WUWT upgrade, phase 3 – announcing our free WUWT toolbar

Readers may recall that I announced in early April that I have been working to make WUWT more accessible as well as more community oriented. Improvements so far have included enhanced commenting speed with less moderation and improvements to the Submit a Story system.

WUWT_Toolbar

I’m pleased to announce the WUWT toolbar. Now, I know some people aren’t fans of toolbars, and others love them. I was on the fence until I saw that it could actually provide some useful tools. One of the biggest is an improved search engine for the now 8000 WUWT posts online. The WordPress search engine is rather limited, some might call it “lame”, and it makes it difficult to find stories you remember and want to reference. Since WordPress still has no plans to upgrade it, I decided this would serve the community better.

Other improvements include: 

Instant access to our many reference pages, and the ability to submit stories and news tips right from the toolbar. It eliminates having to wade through the WUWT header menu since you don’t even need to be on the WUWT website to use these features.

You can disable/enable it with a right click as well as configure some elements using the gear icon.

I have decided to keep “Tips and Notes” on as many have requested it and don’t want to go to the trouble of submitting a full story. Either way, this makes it easier since you can submit from the toolbar now – handy if you are on a  web page you want to bring to attention.

Quick links are also available to the WUWT Facebook Page and Twitter feed.

The other value to this toolbar is that it helps Alexa get accurate data on WUWT traffic and reach, so you’d be helping WUWT by installing it and using it.

It works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome (on Windows). I regret that Alexa doesn’t offer other browsers such as Safari and Opera, but perhaps they will in the future.

There’s no risk using this toolbar, uninstall it at any time if you don’t like it, and you can’t beat the price.

The toolbar is editable, and I’ll take suggestions into consideration.

Thanks for your continued support of WUWT.

If you want to check out and then install the toolbar, CLICK HERE

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41 Responses to WUWT upgrade, phase 3 – announcing our free WUWT toolbar

  1. Paul Westhaver says:

    Thanks Anthony but I routinely disable site generated scripts,, toolbars,, and widgets… as a rule.

    REPLY: Nobody is forcing you to install it and it is quite benign. If I didn’t think it was safe and useful, I wouldn’t offer it. – Anthony

  2. Gene Selkov says:

    None for Safari?

  3. NetDef says:

    The Alexa toolbar variants are classified as low-risk ad-ware/malware by almost every respected AV Protection suite on the market. (Kaspersky, Panda, Vipre, Symantec, McAfee, EMISoft, etc.)

    The reason: It changes your browsers default search settings to always use Alexa’s servers, and that information is collected and used for their own reasons. Note that the search you mention within the toolbar is [supposed to be] constrained to your site – while searches from the browser search box are redirected for everything to Alexa.

    Are you certain you want to associate your respected site with that?

    REPLY: Well, that claim is totally not true.

    1. My Google search engine default was not changed on install
    2. Searches still use Google
    3. No redirection of any kind is evident
    4. No complaints of any kind from my malware/AV services
    5. No complaints of any kind from Windows built in security during install
    6. There are no ads displayed by Alexa.

    Maybe at one time those were issues, they certainly don’t seem to be issues now. Again if I didn’t think it was safe and useful, I would not offer it. Some paranoiaware suites out there will flag anything that gets installed, that doesn’t mean it is automatically malicious.- Anthony

  4. greg2213 says:

    The instructions on the “how to” page seen incomplete.

    With my version of Chrome (your mileage may differ:)

    1) The install button will have you download a file.
    2) Put it in a safe place.
    3) When the download is done, run the file.
    4) Answer the usual prompts.
    5) Chrome will ask to be restarted and will note that all your tabs will be saved.
    6) Activate the WUWT bar from that Chrome menu (the activate link will be near the bottom of the menu. )
    7) It’ll take a minute or two to get set up.
    8) Flash will crash at least once (but maybe only on my system.)

