The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was passed well before the internet we know today. However, with the rise of new online and web technologies, ADA has been adopted to the online world.
There is no specific language or guidelines within ADA to follow and implement with your website. However, as you’ll soon learn the language of ADA was wide enough in scope to help govern internet accessibility.
Over 15% of the global population lives with a disability of some kind. Your website needs to cater to this portion of the population who has a disability.
Even though the ADA was written and signed into law 30 years ago, it’s still widely applicable and extends to the online space.
As mentioned above, ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed 30 years ago. The legislation had a dramatic effect on the daily lives of those with disabilities. The protections against discrimination offered by ADA are similar to the civil rights protections offered in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, and religion illegal.
It mandated measures like handicap accessible restrooms, handicapped parking spaces, equal rights for restaurant service, equal pay, and much more. However, when the ADA was written and passed it didn’t forecast the sweeping role that technology was going to play in our lives.
Even though the language of ADA is broad enough that it does apply to the web, most websites still have accessibility issues that stop people with disabilities from properly using a website. Plus, with the online world and its role in our lives growing every single day, this issue is only getting worse.
One of the more recent additions to ADA legislation was The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), which was signed into law in 2008 by President George H.W. Bush. The goal of this was to expand the protections offered by the original ADA and roll back restrictions in the initial legislation.
The two main sections of ADA that apply to web accessibility are:
ADA Title II specifies that both state and local government websites must be 100% accessible. However, it’s still not entirely clear whether public sector websites fall under this rule, since there’s no official published information.
There is a little more clarity with ADA Title III, which applies to private internet sites and services, which meet the definition of reasonable accommodation.
It does not fully specify whether fully web-based businesses fall under ADA, but in a DOJ brief in the Fifth Circuit in Hooks v. Oxbridge, it explained that businesses providing services over the internet are subject to ADA regulation.
While in another brief, Eleventh Circuit in Rendon v. Valleycrest Productions, the argument was there must be a nexus between the discriminatory activity and brick and mortar commercial facilities for it to be covered under Title III.
First, there are no published technical requirements to follow to become ADA compliant for the internet. However, this doesn’t mean that legal action isn’t possible (as you’ll see below).
The DOJ, Supreme Court, and different circuit courts have had different rulings on when and how ADA is applied online. Some courts have ruled that the website must have overlap with a physical storefront for ADA to be applied, while other courts have ruled that no connection is necessary.
One of the big connections that ADA has to the online space is the effective communication rules. These specify that businesses and services must provide sufficient aids and services so those who have a disability have equal access to goods, services, and effective communication.
For example, if a store provides a digital coupon code, then this coupon must also be able to be accessed and used by people with disabilities. Or, if your website has a job application form you’ll need to ensure this form can be read and filled out by all job applicants, including those with disabilities (this is related to the employment Title I of ADA).
Although the ADA doesn’t specifically address web accessibility, the language is still broad enough that internet-based businesses and websites do fall under the legislation. So, if both Title II or Title III applies to your business, then they also apply to your website.
Since there is no mention of websites in the ADA, or guidelines that website owners can follow, you should instead follow the guidelines put forth in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG). This is the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) who enforces website accessibility issues.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a group that regulates compatibility standards across the web. Due to the changing pace of technology and the growing accessibility divide, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were created.
Originally published in 1999, it is continually updated to reflect the latest web standards, with the latest version being WCAG 2.0.
There are 12 main guidelines that fall under four main principles covered in WCAG 2.0:
The WCAG recommendations are recommended for all websites online. Even though these guidelines have been around for a while there are still barriers that disabled users must overcome to access the web.
Today there are over 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S. alone, a large portion of that are internet users who use the web to access vital information.
The overarching goal of attaining website accessibility is to ensure you’re catering to disability rights and making the web accessible to everyone.
Here are common disabilities you’ll need to ensure you’re catering to:
As a good rule of thumb, if your website is difficult to navigate, has content that’s hard to read due to font or design choices, or has animated elements you can’t turn off, then your website has poor accessibility.
A lot of website owners will make their websites compliant with accessibility standards, so they don’t have to pay fines. However, accessibility isn’t just a financial issue, it’s an ethical issue.
