really like the idea of creating a ‘Netflix & Earn’ plugin. Today a Netflix data set from 15,000 users from the UK is worth £3m. That leaves £200 for each user. That’s a decent sum you can receive for just binge-watching your favorite show.
Browser extensions are a way to easily customise your browsing experience and to play with new monetization opportunities, whether it’s for shopping discounts, managing crypto payments or to turn the internet’s ad model upside down.
If you have an idea for a browser extension and would like to get started with building it, Streamr might be able to help. Take a look at our community fund and our developer forum to access financing opportunities and resources. That’s how Swash got started, too.