Chrome has been making changes to how ads are displayed in the browser for some time now. In the most recent update of Google’s browser, some autoplay videos will now be blocked, while others will be allowed automatically.
In a blog post, Google outlines how the new autoplay video update works. Now Chrome will learn your preferences when it comes to videos that autoplay with sound. Using your browsing history, Chrome will start enabling or disabling autoplay videos with sound. If you typically choose to play videos on certain websites, Chrome will allow autoplay videos to run with sound. If you typically don’t watch the videos on a site, Chrome will start disabling their autoplay videos with sound.
Even if you don’t have a browsing history, the blog post says, certain sites will have their autoplay videos enabled or disabled as you start building your history. Whichever sites have the most people clicking to play videos with sound will automatically be enabled for you until the browser learns that you don’t want videos played on those sites.
This update comes after Google has already implemented many other ways to avoid certain ads and mute sites that autoplay ads with sound. In February, Chrome’s ad blocking system went live. Their ad blocking is meant to start automatically blocking certain ads that don’t meet their standards. And in January, Chrome introduced a way to permanently mute sites instead of just temporarily muting them while the tab was open.
All of these changes mean Chrome should soon become the browser to use if you specifically want to avoid annoying ads and autoplay videos (especially if you don’t want to deal with browser add-ons). In their blog post, Google notes that their new autoplay video blocking system will block “about half” of the autoplay videos that users want to avoid. Though not a full block of autoplay videos, it should cut down significantly on the annoyance of sound suddenly blasting from your device.
Google was in the news quite a bit this past week, with updates to their apps, changes to their Chrome browser, and tweaks to their Google Image search. Here’s a roundup of some Google news!
Chrome’s ad blocking has gone live
Google’s Chrome browser has now gone live with its limited ad blocking feature. You may remember our article from last year, which describes how the ad blocking will work. As we mentioned then, the feature works by using the Coalition for Better Ads to eliminate particularly annoying ads.
A website owner whose site has ads that don’t meet the standards set by the Coalition will receive a warning and 30 days to change their ads. If they don’t make the appropriate changes, their ads will be blocked. As The Verge notes, all the ads on the site will be blocked, not just the specific ads that go against the Coalition’s standards. Some of the types of ads that the Coalition hopes to address include ads with autoplaying video and sound, full page ads, and popups.
Of course, this won’t really replace things like AdBlock Plus. Those services block all ads, not just certain annoying ones. But if you don’t want to get another ad blocker, or if you like being able to help sites make money off their ads (as long as they’re not annoying), then Chrome’s new feature will help make things less frustrating.
Google no longer offering a “view image” button
If you’ve saved images from a Google search, you’ve probably used the “view image” button that popped up when you clicked on an image. Now that button has been removed from Google’s image search.
The button was taken down recently, and it’s certainly not to make their users happier. According to CNET, the button was removed because Getty Images (a photo website) was unhappy with how easily people could save their images. Now people on an image search only have the “visit” button available for saving an image, which requires you to find the image by loading the entire page.
This may make some photo websites feel better, but it does add an extra unwanted bit of hassle for users. Of course, you can still save photos from a Google Image search without loading the entire site. Right-clicking an image and choosing “Open image in new tab” will still load the full image. However, many people might not know this option is available. Because of this, removing the “view image” button will likely lead to more people doing what Google wants—going to the page the image is on.
Gmail Go is now out on Android
Google’s newest Go app is now out for Android devices—Gmail Go. Their Go apps are specifically designed to take up less space and use fewer resources on phones so they can be used on older phones or in places with a lower quality connection. Earlier this month, I wrote about the rollout of their YouTube Go app.
Now users can more easily use Google’s email service, Gmail. The Gmail Go app, based on their Play store description, offers all the services you typically need. You can access your different mail categories, get notifications, read emails and send replies (even offline), integrate your other email addresses, and more. But it’s still more stripped down than their full app, so it takes up less space. The Verge notes that images won’t load automatically, while TechCrunch reports that some say fewer days’ worth of emails are synced.
Google is now making it easier to stop unwelcome auto-play audio and other annoyances. The new “Mute site” feature in Google Chrome’s latest update can put a stop to unwanted audio coming from the websites you visit.
