Web browser extensions

February 20, 2011

Web browsing applications are the main tool for accessing web content. Therefore, they are one of the main things that shape our web surfing experience.

In the early days, when the Internet started to reach homes, there weren't any concerns about which application would be used to browse the web. Mostly, there was one embedded web browser with the operating system, and that was it.

 There was no second thought given to how efficient it was. But with the evolving of web technologies, a set of rules and standards appeared that brought people's attention to the fact that there are other browsers out there, and they started wondering: which one is the best?

There is simply no answer to that question, because each group of users has different needs. It's difficult to judge as all browsers have a similar user interface, similar features, and take almost the same time to load a web page.

Therefore, web browser makers have started competing by offering new features like the ability to add extensions. Many times, we wish that an element in a certain website were different, and we could send the suggestion to the web-masters and wait for them to handle it.

This may be a long procedure, or even an impossible one, when it is a famous website. Some developers have decided to customise their websites by allowing fellow developers to write scripts that will alter the way websites are displayed on visitor's screens, and load it under one Firefox extension.

This extension in Firefox may be the reason for making you stick with this browser; it opens a route for all types of extensions.

Greasemonkey adds another level of extensions for Firefox users by allowing them to install simple scripts that give them the ability to change the view of their favourite websites. It helps to alter some functions and even add new features, all without interference from the website's owners.

What's great is how Greasemonkey enhances your web experience, from a script that allows you to download YouTube videos (even though YouTube doesn't allow that), to a script that will load the next page automatically in a multi-page article, like the ones in forums or in Google search results.

Want multi-column search results from Google and remove the sponsored links? You can do that using one of the most downloaded scripts. Flickr, the photo sharing website, looks good, but you can add what you need for the photo sharing website, like unique zooming features.

You will definitely need social website scripts if you spend a lot of time on these sites, with plenty of scripts available. For Facebook, you can change how the profiles are shown.

And the Power Twitter script is really what Twitter should be like, by displaying attached photos directly and giving many options to easily follow/unfollow users; it's a must have for active users.

Greasemonkey has been downloaded by more than 30mn users, and there are thousands of user-created scripts available on a dedicated website (http://userscripts.org).

You won't find a script for just any website, only the major ones, as they are written by people like you. However, as the users' scripts are written randomly, maybe by novice programmers, some of them will slow down the CPU and may affect the performance of Firefox. But you can turn them off with a click on the bottom bar.