How to Stop Websites from Offering to Send Notifications

Perhaps someone out there woke up one day and thought to themselves:

You know what I want? I want nearly every website I visit today to throw a pop-up in my face offering to notify me about whatever they find exciting! That way, when I’m minding my own business trying to get stuff done, I’ll have brand new distractions to prevent me from being able to concentrate!

…but that isn’t something I’ve dreamed of, personally. And you may have detected a mild tone of sarcasm here (if not, I apologize that it wasn’t more obvious), but the bottom line is that I really don’t want to be bothered.

I don’t want to be bothered with the question about whether I’d like to get notifications, not to mention notifications themselves!

Good News: You Can Block These in Your Browser

And I mean you can block the questions as well as the actual notifications.

Thanks to Steve Gibson from Gibson Research Corporation, who mentioned this on a recent episode of the Security Now! podcast, here’s a handy set of instructions for you.

Time needed: 2 minutes.

How to Block Websites from Offering Notifications in Google Chrome

  1. Open Chrome’s 3-dot menu and click “Settings”

    Using any desktop version of Google Chrome*, locate the 3-dot menu (from Windows and Linux, this is typically at the top right), click it, and then choose “Settings” from the menu that drops down.

    *or Chromium, if you’re rocking the open source version like I am.Security Now!

  2. Click “Advanced” (at the bottom), then find “Content Settings” (or “Site Settings”) in the “Privacy and Security” section

    The setting we’re looking for is hidden under the “Advanced” section, which you can find by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the “Settings” page that opens up. Once you click “Advanced,” the page expands and you’ll see a new section called “Privacy and Security” which contains a number of rows of options.

    Look for the option labeled “Content Settings” (that’s what it was called in my version) or “Site Settings” (this is what Steve Gibson’s instructions said, so his version—and maybe yours too!—might be different).

  3. Click on the “Notifications” option, then move the “Ask before sending” slider to the left

    When you click “Notifications,” a new screen opens up, and if your version of Google Chrome still has the default setting, you’ll see a line near the top that reads, “Ask before sending (recommended).”

    When you move that slider to the left, it turns the notifications requests off, and you should see the text change to “Blocked”.

    Voila! No more requests from websites!

    (While you’re here, you should see a list of any specific sites you’ve either “blocked” or “allowed” notifications from, and you can review/edit your settings.)

How to Block Notification Requests in Firefox

If you use Mozilla Firefox, which is my “daily driver” browser these days, you can block these notifications requests there as well. Here’s how:

  1. Open a new tab in Firefox and type the following in the address bar:

    about:config
  2. You will most likely see a warning that says, “This might void your warranty!” If so, click “I accept the risk!” to continue.
  3. You’ll see a search box at the top of a long list of configuration items. Type in:

    webnotifications

    …and press “Enter”
  4. Locate the setting named, “dom.notifications.enabled” and toggle it to “false.” (I did this by double-clicking it.) It should turn “bold” in appearance, and the “status” column should change to “modified.”
  5. Close the tab. You’re done!

How to Test Your Browser to Confirm the New Settings

As Steve Gibson pointed out, Mozilla (makers of Firefox) were kind enough to build a page just so we can test our browsers to see if the notifications settings change was successful or not.

Well actually, the page was built to serve as part of Mozilla’s excellent developer documentation, but if you visit it from a browser that has the notifications enabled (which they are in most browsers by default), it will pop up a request every time!

The page is called Using the Notifications API. Click it now to see if your settings change worked!

Did You Find This Useful?

I hope so! Feel free to share it, of course. But maybe head on over to Twitter and give Steve Gibson a quick “thank you” for sharing!

And if you’re interested in security and privacy online, be sure to subscribe to Security Now! on your favorite podcast app. It’s worth the listen!

64-bit Google Chrome is Finally Here! (For Windows)

One of my great disappointments in life came several years ago when I made the switch to a 64-bit OS for the first time: a 64-bit build of Google Chrome simply did not exist!

