firefox-prefetching What is Prefetching

Link Prefetching is a concept introduced by Firefox and Google as late as 2005, but still many people do not know much about it. Link Prefetching actually is a mechanism through which Firefox utilizes some of its idle time to prefetch web pages, which it thinks your are likely to visit next from the currently open web page. After the current web page has finished loading and some idle time has passed, Firefox starts link prefetching and silently loads the next probable page in its cache. The purpose of Link Prefetching is to enhance your user experience by quickly load your next page by serving it quickly out out of Firefox Cache.

Google has been supporting Link Prefetching, and when you search for any keyword in Google through Firefox, the first link displayed gets prefetched to your browser cache.

But, Is Link Prefetching always Good ?

Link Prefetching feature of Firefox looks nice on the face of it, as it speeds up your Browsing speed by utilizing your idle time.

But there is a lot of criticism against Link Prefetching by Firefox. Some of the issues are…

    • Users who pay for the amount of bandwidth they use find themselves paying for traffic for pages they might not even visit.
    • Webmasters who pay for the amount of outgoing traffic on their sites, are forced to pay for traffic generated by people who may never actually visit their sites.
    • Advertisers pay for viewed ads on sites that are never visited (non-compliant prefetching)
    • Browser usage statistics may get skewed towards browsers that implement prefetching.
    • Search engine referer statistics may get skewed towards search engines that implement prefetching.
    • Web site statistics may become less reliable due to registering page hits that were never seen by the user.
    • Users may be exposed to more security risks – by downloading more pages, or from un-requested sites (additionally compounded as drive-by downloads become more advanced and diverse).
    • Users may find themselves at legal risk if illegal content is prefetched. So, the choice is yours.

If you prefer to Disable Link Prefetching, then proceed as follows.

How to Disable Link Prefetching in Firefox

Firefox has the Link Prefetching feature ON by default, and there is no option in the Firefox properties Dialog Box, which allows you to disable Link Prefetching. You have to do it manually by editing the about:config entries. Follow these steps for that.

  1. Open the Firefox browser
  2. Type about:config in the address bar and press Enter
  3. Scroll down the resulting preference list to network.prefetch-next
  4. Double click network.prefetch-next so the value is set to false.
  5. Close Firefox and restart it to enable the change.

How to Enable Link Prefetching for all Links on a webpage

In case, you are an ardent supporter of Link Prefetching, there is a nice Firefox Extension. You can use Fasterfox, which has an option to enable the prefetching of all page links by the browser.