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Building a browser extension empire

A detailed account of a Fastlane process...

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Current status

After posting my introduction post, I thought it was time to create an execution thread.

I have two browser extensions currently live.


Extension #1

This extension is dormant, as in I haven't updated it in a while and it is very niche browser extension. I have looked at monetizing/selling it but I don't think there is way to currently do that. It sits at around 150 installs and does not grow much as the market it is serving is relatively small. Nonetheless I consider it a success and used it to build the foundation of extension #2. At this stage I am going to focus on extension #2 exclusively and leave this extension to be. It doesn't require any maintenance fortunately.

Extension #2

This is the focus of this thread. This extension has potential to become a source of income. It is growing steadily and my SEO efforts are starting to payoff. It has about 300 users currently and gets about 30 to 50 new users every week.

At this stage the extension is free and voluntarily limited and could do a lot more. But so far I have not been providing more value to my users because I wanted to keep some functionality hidden to be able to release a paid plan with these extra functionalities.

Before spending more time on this project, I validated the idea in several ways bay asking myself the following questions:


  1. Is this a problem that people are willing to pay for?

    Yes, because there are other competing extensions that are quite popular ( around the 5000 users mark) and charging users around $30 per month to use the full extension's functionality.

  2. Can I provide a better experience than the competition?

    Absolutely. I currently receive emails from my users every few days, and exchange with them regularly. I understand their problems and what they are trying to accomplish. I can build what they need. I do things that don't scale and treat every user very well by responding to each and every question they have in timely manner and spending as long as it takes with them until their issue is resolved.


  3. Can I outrank the competition in Google search results?

    Yes, I am currently in the process of ranking many articles and blog posts above the competition's results which leads me to having a steady flow of users visiting my landing page every day (currently I have 10 to 15 organic clicks on the website).


  4. Can this business be scaled?

    Yes, this business can be scaled. The plan is to have the extension as a middle of the road solution. User's get all the benefits of the extension but they still have to do some of the work themselves.

    The fully automated solution to their problem can be created via SaaS platform that will do everything on their behalf. This solution is not hard to build, I already have a prototype working.
Whats is the expected conversion rate between free users and paid users?

After reading a few articles on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that the conversion rate is between 5% to 10% usually. I follow this guy who has an extension whose made up of 30% paying users. This is the exception and not the rule but one can dream.

Current goals for the next 30 days
  • release the paid plan for the extension
  • convert at least 5 users to the paid plan
  • finish the MVP the SaaS platform and find at least 2 beta users
 
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Matt Sun

Gold Contributor
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Oct 21, 2017
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Hi, congrats. Even if people don't pay yet, they download your stuff and use it so they find it valuable. That's great.

If you don't mind me asking, what programing language do you use to create these extensions ?
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Hi, congrats. Even if people don't pay yet, they download your stuff and use it so they find it valuable. That's great.

If you don't mind me asking, what programing language do you use to create these extensions ?
No problem at all. The tech part is actually pretty boring. React + typescript + JQuery.

I try to keep things very simple.
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
October 2022 report

What went well:
  • Traffic is increasing steadily on the marketing site. 300 hundred organic visitors this month.
  • The extension's user growth is solid. Just crossed the 320 users mark this morning
  • The latest version of the extension is a success. No users have contacted me to report any issues so far.
  • Talked to 4 users this month.
What went wrong:
  • It took too long to release the new version of the extension.
  • The programmatic SEO experiment I am conducting is not yielding any tangible results yet. About half of the new pages have not been indexed yet. So maybe it is just a matter of waiting a month and see if anything changes.
  • I did not publish enough articles on the marketing blog due to being focused on releasing the programmatic SEO experiment and the new version of the extension.
Goals for November 2022
  • Cross the 500 active users mark for the extension.
  • Publish 8 new high quality articles
  • Release the paid plan and get at least 5 paying user
Challenges ahead:
  • My wife is starting a new job which means I have to do more house chores for the next 4 to 6 weeks which it could cut some of my free time dedicated to working on this project.
  • I have to go on a work trip for 4 days where I am afraid my productivity will be greatly impacted.
  • I am catching up with a very good friend at the beginning of December so I need to spend some time to plan the trip properly and book my flights and accommodation as well as research things to do at the destination.
Game plan:
  • Work on the extension/blog between 7am until 9am and also work between 7:30pm and 9pm 6 days a week.
  • Take Saturday off as a family day.
  • Read marketing blog posts and plan the week ahead on Sunday.
  • Try to use the Pomodoro technique to increase productivity.
 
