Tinkering Web Content – Greasemonkey

In this post on Google Autolink, Dan Gillmor mentions his support of “user-modifiable Web content once it’s reached the user’s computer.” The basic argument here is that once a website’s content is called by your browser and resides on your physical computer, you have the freedom to do whatever you want to it. (Some argue, however, that such actions violate the copyright of the original web content.)

Tinkering with web content seems to be getting more common. Wired News reports on Greasemonkey, a tool developed (in part) by Simon Willison, enabling Firefox users to modify the web content they encounter:

In a modern twist on the hot rodders of old, Firefox users are pimping the web, one browser at a time.

They’ve added a delete button and permanent search folders to Gmail, made their browsers show only print pages of online news stories, reconfigured all the content on a popular music website and removed Reuters stories on the Michael Jackson story from online newsreader Bloglines.

Willison sees the extension as a “harbinger of a change in the web’s power dynamics”:

“Greasemonkey enables people to remix the web,” Willison said. “You are giving control of people’s browsers back to users.

“There’s always a balance between what a website designer wants people to be able to do and what they are actually doing, and Greasemonkey swings it very firmly in the direction of the user.”

And Mark Pilgrim cites Greasemonkey’s ability to mesh (mash?) websites together:

“There’s a script targeting Amazon pages that lets you know if a book you are looking at on Amazon is available at your local library,” Pilgrim said. “Think about that. That’s amazing, and it happens automatically. You configure it once for your library, and Greasemonkey goes and gets the data.”

Very cool stuff.

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