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Time to banish Facebook from your browser?

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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?

0 comment so far

  • Wanted for Safari ...

    Commenter
    Andybob
    Date and time
    February 11, 2013, 8:41AM
    • Ironically I attempted to follow your advice on ScriptSafe and Chrome returned an error when attempting to install (message returned was "download not a CRX" - even though the file extension was .crx).

      Don't you just love technology? :)

      Commenter
      IT Manager
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 11, 2013, 8:50AM
      • I use two browsers at a time. Firefox for general browsing and internet use and Chrome solely for Facebook and Google+.

        Commenter
        Matt
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        February 11, 2013, 9:00AM
        • Flash is the bigger problem. I started using a flash blocker about six years ago. It was like moving from dial up to ADSL for many websites, with the added bonus that all the adverts vanished.

          I expect if Microsoft does its usual trick of copying Apple then Windows users will be able to join us Mac fans and share to Facebook or Twitter directly from their browser or iPad replica within the next few years... Then sites can start dropping the widgets.

          If I were you I'd make a start now since Google+ is such a total flop just remove it...

          Commenter
          Moloch
          Date and time
          February 11, 2013, 9:04AM
          • Wow - in one comment you managed to trash talk about Microsoft R & D, Internet Explorer, any tablet that is not an iPad and Google+!

            Is there some sort of award we can give you? Maybe Australia's first Surface running Windows 8 Pro??? Hehe!

            Commenter
            IT Manager
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            February 11, 2013, 10:32AM
          • *snigger*
            MS have an R&D dept? Who knew?
            If that stood for Replication & Deterioration I might believe it.

            Commenter
            Moloch
            Date and time
            February 11, 2013, 12:04PM
          • ^^ that comment would be funnier if it wasn't so true!

            Commenter
            frank
            Date and time
            February 11, 2013, 8:52PM
        • Use Ghostery plugin. No social nonsense, no ads, no trackers.

          Commenter
          expat
          Date and time
          February 11, 2013, 9:42AM
          • My browser back button gets hung up on some Facebook thing when looking on The Age website. Have to bring up the list of previous pages and leapfrog that facebook one.

            Commenter
            RB
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            February 11, 2013, 9:50AM
            • I had never thought to look for a widget blocker, so thanks for this article.
              I am one of those who do not have a Facebook page or twitter account or anything like that which could be reasoned that their only reason for existence is so you can personally honour yourself. And so it will remain for a long time to come. these programs only fulfill the ever increasing social retardedness where people are actually unaware of how to meet people in the street. maybe thats all for a different article.. anyhow thanks for the links :)

              Commenter
              Slow Browser
              Location
              Melbourne
              Date and time
              February 11, 2013, 10:22AM

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