Viva NoScript!

by Robert Daeley

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The Firefox extension NoScript gives the World Wide Web back to the users. Here's why.

If you open up the Console utility and leave it in the background while you browse around with NoScript installed, you'll see a message every time a script is blocked. It's very satisfying to see line after line scroll by; I imagine tiny screams of agony as they are crushed. If I happen across a site that I actually need to have scripting enabled on, I can choose to do so, whitelisting the site temporarily or permanently.

I have heard it argued that it is impossible to use the 'new' web without JavaScript enabled. I would counter that it's unusable with it on. However, the inconvenience of turning it on and off has been more trouble than it was worth. With NoScript's unobtrusive icon at the bottom of the browser window frame, however, I can block all of the crazy advertising, spying, webbugs, and other script-cruft buzzing around in the background like mosquitoes in the tent at night, on a site-by-site basis.

I was struck earlier today that this was in effect returning the web browsing experience to an earlier time, while giving the *user* the power to choose what got run in their browser. The best of the old days and the newfangled web-as-application fun.

And that is how it should be.

Clarifying addendum: As the comments asked... yes, you can also block Flash, Java, and other media with this extension, not just JavaScript.


2005-12-19 15:25:46
What about Flash?
Can we get webmasters to quit using Flash? Slow unnegotiable sites are not much fun. But many bicycle related companies use them and sometimes I need to get information unattainable elsewhere.
2005-12-19 15:36:15
What about Flash?
In the 'Advanced' tab in the NoScript Options dialog (Tools > Extensions > NoScript > Options), they offer "Additional restrictions for untrusted sites" such as: "Forbid Macromedia Flash" and "Forbid Java." Sounds like the trick.

Just installed it myself, so haven't field tested it.

2005-12-19 16:36:54
Adblock is a good extension too
I've been using Adblock for ages and it's a very nice, simple way to block all things from known annoying advertising domains.
2005-12-19 16:41:20
On a related note, I hacked the MFC API to render everything w/o windows, using a single monospace font. I've built in a switch to toggle the GUI, but life feels so much better w/o the chrome. I just watch the GUI calls scroll by in the console.

Also, I modded my mouse w/ an on/off switch. Who needs a mouse these days? Grampa didn't have one, and he got the job done, right?

I mean, really, who needs usability?

2005-12-19 18:00:26
What about Flash?
been surfing with it for quite a while now, its indispensible. Its not that much pain to enable it for the sites you trust.

Couple of niggles:
- 'about:blank': some sites warn that scripts need enabled for 'about:blank'. This is apparently because of iframes loading scripts from their parent page, but it means they're not safe to globally allow (since the parent page's domain could be anywhere)
- you can't jump to the source of the blocked script to see what you're blocking. This isn't a big problem, but the about:blank issue made it obvious that there's no detail available.
- NoScript's whitelisting model is way safer than the blacklisting used in (eg) firefox's cookie prefs; but there's no shared per-domain prefs, or even ie-style zones - you have to trawl through the prefs of different extensions like adblock, noscript, prefs/privacy/cookies/exceptions, prefs/content/popups... this needs unified.

these are all minor though. NoScript better than a poke in the eye with a sharp script.

2005-12-19 23:39:48
What about Flash?
Can the script be modified to send a note to the president of the company that his pages are not being viewed because of Flash? ;)
2005-12-19 23:56:23
Well we could all just keep reporting the performance of Flash on the Mac to Macromedia.

Unfortunately, you are just about to enter an era where websites are going to start using Flash for a whole lot more than serving adverts - go check out what Adobe/Macromedia are up to, and you can see that Flash is being touted as the solution to a lot of web app development problems.

i.e. Flex, which lets you build an application in a similar way to XCode (traditional event driven OO GUI) and then deploy with Flash as the client.

Of course this is what Java applets was supposed to provide but history has worked out such that more people have Flash than even have IE.