15 Internet Annoyances, and How to Fix Them

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We Don't Serve Your Browser Here

Just because Internet Explorer has over 60 percent of the Web browser market, some sites don't support any other browser, such as page for HP computers. If you use something else, opening a page in IE feels like sleeping in a stranger's bed.

The Fix: Use the Coral IE Tab add-on for Firefox and the IE Tabs extension for Chrome. The former even lets you mark specific sites to automatically open an Internet Explorer tab in the future.

I'm Not a Robot, Honest

There must be a special circle of hell reserved for CAPTCHA, that little section at the end of a form where you must decipher and re-type a few barely legible letters and numbers. The intentions are good--stop spammers from pummeling Web forums--but there's got to be a better way. Same goes for annoying wait times before you can start downloading a file.

The Fix: I've spent too long looking for an easy solution to no avail. An experimental Firefox add-on called NoCaptcha reportedly doesn't work. However, MegaUpload users can try MegaUpload TimeAttack, which automatically fills out forms and starts downloads, and SkipScreen helps jump the wait line for Rapidshare and Megaupload. MySpace users can skip CAPTCHA by verifying their account with a phone number. Also, Mashable has some tips for dealing with Facebook's CAPTCHA: You needn't type spaces, numbers, dashes, colons, semicolons, apostrophes, characters with umlauts.

This Web Site is Bogus

Sometimes when you mistype a URL or click an old, abandoned link, you'll come upon these junky Web sites filled with useless links, a search bar that returns who-knows-what and a deliciously ironic slogan, “What you need, when you need it.” This is called domain parking, the practice of occupying potentially popular URLs until they're sold, and monetizing them in the meantime. (Update: This article previously and erroneously referred to this as "cybersquatting," an equally bothersome but illegal practice of using a domain name to profit on someone else's trademark)

The Fix: Firefox users can once again use BlockSite to turn one major domain parker's Web sites into blank pages--just add “*. information.com ” to your restricted list. This will foil the source whose sites always refer back to that domain -- if a site displays worthless info, it might as well display nothing, right? Unfortunately the same trick doesn't work in Internet Explorer's list of restricted sites.

Flash Spoils Appetites

I don't understand restaurants' fascination with Flash Web pages. Maybe they're intentionally trying draw out the navigation process to make us hungrier, thereby ordering an extra appetizer or two. It's not working.

The Fix: Why bother with restaurant Web sites any more, especially if you're dining in a city? Use sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon for information, OpenTable for reservations and MenuPages for menus.

Five Stars, Big Surprise

The problem with online user reviews is that everyone's in denial (or a covert shill). No one wants to admit their budget HDTV has a terrible viewing angle or their new netbook's keyboard feels like putty. Save for the one guy who got bad customer service and awarded one star (and ranted in all capital letters), user reviews inevitably land in the four- to five-star range. The exception is music, movie, game and book reviews, for which everyone wants to be a critic.

The Fix: There is valuable information to be gleaned from the crowd. Just look for consistencies. Steer clear of the 5-star laptop where even the enthused complain of tinny speakers, or the fridge that everyone says can get a little loud.

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