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Pimp My Browser: Next Generation Information Literacy Demands Control Of The Browser

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Widgets, Add-ons, Toolbars, and Videos: Web 2.0 Tools for Searching, Managing, and Teaching about Engineering Literature and Information

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.957.1 - 14.957.9



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Paper Authors


Andrew Wohrley Auburn University

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Andrew Wohrley is Engineering Librarian and Patent and Trademark Depository Representative at Auburn University Libraries.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Pimp My Browser: Making Your Browser an Efficient Research Tool with Plug-ins


Consider the present browser. It is conformant to W3C standards, displays information, both visual and audio, and every browser looks like every other one with the only differences being cosmetic. Now in the age of Open Source software, browser users can upgrade their browser at no cost, to automate many functions of the search. Features a browser customized for research should have include; instant-on access to databases and indexes, citation management, and access to automatic translations. While none of these features are part of the default package of any browser, browser customization is useful and overlooked and deserves more attention.


The web browser is the primary means by which the user interacts with the Web, but for all its ubiquity, customizing the web browser is a topic that is largely ignored beyond the computer science literature. In contrast, library literature has focused on the database, in keeping with the library tradition of honing one’s database searching skills on the standard tools of the computer world: hardware, software, and the network.

The Firefox Open Source browser allows customization through what it calls add-ons (also called extensions). Mozilla was originally formed from the ruins of Netscape, a pioneering browser that was seen off by Internet Explorer. Before it died, Netscape relicensed its browser as Open Source. It became the Mozilla Project and Firefox was the browser. The bare-bones nature of the original Firefox led to a virtuous circle where the released browser became popular, the developers took advantage of the easily installable add-ons to create more add-ons and features, and the popularity of the add-ons lead to more people being interested in developing them. Today, add-ons are one of the features that lead people to choose Firefox over competing browsers.

Why use add-ons?

The advantages of Open Source add-ons include low cost, freedom, flexibility and a chance to experiment. Internet Explorer has up to not been very supportive of third-party software, with Adobe Acrobat being the major exception. In contrast Firefox has relied on third parties adding functionality to the browser for much of its progress. Internet Explorer 8 has promised some changes from the traditional Microsoft model of proprietary standards and limited interoperability, primarily in reaction to the success of Firefox.[1]

The differences between Firefox and Internet Explorer are most obvious in their licenses, and a few quotes will illustrate this. Here is some standard boilerplate language from the Microsoft Vista license, “SCOPE OF LICENSE. The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights.”[2] The essence of

Wohrley, A. (2009, June), Pimp My Browser: Next Generation Information Literacy Demands Control Of The Browser Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4596

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