Chapter 9. Taking Back the Browser

Hacks 77–84: Introduction

Some days I miss NCSA Mosaic. No, really. For those readers who haven’t been around the Web as long as I have, let me explain how it was in the good old days. (Good Lord, I can’t believe I just said that. I’m only 32. Shoot me now.)

Anyway, in the early days of the Web, there was no Netscape. There was no Internet Explorer. There was no Flash. There was NCSA Mosaic, the first popular graphical web browser, and a few personal home pages cobbled together by physics professors. And we loved it. I mean, totally loved it.

The Web grew up, and everybody grew up with it. But along with the good stuff (, Google, and a million personal weblogs cobbled together by physics professors), there arose a class of web sites that treated you like dirt. They were developed by people who really wanted the Web to be more like television. I publish, you watch. Resize my layout? How dare you! Save my pages to your local hard drive? That’s criminal! And don’t even think of clicking your Back button.

Browsers have become steadily savvier about the tricks and traps that these publishers lay for unsuspecting visitors. Firefox blocks pop-up ads by default, and AdBlock ( can block almost any other advertisements. Extensions like FlashBlock ( replace stupid Flash animations with a button so you see them only if you really want to.

But there is still a wide range of smaller annoyances that ...

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