What are Third Party Applications?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2020
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Third party applications are programs written to work within operating systems, but are written by individuals or companies other than the provider of the operating system. For example, Microsoft® systems come packed with several software applications. Of these, any program authored by Microsoft is a first party application. Any program authored by a different company or an individual is a third party application; the same being true for Apple™ and Linux™ systems. In this equation the second party is the user.

Third party applications can be standalone programs or they can be small plugins that add functionality to an existing parent program. The former category is endless. On a typical system, standalone third party applications include tens of dozens of programs. Web browsers like Opera, Safari® and Firefox®; and email clients like Thunderbird®, The Bat!, and Pegasus are some examples of popular standalone third party applications. Most anti-virus programs, firewalls, multimedia programs — virtually any program not written by Microsoft®, Apple®, or Linux, yet made to work on those systems — falls into this category.

In some cases, computer users of Windows® operating systems consider it more secure to use standalone third party applications for tasks such as email, newsgroups, Web browsing and Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Microsoft® applications have traditionally been the target of the vast majority of hackers, viruses, Trojans and other security threats. By using a third party application, one theoretically lessens the degree of potential vulnerability.


A different kind of third party application provides additional functionality to a primary program. These types of third party applications are referred to as plugins or add-ons. The existing parent program might itself be a third party application, or a first party application. Examples include encryption plugins for email applications, multimedia plugins for Web browsers to watch movies or see Flash content, or plugins that read certain types of files, such as the Adobe® Acrobat® plugin used for .pdf files.

Although plugins and add-ons are available for first party applications, the vast majority are written for open source software. Microsoft® and Apple® do not make the source code of their proprietary operating systems available to the public, limiting the ability of a third party to write a plugin or add-on. Most third party applications are also proprietary, keeping source code a company secret.

However, there are many third party applications that are open source and this category of software is growing. The Firefox® Web browser and Thunderbird® email client are just two examples of open source third party applications that are quite popular. In part this is due to the ever-growing catalog of handy add-ons and plugins that are freely available for these programs. Open source first party applications are rare, with Linux operating systems creating the exception.


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Post 16

The gratuitous use of copyright and trademark symbols looks especially funny next to Linux. But apparently, (hilariously) someone did actually trademark it and try to claim royalties from open source Linux distributors. Way to kick the hornets' nest.

Post 15

When a big company like Microsoft, Google, and Apple provide apps for us to download - for free or for a fee - does that company stand behind the product? Has that company tested the product? When the company puts an app-product in its store for us to download, does that mean that product has the company's seal of approval - that it will download virus and malware free - and work as we expect from the advertising?

Post 11

@MrsPramm - The problem is that I'm not really good at using software and Linux has always seemed a bit scary to my mind, because it's so open.

I just want a computer that will do a few things for me. I don't really need to be able to use every application out there. As long as I can visit the internet and type then I'm happy and no third party applications are required.

Post 10

@umbra21 - From what I've heard about Windows 8 they are basically going the same way as Apple in that respect. It's about the money, really. If people have to get their software through a particular source they can get a cut from every bit of it, rather than losing out to other companies.

The good news is that Linux keeps getting better and better, with a wider range of applications all the time. So, there is an alternative out there.

Post 9

This is one of the reasons I'm not overly fond of Apple as a company, even though I accept that they make marginally better hardware.

They are just so rigid about what programs are available on their operating systems. With the Ipad, for example, you basically can't run anything on it that hasn't been bought through the Apple store. While that still allows some third party applications development, they are well known for rejecting programs for arbitrary details.

Using a PC with Windows isn't perfect and they aren't as flexible as a machine running Linux but it's much easier to get a wide range of programs.

Post 4

thanks for this valuable information.

Post 3

Thanks for your clear description.

Post 2

this was a very good information for me. the language used is very simple and very easy to understand for the reader.

Post 1

how do I add a third party software to use with network solutions? it is suggested as they cannot enlarge my logo in their template?

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