If you had to write down how much time you spend on the Internet in the past week, could you do that? And would you also be able to list the top 5 sites that you'd consider productive, and the top 5 time wasters in that time? To top that, would you be able to come up with a ratio of productive and unproductive sites that you visited in the past week or even in the past 30 days?
While most users would probably be able to name the top sites that they'd consider most productive and time wasting, only a handful would surely be able to come up with exact figures for the last 30 days.
That's where the Firefox add-on Surf Control steps in. The add-on tracks web usage over time and displays information about a user's Internet usage in a dashboard in the browser. To add to that, it also allows the user to define sites as productive or time wasting, and to block sites completely or after a certain allowed usage period.
The tracking happens automatically. When you open the dashboard of the application, you will see the top productive and time wasting site, the productivity over time, browsing habits of current week and the top sites of the week.
Productive sites are marked in blue, unproductive sites in read and sites that have not been marked by the user as productive or unproductive.
A click on Details lists the top productive and time wasting sites of the week, and how time has been wasted in the last 30 days of Internet surfing (provided that the add-on had been installed for that time).
But the add-on is not only about tracking a user's web usage over time. It can furthermore be used to limit or entirely block access to selected web sites or services.
Blocking a site outright blocks site access whenever the site is opened in the web browser. You can alternatively limit site usage per day to a specific amount of minutes per day. The very same blocked page message appears when you try to open the web page after the time runs out for the day.
This is obviously not a protection but more of a self-control feature. You can easily adjust the time or unblock sites any time in the dashboard.
When you first install SurfControl you need to add the add-on's buttons to one of Firefox's toolbars. This is done by selecting Firefox > Options > Toolbar Layout and by dragging and dropping the extension's icons to the desired location.
Firefox users can download and install SurfControl from the official Mozilla Firefox add-on repository.
Update: The Surf Control extension is no longer available on the Mozilla website. We suggest you try a viable alternative, like Mind the Time instead.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.