The newest update to Chrome introduces the “Mute site” option on your tabs. If you open a website and a video begins to play automatically, all you have to do is right-click the tab, choose “Mute site,” and forget about it as the audio stops playing. As The Verge notes, in the past you could only temporarily mute a tab while you had it open. If you visited that site again, then, Chrome wouldn’t remember your preference, and you’d experience the awful irritation of having audio start blaring from your speakers unexpectedly.
With the ability to mute an entire site, though, you won’t have to worry about auto-play videos from that site again. Chrome will remember your preference, so every time you visit the site, audio will be muted. This is a huge help for people who really enjoy the content of a website but have to deal with a video playing in the corner every time they visit it.
Google has been talking about reducing annoyances from certain types of ads for quite some time. Just last month, they announced their own ad blocker would be coming in February (February 15, to be specific). That ad blocking feature will stop certain problem-causing ads, like video ads that auto-play, using certain ad standards.
Google also just updated some of their ad controls, as well. In a blog post, they describe how Google users can now mute reminder ads. This means if you do something like visit a shop online, you can stop seeing ads that follow you across the web reminding you to come back and finish your purchase. In addition, their “Mute This Ad” feature has been updated to remember which ads you’ve muted as long as you’re logged in to you account, as well as to make the feature available on more sites.
The “Mute site” feature will certainly make things easier and less frustrating for people who are regular visitors on certain sites that typically feature auto-playing ads. And the latest updates on ad settings from Google, plus the upcoming ad blocking for Chrome, will make it more convenient to navigate online without encountering unwanted, distracting ads.
There may be more ways to customize your browser than you think. If you’ve never really looked into what your browser can do, you might not even know what options you have. Fortunately, most popular browsers can have really cool capabilities once you personalize them. If you find some aspect of your browser inconvenient, it’s possible there’s a way to get rid of those irritations. Even if you think your browser is fine the way it is, you could be missing out on some cool little tricks that change the browsing experience.
In this week’s Internet 101, let’s talk about how customization works and what you might want to add to your browser!
Why you might customize your browser
You might feel like your browser does everything you need it to do—and of course, that’s possible. But browsers are able to be customized for a reason, and one size doesn’t always fit all with browsers.
Your browser’s default settings can really just be a starting point. Depending on what you like, what annoys you, or what you really need, you can likely tweak your browser to make things simpler and more fun.
Here are just a few reasons you might customize your browser:
- Accessibility needs
- Privacy concerns
- Website annoyances
How do you customize your browser?
Customization works differently depending on which browser you’re using. Since we’re keeping it simple, I’ll just mention that some more experienced tech-minded people might customize their browser by hacking it or by essentially building their own. But for the purposes of this article, let’s stick to the much easier options.
Options, preferences, or settings
Every browser will have preferences or settings of some kind. These options are built-in to the browser. You don’t have to download anything new or go searching for specific tools that you need to add.
Depending on which browser you have, these options might be fairly basic or surprisingly complex. If there are a lot of options, don’t get overwhelmed—just scan through for words or terms you recognize, and try to avoid changing any options that you don’t really understand. Otherwise it could be a hassle to go back and figure out what has been changed!
Extensions or add-ons
Extensions or add-ons are a different way to customize your browser. If your browser has these available (and it very likely does), you can install them to open up even more options. They’re not pre-installed, so you will typically have to search or browse through all the offerings to find what you want.
What can you customize?
There are many different ways to customize most browsers. Of course, some browsers are much more able to be customized than others. And don’t forget, this is just a brief overview of some popular or particularly interesting things to consider. You can do many more things than listed here—browse through your browser’s settings to see if there’s more that interests you! Also, if you use Opera Browser, don’t forget you can use Install Chrome Extensions, and if you use Vivaldi, you can install Chrome extensions by following Vivaldi’s instructions.
(Note: As of writing this article, Safari’s extensions gallery was not accessible. Once it’s able to be viewed, this article may be edited to include Safari options.)
Look through built-in accessibility options
Most browsers will have these options built in to their settings or preferences. You can find change things like font size, use of color, and more.
