The internet offers a wealth of tools, information and entertainment, and asks very little from us in return. It's huge, diverse, cheap and open to almost all. Little wonder that business models have been turned on their head since the world went online.
For all its breadth, however, the web is far from perfect. It's said that a camel is a horse designed by committee; the internet has been designed by a committee of millions, so it's hardly surprising to find a few flaws. But occasionally these threaten to spoil the entire online experience.
Many big-name sites are plagued by pop-up adverts, unnecessary graphics and counterintuitive navigation. And once you drill down to MySpace pages and obscure music blogs, design polish and legibility are often the first things out of the window.
Websites are intended to be usable by all, and a select few achieve this. But, with some notable exceptions (such as iGoogle), these sites fail to adapt to your idiosyncratic surfing habits. If only it were possible to tailor the look and function of all your favourite websites to your own needs...
Greasemonkey can improve just about anything it touches, from adding must-have features to the Gmail interface and organising your social life in Facebook to speeding up blog posts. The best part: thousands of Greasemonkey scripts are free to download, and installing them is as simple as clicking a single link.
These scripts are written primarily for use in Firefox, but many also work with other web browsers. Install the appropriate add-on and you'll see your web experience improve in no time.
Fine-tune online sites and services
1. Playing music files on web pages is often an inefficient process. Inline Google MP3 Player simplifies things, automatically detecting linked MP3s and embedding Google's Flash player on the page so you can play the file right away, without downloading it.
2. There's no point in going to YouTube to watch a video when you can see it in the page you're currently visiting. Videoembed automatically embeds videos from YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe and similar sources whenever the site you're on links to them. Now you can watch the clip directly.