Interview: Meet the Author and developer of Turn Off the Lights

Jul 30, 2014

Interview: Meet the Author - Turn Off the Lights

Have you ever heard about Turn Off the Lights, a hugely useful and at the same time very popular Chrome extension? I bet you did. To follow up the interview with Speed Dial 2 developer we got in touch with Stefan Van Damme to discuss his Turn Off the Lights extension which in fact was one the first Chrome extensions that has been made available for download back in 2010.

Stefan, how did you come up with the core idea to darken the web page background?
Long time ago YouTube had a gray lamp button on the top of its video player. And I was thinking what about the other video websites. Is there a solution online that can easily with click of one lamp button dim the web page on all websites and highlight the video player?

Since the first opening of the Chrome extension gallery in December 2009 I have created the Turn Off the Lights Chrome extension. The extension showed a gray lamp button in the omnibox of the Google Chrome browser. On that day all Chromie users could dim the web page and automatically highlight the video player on every website. It has worked for all known video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Hulu, Metacafe, YouKu, etc.

How much time consuming the development was and did you face any technical difficulties prior its official release?
It took less than 1 hour to develop the first public release of Turn Off the Lights. But for every new release it takes more time to design and create it correctly for the users. Also do not forget that the extension is all built up from the feedback of my users.

Turn Off the Lights extension is very popular, I am wondering how did the launch of this extension look like? I.e. were there any marketing tactics implemented?
Turn Off the Lights Chrome extension was one of the first extensions in the Chrome extension gallery, together with the adBlock extension from Michael Gundlach. Later that year Google Chrome UK team created a promotional video of the Chrome browser and mentioned couple of extensions in a TV commercial, the Turn Off the Lights extension got covered in the video.

The only marketing feature within my Turn Off the Lights extension is a share button visible in the option’s page.

Would you mind revealing some new and extra features that will be included within the next updates?
On May 5th I have released three amazing features in the Turn Off the Lights v3. The v3 stands for version three of this project but also for the three new innovative features that have been included within the extension. The first newly introduced feature is the Atmosphere Lighting (feature #1) - vivid mode.

This feature generates light effects around the YouTube (HTML5) video player that corresponds to the video content. That makes the video even more beautiful and lively at the same time.

Speech Recognition (feature #2) When you enabled this feature in the option’s page you can talk to my browser lamp in your own local language. Example: you can say “turn off the lights”, and “play video”. Automatically the Chrome extension understands the commands and does these actions.

Camera Motion (feature #3) In order to get this feature working you need to enable your webcam device. And as you move your hand from top to bottom of your camera device it automatically slides a dark translucent layer down on the current web page. Turn Off the Lights is the only and the first browser extension that has enabled these features, all of them have been developed to improve the entertainment and the online watching experience. And the best of all is that the users can download this browser extension for free.

Is your Turn Off the Lights add-on available only for Chrome or do you also support other browsers?
Yes, Turn Off the Lights is available for all know browsers such as: Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Maxthon and the Yandex web browser. And if you want this extension also on your Surface, then you can download the Turn Off the Lights app in the Windows Store.

Here is a place to introduce any other browser extensions that you and your team have developed, feel free to talk about all of them (in case there are any of course :) )
Ambient Aurea
Photography users love the atmospheric video lighting effect that the Turn Off the Lights extension creates but they also want to use this for online images. So I rewritten the engine code and created a new extension for images only.

Proper Menubar
Since Google removed the top black bar many users were complaining about the new design of the Google website. So within 1 hour I have created this extension to show the original black bar on top of But with more great features inside including the ability to change the color of the bar, to show more or less links in the bar, etc.

Aurora Player
My users love the atmospheric lighting effect on YouTube player, but they also want to use it for their own favorite videos that are stored on their computers. Therefore I have created the Aurora Player Windows Store app. It allows users to watch their favorite videos on the desktop itself or on the go with the Surface tablet.

What do you think about Chrome Web Store, its future and its policy regarding buggy and malware extensions?
Every month I am noticing bad Chrome extensions or just simply fake extensions which use property from other companies. And it takes almost a week to remove such extensions. Google must act better like other major companies do. For example the Apple team self verifies the applications prior they are published publically, even in case of single app updates. Everything is kept safe and according to the App Store guidelines. That is my vision how Google should improve his Chrome Web Store.

Our readers are always keen to read the tips regarding the new extensions. What are your favorite ones and why?
My favorite extension is the Panic Button from which by no doubt belongs to developers that make a great extension in the privacy category. It hides Chrome tabs in one click. It is the same as my extension, one click idea for everything.

You can get the Turn Off the Lights extension here: Turn Off the Lights website