Make images easier to see
Work with language tools
There are a lot of things you can do with language extensions. There are a few extensions you should definitely consider adding.
Save things for later
Sure, you can bookmark things for later, but some tools are even better than bookmarks. Take a look at some extensions that make it easier to save content for later.
If you want to save things for access from multiple devices, look at Google Keep for Chrome, Save to Google Drive for Chrome, OneNote Web Clipper for Firefox, Evernote Web Clipper for Microsoft Edge, Save to Pocket for Microsoft Edge, or Pocket for Opera.
Cut back on space and time
Some extensions will help use less data, which can save time, or change how your browser works so your browser just moves more quickly. Here are a few ways you can speed your browser up and save space while you’re at it.
To speed your browser up by blocking websites from using trackers, try Ghostery for Microsoft Edge.
Get rid of annoyances
There are many, many things about browsing websites that can be unbelievably irritating. There are two offenders that are perhaps worse than the others.
Change the visuals
Your experience with your browser could completely change just by changing the browser’s appearance. It can be lovely to make a browser look more like your own style, and it’s helpful to set things up in a way that makes sense to you. Here are just a few ways to do that.
To change the colors or images displayed on your browser, look to see if the browser supports themes. You can browse themes or wallpapers for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi. If you don’t use these browsers, yours might still have themes available. You can often find out by looking in your browser’s settings or preferences.
Have some fun
There are, of course, quite a few extensions or add-ons you can use to do fun, random, or just very specific things. Below are some popular ways you might use your browser extensions for fun.
Finally (and very importantly), to add emojis (or even Bitmojis!) to your messages and posts, check out Bitmoji for Chrome, Emoji Keyboard for Chrome, Emoji Keyboard for Firefox, or Emoji Keyboard for Opera.
Not a fan of ads? If you’re using Google Chrome, you’ll see less of them starting in February. Chrome will soon be implementing their own kind of ad blocking built in to the browser.
Chrome’s ad blocker will be out February 15th. It’s important to note it won’t be all-encompassing—The Verge notes that the blocked ads will specifically be ones that are “spammy or intrusive.” Chrome’s announcement outlines how the blocking process will work. They’ll be using the guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads to remove unwanted ads. Websites that are reported and are marked as “failing” will be blocked by Chrome if the issues aren’t taken care of within 30 days.
For those wanting to know more about the Coalition for Better Ads, their website gives a glimpse into their thought process. The Coalition focuses on solving the problem created by web users encountering ads that “disrupt their experience, interrupt content and slow browsing.” The website’s Standards page goes over issues like videos that play automatically, ads that cover a lot of the screen and stay in place, and “scroll-over ads” that take up a mobile device’s whole screen.
Chrome’s built-in ad blocking will hopefully take care of the worst offenders. But of course, Chrome users are already able to use extensions like AdBlock Plus to block more than just the most annoying ads. This leads to the question: will Chrome’s ad blocking be enough to keep people away from more extensive ad blockers? It’s important to note that if fewer ads are cropping up and doing particularly annoying things, people who were considering a full-blown ad blocker might decide not to bother with it. Chrome’s ad blocker will be built in, instead of calling for an extension to be downloaded.
Like Ars Technica points out, Chrome is a widely used and very popular browser, so integrating any sort of ad blocking into the browser “will have huge ripple effects across the Web.” Chrome’s ad blocking gives Chrome even more power over the advertising people see, and it might also make the browser more appealing to people who hadn’t decided whether to switch over. After February 15th, we’ll see how effective the new tool is and what difference it ultimately makes for Google.
You might already know this, but not all browsers are created equal. Many people buy a new computer and simply use whichever browser is already installed, never switching or looking into other options. Others may download and use whichever browser they’ve always used, or whichever one seems to be the most popular. But there’s more than one option.
What should you consider?
There are a number of things to consider when looking at the different browsers being offered. One thing that makes some browsers different from each other is that they might have different rendering engines. A rendering engine is what reads certain information (like HTML, typically used to create websites) and then displays it. All that really means is that different browsers might have different programs that they use to show you content (like websites). Because of this, some browsers might display certain things differently or even be unable to correctly load certain bits of content. When it comes to this aspect of choosing a browser, your best bet is just to try out the browser of your choice and keep an eye out to see if any of your usual websites look odd or won’t let you see certain content. If this happens, try another browser and see whether the problem goes away.