For example, could you imagine navigating a website that’s filled with error messages, broken links, and pages with text you can’t even read? This is the reality for a lot of people with disabilities who are browsing the web.
If a website isn’t accessible, then those who have a disability are denied the right to obtain information or communicate. Even though it may not seem like it, this is a form of disability discrimination, since you’re preventing access to information.
Accessibility shouldn’t just be an afterthought. Having an accessible website or application can create a better user experience for all of your users.
By focusing on accessibility from the start, you’ll be able to create a positive experience that goes well beyond things like reaching a bigger online market and avoiding fines. Instead, you support the rights of people who otherwise won’t be able to access your website.
Beyond the ethical issues surrounding website accessibility, it can lead to legal and financial issues as well. For example, in 2017 there were over 800 lawsuits filed against organizations that were in violation of ADA, and this only continues to increase.
This spans across a wide range of industries as well, including, restaurants, eCommerce stores, banks, and more. Large organizations like Nike, Burger King, and online-only companies like Netflix have also been hit with lawsuits.
The United States Department of Justice has also viewed the internet as a public place in certain instances (which falls under ADA Title III). So, by reaching and maintaining compliance you can help your website avoid legal issues and fines.
There’s a lot that goes into website accessibility, but there are certain areas that matter more than others.
Here are a few core areas of your site to focus on to improve the overall accessibility:
Another key factor to keep in mind is customer support and technical assistance. Your team should be able to assist users and visitors with disabilities with issues regarding your website, including offering text-based support options for those with speech disabilities.
ADA compliance is handled in different ways, depending on the size of the organization. State and local government services that have over 50 employees are required to have an employee whose role is ADA compliance.
If you’re an individual who wants to file a complaint yon the basis of disability you’ll have a variety of options for seeking resolution:
Most of the ADA enforcement that’s done by the DOJ is dealing with physical discriminatory behavior. However, they do handle issues related to online accessibility as well. Especially, as these issues become more common.
The best way to keep your website compliant is to ensure that you’re in alignment with the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. There are a variety of manual and automated testing approaches you can apply to achieve full compliance.
There are different guidelines you must adhere to to achieve and maintain compliance. Smaller sites may be able to achieve compliance manually. But for larger sites, you may need to use automated tools. For example, if you have thousands of images that you need to check for alt text, you’ll want to use an automated tool to analyze these images.
Here are some tools you can utilize to test current compliance levels:
Some tools can even give you a full compliance report. For example, The Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BOIA) has an automated report that will show you how well your site adheres to the current WCAG compliance standards. You can then use this report to improve your site’s overall accessibility rating.
The ADA will apply to most businesses, however here’s a quick checklist. The ADA definitely applies to you if:
The internet has fundamentally changed the human experience. It’s impacted the way we exchange information, communicate, buy goods and services, learn, and much more. And while the internet offers huge benefits, it’s not without its share of dangers, risks, and unwanted side-effects.
Parents, educators, and politicians are all facing a new challenge: How to teach children and young adults how to use the internet responsibly. The term “Digital Citizenship” has emerged, as a way to describe the concept of being a responsible citizen, not only of one’s own country, but of the increasingly digital global world.
This guide seeks to explain what digital citizenship is, and what it means for children, parents, educators and more. We’ll explain how to teach children to use the internet safely and responsibly, how to establish boundaries and practice digital wellness, how to secure digital devices, and more.
Digital citizenship refers to how an individual uses digital tools and the internet - and whether or not digital use is managed in a responsible and safe manner. Digital citizenship applies to anyone who uses the internet regularly - which, increasingly, is the vast majority of the global population.
Put simply, a good digital citizen is someone who uses the internet safely, utilizes digital tools to connect with others in an empathetic manner, and who avoids overuse of social media and other addictive elements of the internet.
On the other hand, a bad digital citizen is someone who does not follow internet safety protocols, uses digital tools to bully or divide, and who overuses the internet to the point of being unhealthy.
The internet is a powerful tool. Online shopping, digital entertainment, social media and more can all be extremely useful tools - but only if used correctly. Responsible digital citizens know how to use these tools properly, rather than letting those tools use them. Digital citizenship best practices are vital for thriving in the 21st century - and it’s up to parents and educators to teach the elements of digital citizenship.
