This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Greasemonkey, That Funky Monkey

What if you could force every web page you visited into displaying exactly as you want it to?
What if you could get rid of every web annoyance, like pop-ups and news site registration?
What if you could change web pages in ways you didn't think of but now that you think of it sound really cool?
What if you could do this right now?

The thing is, you can, but it's a little complicated. Not a lot, just a little. And if you do it, you'll see a cute little monkey face at the bottom of your browser.

I'm talking, if you hadn't guessed already, about "Greasemonkey", which is only available as an extension to Mozilla Firefox right now (that's the only place I've ever seen it, at least). It is a simple work of complete genius. What it does is take little snippets of code (called scripts) and apply them to the web pages you visit. You can add or subtract (and modify) whatever scripts you can find, and make them apply to all pages or just specific ones. I feel like the last two sentences are boring, so I'm not going to tech out any more on you. Perhaps the best way to tell you what greasemonkey can do is pointing you to this page, which has a massive and ever-growing list of scripts that are already available for download into greasemonkey's engine of web genius. Some highlights, from my own life:
  • You know those newspaper sites that make you register before you see an article? Well, now instead of opening another browser tab and going to, I have a little thing pop up inside the page when I run my mouse over the form -- bugmenot comes to me, and I don't have to open up a new browser window. Those of you who know me know I don't like hassle, and this saves a lot of hassle.
  • I have forced all ESPN articles to display in "single page view", instead of having to click on to the "next page" link 5 times. More hassle destruction.
  • You know those annoying Google ads that I keep forgetting to remove from this page? I can hide them in any page I visit, just so I don't have to look at their ugliness.
  • And many, many more.
If you're talented, you can even write your own scripts and install them. This is something I haven't tried, but it does open up a world of almost obscene possibilities. I could decide I don't want to ever see a cussword on the internet again. I could decide I want every viable address listed on a web site to come with a link to its Mapquest map. I could make the internet better, bucking the current downward trend.

For a while now, the internet has been run by people who are attempting to sell-promote-advertise something. Everywhere you surf, you see this -- from ESPN to the NY Times to to to Blogger to blogs themselves to this blog you're reading right now. What greasmonkey does is put you in charge of what you see again, so you control what promotion is thrown at you. It's revolutionary. It could ruin the internet as we know it.

But for now, only us cool people have it. Soon, somebody is going to come up with a super user-friendly version of greasemonkey that will get everybody and their grandpa on board. At that point, the internet will change, because the ad-annoyance model is something everyone hates. I don't know if the change will ultimately be good or bad, but it is coming. Fear the monkey.

(aww...lookit him down there...he looks so cuuuuute).


  • At 9:26 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    Excellent post. It's funny, I downloaded and installed GM a few months ago, but only used scripts that did funny things to the pages. I never thought of any practical uses, nor did I Look for any. But you, my good sir, have opened up a whole new can of worms I plan on screwing with when I get home. That bugmenot script is genius.

    PS--I'll try to remember to tell Jill this, too, but rent "Primer" from netflix.

  • At 12:19 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Scratch that idea about the movie. I'm eating breakfast with Jill tomorrow, so I'll just "back up" my "legally obtained" copy of the movie tonight. Then I'll send one of them home with her.

    That raises an interesting fair use question: can you burn an 'archival' copy of something so that if it's stolen or damaged by a person borrowing it, you still have an archived copy? The MPAA would surely say 'no.' But it's still interesting.

  • At 10:42 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    I hear that Primer is supposed to be a head scratcher. I've been afraid of getting it because I figure I'm going to want to watch it over and over again.

    Brian, the MPAA doesn't even want people borrowing it, and they are happy when somebody else has stuff stolen for a change. Of course you should be able to archive copies of things. Why should intellectual property expire just because the media it's on expires?

    I wonder if the RIAA is mad that my wife and I share CD's with each other. Sometimes, I even burn songs from her CD's so I can listen to them. Now, they couldn't get her to testify in court (I know of Spousal Privlege. I watch TV), but they probaby consider that "stealing", too. Is the RIAA out there to answer that?

  • At 10:43 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    Disclaimer: My views on copyright law in America may be considered by some to be insane, so you may not want to listen to me.


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