It’s also important to consider safety when choosing a browser. Because the different browsers are made differently, some are typically considered safer than others. One safety concern is whether a browser can easily be hacked. Earlier this year, Digital Trends reported on the Pwn2Own hacking event that tests how safe and secure browsers really are. The hackers found that Google Chrome was the most secure, as it was unable to be hacked over the course of the event, and that Microsoft Edge was the least secure, hacked five times. (Firefox came in second place, while Safari came in third.) Of course, this is only one consideration when it comes to safety, but it is still worth noting that, as the Tom’s Hardware website mentions, Google Chrome is typically the most secure browser among the major browsers being tested.
What many people find most important is that their browser is easy to use and has helpful features. For instance, some browsers may have bookmarks that are really easily organized, access to additional extensions (like extensions that let users block ads or put slideshow articles on one page), and ways to customize what the browser looks like. Some browsers have special features, so it’s important to consider which features are really the most important to you and which you might want to do without in order to have a faster or potentially safer browser.
What are your options?
Despite how it seems, there isn’t really just a handful of browsers out there. Because there’s not enough room in this article, I’ll be talking about five browsers that are among the most well-known, but they’re definitely not all you have to choose from. Other browsers sometimes branch off of these bigger browsers and create something new. Keep in mind that if you choose a lesser-known browser, you should research it first to verify that it’s safe and has the features you need.
For this article, let’s take a look at some of the more well-known browser options. Scroll through the list to learn a bit about each one.
Google Chrome is an extremely popular browser. Chrome was first released less than ten years ago, and since then, it has become many peoples’ default browser. It’s available on several operating systems, including Windows and Android, and it is available on Apple’s mobile iOS, though it isn’t as well-supported on Apple products. As mentioned earlier, Chrome often leads the popular web browsers when it comes to safety. Google Chrome works well whether you have an account or not, but if you do have a Google account, it becomes even more convenient. For instance, if you use Chrome on your computer and on your phone, and you’re logged into your Google account on both, your bookmarks are saved to your account and you can access them wherever you go. Chrome is typically considered one of the more quick-moving browsers. It has typical features most people will want, like easy-to-use bookmarks, themes that can change the browser’s appearance, an optional home button, and plenty of useful extensions to make the browser even better. Many people particularly enjoy Chrome because of the wide variety of extensions available and its incognito mode that prevents the browser from keeping history or cookie information while turned on.
Visit the Google Chrome website
Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s newest offering meant to replace the much-scorned Internet Explorer (IE). Though Edge has not gained a huge following yet, there are some who might prefer it over other browsers. It was initially released a couple of years ago, but it got its major release earlier this year when it became the default browser on many computers instead of IE. It’s used on Windows 10 and Xbox One. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, in some cases Edge has been found to be less secure than the other major browsers in certain scenarios. Since the browser is still fairly new, there will certainly be more changes and improvements over the coming years. Edge can also be used on Windows 10 Mobile, so it can be used on some Windows phones. It has a pretty cool way of using tabs—like other browsers, you have tabs at the top of your browser for each page, but it also has a display that lets you preview your tabs and easily click on the page you want to navigate back to. It also has Cortana, its “personal assistant,” built in to the browser, which you can use to ask questions with your voice and possibly find information more quickly. And if you want to share personalized content with others, it lets you draw on pages and share them with others. Like Chrome, it does of course have basic features like bookmarks, and though there are fewer available extensions, you can still do things like block ads.