OK, I might be exaggerating my disappointment. But only slightly.

But life went on. After a while, my incessant checking for news on this all-important development slowed from daily… to weekly… to… I can’t even remember when I last looked.

And to be honest, I haven’t cared. 32-bit Chrome has been fine… until the last couple of months. I’ve noticed it has begun to consume more and more of my aging laptop’s finite memory. This could, of course, have something to do with the sheer number of tabs and background apps (running in Chrome) that I have open. But that’s beside the point.

Your browser is, after all, likely to be your single most-used piece of software—especially if (like me) you long ago ditched other email clients.

So it came as quite the surprise last night when the Ars Technica announcement zipped by one of my news feeds.

But it was late when I saw it, so I waited till this morning to install it.

The upgrade process to 64-bit Google Chrome was fairly simple, but one step left me questioning whether it had worked, so…

How to Upgrade to the 64-Bit Version of Chrome

There’s currently no upgrade path within Chrome itself to get you over to the 64-bit development channel—making the switch is a manual opt-in process. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Head on over to the official Chrome download page and look for the line that says “You can also download Chrome for Windows 64-bit.” Click the bold words “Windows 64-bit,” which will switch things around so that when you hit the big blue “Download Chrome” button, you’ll get the one you want. Currently, you’re out of luck if you’re a Mac user. (Linux users have had access to 64-bit Chromium for a while now.)
  2. Optional step: At this point, I bookmarked all my open tabs just in case they got lost during the upgrade process. I wasn’t sure how this was gonna go down… so, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I then closed Chrome.
  3. Double-click the Chrome-Setup.exe file that you just downloaded and let it run. This ran and completed, leaving me wondering what the heck had happened. Did it update my Chrome shortcuts in the Start Menu, Taskbar, and Desktop? I don’t know? Will I still be launching the 32-bit version of I click one? I don’t know!
  4. Launch Chrome again. If you’re experience is like mine, all your tabs will reopen and everything will go back to the way it was. Hmmmmm….
  5. Head over to your hamburger menu and click the “About Google Chrome” item (or just open a tab and type chrome://chrome/ in the address bar). You’ll see a message that reads something pretty close to “Google Chrome is almost finished updating. Relaunch Chrome to complete the update.” (I didn’t screen shot it, but you’ll know it when you see it.) There’s a handy “Relaunch” button.
  6. When Chrome restarts, check chrome://chrome/ again. You should see a shiny new version message like Version 37.0.2062.94 unknown-m (64-bit). The beauty is the “(64-bit)” at the end, of course.

So How Is It?

OK so it’s admittedly a bit early for real serious feedback here. But my preliminary thoughts are pretty solid.

So far, I can’t tell that it’s making any better use of memory (this is one of its promised benefits thanks to they availability of better addressing). But, it’s nice and zippy. The memory usage may not have actually been the real problem I’d been experiencing with the 32-bit version. We’ll see.

Fonts are visibly better. For whatever reason, Chrome has been really bad with font rendering… so much so that I almost made the switch to Firefox over it! This has made me happy.

I’ve had no problems with any of my extensions. I wasn’t expecting any, but the announcement post on the Chromium blog and the Ars story both mentioned lack of support for 32-bit NPAPI plugins. This means you may need to update Silverlight and Java. (I haven’t tried Netflix yet, but I don’t use it on my computer very often anyway. We’ll see what happens.)

All in all… so far, so good. I’ll plan on a more thorough write-up after I’ve had some time behind the wheel. But for now… I’d say go for it!

How Google Chrome Took Over the Web Browser Market

recent piece in The Economist (which included the above graphic) got me thinking about just how Google pulled off such a massive global coup in the world of desktop web browsers.

After all, the choice of what web browser to use has long been a deeply personal one.

