This is not a manifesto for ridding the world of trolls, but a list of plug-ins and software I use to make the internet tolerable.
When someone at work shows me a video on a news website or YouTube I’m always surprised by 1 – the amount of advertising, and 2 the fact that people still do nothing to block it.
The other day I saw my own The Opening Sentence blog without any active browser plug-ins and the web page couldn’t have been uglier if you’d poured a bucket of vomit all over it. (Note to WordPress: what’s the point of having so many themes if you’re going to obliterate them with adverts all over the screen?)
Anyway, these digital bits and pieces make my internet experience tolerable. If anyone thinks it’s immoral or unethical to block income generating ads I have two responses. Firstly, if you rely on ads for income you don’t have a viable business model, which is another argument for another day. Secondly, I pay to upgrade my TotenUniverse site to keep it ad/vomit free and I’m happy to do that. Free in return for ads will never get my vote and I’ll look for ways around it until the Nestle* cows come home. I’d rather pay a little bit than suffer death by advert.
* Slipped in a bit of sponsorship there, did you notice that.
It’s still the best adblocker for me, works on Firefox, Opera and Chrome and it has another useful tool:
Adblock Plus Element Hider
This is a plug-in for the plug-in and when you activate it a red box appears around a web page element that you want to permanently hide. I use it most for annoying cookie consent panels, intrusive newsletter sign-up notices, autoplaying videos and ads that Adblocker misses.
Element Hider removes things permanently, not per session, so when you hide an element it’s gone every time you return to that website.
Enhanced Cookie Manager
Firefox is now hopeless at managing cookies. ECM blocks all cookies by default. To allow essential cookies you simply click on the icon and move the slider to green – permanently allow, or yellow – allow per session.
My stored cookies list no longer sees stuff beginning with ‘ad,’ no rubiconproject or doubleclick rubbish, and definitely no facebook tracking poison.
I used to use this a lot to make hyperactive web pages behave themselves. A particular annoyance was the Independent’s news website refreshing its pages when you were half way through reading something. No Script stopped that sort of thing from happening. It also crippled a lot of perfectly innocent websites, so I stopped using it when I found AdBlock Plus could filter out the offending scripts. But No Script is still a powerful tool if you’re fed up with web pages that seem to have a life of their own.
In the 21st Century there are still film, television and music companies blocking content for territorial licensing reasons. FY is the only browser plug-in I’ve used that appears to work every time with blocked content on YouTube. Unfortunately it doesn’t work on non-YouTube videos embedded in websites, such as content on a television channels’ own site.
In Europe region blocking is illegal, but the media companies managed to lobby for an exemption. So if you live in the UK you can’t always watch German or French television shows even if you try to pay for them. If it’s on YouTube FY will get around it.
3D Youtube Downloader (webpage here)
This isn’t a plug-in, it’s a standalone bit of software. Since the introduction of HD video YouTube now splits the video from the audio. Your browser streams the two separately and then fits them back together again. However you can’t download these HD videos anymore without enormous complexity because the download plug-ins can’t ‘remux’ the individual audio and video streams. There are one or two that can, but I’ve found them too troublesome.
With 3DYD you copy and paste the YouTube video’s URL and it downloads the lot and remuxes everything. When it doesn’t work I’ve found a one minute update of the software solves the problem.
I used to use NetVideo Hunter to download YouTube videos, but that only seems to cope now with much older low res videos, up to 360p. 3DYD has proven to be a godsend. 3DYD will also download videos that F*ck YouTube has unlocked.
You might not find this a problem, but when you’re doing a Google image search, if you right-click on an image to open the page in a new browser window you’ll get a Google redirect warning. This is Google’s way of keeping an eye on what you’re clicking.
Redirect Bypasser avoids the Google warning and lets you go straight to the page you want to visit. (After right-clicking, that is.) When you hover over an image you’ll see two icons: one to the image page, and one to the web page the image is part of. It saves a bit of time and thwarts Google’s attempts to monitor everything you do, and let’s face it Google Images is still more comprehensive than Bing or DuckDuckGo.
The Redirect Bypasser icons sometimes appear on other image pages, but it’s not necessary in those instances.
All the above combine to make internet browsing a less annoying, intrusive experience. It isn’t perfect, there are still millions of cookie consent banners to block (I Don’t Care About Cookies seems to be a plug-in to deal with this, but I haven’t found it to be totally effective). But without them the internet would be a horrible place and if you don’t at least try some of the above then you deserve everything you’re sold!
Most of them are for Firefox, including the older versions. Opera has an element hider plug-in, but it works per session, not permanently. And if you use Microsoft Edge you really are a lost cause. Perhaps one day all the above will be available for Android.
If you have any other suggestions for free plug-ins and software that work for you leave them in the comments section.