I have a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, and while I’ve turned of Buzz from my Gmail account, I could use it too. But it really annoys me when every other website I visit seems to have dozens of different “Share this article!” buttons scattered around. If I really wanted to share the article (I think to myself), I’d just go ahead and grab the link to it, then email the friend or friends I thought would be interested in it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making it easy for people to share articles. If someone wants to share, it’s nice, and the website offering the article then gets more visitors, which means more ad impressions, which means higher advertising rates, which means more money. And everybody wins. Except sometime those little widgets are really slow to load. And when they’re slow, sometimes the entire page waits… and waits… and waits… while the widget server is slow in responding. So I’m not a fan.
Thankfully, a new Google Chrome extension called WidgetBlock is available. WidgetBlock is able to keep widgets from all kinds of different websites from loading. It blocks the website when it attempts to call the widget sites, so the website isn’t slow in loading, which makes me a whole lot happier. I have to admit to being a bit unsure if this would really work. It’s like an ad blocker in that way. Sometimes the ad still loads (thereby taking up time), but the ad blocker doesn’t display the ad, while other times the ad never loads, which speeds things up. People on the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery (where WidgetBlock can be installed), mentioned TechCrunch specifically as a website that loads much faster with WidgetBlock installed. So I decided to install it, and once that was done, went to TechCrunch to see if I noticed a difference.
I tried TechCrunch first with WidgetBlock turned on. From clicking to go to TechCrunch.com until the moment the page was fully loaded took roughly 7 seconds. Not bad, as the page is pretty lengthy, with quite a few pictures. Then I turned off WidgetBlock and loaded the page again. This time, with TechCrunch trying to load widgets from Twitter, Google Buzz and Digg, along with a few other things, the page took a little more than twice as long to load. Seven or eight seconds saved already! Just imagine if every page loads twice this fast?!?
Of course, that won’t be the case. While the list of sites WidgetBlock can currently block is almost half a hundred (it’s at 48 right now), not every website uses tons of widgets, and some don’t load any at all. Of course, those are probably your favorite websites, since they load so quickly! What WidgetBlock will do for you is speed up your favorite websites that – because of an excess of widgets – are slow to load.
What sites can WidgetBlock keep from loading their widgets? A full list can be found in the WidgetBlock options, but included are Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Stumbleupon, Delicious, Quantserve, Google Analytics, and Digg. Not all of these are used to create web widgets; some track your activity to provide statistics to the website owner, and all have – at one time or another – probably slowed down your Internet because they didn’t respond quick, so “held up” the page while it waited for their reply. With WidgetBlock, that’s not an issue.
One thing to note (since I specifically mentioned Facebook, Digg and Twitter above), is that WidgetBlock doesn’t stop you from going to Facebook or Digg or Twitter, but if you’re on another page which wants to make it easy to share their links on those websites, the widget won’t load. Facebook and Digg and Twitter will all work fine with WidgetBlock… but their related widgets won’t slow you down.
Using WidgetBlock couldn’t be much simpler. Install it, go to the options page, choose which services you want to block, and then start surfing. I found the easiest thing to do was block everything, then if something you’re used to being there suddenly isn’t, go back and unblock services until you find which one you should allow to load. In my use, WidgetBlock and Ghostery (another web “bug” blocker I’ve written about previously), make a great team, and are two of the biggest reasons (after a good ad blocker), that using the Internet is fun and fast. The “stuff” that annoys or slows me down just isn’t there.