We’re proud of our announced relationship with MLB.com, and we think fans will be excited about the newly available themes. As a result, we’ve been giving shout outs to baseball bloggers so they can weigh in and hopefully share with their readers.

We love the feedback we get and in whatever form it comes. This week we had a good dialogue with the folks over at Infieldfly.ca. There was concern over the warning that pops on Chrome when you install our theme on Chrome. It concerns us to, and Google will even admit it’s a little intimidating – but it’s an honest share of information. Google wants you to know this theme can see all the web pages you visit. It’s true we can, but we don’t.

Google Chrome Warnings

In Google’s own words, here’s why they present this kind of warning:

Depending on the extension you install, the extension might need legitimate access to various things to carry out its purpose. For example, if you see the message that the extension can have access to “your private data on all websites,” this usually means that the extension is inserting content scripts into a page. Content scripts are used to make changes to what’s being shown on a page. An extension for blocking ads is one such example since it needs to modify the execution of the page to not show ads. In this case, this ability to modify page content brings you a desired functionality. However, this same ability means the extension can have the ability to read information submitted on the page, which includes private data. This is not to say it’s going to do this or do something malicious with it, but it *can* if the extension author is ill-intentioned and built his extension specifically for this purpose. This is why we always advise users to only download extensions from authors they know and trust (they have great reviews, have a lot of users, good reputation, etc).

The reason for the warning is we’ve invented a new way to expose the interactive parts of our theme on Chrome – the toolbar piece, if you will. Google doesn’t allow toolbars by default and there’s no way to add one. We made it happen. It happens because we add this small layer when a web page is called. That act of following the web page event triggers Google’s warning.

The question from Infield Fly was, “So why didn’t you just provide a Chrome theme without a toolbar? You must understand that that kind of warning is going to turn people off.” A great question, when you think about how seamless businesses want any transaction to be and there are a few answers to it.

It’s a combination of user demand, user experience and business decision. User’s want connection to the teams they follow whether its via links, social media or news feeds. User’s also want something unique and a business wants to separate itself in the market. Brand Thunder’s interactive browser themes meet all these criteria. There’s no tool like our browser themes. Whether you have us build them, like MLB.com did, or you build your own using our browser theme creator called BT:Engage, our themes are something special in the market place.

To offer just a theme in Google, because that’s what they make easy it to do, would mean we’re just another theme, and we’re ignoring the more value-add components our users and clients want.

That doesn’t change how scary some users will find Google’s warning and it may scare them off. Brand Thunder is a young company and we do a lot to earn the trust of our users, yet we’re still unknown to many people. Their favorite baseball team is another story. There’s a long connection and earned trust there. Hopefully, that brand affiliation provides some reassurance to the user that the on-going relationship is the most important thing – and it won’t be compromised.

It may not be enough reassurance for everyone, but it works for most.

Creating Themes for Internet Explorer

Google Chrome isn’t the first time we invented a method for customizing the browser. When we rolled out our themes for Internet Explorer, IE didn’t offer themes. You couldn’t add them to your browser. You could, however, add a toolbar. But Conduit was already doing that and they do it very well. To give users a new choice and option and our clients another powerful web app, we delivered interactive browser themes to IE. The visually-immersive nature of our product is just as important at  the communication channel created by the toolbar. We couldn’t separate the two.

That doesn’t mean our product appeals to everyone. In IE, you don’t get that Chrome-style warning, but the graphics of the product actually take up some vertical space from the user. The product footprint is a turn off for some people, and BT’s themes may not be right for those who hold browser space at a premium. Those of us on large monitors and are big fans of a certain team, brand or graphic image – a few pixels is a small price to pay for a happier desktop.

Business of Browser Themes

There’s another possible turn-off to our themes for some users. We give this product away for free, but we make money through advertising.

If we do our jobs, we add value, make a living and everyone has a better and more colorful Internet experience. For those who see the advertising, as unobtrusive as we try to make it, we put Preferences into the themes so you can tailor the experience to their liking. That’s a big gamble on our part. It’s like listening to NPR where you can turn off the fundraisers. Some users will fault us for even trying to earn some revenue. But many more find enough value in the product to try it as it’s offered and then modify it if they prefer a different experience.

I recognize people are sensitive to different things. In my home, I do most of the cooking. I was too particular about the taste, texture and ingredients used in our meals. My wife lets me have the majority of cooking duties and she takes on more of the clean up. We’re both happy. We adjusted our meals together so that we both get more enjoyment out of them. That’s BT’s approach with browser themes. We put together a pretty good experience that we think meets most needs, but offer the ability to change it so you can have the browser experience you’re happy with.

All this is a lot of what I think, but we need your thoughts to grow this relationship. Please share them.

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