What was the Fresh Kit Toolbar?
The Fresh Kit Toolbar was a deal hunter toolbar for Firefox back in the day. It was built to help shoppers use their web browsers to locate deals on products that they were looking to buy, kind of like a search engine but without having to go find one.
The idea was it would be installed into Firefox, a popular web browser in the early 2000’s that continues to be widely used today, although not as much as it used to be thanks to iPhones etc., much like you would install an extension from the App Store today.
It would then be visible in the browser’s toolbar until deactivated or uninstalled and integrate tightly with the UI of Firefox to provide a convenient and elegant way to search and view product deals.
We retired it a long time ago when things got a bit heated in the toolbar space and we realised they weren’t something we wanted to be associated with any more haha.
What is a toolbar?
Toolbars, also known as standard toolbars or bar toolbars, are located near the top of an application window and include buttons for performing common tasks. The menus are below the menu bar and look like the image shown down below, as they often include pictures of the functions they control.
A toolbar typically provides instant access to frequently performed functions in the programme. For example, the formatting toolbar in Microsoft Word gives you quick access to changing text alignment or emphasising text through standard buttons.
You may not get all of the functionality all the time as certain documents or functions require different toolbars and so a lot of features can be contextual to the type of file you’re working on or the type of media you are adding to a document.
What did web toolbars do?
Toolbars were created to improve an internet user’s experience. You didn’t have to go all the way to Google or Bing to find what you wanted; you could simply type it into the box and go.
Some toolbars allowed users to quickly access their email, while others provided weather updates or news. All of this (and more) could be done from one convenient location, making them particularly handy.
What happened to web toolbars?
Toolbars became so popular that they overwhelmed the browser window. The image above perfectly illustrates this.
But the problem wasn’t limited to taking up all the screen real estate.
Toolbars began to use up so much processing power that they slowed down the browser window as well as the entire system.
Death by association
Some malicious users capitalised on this, creating dodgy programs that installed toolbars without the user’s knowledge or consent. The toolbar was granted permission to run when it was installed, whether it was downloaded from the Internet or came with a web browser as part of a software package.
These toolbars would spy on users browsing behaviour and computer usage, in some cases even stealing data. This article on Toolbars as malware on Malwarebytes goes into more detail.
Even when users removed them, malicious software running in the background remained, leading to much frustration among users as they tried, sometimes in vain, to remove them. Even today, there are still specialty programs to remove toolbars.
The threats were plenty and in turn it resulted in web toolbars becoming tarnished.
The Toolbar is Dead. Long Live the Toolbar!
Fast forward to the ’20s and the toolbar is gone. At least, for the average consumer it is.
It continues on in the hearts and minds of those who develop marketing for websites, the SEO Pros, who are more advanced users, need a lot of very specific niche tools and are quite savvy at identifying which ones are good and which ones are bad.
The SEO space is full of tools that utilise this form to deliver results that would otherwise take a lot of time to do. For those of you who are interested, we’ve compiled a list below with links to the various companies who offer them so you can check them out, too.
Afterlife: The toolbar lives on (not ours!)
The toolbar has become the preserve of the search engine optimiser. The complex technical nature of SEO tools lends itself really well to having a toolbar in your browser. Much more so than being forced to live with a bus-sized set of banners in your browser window when you’re just on looking for a set of kettle bells on Ebay or whatever.
If you’re interested to see how they’ve evolved you can check out our SEO toolbars article which lists the very best ones available as browser plugins from the Chrome Web Store – the repository for extensions to Google Chrome and other compatible web browsers.
Our fairly in-depth article outlines what each one does and provides links to each so you can try out their offering and see if you can find a use for it (or at least understand how the tech has evolved).