Extensions – How It Came To Be

Remember those small side-tyres we fix on to the bicycle when we start to learn them? They essentially let us drive two-wheeled things as if it had four wheels. Extensions do the same thing – they let you do more with your browser without having to make it more complicated than it already is.

Extensions often present themselves in a drop-down like windows having different options to tweak browser’s behaviour. They can access everything on a web page or items selectively depending on the extension. This ability also gives them sensitive data about the user like the usage history, bookmarks, browsing patterns, etc. Web apps are different kinds of beasts; they are websites that tap into new capabilities to function akin to a traditional mobile app does. They have the ability to save data locally, work offline, notifications support and a host of other abilities.

Before the Internet, information exchange was a rather tiring process, especially over long distances. Internet was first used for serious purposes like academics or military. In the early 90s, the public started to get engaged with it and the rest is history. At first, the content was minimal, so was the technical requirements to generate and display it. The first popular web browser was the Mosaic which later became Netscape Navigator which then was superseded by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The content got richer and required more sophisticated technologies to be incorporated into the browser. Years later, the browser itself got so complex that it was nearly impossible to add functionality without creating clutter.

Designing an appealing website is imperative for the success of a business initiative nowadays. To create a site that will look and work well irrespective of the device they are used on requires the use of some technologies. Some sites are designed to be much more interactive, and they will require using much more of these abilities. For some people, it is imperative to know exactly which technologies a site is using to deliver content the way it does. It can be a developer looking for inspiration in designing a website, or a tech-geek who just needs to know those things. It can be marketers who need access to data which while providing handy insights into people’s behaviour will keep user’s identity safe. It can be the business strategist who needs usage statistics about which technologies are most used and which ones are outdated and should be scrapped.

This is where services that can access these data in a non-intrusive way and then provide them in an informative and user-friendly way comes in. Today we are introducing WhatRuns, a web extension that delivers this data more efficiently and concisely than any other competing services. We have devised breakthrough methods to handle the workload on our end, and the latencies on the users end in an extremely efficient way.

Welcome to WhatRuns

Welcome to WhatRuns – a simple yet comprehensive tool to know what runs a website.

Story time

Some time ago, while there was no such idea of building WhatRuns, two of us decided to make a simple chrome extension from scratch. We were working on a SaaS for web publishers at that time, and we needed something to identify the ad networks websites were using. We tried some of the popular technology profilers out there, but they came off as pretty inaccurate and failed for the job at hand (sorry competitors!). That’s when the first build of WhatRuns was born. We scrapped together a crappy extension to detect top 50 ad networks with the help of simple pattern recognition. It was kinda heavy on the browser, but it worked!

One month and lots of coffees later, we had a minimum viable product that we thought will save coders tremendous amount of time. Yes, we branched out to other categories and started recognising frameworks and scripts – although just the essentials. We shared the extension among a couple dozen coders and they loved it! (and not just because they were our friends). That’s when we decided to go for it and build a complete technology profiler that we would want to use, something 3x better than what’s out there.

What

If you’re reading this, you should’ve probably tried our browser extension. So I suppose it does not require much introduction. I’ll go for a one liner – it is a simple browser extension that will show you the technologies, frameworks, fonts and all other things that runs a website.

Why

Because it is handy and can save an enormous amount of time for techies of all kinds. Web developers use WhatRuns to easily identify the frameworks and web technologies used on websites they’re looking at. Designers easily detect fonts, javascript frameworks and other design elements used. Salespeople use WR to get important insights for their businesses, primarily for competitor analysis. And many, many other applications (by the sound of feature requests we get) we didn’t even think about when we set out to build WhatRuns.

What’s Next

We take pride in being the lightest, accurate and most elegant technology profiler out there. However, we know that WR has its limitations. It is so new to the space to have all the old technologies in our database. We’re now prioritising the most popular and latest technologies. It will take some more time before we have a fully comprehensive database of technology data. We’re on it.

We hope you find WhatRuns helpful! As much as we appreciate your five star ratings, blog mentions and tweets, we’d love to know your thoughts on how we can improve WhatRuns. Because we are working on it – every single day.