Visit the Microsoft Edge website
Mozilla Firefox is another extremely popular browser—it’s typically considered the second most popular (behind Chrome). Its release was in 2004, and during the time since then, it has occasionally found itself at the top of the list in popularity. It’s available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and both Android and iOS, meaning it can be used on a wide variety of devices. Firefox works to keep up to date on current standards; this means that there is an emphasis on making sure content is displayed as well as it can be. As mentioned before, it recently came in second place during one security testing event, though it is worthwhile to note that in the past, Firefox was typically considered less safe. By all accounts it has become much more secure over the years, making it a very reasonable choice. Firefox has some cool features available, like the ability to customize your toolbar, access to your bookmarks and other info from anywhere when you use your Firefox account, themes, and private browsing. They also have a nice collection of add-ons that do really useful things, like block ads or do a reverse image search (search using an image instead of text). And of course, like the other browsers, it has bookmarks and all of the other typical features you would expect in a browser.
Visit the Mozilla Firefox website
Opera is a browser that has been around for a pretty long time. Its original release was in 1996, making it over 20 years old. Opera is sometimes credited as helping lead the way in some popular features that browsers would later pick up and incorporate, which is not much of a surprise considering its longevity. Opera is available on many devices—it’s free for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android and iOS. There’s even a version you can download onto a flash drive and take with you anywhere. Over the past few years, Opera has undergone some changes that have not always gone over well, but in general it’s seen its share of downloads and has been pretty popular. One of Opera’s biggest selling points is how fast it moves. Opera uses a technique that helps load pages extremely quickly, so if you have a somewhat slow connection, or even one that’s just average, Opera is a great choice. It has some very nice features, including the ability to block ads without adding a special extension, visual bookmarks that give you previews of pages, the ability to access your info anywhere with an Opera account, and, quite different from the other browsers, a built-in VPN feature. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a way to connect to the internet and stay even more secure, and many people use them. Opera was the first browser to have a VPN built in. Opera also has a lot of add-ons available, like reverse image searches and extensions meant to improve social media navigation. It also has what you would expect, like bookmarks and themes.
Visit the Opera website
Safari is the browser you’re probably using if you’re reading this article on an Apple device. Safari is the default browser on Apple products, and it’s been around since the early 2000s. Though the browser had a bit of a short-lived run on Windows, it’s no longer supported on Windows, instead being offered on Mac and iOS. You might remember that Safari came in third place in a recent security test—but of course, this was just one test. Safari is typically considered a secure browser. It offers the ability to browse privately, and it also tries to prevent advertisers from targeting you based on your browsing. A big selling point for Safari is that it’s the pre-installed browser for Apple products and ties into other Apple offerings, like the iCloud. It’s also promoted as being the fastest and most energy-conserving browser on Apple devices. Some of its particularly good features include stopping auto-play videos, a Smart Search that gives intuitive suggestions, and, yes, plenty of add-ons. It also has the basic features you want, like bookmarks and some customization.
Visit the Safari website
Vivaldi may be the browser you’re least likely to have heard of. Vivaldi is not one of the most widely used browsers, but it does have a good following. Vivaldi is very new—it was created after some people were less than impressed with changes made to the Opera browser, and it was just released last year. Vivaldi is meant to bring back some features people missed from Opera and to create what they hope will be a better browser. Since it’s so new, there’s not a lot to note about its security yet, though most view it as a safe choice. Vivaldi is designed to be minimalist—there’s not a lot of distracting stuff going on. However, it can be quite heavily customized, allowing you to reposition where things are, change colors, and much more. It also lets you do some cool and different things with tabs, like group certain tabs together. It has bookmarks, of course, and a browser history. Its history is cool, though; it can display your browsing habits as visual data, giving you an interesting look into your own browsing history. These are just a few of the nice features on Vivaldi. Plus, since it’s based on the same browser engine as Chrome, many Chrome extensions can be installed in Vivaldi. It’s still a pretty new option, but it certainly has a lot of features you might want to give a try.
Visit the Vivaldi website
This whole post is only going to be 125 words, including this sentence.
Why? Because I have a real problem with going overboard when writing, especially emails, and it’s time I did something about it! Luckily there’s a new Chrome extension that’s ready-made for this kind of challenge. Brief is a new tool that might just make your everyday emails better, and by better we mean shorter. People hate reading lengthy emails, so Brief provides a hard cutoff line of just 125 words for you to get your point across and avoid lengthy tangents.
Long emails are no fun to read or write. – Brief
If you’re interested in shortening your emails into something that people might actually read then check out Brief.