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Yet another Genius blocker

This is yet another Genius blocker. I have combined elements from Todd Kennedy’s Genius blocker and Marla Brizel’s Genius blocker to make my own easy-to-install (as long as you can control the HTML files) Genius blocker.

This blocker blocks Genius’ URLs, their bookmarklet, and their Chrome extension. This script also blocks ( URLs, the bookmarklet, and the Chrome extension), a web annotation service similar to Genius.

This script includes checks for ancient versions of IE (Internet Explorer), so users of, say, IE 8 won’t get Javascript errors when we change a function’s prototype. Neither Genius nor function when the version of IE is too old to run this blocker.

What is Genius?

Genius, for people who do no know, is the latest incarnation of the often tried and never successful “Let’s allow random Internet trolls and crackpots to put abusive graffiti on everyone’s webpage” browser plugin. It has been tried several times before: Third Voice from the original 1990s dot-com era was probably the first commercial attempt; there was also Diigo, Fleck, ShiftSpace, Stickis, Trailfire, and Google SideWiki.

Google’s now-dead SideWiki was an attempt by Google to put their own content on every single page on the Internet. SideWiki was a browser extension that added, to the left of every web page, a section where anyone on the Internet could comment on the web page or anything else; the comments were visible to anyone else on the internet who visited that web page and had SideWiki installed.

Google introduced it in the fall of 2009. It, thankfully, did not last very long. In under two years, Google already announced its termination; it was removed (including having all comments deleted) before the end of 2011.

They never even implemented a way for webmasters to opt out of it, despite repeated requests for them to do so.

SideWiki was a haven for spammers, trolls, crackpots and pretty much no one else. Here is some of the documented abuse SideWiki was forcing webmasters to put up with:

Also, here is Jeff Jarvis’ well articulated criticism of SideWiki:

Genius is pretty much the same thing, and it’s also causing controversey:

A congresswoman even chipped in to complain about the service:

What this script does

This script blocks Genius from being able to add annotations to a given web page. Not only does it block “” URLs, it also blocks Genius’s bookmarklet and Chrome plugin.

People who try to put abusive graffiti on a webpage using a “” URL will be silently redirected to the non-Genius form of the URL. If the troll tries to use the bookmarklet or Chrome plugin, it will silently fail.

How to install it

Put the file genius-blocker.js in the same directory as the html files which you want to not allow to be annotated by Genius.

Put this at the BOTTOM of a given .html file, just before the closing </body> tag:

<script src="genius-blocker.js"></script>

It must be at the bottom of the HTML file. Here is how a full HTML web page may look:

<html><head><title>Example Genius blocked page</title></head><body>
This is an example page which is blocked from annotating.
<script src="genius-blocker.js"></script></body></html>

Here is a script which uses Bash (actually, just bog vanilla POSIX compatible Bourne shell) and Perl to add a reference to the Genius Blocker to each .html file in a given directory:

for a in *html ; do 
    cat $a | \
perl -pe 's|(</body>)|<script src="genius-blocker.js"></script>$1|i' > foo
    mv foo $a

Warning This script will alter all the .html files and could corrupt files. Use with caution.

Again, put genius-blocker.js in the same directory as the HTML files. The blocker should also work with PHP scripts and what not, using the same principle.

It’s also possible to have an absolute path to genius-blocker.js; it does not need to be in the same directory (I only suggest this because doing so makes it a bit easier to describe how to install).

2022 update

News Genius has not updated their site since 2016, their Chrome extension no longer exists, it does not appear to be possible to sign in and leave new comments (“annotations”) with News Genius, but it’s still possible to view old News Genius annotations.

There is no notice from News Genius that annotations have been shut down, but the project appears abandoned and is slowly rotting away as the web updates and moves on.

Since it’s still possible to view old annotations, I will keep this script installed to make it clear to anyone still using News Genius that the extension is not welcome on my websites.

Some other Genius blockers

Please note that not all Genius blockers block the “” URLs, Bookmarklets, and Chrome plugin. That said, some other blockers:

More discussion

Archived discussion about other now-dead "Web Graffiti" systems


Yet another Genius blocker. Blocks / URLs, bookmarklets, and Chrome extensions.



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