Useful Browser Extensions

And Some Extra Browser Tips

Hey, folks. Got a very short little article for you this month. I kind of got sidetracked during October, plus that article on my PS2 collection really took the wind out of me. I hope I can release something a little more substantial in December. In the meantime, I hope you find this little article useful.

First, Which Web Browser Do You Recommend?

If you don't want to do any work at all and are just looking for something familiar, I think the best option is Brave. It's based on Google Chrome, so if you use Chrome or Microsoft Edge it will feel very familiar to you, only difference being it blocks ads by default.

It is the only easily available browser on mobile phones that blocks ads (that I'm aware of) and is my preferred browser for that platform.

For desktops, however, there are better options. I'm using an older machine and have found that Brave and other Chromium-based browsers exhibit rather severe performance issues when looking at bloated websites (mainly YouTube). Firefox-based browsers, on the other hand, run much more smoothly.

LibreWolf is a fork of Mozilla Firefox and probably has the sanest defaults of any browser. Like Brave it comes pre-packaged with an ad-blocker, but it also has many extra privacy-respecting features enabled by default.

The only default feature that might inhibit the browser's usability is that it deletes all cookies and site data upon closing the browser (which will log you out of most sites). Of course, this can easily be disabled in the settings. If you're willing to do a bit of extra work, you can give the browser a list of exceptions, i.e. a list of websites to save cookies for. LibreWolf strikes a really good balance between privacy and usability.

Of course, that's assuming your platform supports it. I happen to be one of the very few people that can't use it. Okay, I actually can, I just don't want to. I've had troubles installing it through my Linux distribution's default package manager, due to the way my distro rolls out updates, and I try to avoid using extraneous package managers when I can. If you're on Windows or MacOS, you should stop using them seriously consider using LibreWolf over Brave.

So, for my purposes, I'll have to settle with stock Mozilla Firefox. It has many of the rudimentary privacy features that Brave and Librewolf have, but they unfortunately aren't enabled by default. You need to do a fair bit of tinkering to get Firefox in a privacy-respecting state. It's nothing most of you reading this article couldn't handle, but it is an annoyance nonetheless. I'm also not particularly fond of the Mozilla corporation... at all... but I can't argue with their product's improved performance over Chromium browsers. Also, since the browser is open source, it doesn't really matter what the people running the show believe, so long as they're able to keep their more problematic political views out of their software, and to my knowledge they've been pretty good about that. I could be wrong, in which case I'd probably suck it up and install LibreWolf.

The Most Important Feature for a Browser to Have

uBlock Origin

ublock origin logo

If your browser does not block ads by default, you must get an ad blocker. There is absolutely no reason to not use an ad blocker. Do not ever listen to what whiny web developers or obnoxious YouTube personalities tell you. If a website bombards you with constant requests to disable your ad blocker, you should not be using that website. Simple as.

To that end, I would recommend uBlock Origin.

Other Privacy Extensions

ClearURLs

clearurls logo

Have you ever noticed how URLs on Amazon can be absurdly long? Most of the URL is tracking information. This extension removes that tracking information. On top of improving your privacy, it also just makes links less cumbersome to share.

Google and Yandex also really love to add unnecessary tracking information to their URLs. This extension takes care of them too.

The descriptions on the Firefox and Chrome download pages explain it pretty well, but I'd still like to give a hypothetical scenario which may or may not be directed at a friend of mine:

If you're an absolute psychopath that still uses Twitter*, any time you post a link you found on Twitter, it adds some tracking elements to the URL. If your friends are well adjusted people and they see "source=twitter" in the URL, they will mock you incessantly and be justified in doing so. This extension will spare you the embarrassment you so desperately deserve.


LocalCDN

localcdn logo

To be honest, I didn't really understand the point of this extension until I started writing this article. I had heard about it in a YouTube video and just installed it without really thinking too deeply about it. All I really understood was that it improved my privacy in some way.

As I understand it, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a group of servers which work together to speed up the delivery of content (hence the name). This comes with the caveat of CDNs potentially being able to track you.

LocalCDN will prevent CDNs from tracking you. Of course, this comes with its own stipulations. Websites may take longer to load (since you're no longer reaping the benefits of those CDNs), and some websites may be outright broken.

I'm fortunate enough to have a pretty fast internet connection, so I haven't noticed any significant difference in website loading times. I also have yet to encounter a website that is completely broken by the extension. The most I've seen is certain assets and fonts not loading correctly on very select sites. For the rare occasion where the broken assets seriously hinder the readability of a website's content, I can just disable the extension for those specific websites.


Nitter Redirect

nitter redirect logo

Didn't know this one existed, until someone was kind enough to email me. This redirects any Twitter links to Nitter.

