I spent some time today fiddling with browser settings to get some website to work, so I thought I’d talk about the browsers I use and why.

First, I don’t actually want to claim one browser is better than another. I have the ones I do because they serve my purpose and that’s as much as a recommendation you’ll get from me.

My primary browser is Firefox, I use it mainly because I was able to install the NoScript plug-in. This lets me control site by site which domains are allowed to execute JavaScript and Flash. When I globally disabled them, I immediately discovered a more civilized web experience: most commenting systems require JS and many annoying animations involve Flash.

Unfortunately that also means if I do want some nifty thing, I have to figure out what to enable. Which of the 25 domains identified have the JavaScript that runs this video? It often takes several minutes of trying different options to discover which set of cookie and script settings will make something function, and then I can permanently allow only those. Sometimes I can’t figure it out at all, which leads to Browser Number Two…

Since I’m on a Mac, I got Safari by default. I leave it with nearly the standard settings that accepts cookies and scripts from everything. (I do block 3rd-party cookies.) I use it for websites I trust and use frequently, or the occasional one I can’t figure out which combination of security settings will make the stupid thing work. My most used feature is “Reset Safari” to blow away all cached data. It’s sometimes fun to start fresh and go to a site just to see the absurd numbers of cookies it sets merely loading the front page.

Now of course I have some work websites that require a lot of scripts to function, but I don’t want to be constantly logging in. For that I create an entirely different user on my Mac, and login there when I want to do work. New user, new browser settings (but similar policy between browsers.)

These two browsers served me well for a long time, and then along came Facebook. As much as I get annoyed by it, I use Facebook a lot so I didn’t want to login all the time. And it requires a ton of cookies and scripts. For a while I tried to limit what it had access to and muddle through, but one day I realized that other websites were using Facebook’s cookies.

How did I figure that out? So it goes like this… Since I’ve been attempting to learn Italian for a while, I started changing the language settings on a few sites. This meant that Facebook’s Like button became “Mi piace.” One day I went to Another Website That Shall Remain Nameless and found a familiar little blue icon: “Mi piace.” I had not provided any language preferences to that site, so it had to be getting it from Facebook. Not cool. I installed Chrome, and now that is my Facebook sandbox so it doesn’t have to share with anybody else.

This reduces the browsing information collected from my machine, but it is hardly simplifying my life. When I see a link on Facebook, I copy it and paste it into FireFox to open. Maybe it works, maybe I have to make some temporary changes to my NoScript settings. Maybe it still doesn’t work and I try Safari. Maybe I no longer care and I give up on that cat video. A few sites I’ve given up on entirely because there isn’t enough value to be worth the effort.

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