I thought I was ruthless at not installing browser extensions. It’s part of the process of getting old, customising things less and less. Despite that, I’ve accumulated seven extensions.
(The most unusual and interesting one lurking in there is Churnalism, which tries to tell you whose press release each newspaper story is copied and pasted from)
As you can see, this morning I disabled them all.
I noticed that to load my list of datasets on ScraperWiki, a relatively complicated but in modern days not untypical SaaS application, was taking round about 2 seconds (that’s the DOMContentLoaded number in the Network tab of Chrome’s developer tools – actually I use Chromium on a Mac, if that matters).
When I disable all the extensions it takes only 1.5 seconds.
I briefly tried a binary search to find the culprit. It turned out there wasn’t a specific one, just lots of plugins scanning the DOM with lists of URLs to remove privacy bugs or block adverts. Each one eating up a small sounding but incrementally vast change. Further and proper statistical study required.
I must have gradually installed them in a fit of solidarity for privacy software makers post-Snowden. My previous policy was to try to experience the web in the way that non experts did, so I would be forced to either make it more usable, or at least all suffer together.
Now I’ve turned off all the plugins, the whole web feels fresh and fast again.