- Chrome dominates the browser market with a 77% market share among desktop users.
- Browser extensions have extremely low churn. Once installed they're rarely ever removed by users.
- There are 2.65 billion Chrome users but only ~200,000 extensions. To put this number in perspective: there are 2 million apps for just 1.5 billion iOS users.
- Chrome extensions are arguably the simplest type of software product you can develop.
- Even though most extensions are free, there's enough proof that you can generate significant revenue either from ads or subscriptions. Honey famously got acquired for billions, Closet Tools generates $39k+ in MRR, and there are plenty of rather simple projects in the $1k-$10k MRR range like, for example, this LinkedIn Sales Navigator Scraper ($2.3K MRR).
📊 The Data
The 15,000+ most popular extensions across all categories listed on the official Chrome store.
There are quite a few extensions that raised a significant amount of VC funding.
- EcoCart, which automatically calculates and eliminates the carbon footprint of online orders, recently raised $3M in seed funding.
- Another player in the "ethical shopping extension" category called DoneGood ("instantly discover ethical, sustainable alternatives as you shop online") raised more than a million in funding so far.
- Encarte is a YC funded startup that offers a browser extension which brings "one-click checkout to any e-commerce store". The way it works is that it's basically just an automatic form filler (e.g. like AutoFill) that's focused on ecommerce sites.
- Another YC funded browser extension startup is Trove, which allows users to create highlights and comments across the internet and send them to Notion.
There are also plenty of big winners that make millions in revenue each year.
- The price comparison and coupon extension SafePrice with 10,000,000+ users.
- The screen recording extension Loom with 5,000,000+ users.
- The grammar checker Grammarly with 10,000,000+ users.
But there's also a huge number of extensions that generate just some nice side income.
- T.LY is a link shortener that has 300,000 active users and currently generates $1.7k in monthly revenue.
- Amazon Relay Pro is an extension for Amazon Relay users that's quietly making $5000+ in revenue each month despite many grammatical errors on the landing page. (In case you're wondering, Amazon Relay provides carriers access to Amazon's freight network, "giving fleet owners and owner operators the opportunity to grow their truck driving businesses".)
- This simple extension is doing just one thing: remove a list of URLs from Google via Google's search console. Nevertheless it generates $2k+ in monthly revenue.
- Weather allows users to see weather forecasts right in the browser, currently has 100,000+ users and generates $2.5k in monthly revenue via one time payments that unlock pro features.
- Share-A-Cart allows users to share the contents of their shopping cart and currently generates $5k+ per month in affiliate fees.
- Reader Mode allows users to "Read, Bookmark, Highlight and Annotate the web without distractions". In total, it has 60,000+ users and currently generates $2k+ in monthly revenue by charging $6.99/month for premium features like text annotating, custom themes, and export tools for Evernote. In total, Reader Mode generated more than $40,000 in total revenue by now.
🔑 Key Observations
- Many successful tools for side hustlers are Chrome extensions. For example: PrettyMerch Pro ($25k+ MRR) and Merchflow ($4000+ MRR) for Merch by Amazon sellers, Closet Tools ($34k MRR) and the Poshmark Sharing Tool ($20k+ MRR) for Poshmark sellers, and TexTrader for textbook flippers ($4,012 in revenue in the first week after the launch).
- The most successful extensions almost all fall into one of just two buckets: 1.) extensions that control user attention and 2.) time savers.
- Popular subcategories in the attention control bucket are ad blockers like uBlock Origin and AdBlock, distraction blockers like StayFocusd and Freedom, but also creative products like the language learning tool Toucan which automatically translates phrases on all websites you're visiting. Another popular subcategory are extensions like Momentum that modify what users see when they open a new tab.
- Time savers are, for example, buying assistants like Honey (automatically applies coupons) and Lustr (shows reviews from Wirecutter, YouTube, Reddit etc. on product pages), utility tools like Grammarly and the MozBar (SEO metrics toolbar), and of course all tools for side hustlers mentioned above.
- Web developers and designers use browsers not just for fun but to earn money. So it's hardly surprising that there's a lot of money to be made with extensions that save developers some time. Developer tools is one of the most popular subcategories in the Chrome store. (Most developer tools are of course time savers.)
An example that illustrates that it's possible to make a lot of money serving this niche is CSS Scan which generated $100,000+ in revenue so far.
- Take any popular SaaS and explore if it might be possible to take out steps by turning it into a Chrome extension. Toucan did this with Duolingo, WhatRuns with BuildWith.