    When it’s up you’ll see a gear icon to the far right of the bar. That’s your “options” menu. Click it, then “options” and you’ll see a couple of checkboxes:
    Show website traffic rankings
    Show rankings for web search results

    Uncheck both of these if you’re not interested in those stats. Your bar will be slightly faster as a result.

    Done. :)

  5. jorgekafkazar says:

    Nifty. Will it search within the comments? Or just the posts?

  6. John Billot says:

    Hi Anthony, thanks for all you do, in an age of democratic deficit on both sides of the Atlantic your site is a beacon of hope. As a Linux user the toolbar isn’t of use to me but well done for improving access all round. Yours is the first site I visit every evening from the UK and I’ve learnt a lot since doing so (about 3 years now I reckon). May the “Big Oil Dollars” keep landing on your doorstep so you can upgrade your solar panels ;-)
    Thanks again.

  7. ATheoK says:

    Anthony:
    Please do not take these as jibes or insults.

    The app does not support IE10.

    I installed the app on Chrome.
    — Upon install, Alexa insists on user acceptance for Alexa receiving access to the users data or no app install. (paraphrased from memory during the install process)

    — This agreement giving Alexa access to user data, including contacts, searches and browsing is not benign. Yes, the app is benign, but the company supporting the app insists on user data access that is not benign. Alexa does not offer options to enforce privacy concerns while using the app. I believe this is what Paul Westhaver is referring to.

    – The Chrome user bar does not allow disabling of app components that I have no use for. I will not use twitter to search WUWT as that means twitter will immediately link people, interests and searches.

    – Nor does the app in Chrome allow resizing or moving the bar to maximize usable screen space for browsing, not apps.

    Perhaps all of these issues are scheduled to be corrected in future releases of the app, I do not know the plans but I thought I’d give you my two cents (I’m an old retired Postal worker), hopefully contributing towards the apps improvement. :)

  8. atheok says:

    “Gene Selkov says: May 20, 2013 at 11:04 am

    None for Safari?

    Safari is Firefox under the covers

  9. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Gee, I remember when the Alexa toolbar was labeled spyware, sites insisting on it were to be avoided. When I first got Spybot for my Windows machine, blocking the toolbar while maintaining site usability was a major feature.

    But it’s you asking Anthony, so…

    Search is Google, which I use anyway.

    Under Options (down arrowhead next to gear), I can kill the Alexa “phone home” data gathering.

    I click on the WUWT logo (far left), it opens WUWT home page with new tab.
    I click on the chain pic (link) next to the WUWT logo, it opens WUWT home page with new tab.
    WUWT?

    Since it is so WUWT-centric, it would be nice if the toolbar would only appear if I’m already on WUWT. Then I might like it. I don’t particularly hate it, I’ll leave it in for now.

    Custom site-specific toolbars that only appear when you’re on their sites, that are non-intrusive, that people like and willingly install? When will that ever happen?

    REPLY: I agree the two buttons are redundant, both were offered as part of the default setup. I’ve made an update, you should see the chain link button disappear when your browser cache expires. Can’t help on other suggestions though, thanks for trying it out. – Anthony

  10. David, UK says:

    Cool. Installed in seconds for me in Firefox. Like all toolbars, easy to hide and unhide as needed with a couple of mouse clicks. I’m sure it’ll come in handy occasionally, so good to know it’s there when needed.

  11. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Ack, I forgot the slash before the “a” of the only link in last comment, and sent it off to the moderation queue!

    Oh look, I just found out I can right-click on the toolbar area and “turn off” the WUWT toolbar at will, so it won’t be on all the time. Cool, I am starting to like it.

  12. Anthony Watts says:

    @ Kadaka see note in your comment. Also, I have the option of adding links to other climate websites in a blogroll fashion. does anyone think that would be useful to have handy?

  13. mojo says:

    Does it come with spyware, like all the best toolbars?

    REPLY: Nope, or I would not have offered it. – Anthony

  14. plazaeme says:

    Running smooth and nice. Probably useful. Thanks.

  15. mark fraser says:

    Pity, not compatible with Seamonkey 1.7, which should be pretty much firefox.

