Web browser notifications and about:blank
March 14, 2020
I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, letting websites show notifications about new messages and emails, even when the browser is closed. But somehow, somewhere along the way, websites started abusing the notifications feature. If you visit a web page just once, to read an article or check on a sale, that site can pop up notification messages to you. Honestly, it can be, best case, annoying and, worst case, unproductive.
But we do have tools to manage those pesky browser notifications.
Mozilla has addressed the problem, starting with Firefox v72, released on Jan. 7. Instead of a notification message that loads as soon as you open a website, you'll see a cartoon-like speech bubble to the left of the address bar. And it'll sit there and wiggle until you click on it. Clicking on the bubble lets you choose to Allow or Never Allow notifications from that website.
Firefox has a nuclear option that blocks all notifications and requests. Click on the three stacked bars in the upper right corner of your browser. Click on Options, then click on Privacy & Security from the left menu. Scroll down to Permissions and click the Settings... button next to Permissions. Now check the box next to Block new requests asking to allow notifications.
Google's Chrome is rolling out what they're calling "quieter notifications," beginning with v80 released on Feb. 4. Google plans to automatically enable it for people who always deny notifications and on websites where visitors rarely allow notifications.
Chrome also has a nuclear option: click on the three vertical dots menu in the upper right corner of your browser. Click on Settings and scroll to Site Settings. Scroll down and click on Notifications, then uncheck the toggle.
Microsoft's Edge browser replaced the ancient Internet Explorer starting with Windows 10 in 2015, which has been long enough ago that Microsoft has re-written the Edge browser using the Chromium browser engine (the same engine that powers Chrome, Opera and other browsers.) No word about "quieter notifications" for now, but the nuclear option is nearly the same as for Chrome. Click on the three horizontal dots in the upper right of your open browser, scroll down to, and click on, Site permissions. Now click on Notifications and turn the toggle off.
If you don't have the new-improved Edge on your Windows computer yet, you will. Microsoft will roll it out to all users via Windows Updates.
The nuclear option works in Safari, too. Select Safari and Preferences... from the top menu bar. Select the Websites tab and in the left -hand menu choose Notifications. Uncheck the Allow websites to ask for permission to send push notifications checkbox.
Where did my internet go, or what is about:blank?
So, there you are, about to search the Internet for the latest proven can't-miss techniques for managing your yard's gopher problem when your browser comes up with a completely blank page called, obviously, about:blank. What happened to your internet, and where did this page come from?
Don't worry; your internet is okay, most likely. That about:blank page comes with whatever browser you use; it doesn't come from the Internet at all.
Why? Many people just want to see a blank screen when they open a browser. Not someone's idea of what constitutes news, or the scores from some sports team from somewhere, or the progress of the giant meteorite that will, or won't, quite, ruin all our plans. Just a beautiful blank page where you can control where your browser goes from here.
If your browser is opening to about:blank and you don't want it to, search for "how to change your browser's home page," after you type your favorite search engine into the address bar.
I know, it's a bad one...
I saw a man walking down the street with a swivel chair under one arm, a computer under the other and a desk strapped to his back. A policeman ran over to him and handcuffed him, saying, "I'm arresting you for impersonating an office, sir."