What is an Add-on, where are they used and what is the difference to an update?
Extensions for software or hardware
An add-on is an extension for an operating software or an upgrade for a computer. The special thing about an add-on for running applications is that it extends existing features and it can be uninstalled at any time without affecting the original application. Basically, an add-on requires an existing application, which is extended accordingly. Add-ons are often used with browsers; the administration often works via an “Add-on Manager”. Add-ons are also used in computer games, e.g. to add new characters or game situations.
Whether add-ons are offered free of charge or for a fee is up to the manufacturer. In most cases, it is also the manufacturer of the original application – otherwise it would have to document its application interfaces and make them publicly available to enable other providers to participate. Such concepts are becoming increasingly popular – they are also referred to as eco-systems. Well-known examples include Apple with the App Store and Atlassian JIRA.
Differences between add-ons and updates or upgrades
In the course of the development of professional enterprise applications – e.g. in the area of project management, change management or requirements management – there are solutions which are modularly structured. Modules can be added step by step – in theory, this could also be called an add-on. However, companies often make new functionality available via minor or major releases in the course of maintenance and servicing agreements. In this context, updates and upgrades are more likely to be mentioned. Uninstalling is usually difficult and often results in uninstalling the entire application and not just the update/upgrade. It is also advisable for companies to have a common, uniform version of software in use, as this simplifies administration. In addition, many programs for processing data and files require uniform versions.
The term add-on is also used in other areas and is understood as an “additive “. This additive could be, for example, a free addition in a supermarket or a supplement in a daily newspaper.