I've slowly been improving my web experience by trusting uMatrix more

September 7, 2018

I have a long history of not running Javascript, which comes in large part from me very much not trusting sites that wanted to run Javascript; I started on the web in an era where Javascript was mostly abused, and that has stuck with me ever since. For most of that history the only way I had to deal with Javascript was a total block, first globally and then on a site by site basis (with NoScript). This has left me with a well honed and deep seated reflex of saying 'ha ha no' to sites that wanted to run Javascript, at least in my main Firefox browser. Basically I drifted into a mindset of declaring that it wasn't absolutely essential to enable Javascript, so I wasn't going to.

Then I switched to uMatrix for Javascript blocking, and discovered that uMatrix is a better fit for Javascript on the modern web. The big thing that uMatrix has is that it allows me to be extremely selective by only enabling 'first party' Javascript for a site, or to put it another way I can enable that site's Javascript only when I'm actively visiting it. I knew all about this back in February, but I didn't really do anything with that knowledge; I enabled first party JS for a few sites, and left it at that. After all, things had been working okay before uMatrix and I'm a creature of inertia.

(Keeping Javascript off is more than just privacy and so on; for a long time, allowing Javascript to run has been a great way to bloat up your browser's memory usage and slow it down. I don't want to let sites do that to my browser, because I want to leave my main browser session running for weeks.)

Sometimes being a creature of inertia is kind of the wrong choice. What I've slowly come to realize and convince myself of over the past while is that I don't have to be so reflexively stringent about (still) blocking this first party Javascript. Much like my slowly growing willingness to use uBlock Origin's capabilities to improve my life (1, 2), I've slowly accepted that enabling Javascript on various sites is both harmless and a genuine improvement to my life. I'm still quite selective and limited (far more so than most people would be), but I'm slowly adding more and more sites that have various bits of Javascript enabled.

It remains not entirely easy to persuade myself to enable Javascript for a site; there's still a little voice that asks me 'do you really need this? are you sure it's going to be okay?'. But I'm getting better at it, at moving past my old habits and reflexes to take advantage of uMatrix's power and possibilities to make my life nicer. I admit that part of this is simply remembering that oh yeah, I can actually do that these days; I can selectively turn on Javascript for, say, Go's code review site, and it's not a big deal any more.

(I have an entire separate browser environment for Javascript-heavy websites and it's not too hard to switch to viewing a site in that environment. But it is some extra steps, so having things working in my main browser is nicer.)

There is still a part of me that's grumpy when people's blogs or text websites partly don't work without Javascript for no particularly good reason, or at least no particularly visible one. I still partly resent needing to use Javascript to read content, and part of the reason I don't enable Javascript more broadly is a bit of stubbornness (I tell myself that I don't want to encourage people to use Javascript by having it work in my browser, but I'm aware that that's tilting at windmills at this point).

PS: Medium-based sites are not among the ones that get permanent Javascript permissions. I don't really trust Medium's Javascript much, although I tolerate it some of the time because limited Javascript in my main browser is better overall than unlimited Javascript in the 'just make it work' browser.

(This entry is partly a nudge to myself to remember that this is a perfectly viable possibility now. It works, it's easy, it doesn't seem to blow up my browser, and so on.)

Comments on this page:

By Markus at 2021-05-10 14:39:36:

I think that this kind of creature of inertia and not trusting websites with javascript is something more about trust than about you being wrong, the problem isn't us, the problem isn't that we are creatures of inertia and that's, the problem is, websites often abuses javascripts, to load trackers, to load too many ads, to load pop-ups, to load malcode, to load unnecessary things that just bloats up and makes the speed of our internet slow, make our experience bad, etc, of course javascript may be useful for a few things, but most of the time, it isn't, because websites often don't know how to use it, there's websites that only work with javascript, but could've worked without it too, and when you enable javascript for them, guess what, lots of trackers, ads, pop-ups, newsletter things, etc getting loaded, alongside website's features and most of it unnecessary, this makes us lose truth in them, and it isn't one or two, it's the vast majority of websites, making us not trust web, disabling javascript and sometimes missing out, but it isn't our fault and we need to remember that :)

Written on 07 September 2018.
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Last modified: Fri Sep 7 01:41:56 2018
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