Monday, December 14, 2009

Stop Firefox from Following Links That You Never Click

If you use Firefox, you may not be aware of one its hidden features that not everyone likes. When you fetch a Web page using Firefox, that page typically contains many links to other pages. Obviously, since you fetched the page in the first place, you are likely to click on some of the links on the page. Firefox tries to guess which links you are likely to click next, and before you click on them it follows those links and caches the downloaded pages. It does this to give you a faster browsing experience. If you actually click on one of those links, the resulting page loads very fast, because Firefox has already followed the link before you clicked on it.

On the face of it, this seems desirable, but there are some serious issues with this behavior. If you pay for your bandwidth by the byte — or if you have a bandwidth cap imposed by your ISP — then all that hidden page-fetching by Firefox still counts as downloading to your ISP.

But worse, if you visit a page that contains links to content that your employer finds objectionable or that your government finds illegal, then shouldn't it be your decision whether or not to click on those links? The fact is — unless you are surfing using anonymous free WiFi — your IP address can be tracked directly to you personally, and nearly every page you fetch is logged in some Web server's access log. So how do you turn off this "feature" in Firefox?

It's pretty simple. In the Firefox address bar, type:
and press Enter. If this is the first time you've done this, you'll have to click a button that means you promise to be careful. This brings you to a list of Firefox's internal configuration options. In the Filter field at the top of the page, enter "prefetch". You should see a single line for an option named "network.prefetch-next" that has the value true. Double click the option to change the value to false. That's all there is. Your change takes effect immediately, though I suggest that you close and re-start Firefox just to be safe, because it's possible that this configuration value is only consulted at start-time.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I am not able to understand that where I have to write the about:config and then press enter. I am not getting anything while doing it. it looks like I am writing the about:config at wrong place.
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