  16. atheok says:

    “kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: May 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Search is Google, which I use anyway.

    Under Options (down arrowhead next to gear), I can kill the Alexa “phone home” data gathering…”

    Go into the browser’s options, under manage add-ons and/or extensions and look for the WUWT app and the associated ‘agreements’ button. There is not an option to turn this off, no matter what you choose under the ‘apps’ options.

    Browsing on the web is not the url typed into the address line. Everyone uses some sort of carrier or license for access to the web. This is where your primary connection, addresses, name lookups, and searches go.

    The receiving server then runs through their cache or databases for where to direct your query. This connection through a ‘web’ of servers till you reach your quest point is where the web gains both it’s power and weaknesses. Power in that a properly synched server gets you to the quest point through a series of linked servers; weaknesses in that servers may be in this daisy chain that are not there for your strict sole benefit.

    Your search engine may be google, but the server where your search is directed to a google engine will be under an agreement with Alexis, (Google themselves may have such an agreement with Alexa, after all they have to make money off of the internet one way or the other). If you’re using G-mail, there may be some ‘approved vendors’ agreement operating under the G-mail agreement that lets them sift and likely suggest contacts.

  17. NetDef says: May 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

    The Alexa toolbar variants are classified as low-risk ad-ware/malware by almost every respected AV Protection suite on the market. (Kaspersky, Panda, Vipre, Symantec, McAfee, EMISoft, etc.)

    The reason: It changes your browsers default search settings to always use Alexa’s servers, and that information is collected and used for their own reasons. Note that the search you mention within the toolbar is [supposed to be] constrained to your site – while searches from the browser search box are redirected for everything to Alexa.

    I would expect that NetDef is right. At Alexa, you can have a look at which search terms people use to get to your site. They can only do that if the users of the toolbar submit that information to Alexa.

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/wattsupwiththat.com#

    REPLY: Well, he’s not and neither are you. You obviously have not tested it.

    “The Alexa Toolbar for Internet Explorer 7 was classified malware by Microsoft Defender; this classification, however, might possibly have been a false positive.” http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/tom-keating/microsoft/windows-defender-calls-alexa-toolbar-trojan.asp

    Five year old ancient claims, not valid today.

    But I expect you’ll publish something in the way of smear along these lines very soon, as it is what you do now instead of science. Your interests now lie in how to discredit. – Anthony

  18. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    @ Anthony:
    Purging cache and reloading page didn’t fix it, but I purged, shut down, restarted, then new version loaded.

    There are times when a skeptic site gets mentioned, or for some other reason I’ll want to visit one like searching for info, and the current blogroll is so cluttered and so hard to find on the side. Perhaps a “most popular” link list in the toolbar would be helpful.

  19. OldWeirdHarold says:

    Sorry to be the grammar knotsee, but:

    “I know some people aren’t a fan of toolbars,”

    Is setting off the batcave alarms.

  20. vvenema says:

    http://www.alexa.com/help/privacy#toolbar

    Automatic Information We Collect From the Toolbar Service

    When you download the Toolbar Service, and at times during your use of the Alexa website and Toolbar Service, we transmit Alexa cookies to the hard drive of your computer. In addition, for every Web page you view while using the Toolbar Service, the Alexa software transmits and stores your IP address, which may include a domain name, the full URL of the Web page you are visiting, general information about your browser; general information about your computer’s operating system; your Alexa cookie number or other identifying alphanumerical information enabling Alexa to identify your computer; and the date and time the above information is logged. All of this above information is logged together in a single data string for each Web page you visit. Each string is logged in our database in the chronological order received from our millions of users. The Toolbar Service also automatically collects information about the online advertisements that are displayed on the websites you visit – specifically, the text, source, and URL of the online ad – and the terms you choose when you use search engines to search the Web. You may disable the Toolbar Service from sending Alexa any web page, advertisement, or search term information by turning off all Web Information features listed in the Options menu in the Toolbar Service.

