Every year Americans spend more and more time on the Internet. Whether it’s for personal use or business, this time adds up. If you happen to be a Firefox browser user, we thought we’d help you try and get some of your time back. With the use of browser add-ons and extensions you can get better performance, speed, security and convenience. Below we’re listing 7 of the add-ons we happen to think pretty highly of. Oh, and if you’re not a Firefox users, no worries, a lot of these work in Chrome, IE and Safari too.

1. AdBlock Plus

What It Does:

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  • Blocks all kinds of ads, including banners, pop-ups, and fake download/search buttons from loading on the sites you visit, based on your preferences.
  • Improves your browsing experience by removing annoying, distracting, or otherwise unpleasant ads from the sites you use.
  • Improves speed and reduces bandwidth consumption by loading fewer page elements and making fewer connections (ads can slow load times).
  • Many sites can detect when you are using an ad-blocking tool, and will show a message in place of the ad which asks you to disable your ad-blocker. AdBlock Plus can detect these targeted messages and block them as well.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • Very user friendly, easy to set up and easy to disable.

Where to get it:

 

2. Ghostery

What It Does:

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  • Blocks all kinds of trackers, widgets, and other 3PES (thirds party elements) from loading on the sites you visit, based on your preferences.
  • Improves privacy by blocking trackers and other 3rd party content on the sites you visit.
  • Improves speed and reduces bandwidth consumption by loading fewer elements and making fewer connections.
  • Lists all the trackers blocked on each page in a brief balloon message in the corner, giving you real-time insight into your privacy gains.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • Very user friendly, easy to set up and easy to disable.

Where to get it:

 

3. HTTPS Everywhere

What It Does:

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  • Checks if the website you are about to visit is SSL enabled, and if so, forces your browser to run in HTTPS.
  • Improves security by forcing an encrypted connection for sites, even if they do not enable it by default (example, the www.mail.com login page is plaintext HTTP by default, HTTPS Everywhere takes care of this)
  • Sends SSL certificates to an external validation source, which serves as a safety net in case the mechanism your browser uses to validate the certificate has been circumvented by a virus or a malicious hacker on your network.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

Very user friendly, easy to set up and easy to disable.

Where to get it:

 

4. Self-Destructing Cookies

What It Does:

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  • Deletes cookies from websites you visit, after you close its tabs.
  • Improves security by ending logon sessions once you close a website’s tab.
  • Improves speed by regularly cleaning out your browser’s cookies.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • Very user friendly, easy to set up and easy to disable with minimal end user experience impact. However, we have noticed two sites which are incompatible with this add-on, mapquest.com and just about any Microsoft login page. You need to disable the add-on via the toggle button to use these sites.

Where to get it:

 

5. NoScript

What It Does:

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  • Blocks JavaScript, Java, Flash, and other scripts from running on the websites you visit, based on your preferences.
  • Improves security drastically by blocking the scripts mentioned above on unknown/untrusted sites.
  • Offers peace of mind when browsing unfamiliar websites or clicking an uncertain link.
  • Improves speed and reduces bandwidth consumption by loading fewer elements and making fewer connections.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • May be confusing for non-tech users, there are many options and it requires lots of configuration with heavy end user experience impact. We recommend having an IT professional set this one up for you.

Where to get it:

 

6. RequestPolicy

What It Does:

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  • Blocks cross-site requests from the sites you visit, based on your preferences.
  • Improves security by reducing risk of XSS attacks. For more details on XSS attacks, check out this wiki.
  • Improves privacy by preventing your browser from connecting to websites other than the one you are visiting.
  • Lists all the cross-site requests that were blocked on each page, giving you real-time insight into your privacy gains.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • May be confusing for non-tech users as it requires some configuration and has moderate end user experience impact. We recommend having an IT professional set this one up for you as well.

Where to get it:

 

7. RefControl

What It Does:

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  • Blocks referrals when following links between websites.
  • Improves privacy by not revealing to a website you visit which website you visited previously.

Difficulty to Install and Configure:

  • May be confusing for non-tech users, requires some configuration with moderate end user experience impact.

Where to get it:

 

These are just a few of the great browser add-ons that are available specifically for security and performance. There are literally thousands of additional ones in many different categories. What are some of your favorites?