Alexander Savin blog

Eng/Ru
25 Feb 2015

Useful extensions to make Internet a better place

Let's assume for a second that it is perfectly fine to care about your privacy on Internet, filter out ads and in general have full control over the look of webpages. Here is a (short) list of my favorite browser extensions that help concentrate on a content, save on traffic, stay slightly more hidden from trackers and remove annoying things on webpages.

I'll provide links to the Chrome Store, but some extensions are also available for Safari and Firefox.

Stylish

When there is annoying sticky header, huge footer or some overlay that you can't get rid on the webpage, it is important to remember that you have full access to the page's source code. Open developer tools of your browser, select annoying element and add display: none; to the styles. Magic. However, when you reload the page, that particular annoyance will be back. Solution? Extension that keeps track of your CSS modifications for a particular webpage (or domain).

Meet Stylish. In addition to remembering your mods, it also contains a fully fledged community with lots of available hacks. Did you ever wanted Yahoo bar to disappear forever from Flickr? Here is a (very popular) preset.

Clearly

At Red Badger we're taking typography on Web very seriously. Fonts must be of a proper size and color, with appropriate background. This is however not the case with most web pages. Readability of text almost always far from perfect - columns are too wide, too narrow, text size or color are wrong, and riddled with extra elements that have little to do with text itself. If you're on Safari, there is built-in Reader View. It is perfect in 95% (sometimes browser gets confused and unable to detect that single chunk of text that you're most interested in).

On Chrome I found Clearly from Evernote the best. Works even better that Reader View on Safari, fully customizable, with 4 built-in ready to use themes. Do you remember that feeling when reading paper book, and there is nothing in the book but the story you're interested in? That's the feeling you get after using Clearly.

Disconnect.me

If you're ever opened browser settings and were curious enough to check how much cookies your browser stored over the ages, you might have a fair idea how much sites are interested in tracking all of your activities. Even more so - advertising networks and various social services (which are again aimed on reselling behavioural data of you to the 3rd parties).

Disconnect.me is a small harmless extension that by default blacklists most of the tracking activities on webpages. Chrome only, and apparently developed by former Google employees, so you can assume that they were a) a little pissed at their former employer, and b) knew exactly what to do.

This nifty extension will provide you with breakdown of all tracking attempts, and will let you whitelist whatever you think is appropriate. Do you want to allow Google Analytics to track you? Fine, one easy click.

Here is another blogpost by Roisi on this helpful extension.

Adblock+

I'll just say it - it's ok to filter out ads. Internet without Adblock extensions is a very hostile place. Recently Adblock started promoting concept of acceptable ads. By default Adblock will let through ads that are following guidelines of being acceptable and non-disturbing. You are free to switch them off too.

Using Adblock is a bit of a heated debate at the moment - it's obviously legal, the debate is largely revolving around the fact that you're consuming content without supporting producer of that content (by not watching ads). This topic deserves a separate blogpost.

Conclusion

Unlike TV, Internet browser gives you power to filter content in any way you want. It seems that safety and privacy on Internet are getting more traction, browsers become more safe and able to warn you when there is something evil is about to happen. There is still a large grey area of what is ethical, acceptable or simply legal. Concept of privacy is under constant review, some people go all the way to claim that there is no privacy on Internet. In any case, you have full control over your machine and browser.

Use it.