    Alexa also periodically collects usage statistics from Toolbar Service users that describe the frequency of use of each Toolbar Service feature. You may disable the Toolbar Service from sending Alexa usage statistics information at any time by using the Options menu in the Toolbar Service.

    Finally, to ensure accurate information about the number of Toolbar Service users, the Toolbar Service periodically sends a signal to Alexa containing basic information such as the IP address of your computer.

    Sounds like spyware to me, but at least you can turn it of.

    REPLY:
    It only sounds like spyware to you because you have a demonstrated hate for WUWT. If it were SkS pushing it for some consensus project you’d think it was a great idea I’m sure.

    Nobody has to install it, and it uninstalls easily. If it were as bad as you make it out to be, the company would be out of business.

    UPDATE: learning how to use a search engine would be helpful to you in this issue:

    Frequently Asked Questions
    Is the Alexa Toolbar spyware?

    No, the Alexa Toolbar is not spyware.

    Spyware is defined as hidden software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge. It generally collects your personal information for advertising purposes, and provides you with no value in return. If you would like a more complete definition of the term spyware, please see http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/s/spyware.html.

    The Alexa Toolbar is only installed when a user chooses to download it – it is not installed without your knowledge. The Toolbar is not hidden, it is prominently displayed at the top of your browser. In order to fill the Toolbar with relevant information, the URL of the page you’re on is transmitted to us and we return related information for that page. We have an easily accessed privacy policy which is presented at the time of download and in the Alexa drop down menu in your Toolbar. The Alexa Toolbar can be turned off at any time. Turning the Toolbar off prevents any information from being transmitted to us. Alexa never attempts to identify individual users, and you are not required to enter any personal information to use the Toolbar.

    If you feel that the features of the Alexa Toolbar are not of value to you, the Toolbar is easily uninstalled using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel of Windows, or from the Add-Ons Manager in your web browser.

    Source: http://www.alexa.com/faqs/?p=95

    Note the money quote “hidden software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge.” Go homogenize that.

    - Anthony

  21. S.E.Bailey says:

    OoOH.. it has buttons.. I will be installing personally. This(your)blog has been a endless source of ammunition to battle the Algorites that appear out of nowhere in my life and make me feel all itchy with there climate gloom and doom ray.
    On a serious note I learn so much here and the site is a doorway to so many of avenues of learning..

  22. Tommy Roche says:

    Finally, a toolbar thats actually useful. I like the dropdown menu with links to the reference pages. Nice job Anthony.

  23. Martin Clark says:

    Apparently doesn’t work in some Firefox derivatives, but is fine in Waterfox.
    Since I don’t participate on InYaFace or Twit, I tried the “search WUWT” with my own name.
    743 hits in about 1 second. Wow. Busier than I thought.
    Relatively short time-scale of course, but so far, there doesn’t seem to be an inverse relationship between participation and business turnover :-)

  24. Hartog says:

    I’m a linux user. Opera is my default browser but I look at WUWT with chromium. Yet the install page says that my browser is not compatible. I’d like the toolbar especially the search engine. Any suggestions?

  25. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    “Spyware” Checking, as it went:

    I run Debian Linux with Iceweasel browser, the “rebranded” Firefox browser. “About” says ver 20.0. In the “rebranding” the menu layout is made consistent with earlier versions, otherwise the functionality is the same.

    All I have to do is “Tools – Add-ons” to call up the Add-ons Manager in a new tab. “WUWT 2.2: Alexa Toolbar for Firefox” is in the “Extensions” section. “Preferences” button is same as “Options” on toolbar. I also have “Disable” and “Remove” buttons.

    I Disabled, which engages after a restart so it gives you that option right then. After restart, WUWT toolbar was gone. Back to Add-ons Manager, hit “Enable”, restarted, it’s back. Thus I can turn it on and off, no problem.

    I typed “about:config” in the URL bar to get to the guts. I searched for “search”, found three suspicious entries:

    extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.searchconf
    extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.searchranks
    extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.toolbarXMLText

    Value for first is… about 200 lines of code, didn’t think that was possible.
    2nd is “false”.
    3rd is about 125 lines of xml code.