A category I'm looking at right now are AI tools like Copy.ai and Magic Sales Bot. Currently users can only generate text on the vendor's platform and then have to copy it manually into the tool (like Gmail), CMS (like Wordpress) or platform (Facebook's Ad Manager) where they're really using it. Surely, a Chrome extension that allows you to generate or enhance your texts in a similar way wherever you need it would be a huge improvement.
One VC funded company that's doing just that is OthersideAI. They offer a Chrome Extension wrapper around GPT-3 which "delivers natural-language results for virtually any task". But they're still in closed beta and there's plenty of room for specialized niche products.
A great niche example is Inksprout. They offer a Chrome extension that automatically summarizes the main ideas when you're about to share a link on LinkedIn using AI and fills in your post.
- Just a few months ago Google deprecated the native Web Store Payments API. This means that Google effectively no longer supports paid Chrome extensions. Owners of paid extensions had to scramble to integrate an alternative payment provider. Most developers are currently using rather awkward workarounds.
Hence there is an opportunity to create a tool that makes it easy for Chrome extension developers to charge subscription fees and handle licenses without having to reinvent the wheel.
An open source library that could be an ideal starting point is Extension Pay. Another way to get started is to build a wrapper around Gumroad (which handles payments and license keys) that's tailor-made for Chrome extensions, similar to what Paytable is doing for Gumroad and Airtable.
- My friend Keevin recently shared an interesting related idea on the podcast: what about a no-code tool for browser extension developers? No-code tools allow its users to drag & drop elements (buttons, form fields, etc.) to visually build apps instead of having to write code. And while there are already great no code tools for many use cases, there's still no good way to create a browser extension without coding skills. Three projects in the space that are just getting started are Extendo (just a Typeform so far), Pextension (just a waitlist so far), and Extensionizr (a boilerplate tool). For more information on the idea check out Keevin's excellent write-up.
- Another side effect of Google's decision to deprecate the payment API is that there is no longer any information on the Chrome store on which extensions charge money. Some paid extensions like, for example, Windy don't even bother to get listed. Hence a dedicated marketplace for premium Chrome extensions, similar to what Codecanyon is doing for WordPress plugins, could be an interesting opportunity.
- There's lots of hidden gold in the Chrome store. Many extensions are heavily undermonetized and neglected by their owners, especially now that Google made it much harder to charge money.
Hence there are many opportunities for buying an existing extension cheaply. To quote Nathan Latka:
"Free apps and web extensions are perfect buys for beginners. They hit all of these criteria and you can usually get them for little money because the owners aren’t making substantial income off them. [...] Another bonus: the owners are often individuals or tiny companies that built the software as a side project. Because the asset is not their main focus, they’re more likely to let it go."
Nathan bought an extension called SndLatr (at the time with 30,000 active users, over 1000 five star reviews) for $1000, rebranded it to The Top Inbox, introduced a paywall, and ended up making more than $150,000 in revenue.
To find these kinds of opportunities, you can use the filters in the database above to find apps with lots of reviews and users that haven't been updated in a while and hence are most likely neglected by their owners.
- Another way to use the database above is to search for extensions with many users but bad ratings. The strategy is then to take one of them and build a better version of it. The market demand is obviously there but the market is unsatisfied with the current solution. So if you can build a better solution then you have a well-defined valuable product. And just by reading the Chrome store reviews you can find out what exactly users are complaining about.
- An exciting category that is just starting to emerge is browser products that are laser focused to improve the whole browsing experience for a specific set of prosumers or businesses. The reason why people and businesses are now comfortable to pay for premium browsing experiences is that more and more work happens in the browser (Airtable, Figma, Gmail, ...).
Sizzy, for example, is a browser specifically for developers. Among other things it allows users to test at a single glance what a given website looks like across different devices. (The story how it started as an open source project and then turned into a business with 1600+ paying customers is full of interesting lessons.)
Another great example is Dashworks (YC funded). They offer a customized browser for businesses that shows all important company information (company announcements, events, etc.) and a dashboard where users can lookup people and directly communicate with others in each new tab.
The browser I'm using right now, called Sidekick, also falls into the same category. It markets itself as a "revolutionary new work OS". What this means is that they built a customized Chromium browser that's made for people who use their browser for work.
And then there's of course Mighty. They focus on people who use their browser for CPU and RAM intensive work like graphic designers. But instead of offering a customizer browser they stream a video of a Chrome browser that runs on a powerful PC. (The heated discussions on Hacker News are definitely worth a read.)