Nitter is an open-source Twitter front-end that allows you to view Twitter without creating an account or giving away all of your data to third parties. Nitter also supports RSS feeds, which is incredibly useful. I really need to update my article on RSS...

If I'm ever in the undesirable position of having to look at Twitter for something, I use Nitter. Thank you very much to the person who emailed me with this, since this one's a no-brainer.

YouTube Enhancements

SponsorBlock

sponsorblock logo

This one is one of my favorites.

This extension specifically targets sponsorships in YouTube videos and automatically skips them. It can also be configured to skip self-promotions, interaction reminders, drawn-out intros, and everything else that makes YouTubers absolutely insufferable.

This extension is community-driven and has a surprisingly thorough user base. I've often encountered videos with only a thousand views or less that have sponsorships and other filler segments properly tagged.

There's also a really helpful "highlight" feature that will skip ahead to a certain point in the video, usually to when the person in the video starts talking about the thing they put in the title and thumbnail, i.e. the reason you bothered clicking the video in the first place. If YouTubers weren't the most detestable group of people on the planet, this would be at the start of the video, and this feature would therefore be unnecessary.


Return YouTube Dislike

dislike symbol

This one's a no-brainer. This extension allows you to view archived dislike counts on old videos as well as giving an approximation of new dislike counts. Enough people use the extension for the results to be somewhat accurate.

Why YouTube thought removing the dislike button was a good idea I'll never understand. It just gives me an extra reason to my thousand for not making YouTube videos anymore.

Search Engine Enhancements

uBlacklist

ublacklist logo

I have desperately wanted someone to create a search engine with a blacklist for a long time, but I foolishly hadn't even considered the idea of a browser extension.

Nothing is more infuriating than looking up how to say a specific word or phrase in Spanish and getting bombarded by a bunch of terrible, procedurally-generated sites that just copy Google Translate's results (which are often incorrect). This extension can be used to easily filter them out.

If you ever look up a remotely news-worthy topic, you'll often be fed a bunch of terrible mainstream media articles that no sane person would ever voluntarily read. Worse, if you still use Google, Google will often artificially push what it calls "authoritative sources" to the top of the search results. As much as it saddens me to say, I wouldn't be surprised if DuckDuckGo started doing this as well. As you could imagine, this extension is an absolute godsend. My only regret is that I hadn't learned about it sooner.

By the way, I would strongly advise against using Google as your search engine, since they keep a record of all your searches. This extension supports DuckDuckGo (which I use), Brave, Ecosia, Qwant, and Startpage, which are all good options. It also supports Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! JAPAN for some reason.


Search by Image

search by image logo

If you're apprehensive about leaving your search engine because it has a good image search, then fear not!

This is a helpful search by image aggregator. You can choose to use individual search engines or to search a bunch at once. In my experiences, I've found that Yandex yields the best results. When there's some oddly specific image I'm trying to find, Yandex comes in to save the day where all the other search engines fail.

Also, we really need to talk about how absolutely terrible Google's image search is. Remember when they removed the "view image" button for no good reason? It's not a difficult thing to work around, but it's just another small way Google expresses its irritating, unintuitive, anti-user software design. Google also, again, heavily manipulates its search results for... political ends. I had no plans on discussing racial politics when writing this article, and I still don't, so all I'll say is this: If you want to get an idea of Google's bias, look up "blonde braids" on Google (or any other major Western search engine) and compare its results to Yandex.

Other Quality of Life Add-Ons

I don't care about cookies

i dont care about cookies logo

This extension blocks those annoying little pop-ups that warn you about how X website will make cookies. Apparently this was part of an EU regulation, which explains why you see those warnings everywhere.

This extension is particularly useful if you like to clear site data upon closing the browser.

Please note: This extension is not a privacy extension. It does not prevent sites from making cookies. All it does is hide the pop-ups telling you about them.


Dark Reader

dark reader logo

Really simple, but useful tool for forcing dark mode on sites that don't support it. This extension, as with I don't care about cookies, is very helpful if you like to clear site data upon closing your browser.

You can choose to have dark mode forced by default and then give the extension a list of exceptions, or you can set it to be off by default and only enable it on certain sites.

I hope you found this article useful. If you're aware of any other useful browser extensions, let me know! I may update this article if I find more.

*Twitter being wrestled away from the degenerates in Silicon Valley is invariably a good thing, but that doesn't automatically make the website good. Twitter has not become any less toxic at the conceptual level. I have strongly advocated against using Twitter (and other services like it) in the past and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Elon Musk is undoubtedly an improvement over Parag Agrawal (and Jack Dorsey for that matter), but the goodwill people have expressed towards Musk is concerning. Don't forget that this is the man that created PayPal and Tesla. He is not your friend.