These were the most popular browser extensions during the pandemic

The transition to working from home during the pandemic drastically changed the way in which we use technology with the browser becoming one of the most important tools for remote work.

Now as we've reached the two-year mark of the start of the pandemic, Mozilla has published a new blog post taking a closer look at which browser extensions were the most downloaded and used during the early days of the lockdown in Firefox.

As meetings went virtual with employees relying on video conferencing software like Zoom to connect with their teams, the browser extension Zoom Scheduler saw a 1,522 percent increase in installs. This is because it integrates Google Calendar with Zoom so that users can scheduler or start their Zoom meetings directly from their calendar.

Since remote workers also spent more time looking at their work from home monitors, the Dark Background and Light Text extension, which flips the colors of webpages to make them more visible, saw a 351 percent increase in installs at the beginning of the pandemic. Likewise, the Tree Style Tab extension also experienced a 126 percent increase in downloads as it can help users deal with tab overload by opening browser tabs in a cascading “tree” format similar to vertical tabs in Microsoft Edge

Protecting our privacy and staying entertained

Cybercrime ran rampant during the beginning of the pandemic so in addition to using a VPN and antivirus software when working remotely, Firefox users also began installing privacy extensions for their browser.

Cookie AutoDelete, which eliminates unused cookies whenever you close a tab in Firefox, saw its install numbers skyrocket by 386 percent and the browser extension also averaged more than 206k installs per month between March and May of 2020.

As remote workers used Facebook's social media platform to stay connected during lockdown, Mozilla's own Facebook Container was another popular browser extension. This extension isolates your Facebook identity into a separate “container” so that the social media giant can't track your moves around the web.

Blocking trackers was also important to those working from home during the pandemic which is why the Privacy Badger browser extension saw installs jump by 80 percent globally. An interesting thing about this browser extension is that it gets better at blocking trackers the longer you use it since Privacy Badger “learns” more about the hidden trackers you naturally encounter while online.

When it came to staying entertained while in lockdown, Firefox users installed the BetterTTV browser extension to alter the look and feel of Twitch, the Watch2gether extension to have watch parties with friends and colleagues online and YouTube Non-Stop to solve the problem of the video platform's annoying “Video paused. Continue watching?” prompt.

Regardless of which browser you're currently using, browser extensions can help add to your online experience and make the software and services you depend on while working from home even more useful.

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Facebook, Instagram launch tools to help small businesses survive the pandemic

In a bid to help small businesses stay afloat during this turbulent time, Facebook and Instagram have launched a handful of new features that allow users to promote and support their favorites.

A digital gift card feature allows businesses to promote their gift cards directly through their Facebook Pages and News Feeds, and on Instagram by adding a sticker to their Stories or a button to their profile page.

Users, meanwhile, will be able to search for gift cards issued by local businesses – including hairdressers, restaurants, bookshops, grocery stores and more – and make purchases directly through either platform.

Pandemic support measures

The social media giants have doubled down on existing support extended to small businesses, such as the $ 100m Small Business Grants program, which will see Facebook provide cash support and ad credits to struggling firms.

Both platforms have now expanded their fundraising tools to allow businesses to create campaigns on Facebook to solicit donations from loyal customers and add a “Donate” button to Instagram Stories and profile pages.

Instagram has also rolled out a new “Support Small Business” sticker option, which lets users spotlight their most beloved businesses via their Stories. Mentioning a business directly using the sticker gives the user’s followers a preview of the account and highlights other firms the person has championed.

In an effort to make content published by small businesses more easily discoverable, Facebook has also launched a new feed called ‘Posts from Businesses Near You’ – a single destination from which users can browse the latest posts from local businesses.

“Running a company during Covid-19 is far from ‘business as usual’, and for smaller companies the impact of lockdown has hit hard,” said Steve Hatch, VP Northern Europe at Facebook.

“SMBs are the backbone of the economy, they sit at the heart of our communities and at Facebook they are part of our story as well, so we want to do all we can to support them at this challenging time,” he added.

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