Anything but Lynx, please
May 24, 2009 6:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I browse the web using a minimal amount of bandwidth?

So my current internet has a cap on my connection, and I'm looking to minimize the amount of bandwidth I'm using while browsing, and hopefully also speed up the semi-sluggish connection (mobile broadband in rural area). Is there a certain browser, or firefox add-on, or something else entirely which will help me with this?

posted by pilibeen to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
An easy first step would be to install adblock for Firefox. If you were very hardcore and have access to a machine on another network available over the internet you could use as an HTTP proxy server, you could have it compress things down for you, and all sorts of sneaky stuff. Is that an option?
posted by floam at 6:55 PM on May 24, 2009

Subscribe to the RSS feed of everything you care about, and switch to Google Reader (or RSS client of choice) as your primary web interface. You will be browsing almost entirely text; some RSS feeds download a couple of images, but that's about it.
posted by rkent at 7:07 PM on May 24, 2009

I imagine flashblock would reduce bandwidth consumption, as would Image Block.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:09 PM on May 24, 2009

We used to do this often in the early days of the Internet by having the browser not load images (Firefox: Tools > Options... > Content > Load images automatically).
posted by davcoo at 7:17 PM on May 24, 2009

First thing to do would be to install Firefox Throttle, an extension which allows you to monitor your data usage. Then, as mentioned above, install Flashblock, and maybe, NoScript.
posted by Gyan at 7:20 PM on May 24, 2009

Not that I'm a huge fan, but caching might be useful.
posted by adipocere at 7:33 PM on May 24, 2009

Lynx text browser A browser from the dark ages, just text and very fast. Of course you miss out on all the pictures and stuff.
posted by fifilaru at 7:44 PM on May 24, 2009

Disable prefetch. Firefox downloads pages it expects you to click on in the background.
posted by limon at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2009

Opera Content Blocker + Custom Adblock list, Flashblock, and Opera 10 is going to have a turbo mode which with compress the html stream. If you are reading mostly, and you don't need images, Opera has the ability to toggle images on and off, as well as javascript - those are built in. If you don't want to fiddle with the flashblock, there is a toggle for blocking all plugins as well. Try it out, it's deep, but it gives you the most baked in ability to control your browsing experience.
posted by bigmusic at 7:59 PM on May 24, 2009

More about Turbo Mode in Opera.
posted by bigmusic at 8:03 PM on May 24, 2009

Everything bigmusic said, with the additional comment that you can have it show only images that are cached. That means when it sees an image that it hasn't loaded, it won't load it, but then you can manually do so if you want (right-click -> Reload Image). This will reduce your bandwidth tremendously.
posted by spiderskull at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2009

fifilaru: Check out the question title.
posted by floam at 10:24 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Youre looking at this problem wrong. Typical web usage will not hit any of the caps Ive read about. These caps target chronic torrent users for the most part. Unless youre in an extreme situation then you probably wont have to do anything at all. Of course flashblock and adblock wont hurt.

I would be more concerned about large bandwidth wastes that are invisble to the end user. Many apps will attempt updates in the background, including firefox. Disable these or install a firewall like Comodo that will alert you when these apps try to access the internet. The updates for windows, acrobat, itunes, etc in a month can break 100 megs easily. Do your updates manually, except for windows updates. Id leave those on.

You'll also want to be careful of approving apps that arent bandwidth friendly. I know skype may decide to make your computer a supernode at any time, thus wasting your bandwidth. Id disable the network when your dont need it to be extra sure and use something like d/l meter to keep track of whats going on.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:58 PM on May 24, 2009

tcpview is your friend too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:58 PM on May 24, 2009

I've been in a similar situation and tried ONSPEED. It's not free but not really expensive. The compressing client tends to be temperamental, and tended to make IE crash a lot (though I think the blame is probably in my quirky adfiltering/firewall stuff), but was ok in other browsers.
posted by Iosephus at 11:41 PM on May 24, 2009

ONSPEED link. I screwed up above somehow, shesh.
posted by Iosephus at 11:42 PM on May 24, 2009

Since you said anything but Lynx, I can mention Elinks! It's text mode, but does tables, has rudimentary CSS support, tabbed browsing, background downloading, SSL, etc.

(Not what you're after, I realise, but might be interesting for others)
posted by Luddite at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2009

damn dirty ape: he's a mobile broadband user in a rural area.

You can go to Tools > Addons > Plugins in FireFox and just turn off Flash, Java, etc. but all the other suggestions so far have been really great, so that's probably a last-resort.

I have a little shareware program called NetPerSec that shows me my bandwidth usage in realtime.

NetLimiter is a more sophisticated program that will keep logs too & show you how much you've used, and do it per program.
posted by MesoFilter at 6:18 AM on May 25, 2009

Thanks for all the awesome suggestions.

Elinks looks interesting, but I'm on Vista - and it doesn't look like it's supported.

Opera turbo looks amazing....just the sort of thing I need. Also, the suggestions for turning off flash and caching images, as well as using some other apps to monitor bandwidth usage of other apps are great ideas.

I'm going to get the Opera 10 (alpha?) download and try out turbo and some other features. If that doesn't work, I'll check out some of the firefox add-ons.

posted by pilibeen at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2009

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