    Disabled toolbar, restarted. Still there after disabling. Well then, for 1 and 3, right-click and “Reset” value to blank it.

    Searched for “alexa”, 4 values.
    extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.post-defined.base_platform – https://s3.amazonaws.com/com.alexa.toolbar/atbp/_shared
    extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.post-defined.base_toolbar – https://s3.amazonaws.com/com.alexa.toolbar/atbp/XWRsz5
    extensions.installCache – (ignorable internal record keeping)
    extensions.toolbar-tbplatform@alexa.com.install-event-fired – (yes, the toolbar was installed and on thus “true”)

    First two were Reset.

    Finally a search for “tbplatform”. Many entries, nothing suspicious, no URL’s, no code.

    Re-Enabling WUWT toolbar! Restarting!

    Toolbar running, settings remembered, WUWT search works. Checking “about:config”, “tbplatform”…

    All reset values have returned to pre-Reset.

    OKAY. Step it up a notch. Removed WUWT Toolbar. Checked config again.

    Less “tbplatform” entries, but the two with values of long code chunks are still there, as well as the other two previously reset.

    Without anything referencing those entries, they shouldn’t matter. But without knowing if anything else will use them, and on principles of general housekeeping, I don’t want them there.

    Reset the four values, restart.

    As Firefox should work, with a configuration entry not originating with Firefox, once it’s reset and nothing uses it, it gets flagged and deleted. That happened, the four are gone. So far, Iceweasel is working fine. The remaining entries look innocuous.

    And as I have Debian Linux, I can easily remove and reinstall Iceweasel with the package manager. Bookmarks backed up. All the remaining new entries are of the “extensions.TBPLATFORM_NS_PH.” form except the “event-fired” one. Now resetting ALL of them and restarting.

    Iceweasel works, all of the aforementioned config entries are gone.

    RESULTS:

    This is not “spyware”, it does not install hidden software, technically. But it does install and alter configuration entries and values, of which two of them are code that evaluates other values and selects specific actions, which are commonly thought of as being at least part of a program.

    You can easily turn the toolbar on and off. You can also easily remove the toolbar.

    But it does not cleanly uninstall, leaving behind presumably-inert code and other detritus. However with some know-how you can safely remove the leftovers.

    It may be labeled as spyware, in that it does some tracking and information gathering as can be read about, for example, here. But it reportedly does not use a unique identifier, reporting anonymously.

    And if you have been paying attention, you’d know search engines like Google are already doing the same or worse, even when you’re not signed into their site.

    So while it’s not a perfect “free with no obligation” product, it could be much worse, and it’s not that bad.

    Give it a try.

  26. OssQss says:

    Similar Android widget ?

    Nice job on the upgrades!

  27. Niff says:

    Anthony,
    Way cool. Very useful…thanks.

  28. David Jones says:

    Anthony, I am using IE10. I clicked on your check it out link only to be faced with:

    “FREE. Installs in seconds.

    Your browser is not supported

    Toolbars are compatible with Chrome (Windows only), Firefox and IE6 through IE9.”

  29. I’m not a big fan of extra Toolbars.

    I recently looked at a Macbook that’d been in use for a long time. When I opened up a web browser window, about 80% of the screen was covered by decorations and toolbars. There was just a tiny “letterbox slit” of web content visible. After about half an hour of cursing and clicking, I’d reduced the “overload” to a mere 4 toolbars; enough to permit a useful view of the web pages of interest at a readable text size.

    If you offer a toolbar, people will try to install it; especially if it’s “free”. There’s little consideration as to the reduction in web usability by having the toolbar permanently occupy screen real estate. Make people aware how they can remove the toolbar if they find that the toolbar’s presence is an uncomfortable compromise between WUWT-ability and general web use.

    I am a highly a-typical user of the Interwebs. Or so I’ve been led to believe. Personally, I don’t see anything on the WUWT toolbar that isn’t provided on the WUWT web page. Some people may like the toolbar simply because it freezes certain “buttons” in the sample place on their screen.