And when I say “long,” I’m going back to when we had to decide between the original Netscape (c. 1994) and AOL’s crappy browser (lovingly referred to as “Nyetscape”). Microsoft wasn’t a serious player in this fight—although they began rolling out Internet Explorer with Windows 95—until they forced it on the world with service packs and ultimately integrated it into Windows 98 (because it was necessary, of course!).

Let’s not forget that in those days Apple was in the toilet and a workable Linux operating system for home use—even geek home use—was many years away. So, for all intents and purposes, Microsoft completely controlled the operating systems of, well, all of us. Thus, they had a bit of an advantage when it came to providing the world’s default web browser.

And that’s exactly what Internet Explorer (“IE”) became… the world’s default web browser. Despite its security flaws, vulnerabilities and overall user experience, IE’s dominance was unshaken for many, many years.

We could discuss why this was true for so long, but at the end of the day, I believe it all comes down to “friction.”

Very simply, IE came bundled with Windows. Installing a new browser meant going out of your way to a different website, selecting the right download, finding the download on your computer and running it. Then… it meant changing your habits. Instead of looking for the little blue “E,” you had to find the icon for whatever new browser you installed… and then there was the matter of default websites, bookmarks/favorites, etc. For an average user, this represented a fair amount of pain (geeks did all of this a long time ago… more on that later), and was more than most would prefer to deal with.

Along Came Google

Ultimately, it was all the “friction” that Google solved. After all, they’re a default of their own… when it comes to search. By placing a simple little button on their famously stark and simple search page, they provided many with the opportunity to experience the web with a better browser.

Now don’t get me wrong… Google had to also build a great browser. And they did. Chrome was lightweight and elegant (and still is, for the most part).

But the more important factor was that it was easy.

Google built an installer that ran right inside IE and eliminated most of the steps required that might have represented some degree of pain for the average user. In fact, I would argue that a direct correlation could be drawn between the improvements made to that installation process and the spread of Google Chrome.

Global desktop web-browser market share, courtesy The Economist

And Google continues to innovate. Borrowing a page from the Mozilla playbook, they’ve created a marketplace for developers to contribute extensions that add features and functions to their browser, and they constantly look for ways to remove friction from processes—especially when they can carve a “path of least resistance” that leads to their own door.

The ridiculously simple Google Chromecast

Their latest innovation with Chrome involves streaming content from your browser to your television via WiFi. All it requires is the Google Chromecast, a simple device that connects to the HDMI port of your television and connects to your wireless network. The device is officially priced at only $35, but when it sold out in less than 2 days, it began selling for double and nearly triple that in no time.

In short, it’s the simplest and easiest way to enjoy internet-based content on your TV. Picture yourself sitting on the couch or laying in bed… you stumble across an interesting YouTube video on your smartphone, but you don’t want to be forced to watch it on that small screen… simply press a button and “Presto!” — it’s playing on your TV instead.

And the Chromecast isn’t limited to YouTube. All sorts of content can be sent to your TV. I believe it’s truly a game-changer… and it continues the tradition of eliminating friction.

 What Does Your Choice of Browser Say About You?

As a quick sidebar, most of the geeks of the world jumped off the IE train just as soon as Firefox became a real alternative (for me, that was about 10 years ago). Firefox was much safer, and Mozilla had grown a community that fostered innovation (remember when “tabbed browsing” was new?). Overall, it was much less painful.

Other browsers began to pop up… Apple gained decent market share in the desktop and laptop space, increasing the presence of its Safari browser. More and more people realized just how bad IE really was… and somewhere along the line, your choice of web browser began to really say something about you.

At one point, someone famously published a study that suggested IE users had lower IQs than users of other browsers. The study was a complete hoax, and the originators of this delicious piece of fun managed to prank a number of reputable outlets, including the BBC, much to the delight of geeks everywhere.

Where web browsing will go in the future is anybody’s guess. For now, Chrome is the browser of choice for geeks and non-geeks alike. And we appear to be one step closer to Google’s takeover of the known world. Resistance, apparently, is futile.