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inputchip

Gold Contributor
Read Fastlane!
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Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Mar 26, 2017
307
1,220
www.tmkings.com
I'm very bullish on Chrome extensions as a business model. It's one of the most overlooked.

The stats speak for themselves:

Apple App Store: 1 billion iPhone users
2 million iOS apps = 500 users : 1 iOS app

Google Play Store: 2 billion Android users
3 million apps = 667 users : 1 app

Chrome Store: 2 billion users
200,000 extensions = 10,000 users : 1 extension

Bottom line: Launching a Chrome extension gives you 20 times more potential users than an iOS app. There is significantly less competition in the Chrome extension marketplace, making it a great opportunity for your app to gain traction.

1. There is an existing app store for discovery, so it is easier to find browser extensions.
2. Low barrier to install (does not require admin rights even)
2. There is relatively low competition for browser extensions.
3. You can focus on one channel (such as Chrome with 50% or more market share).
4. The natural evolution into freemium makes it easier to monetize
5. People are more likely to pay for desktop apps versus mobile
6. Browser extensions integrate seamlessly into existing workflows, making them even more convenient to use.

Notable examples:

LastPass: 25m+ users
Loom: $73m funding
Grammarly: Valued $1B+
Honey: $4B sale
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
I'm very bullish on Chrome extensions as a business model. It's one of the most overlooked.

The stats speak for themselves:

Apple App Store: 1 billion iPhone users
2 million iOS apps = 500 users : 1 iOS app

Google Play Store: 2 billion Android users
3 million apps = 667 users : 1 app

Chrome Store: 2 billion users
200,000 extensions = 10,000 users : 1 extension

Bottom line: Launching a Chrome extension gives you 20 times more potential users than an iOS app. There is significantly less competition in the Chrome extension marketplace, making it a great opportunity for your app to gain traction.

1. There is an existing app store for discovery, so it is easier to find browser extensions.
2. Low barrier to install (does not require admin rights even)
2. There is relatively low competition for browser extensions.
3. You can focus on one channel (such as Chrome with 50% or more market share).
4. The natural evolution into freemium makes it easier to monetize
5. People are more likely to pay for desktop apps versus mobile
6. Browser extensions integrate seamlessly into existing workflows, making them even more convenient to use.

Notable examples:

LastPass: 25m+ users
Loom: $73m funding
Grammarly: Valued $1B+
Honey: $4B sale

I agree with everything you said. The Chrome extension market is not very saturated once you removed the old/outdated/broken extensions.

Just like everything, it's comes down to the niche that you choose and the existing competition. My extension has some pretty big extensions as competitors but Its growing nicely.

I have a lot of ideas to expand the niche I am currently in but none of those will work if I don't get those 5 first paying customers, so that is my main focus now.
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Mid-week update

I published a new blog post today.
The goal is to publish 2 high quality blog posts peer week until the end of the year.

Yesterday was a great day SEO wise. I got a CTR of 22% in Google search which is more than I could expect. I try to target the keywords that the big players are overlooking.

Tonight I will start working on the next blog post.

Then back onto building the paid plan's functionality.

I also gained 10 users yesterday. Good momentum but this is a marathon and until I get my first paying user, it means absolutely nothing.
 
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Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Small update.

I published the 2nd blog post yesterday and also did a bit of maintenance by compressing all the images on the marketing site. The goal for the compression was to have faster loading pages which is metric that Google watches like a hawk.

The compression was a success.

I shed about 50% of the images weight on average which means that in theory, the site will load faster. Which is great from an SEO standpoint, which in turn should lead to more people trying the extension, and finally hopefully turn them into paying customers.

Is this a premature optimization? Maybe but its done now so...

Next, I created a Stripe account to accept payments and spent some time setting up the plans and subscriptions as well as reading how to integrate the subscription logic in the site.

There is still the challenge of checking when a user has an active subscription(from the extension) but I ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I think that the payment plan + account creation will be done by Sunday night or Monday night next week. To make this work I have to work simultaneously on both the extension and the website at the same time as the account creation/payments happens on the site and not via the extension.

Anyway, all of this to say that I am busy thinking, planning and doing.

As for the paid plans, i have settled on:
- $0 free plan - Basic (existing functionality, extension as is currently)
- $49/month - Starter (extended functionality for the extension, still requires the user to do some things, priority email support....)
- $199/month - Pro - fully managed version (Basically a SAAS version of the extension that does everything for you)

The Pro plan is not available(and not even planned at this stage) and wont be built if I don't manage to get at least 10 paying users on the Starter plan.

