Are you ready to claw back the web from social media widgets?
Facebook didn't quite break the internet last week, but it had a pretty good crack at it. Many pages sporting Facebook widgets were diverting to a Facebook error page, throwing a major spanner in the works for many online publishers including this one. The problem was rectified soon enough, but it highlighted exactly how deeply ingrained Facebook and other social media widgets have become in the wider web.
These days it's pretty hard to find a high-traffic, content-heavy site which isn't plastered with social media buttons and widgets -- trying to use the likes of Facebook, Twitter and others to drum up traffic. They're even on this very page, lurking at the top just below my byline and begging you to share this page with your social networks.
Unfortunately social media buttons and widgets can be resource and bandwidth hogs which are notorious for slowing down page load times. We all pay the price, even if we don't use Facebook. If your old computer is groaning under the load of browsing the web then social media widgets probably bear some of the responsibility. Flash deserves its share of the blame as well. Some websites freeze up until all the social widgets have finished loading, which is incredibly frustrating. In Fairfax's defence, the social media buttons aren't too taxing and at least you could start reading this article while the Facebook button was still loading.
Considering how intrusive social media can be, it's little wonder that a number of browser plugins have sprung up designed to block social media widgets and lighten the load on your browser. It might seem like a drastic measure, but it's reminiscent of the days when rampant pop-ups threatened to render the web unusable until pop-up blockers became commonplace and are now built into browsers. Flash seems destined to go the same way.
You'll find several Facebook widget blockers around, but the aptly named Antisocial plugin for Chrome and Firefox goes one step further by blocking a wide range of social media widgets. If you're after even more flexibility and granular control then check out ScriptSafe, which can block social media widgets but also disable a wide range of scripts which have a tendency to slow down or even crash your browser. It takes a little while to tweak the settings and create exceptions for the few scripts you really need, but it's amazing how much of a difference ScriptSafe can make if your browser has become sluggish and unstable of late.
Have you declared war on social media widgets or other resource hogs? How did you deal with them?