Top 10 Firefox extensions to avoid

Popularity shouldn't be the acid test to determine if you should install an extension

Welcome back, Firefox fans! We've helped you get started on your journey to browser perfection with our list of 20 must-have Firefox extensions. But the ability to tweak your browser is a double-edged sword. There are extensions best avoided, including some of the most popular.

Popularity shouldn't be the acid test to determine if you should install an extension. The important question is whether it enhances your browsing experience without any nasty side effects. The good news is that the extension community is actually pretty adept at self-policing. Most extensions that are truly "broken" (for instance, they crash your browser or suck up all your CPU power) either get fixed quickly or simply vanish.

But some extensions are "bad" in unapparent ways, or just don't provide enough benefits to be worth running. So, in no particular order, let's look at 10 to avoid.

Fasterfox

This Web accelerator has a "pre-fetching" mechanism that makes you a very bad Web citizen. Here's how it works: You land on a page and start reading it. While your system is idle, Fasterfox silently starts following links and downloading the destination pages. The idea is that if you then decide to click on one of these links, the page is already cached on your local machine and will pop up very quickly.

This is nice for you, but it can be an incredible waste of bandwidth -- just think about how many links are on a typical page. Even if you don't care about bandwidth, there are reports that some systems administrators are now detecting the extension (and others like it) and blocking clients that are using it. While it is possible to use Fasterfox responsibly, it is best avoided unless you know what you are doing.

NoScript

This extension is hugely popular and works as advertised, giving you control over which JavaScript, Java and other executable content on a page can run, depending on that content's source domain. You whitelist the sites you consider safe and blacklist the sites you don't.

If you really have a need for this kind of control, then you're already using the extension and will continue to do so. But for the average Web surfer, constantly having to whitelist sites so that scripts can execute in order to give you a fully formed Web experience gets tedious very quickly.

Does NoScript make Firefox safer? Sure. Is it worth the hassle? No. For some reason, paranoia seems to be cool among Web geeks, but for the most part, it is totally unwarranted unless you're sending and receiving sensitive data. Most typical Web surfers who install this extension remove it after the novelty wears off.

Adblock and Adblock Plus

Obviously, we have some bias when it comes to ad-blocking extensions, as Computerworld is an ad-supported site. We also understand that these are very popular extensions. But if everyone blocked ads, how would sites such as ours continue to offer content free of charge?

We'll be the first to admit that there are some horribly annoying ads out there. (Buzzing bee, anyone?) But we prefer using Nuke Anything Enhanced to zap the annoying ads while continuing to support the sites we love by allowing most ads to appear.

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Comments

Anonymous

1

You're an idiot.

How dare you tell people to avoid NoScript... It prevented me from getting clickjacked the other day, from a script disguised as an embedded YouTube video. You can always set NoScript to allow scripts globally, and it will still protect you from clickjack attempts and malicious scripts.

No wonder there's so many computer viruses and hijacks nowadays, idiots like you keep misinforming people about how to avoid them.

Anonymous

2

Hey! Anonymous! Lighten up, dude.

Anonymous

3

Another reason NoScript is important...

I'm not sure if any of you have heard of EVE Online... It's an MMORPG with over a quarter of a million players, and like all MMO's, it suffers from people selling the game's currency for real money which probably goes to funding terrorism. Many accounts have been hacked, and all of the in-game currency from those accounts stolen, which then goes to being sold illegally. There were a few sites in question, and it was determined that malicious scripts were used to gain access to those systems with the game, and the logins for the game on the system were stolen by keyloggers. People who ran Firefox with NoScript reported visited the same sites, and confirmed that NoScript blocked the malicious scripts and kept their systems safe.

Anonymous

4

Worst. Article. Ever.

Give me my 3 minutes back, most of these extensions are great.

Mr. F

5

NoScript

I agree with everything here except with NoScript. I know what it does and basically using it gives you a little sense of freedom. If you're not a brainless 8 year old kid, a web site you want to be allowed to execute scripts can be set with 2 clicks. I don't understand how it can interfere. As the comment above stated, no wonder people are getting infected, when people like you misinform the already brainwashed internet users. If you find NoScript annoying or hindering to you're internet experience, then you shouldn't be putting articles like this up.

Edgarin

6

Dissapointed by this article

You say that using NoScript isn't worth it, but then say that are <strong>a few</strong> PDF's having trouble with <em>PDF Download</em> and recommend not to install it.
It's not logic, you should use the same criterion to evaluate every extension.

This article is so bad, that i'll install all the extensions listed here that i don't have yet.

