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A company that rents out access to more than 10 million Web browsers so that clients can hide their true Internet addresses has built its network by paying browser extension makers to quietly include its code in their creations. This story examines the lopsided economics of extension development, and why installing an extension can be such a risky proposition. Singapore-based Infatica[.]io is part of a growing industry of shadowy firms trying to woo developers who maintain popular browser extensions — desktop and mobile device software add-ons available for download from Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla designed to add functionality or customization to one's browsing experience. Some of these extensions have garnered hundreds of thousands or even millions of users. But here's the rub: As an extension's user base grows, maintaining them with software updates and responding to user support requests tends to take up an inordinate amount of the author's time. Yet extension authors have few options for earning financial compensation for their work. So when a company comes along and offers to buy the extension — or pay the author to silently include some extra code — that proposal is frequently too good to pass up. For its part, Infatica seeks out authors with extensions that have at least 50,000 users. An extension maker who agrees to incorporate Infatica's computer code can earn anywhere from $15 to $45 each month for every 1,000 active users. An Infatica graphic…

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