  30. the_Butcher says:

    And still no WUWT on Google+…

  31. mountainape5 says:

    btw Toolbars are so 5 years ago…

  32. Brian H says:

    I dislike toolbars eating my display space but …

    In FF (XP) I come to the Accept and Install screen, and the button is dead. No response (or FF request to approve, etc.) Even the Cancel option is unresponsive.

    I have cleared all script and redirect blockers, etc. Still nothing. I have installed many addons before. This one is uniquely difficult.

  33. Michael Larkin says:

    Easy to switch on and off in Firefox. Just click the View menu, mouse over Toolbars, then check or uncheck the “WUWT” box to suit. Literally two clicks is all that’s needed.

  34. Michael Larkin says:

    What I like is the list of latest posts; makes it easy to check when something new has appeared without having to go to WUWT to check. Also, have switched off Web Information Features in options.

    Gets my vote! :-)

  35. atheok says:

    “Brian H says: May 21, 2013 at 3:51 am

    In FF (XP) I come to the Accept and Install screen, and the button is dead. No response (or FF request to approve, etc.) Even the Cancel option is unresponsive.

    I have cleared all script and redirect blockers, etc. Still nothing. I have installed many addons before. This one is uniquely difficult.

    I am assuming you have already run the program from your disk directly and that the inactive accept/install button is after running the program from disk… If not, run from disk!

    Close FireFox, all FF objects; re-open FF and go to your add-ins/extensions management page. (My apologies, I’d give exact directions but I uninstalled FF as irritating to my personal preferences not FF ability).
    Under the add-ins management look for the WUWT toolbar add-in; activate it. That should do it. If not, post again.

  36. Brian D says:

    Thanks Anthony for all the hard work and these new features. I like the toolbar for the easy access. I can peruse your headlines and choose the ones that interest me without opening the home webpage to go looking. And I am glad you kept the Tips and Notes. When I come across something, this toolbar will provide quick access to that page. Many blessings to you and your family.

  37. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From atheok on May 21, 2013 at 8:37 am:

    I am assuming you have already run the program from your disk directly and that the inactive accept/install button is after running the program from disk… If not, run from disk!

    Run from disk?

    *fires up XP partition on old laptop, dials up, calls up Firefox, goes to WUWT, clicks, goes to Alexa toolbar page, Install, popup “accept terms” window, Accept, Firefox asked to Allow, which I did, it downloaded, confirm Software Installation (Install Now), Restart Now…*

    *now have WUWT toolbar*

    Run from disk?

    Attention, Brian H. Try it when logged on as Root (System Supervisor, whatever). You’ll need those permissions for software installation.

  38. Gene Selkov says:

    atheok says:

    > Safari is Firefox under the covers

    Not quite. Under the covers, Safari is Konqueror, or at least was around 2003. It has nothing in common with Firefox besides superficial functional similarity.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Timeline_of_web_browsers.svg

    It looks like this toolbar is written as a Firefox extension (or Chrome’s), so there is no way to make it work in Safari. It needs to be specifically written as a Safari extension.

    Apropos security, it is OK to install an run any extension in any browser, as long as you can control what it is allowed to do using, for example, Ghostery (http://www.ghostery.com). It is good to have it whether or not you use any extensions, because web programs can also do things you may not like.

  39. Joe H Chasko says:

    A useful toolbar, but I would like some control over the size and font color, since I found it too distracting and had to remove it. I run Chrome with Large font and 125% zoom, which may have made it a bit large, combined with the color it was a tad overbearing. :) I love the information on your site, though!

  40. Mr Lynn says:

    I have WUWT bookmarked in Safari, but since I’m now using Firefox for my own WordPress blog, it’s open anyway, so I added the toolbar. Came in useful right away, as I needed to seek out some CO2 info for a discussion on another forum that I frequent (MacResource). It’s neat, actually; much better search function.

    BTW, thanks for keeping Tips and Notes active.

    /Mr Lynn

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