Anonymous

7

Another inconsistency...

He says to avoid Greasemonkey because it can pre-fetch unwanted scripts that could be malicious... That's what NoScript is for! Just do the world a favor and take down this misinforming article. Someone's gonna get their computer hijacked if they follow it.

Anonymous

8

Really. This article is garbage. And I love this part:

<cite>Obviously, we have some bias when it comes to ad-blocking extensions, as Computerworld is an ad-supported site. We also understand that these are very popular extensions. But if everyone blocked ads, how would sites such as ours continue to offer content free of charge? </cite>

Oh, I don't know? Stop with the annoying ads? As soon as I do not see another obtrusive ad, I'll uninstall it.

Anonymous

9

OMG I keep finding things!

The first time I read this article, I just merely glanced over it, for fear of what else I'd find... And I was right to do so, there are some horrible suggestions and tips in this article. It says to avoid tab browser extensions, because quote: "However, it is buggy and conflicts with many other extensions. In fact, even its developers suggest that you not install it!"

I've been using Tab Mix Plus for years now, and I've never had any problems with conflicts or bugs...

Please, for the love of God, take down this article!

Anonymous

10

You're a bigger idiot.

If you're dumb enough to need NoScript to prevent yourself from getting clickjacked, then you don't really deserve the protection, do you?

ITGuru

11

Misinformation at its best...NoScript and the like are designed with the novice end user in mind, not everyone is PC savy enough to protect themselves. Some may tend to wonder to a questionable site at their liking, does that mean they deserve to have their pc compromised...NO! Also only opensource browser addons were mentioned, doubt you'd feel the same about a proprietary product whose ads you hosted :D

Anonymous

12

No Script not useful if you you are a novice.
Contrary to the above comment No Script isn't for the novice user since you will need to have a fair competence and internet experience to know which scripts to allow and which to block.

I tend to agree with the article, the risks of getting infected via scripts are rather exaggerated.
Most people with average surfing habits should survive the rigors of the internet without the need for No Script and not get infected.

It's a bit like saying that there are armed criminals that could potentially harm you out in the big wide world, and that you should protect yourself with a bullet/proof stab proof vest each and every time you step outside your front door.

No would you seriously get so paranoid that you wore a bullet/stab proof vest every time, even though the chances of you ever getting shot or stabbed are pretty minimal if you steer clear of any known danger spots.

Lots swear by NO Script, but how necessary is it?

Well I have been browsing the internet almost daily for 5 years using Opera with it's No Script equivalent disabled and I have never picked up any malware.

I say to all those No Script advocates, relax turning No Script off isn't likely to lead to a rash of infections.

Michael

13

1. NoScript offers a great deal of protection even if you allow scripts globally.

2. Scripts are not only used to infect your computer. They are also used:
a) To track your web usage (of course, you can block google-analytics and the like in your firewall).
b) To create certain annoyances, like changing the content without a user action.
c) There is almost never a valid reason to use javascript.

3. Scripts can greatly slow down your browser because they make it download about 10 times as much data as is really needed.

With external javascript files, a typical web page can use over 500 KB, when it really only needs 10 KB.

4. The people who complain about NoScript are the creeps who use scripting for purposes contrary to the interests of their users.

5. I love web sites that don't work without javascript. They encourage me not to spend so much time on the Web.

Mike

14

The web is the number one attack vector for malware and hackers. And they need some kind of dynamic web technology to get it done. No script is, right now, the only thing that can truly keep you from being infected. If you knew how to use it correctly, then you would simply whitelist all of the known good sites, like you tube, cnn, etc. But for sites that are new, you should just leave them blacklisted, and just use the HTML on those pages. If you think its more important to see a fancy javascript animation than it is to keep your ss# and credit cards from being stolen, then by all means, go surf as if you have no common sense. You are simply hacker food.

KL

15

Errr Mike you are wrong!

Sandboxie is a much much better bet against infection than NO Script ever was.

Sandboxie doesn't need any user input into which scripts to allow and which to block, and there are no whitelist/blacklist that need to be constantly updated.
Whilst NO SCRIPT might give some a false sense of security, since human error using NO Script is STILL a likely then so are infections .
SandBoxie on the other hand offers the user REAL protection.

Sandboxie users will find NO Script completely unnecessary and redundant as a security tool.

rtyecript

16

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Anon

17

Noscript is very annoying, not worth the hassle if you don't surf shady sites.

Will check Sandboxie as I don't like that even my computer nags me every time i go to a new webpage.

@Anonymous: ligthen up loser.

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