Internet toolbars are sometimes referred to as browser toolbars, and are essentially additional pieces of software that are installed in order to provide additional functionality. That functionality almost exclusively appears inside of a browser window, and many Internet toolbars are limited to one or more browsers. There are a few advantages to using Internet tools bars, such as:
- The ability to quickly access specific types of information – Many different websites have mountains of useful information such as: recipes, webmail, legal case information, instructions on how to complete specific tasks, social media information, and so on. Normally users have to navigate to the appropriate website to search, but specialized Internet toolbars allow users to search for anything from any page.
- Data mining- Data mining is both a good and bad thing depending upon the situation. On one hand, Internet toolbars that report usage information and/or system statistics may help developers craft more useful and/or better targeted services. The negatives are covered in the next section.
There are also a few key disadvantages to using Internet toolbars. Some of these downsides only occur with malware disguised as a useful Internet toolbar, but others are common to virtually all forms of :
- Screen real estate – All Internet toolbars presently take up at least some portion of the browser window. With screen space being finite and more people turning towards netbooks and laptops, screen space is at a definite premium. This is why many modern browsers include functions such as quick access to search engines that used to be part of add-on Internet toolbars.
- Compatibility – Whenever a website or service that the toolbar uses is upgraded it may require an upgrade to the toolbar. An upgrade to the browser may also cause compatibility problems as well. The net result is that users that choose to install Internet toolbars may discover that the additional functionality is not worth the additional attention to technical details that is part of the package.
- Browser-specific – Some Internet toolbars will only work on Internet explorer or Mozilla Firefox. There is no current universal language that allows developers to write one Internet toolbar that can be used on all browsers.
- Data mining – The data provided by Internet toolbars may not always be information that users wish to have shared. In the case of certain Internet toolbars, users must agree to an end user license agreement that permits data mining.
- Annoying advertisements – Some developers of Internet toolbars offset their development costs and earn profits by integrating pop-up advertisements into their Internet toolbars.
- Viruses – Some Internet toolbars are nothing but thinly disguised viruses. These seemingly useful tools are actually busy at work infecting a computer. Each virus is unique, but it has been noted that many bot nets use infected toolbars as part of their ploy to get users to install malicious software.