This month’s Tool in the Spotlight is another Firefox extension: uMatrix.
uMatrix is a tool we love because it puts you back in control of where your browser will connect to when you visit a web page instead of handing that control over to whoever created the web page. Without it, your browser will just connect to and download everything and anything the page tells it to connect to or download. uMatrix gives you back the control to specify what you want your browser to connect to (and thus spend your bandwidth on) and what you don’t want your browser to connect to.
The benefits of uMatrix are that it significantly enhances your security, privacy and greatly reduces your network usage (i.e. your browsing becomes faster since requests that are not made, are requests you don’t have to wait for).
By default, uMatrix works in a ‘relax block-all/allow-exceptionally mode’. What this means is that only ‘first party’ assets, namely those directly related to what you’re visiting, are allowed to be downloaded. Anything else that is attempted to be downloaded will be blocked.
In this mode, you’re really telling your browser to “go get this specific thing and make sure you get just that thing, don’t bother with anything else“. These ‘anything else’ could be third party scripts, trackers (like cookies, tracking pixels or any other analytics code), images, etc.
Sometimes this will break a web page that really does rely on these third parties, but you is easily fixed by the ‘allow-exceptionally’-part of this mode: the matrix lets you specify which types of assets (scripts, images, cookies, etc.) you are allowing to be downloaded from other places for this specific site. There is an excellent write-up at https://github.com/gorhill/httpswitchboard/wiki/How-to-use-HTTP-Switchboard:-Two-opposing-views about how to do this.
- Download and/or install the extension for Firefox, Chrome or Opera
- Get the source code for the tool at https://github.com/gorhill/uMatrix
- Check out a wiki with more information about uMatrix
NOTE: we are entirely unaffiliated with whoever produces this tool, we receive no compensation whatsoever from them.