One step at a time.
 

football4life

Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Oct 16, 2022
31
25
Current status

After posting my introduction post, I thought it was time to create an execution thread.

I have two browser extensions currently live.


Extension #1

This extension is dormant, as in I haven't updated it in a while and it is very niche browser extension. I have looked at monetizing/selling it but I don't think there is way to currently do that. It sits at around 150 installs and does not grow much as the market it is serving is relatively small. Nonetheless I consider it a success and used it to build the foundation of extension #2. At this stage I am going to focus on extension #2 exclusively and leave this extension to be. It doesn't require any maintenance fortunately.

Extension #2

This is the focus of this thread. This extension has potential to become a source of income. It is growing steadily and my SEO efforts are starting to payoff. It has about 300 users currently and gets about 30 to 50 new users every week.

At this stage the extension is free and voluntarily limited and could do a lot more. But so far I have not been providing more value to my users because I wanted to keep some functionality hidden to be able to release a paid plan with these extra functionalities.

Before spending more time on this project, I validated the idea in several ways bay asking myself the following questions:


  1. Is this a problem that people are willing to pay for?

    Yes, because there are other competing extensions that are quite popular ( around the 5000 users mark) and charging users around $30 per month to use the full extension's functionality.
  2. Can I provide a better experience than the competition?

    Absolutely. I currently receive emails from my users every few days, and exchange with them regularly. I understand their problems and what they are trying to accomplish. I can build what they need. I do things that don't scale and treat every user very well by responding to each and every question they have in timely manner and spending as long as it takes with them until their issue is resolved.


  3. Can I outrank the competition in Google search results?

    Yes, I am currently in the process of ranking many articles and blog posts above the competition's results which leads me to having a steady flow of users visiting my landing page every day (currently I have 10 to 15 organic clicks on the website).


  4. Can this business be scaled?

    Yes, this business can be scaled. The plan is to have the extension as a middle of the road solution. User's get all the benefits of the extension but they still have to do some of the work themselves.

    The fully automated solution to their problem can be created via SaaS platform that will do everything on their behalf. This solution is not hard to build, I already have a prototype working.
Whats is the expected conversion rate between free users and paid users?

After reading a few articles on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that the conversion rate is between 5% to 10% usually. I follow this guy who has an extension whose made up of 30% paying users. This is the exception and not the rule but one can dream.

Current goals for the next 30 days
  • release the paid plan for the extension
  • convert at least 5 users to the paid plan
  • finish the MVP the SaaS platform and find at least 2 beta users
good stuff buddy.
 
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Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Quick update on this beautiful Monday.

Number of users: 395
Blog post published last week: 2
Blog post published this week: 0

The account creation on the marketing website is done. The payment part is taking slightly longer than expected but should be done soon.

Then comes the implementation of the premium functionalities within the extension. I have a rough list of features that need to be added. Expected development time left before able to release the paid plan is roughly 20 to 30 hours. then I will need about 8 hours to test the payment flows and the new functionalities.

Then the extension will need to be submitted to the Chrome store for approval which can take up to 5 business days.

The goal for this week is to published 2 blogs posts, finish the payment system and start working on the premium functionalities for the extension.

Upcoming issues:

I am going away on a work trip for 4 days this week, so it will impact my development time but I ll do my best to do some work everyday.
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
It's been two weeks since my last update.

What went well:
- released a new version of the extension to fix a few bugs that some users had reported
- wrote 4 blog posts
- the user base is growing nicely => closing in on 600 active users

What went wrong:
- I had to go on a work trip for 4 days which put me really behind in terms of feature released and blog posts written so I had to play catch up this week and work longer hours to make up the time.
- I made some progress on the users accounts and payment plans but I still have to implement the paid plan functionality. At this rate the payment plans won't be available for public use before mid-December if all goes well.
- found a new bug in the extension just after getting the new version published so I need to spend some time on fixing it and submit a new version for approval this week.

Whats next?
- tidy up a few things and check the articles written this week for spelling mistakes and grammar(it was a very rushed job)
- keep building the user accounts/payment features and get approved by Paddle for the payments

All in all, its been a tough week, on top of that I have been put on major project at my job with a hard deadline so my days are long and tiring. But that is the price to pay to regain my freedom so I am not about to throw my hands up and the air and give up.

