Greasemonkey seems to be taking the (firefox) web world by storm…
What it is
What does it mean
How does it work?
Let’s illustrate with an example: the “Google annotate” user script that enhances Google search results with information on available rss feeds and del.icio.us tags on that search result.
1: With Greasemonkey installed, you can simply right-click on a link to a userscript (= a .js file):
2: Modify some options (e.g. adding your local google site):
3 … and this is the result: search results are enhanced with available rss feeds, link to del.icio.us entries and a tags link showing the used del.icio.us tags when clicked on:
Some other examples
Enough inspiration at this GreaseMonkey User Scripts Directory:
- Changing layout:
- Title Scrubber: removes “Welcome”, “Welcome to”, etc. from title bars.
- Expand TextArea: allows you to resize textareas.
- Modifying behaviour:
- Hide Adsense: Hides Google Adsense IFrames
- Flickr: Degradr: Replaces flickr’s flash-embedded images with actual image files
- Integrating functionality of several sites
- Amazon/Melvyl: Check UC Libraries Given a link to Amazon, check Univ. of California’s libraries for availability
- Del.icio.us/NewsGator: DeliciousGator: Add del.icio.us post links to News Gator Online.
- Amazon Linky Inserts three icon links under book titles, one to a price comparison site and two to libraries.
You might have heard about the row on the Googe autolink feature, reminiscent of the Microsoft Smart tags discussion almost 4 years ago. Now grass roots developers have the possibility to do the same with User scripts: automagically changing branding, removing ads, inserting links to other sites… both for specific domains or as general browser behaviour. As a kind of “Sue me if you dare” statement Mark Pilgrim designed Butler: a user script that removes ads from Google search results, and adds links to competitors.
The implications for online business models are huge, and we might see some nasty battles coming up – as well as new services made available via these “scripts in the middle”.
In itself, it doesn’t seem a spectacularly new technology:
- bookmarklets have been arround for some time, and already led to amazing applications, such as when you combine Google Maps with other data sources, such as users’ pictures and annotations.
- nothing new either about the concept of “Web annotation”, think of the WikiAlong Firefox plugin, letting you annotate webpages (on the public WikiAlong Wiki or an a private, company or project group wiki).
A new architecture for the web?
Jon Udell asked whether there could be such a thing as a general architecture of intermediation, a way of devising applications and their connections in such a way that an intermediary layer can adapt their behaviour and combine their data and functionality with that of other applications, even your own private applications. According to Simon Willison, Greasemonkey and its “scripts in the middle” could be a very light-weight implementation of such an architecture. To be continued…
Oh BTW: Greasemonkey for Internet Explorer is underway :-)
: Jon Udell’s yesterday screencast explains all of this so much better!