15 Internet annoyances, and how to fix them

The Internet's a wonderful thing, but it can also be a royal pain. Fortunately, there's help.

It seems that every day we go online and there's some new type of nagging Web annoyance to deal with. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about auto-playing video ads, leaping pay walls to read the news, fake emails phishing for our bank details, or Farmville spam from Facebook. But for now, we're on our own. Here are 15 of the most annoying things on the Internet, and how to work around, ignore, improve or fix them.

You Must Register

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My abbreviated rant on pay and registration walls: No. Impressive as it as that sites can track your visits without any sign-in process, asking to cough up money after a limited number of articles--I'm looking at you, Financial Times--is silly if you're not a regular reader.

The Fix: Some sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, will let you in via aggregators like Google News. So if you're blocked, try a Google News search on the subject. You can also try snipping some of the text and plugging it into a search engine, in quotes, to see if another site has quoted or summarized the article.

Social Networking Overload

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Between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare and now Google Buzz, there are just too many social networks to keep track of. Sure, you could pick one and stick with it, but then you might only be paying attention to some friends while neglecting others. It's the worst kind of information overload.

The Fix: Use a program that aggregates several social networks into one interface, such as Digsby or Meebo. You might not get the full functionality of your favorite network, but at least you can keep an eye on status updates with minimal effort.

This Ad is a Video

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Is it just me, or have Web sites with auto-playing video ads become more prevalent lately? Congratulations, advertisers, you got me to listen to your pitch by sheer force. Only now, I hate your brand, if only I could remember what it was.

The Fix: Here's a neat piece of Windows software called FlashMute. It installs to your system tray and can deny Flash access to your audio hardware. Just click the icon or hit Ctrl-Alt-M to switch it on and off. Note: Anti-virus programs tend to flare up when visiting FlashMute's download page. The developer says it's because FlashMute uses the same method of hooking into your browser as some types of AdWare, but it's only intercepting sound from Flash and other Web sources. Fair warning.

I Don't Care About Farmville

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Farmville ribbons, quiz results, articles on subjects you don't care about--isn't Facebook magical? As nice as it is to keep in touch with friends (or “friends”) and look at photos from bar night, constantly hearing about the time-killing habbits of others can be downright boring.

The Fix: Firefox users can check out Facebook Purity, a script that's part of the browser's GreaseMonkey add-on. It automatically strips quizzes and other application notices from your Facebook home page For everyone else, there's Facebook Lite, which strips your feed down to its bare essentials.

Too Much Phishing

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The number of schemes that pop up on the Internet are too numerous to mention, but recent attacks on Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail Talk, and Adobe PDF files come to mind. Even if you've never been hit, you can't help but be annoyed that these scams exist.

The Fix: Here are some tips on how to avoid getting scammed, and how to spot malicious links buried in TinyURLs. Fortunately, most browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, all include some sort of anti-phishing filters.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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