Things will get bumpier once the paid plans are released. No doubt. So I better toughen up and be prepared to handle issues.
 

BigBuddha

New Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Nov 30, 2022
6
7
It's been two weeks since my last update.

What went well:
- released a new version of the extension to fix a few bugs that some users had reported
- wrote 4 blog posts
- the user base is growing nicely => closing in on 600 active users

What went wrong:
- I had to go on a work trip for 4 days which put me really behind in terms of feature released and blog posts written so I had to play catch up this week and work longer hours to make up the time.
- I made some progress on the users accounts and payment plans but I still have to implement the paid plan functionality. At this rate the payment plans won't be available for public use before mid-December if all goes well.
- found a new bug in the extension just after getting the new version published so I need to spend some time on fixing it and submit a new version for approval this week.

Whats next?
- tidy up a few things and check the articles written this week for spelling mistakes and grammar(it was a very rushed job)
- keep building the user accounts/payment features and get approved by Paddle for the payments

All in all, its been a tough week, on top of that I have been put on major project at my job with a hard deadline so my days are long and tiring. But that is the price to pay to regain my freedom so I am not about to throw my hands up and the air and give up.

Things will get bumpier once the paid plans are released. No doubt. So I better toughen up and be prepared to handle issues.
Loving the updates - keep it up! The growth in users looks awesome!

I follow some TikTokers that post about different extensions that solve everyday problems - have you thought about eventually tapping into the use of influencer marketing?
 
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Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Its been a while.

What went well:
  • User base is growing. Just passed 700 users roughly. I should have close to 1000 users by the end of the year.
  • Recruited 3 beta testers for the paid plans
  • Published 2 new versions of the extension to fix more bugs. Also made the extension lighter(in MBs) (66% lighter in fact) which means that it's better for users with computers who are a bit slow or don't have too much RAM.
  • Published 2 new blog posts
What went wrong:
  • Did not make much progress on the paid plans yet. Bug fixes and blog posts have used up all my time.
  • Found 1 bug that I can't seem to be able to fix. This user has been telling me that there is something wrong with the extension for the last 2 weeks. I have tried to fix the issue in many different ways but it doesn't seem to do the trick. At this point, I have sent the user a video with detailed steps to have them do more investigation on my behalf so that I can help them but the user stopped responding after my last email.
Notes:

I spent 3 days on a trip with a childhood friend I had not seen in a while. Obviously this is the kind of thing that takes time away from the business.

I am not ready to sacrifice every relationship while building a business so I bit the bullet and accepted that this time was not going to be spent on building my business but it was worth it. Time with loved ones is invaluable in my opinion.

One of the beta testers is part of a large group of my target customers(around 500 members) and has agreed that they will recommend the paid plan to the group once it meets their expectations.

The beta testing group will be a process of co-creation if I can call it that. The beta testers get 6 months on the paid plan for free and in exchange, they will tell me which pain points they want to get rid of by using the extension and also help me prioritize the next features as well as report the bugs if some are found.

To me this is a win win situation. The beta users will help me create the paid plan and I will get some early feedback. By the end of the beta testing phase I should have a rock solid paid plan.

Non beta users will still be able to purchase the paid plan during the beta testing phase but it wont be complete until the beta testing phase is over. I will keep adding features to the paid plan until I deem it worthy of $49
/month and then get on to building the the pro plan.

I am thinking of adding error reporting software to the extension but I am a bit reluctant since this could be small invasion of privacy. On the other hand I would not have to wait for users to report bugs and could preemptively fix the bugs found.

If someone has an opinion on this matter, I would be happy to hear it.

That's it for now.
 

Tau Ceti

Contributor
Sep 15, 2014
20
71
Stockholm, Sweden
Loving the updates - keep it up! The growth in users looks awesome!

I follow some TikTokers that post about different extensions that solve everyday problems - have you thought about eventually tapping into the use of influencer marketing?
Thanks for your reply. Once the paid plan is out of beta-testing then I don't see why this could not happen.

For now i don't pay for ads and only rely on SEO or the Chrome store listing to get new users. This basic approaches have serve me well. It allows me to grow the user base relatively quickly but I am not overwhelmed with bug reports. If the user base grew from say 1000 to 3000 overnight, that could be a problem in terms of customer support.

Only time will tell. For now the focus is getting the paid plan out, then onboard around 100 user on the paid plan, then maybe start advertising.

Thanks for your suggestion in any case. I appreciate it.
 

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