Our social lives naturally revolve around networks, both offline and online. Many fundamental human needs can – at least partially – be met on online social networks. Facebook in particular has experienced massive success by tapping into the human needs to participate, understand, create, identify, and relax. We use this social network to communicate and connect, update friends on what is going on in our lives, express how we feel, and share things we like. Facebook has become so important that many of us cannot imagine living without it.
Since Facebook is so important to us, we desire seamless integration of its features into our everyday life. To most of us this is a matter of convenience. Beware that the tools described below can easily distract you from other activities and foster an addiction to Facebook. Hence, if you are susceptible to checking Facebook too many times a day, I forbear you to set up Facebook browser toolbars, sidebars, or extensions. Those of you simply looking for simpler ways to quickly check into Facebook, however, shall read on.
A Facebook extension for Chrome puts the social network at your fingertips in the browser toolbar. The extension eliminates the need to keep a tab with Facebook open because it offers direct access to all key features, for example news, messages, photos, and notifications. You can also update your status and share links directly via Facebook for Chrome.
Since Facebook for Chrome also integrates into Chrome’s right-click menu, you can easily share anything with a URL by right-clicking the item and selecting Share on Facebook from the menu.
MakeUseOf has also published a full review of Facebook for Chrome, which looks at the setup and all features in detail. The extension is lacking some of Facebook’s functionality, for example the chat and a full events calendar. However, the developers are continuously working on improvements.
Note that to fully function, the app requires full access to your Facebook account, including personal information, posting on your behalf, and accessing your Facebook inbox. You can refuse to grant some of these permissions, but they will reduce its usefulness.
Many Facebook add-ons are available for Firefox, but the browser actually supports Facebook integration, natively. The feature is hidden in about:config. It can easily be enabled by following the instructions below.
Open a new tab in Firefox, type about:config into the URL bar, and hit Enter. Acknowledge the warning and promise to be careful.
Now search for the preference name social.enabled by typing this name into the search box. The default value of this preference is false. To set the value to true, double-click the item. The moment you enable this feature, a Facebook Messenger sidebar will pop up on the right-hand side.
After you log in, the sidebar will show the latest updates and notifications, as well as a list of your online friends. Moreover, Facebook buttons in the top right of the browser indicate new notifications, messages, or friend requests. To be sure you don’t miss these, a notification pops up in the bottom right of your screen. Fortunately, all unnecessary distractions can be disabled through about:config.
As you may have noticed, there are several more social.* settings available in about:config. For example you can change the value of the social.sidebar.open setting to false, which closes the sidebar, but keeps the toolbar buttons. Likewise, you can disable notifications popping up in the bottom right of your screen by setting the value of the social.toast-notifications.enabled setting to false.
If you are interested in more or different ways to integrate Facebook into Firefox, try these 5.5 Great Firefox Extensions To Make Facebook Awesome.
Although there were speculations in early 2012 about Facebook acquiring Opera to turn it into a Facebook browser, Opera offers little native Facebook integration at present. However, Opera and Facebook have teamed up to develop the Facebook extension for Opera’s Speed Dial.
Opera’s Speed Dial is similar to Chrome’s new tab. Each empty new tab contains a list of favorite sites (dials) that the user wishes to access quickly. Speed Dial for Facebook adds more interactive extensions, but users report that it doesn’t always work.
An independent Facebook extension for Opera works similar like the Facebook extension for Chrome. A toolbar button expands to a popup window when clicked and allows you to check Facebook.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
For Internet Explorer 9, no Facebook extension or toolbar could be found that mimics the above browser integrations. It seems like users of Internet Explorer 9 are stuck with visiting Facebook.com for their daily dose of social connectedness. If you use an earlier version of Internet Explorer, however, you may have luck with Facebook Web Slice or the Facebook Toolbar. Please note that I cannot give a recommendation, since none of them did anything for me. Who uses Internet Explorer anyway?
Integrating Facebook into your browser is highly convenient, possibly distracting, and it potentially contributes to social network addiction. When Facebook is always in your face, you will definitely not miss out on anything your friends do, you will be reminded of events and birthdays, and you will share more (of) yourself. On the downside, however, you may miss out on real life.
Be mindful and try to keep a balance between interacting with people online, observing what they do with their lives, and living your own. Facebook can help you maintain friendships and get inspired, but it cannot replace reality.
For more about Facebook, refer to our (very) unofficial Facebook privacy guide.
How do you use Facebook and how do you manage not to spend too much time on the site?