Despite living in a digital age, digital citizenship is not yet taught in most schools. Although some educators are starting to at least introduce the topic, much of the responsibility falls on parents. If you’re looking to teach responsible digital citizenship, here’s now to start:
Before you can teach responsible internet use, it’s important to understand the topics yourself. Educating yourself before guiding your children is not only helpful for their learning, but also for your own digital wellbeing. Like anything else, parents should remember that children often mimic our own behaviors - and how we behave online is no different. Teachers should understand privacy and security in the classroom, as well as how to teach children the necessary skills to be responsible digital citizens. Read through this article, as well as the linked resources, to gain a better understanding for yourself, before you begin teaching your children or students.
All internet users will have some existing knowledge about the internet and its use. Some students may even receive some basic digital education at school. Parents should have a basic conversation about the internet and technology with their children, to help evaluate current knowledge and behaviors.
How you choose to present digital citizenship resources and knowledge is important. For young kids, presenting information in an engaging way is important. For teens, who may rebel at the thought of a parent telling them how to behave online, you may have to change the approach. By focusing on how digital citizenship can empower users to be in charge of their own data, their own time, and their own wellbeing, parents may be able to break through the resistance they face from teens and tweens.
Many parents can gather enough information on their own to teach their kids about online safety, their digital footprint, etc. Educators can look to school districts for formal curriculum and lesson plans, or use a variety of online resources.
If you’d like a more structured curriculum, there are some paid resources available to the public, such as CyberCivics.
When learning about or teaching digital citizenship, here are some key tenets to focus on:
Understanding how the internet works is the first step in starting to think about digital citizenship. This gives students the background knowledge of the internet itself, and may also foster a sense of appreciation (or even wonder) at something that many of us take for granted.
This infographic from WebFX covers the basics.
For a more in-depth learning experience, this paid course from Study.com is specifically targeted at kids.
Understanding how to safely and proactively manage user data and privacy is absolutely essential. Explaining simple concepts, like the permanence of social media posts, is vital yet often overlooked. Internet users must understand that nearly every website, service or app they use is collecting and storing a huge amount of data automatically.
This guide to user data from Wired is a great starter resource.
Maintaining privacy online is a struggle. However, children must be taught about the very real privacy (and safety) concerns of internet usage, and particularly social media usage. On the surface, the internet can seem like an anonymous place - but with data tracking, user accounts tied to social media profiles, and easy tracing, it’s very rare that anything done online is actually anonymous.
This detailed privacy guide is a helpful primer on internet privacy.
For parents specifically, our privacy guide for parents gives some tips on how to teach your children online safety.
Digital literacy, sometimes called digital information literacy, is the practice of consuming information online, and judging whether it is accurate, where it originated, and what it means. In an age of misinformation and fake news, digital literacy is exceptionally important.
One of the most direct ways to teach kids about digital literacy is to supply them with good-quality sources to use for academic research. By consuming safe, accurate media, your children will start to learn what quality content looks like, making it easier to spot misinformation.
Keeping accounts, personal data and passwords secure is an important part of digital security for internet users of all ages. This starts with creating and managing strong, unique passwords on all your accounts (strong passwords are important for adults, as well!). Learning which websites and topics are potentially unsafe is also important. Devices themselves must also be secured - particularly smartphones and other mobile devices.
More advanced topics that will be more relevant for teens and adults, like using VPNs, ad-blockers and more, is explained in our complete guide to online privacy and security.
Here’s something you may not think of right away: Empathy is actually key to the responsible use of technology. The anonymity and mostly text-based nature of internet communications can easily empower children to say things online that they don’t truly mean - and often, things that they would never say to someone’s face. This can lead to hurt feelings, and in more extreme cases, cyberbullying. Thus, teaching children empathy - and how it relates to internet use - is important for turning today’s students into responsible technology users with proper digital etiquette.
Bullying is a huge problem in schools, social groups and childhood in general. And while technology has enabled kids to stay connected outside of school, it’s also empowered a whole new type of bullying: cyberbullying. Introducing kids to this topic can help arm them with the tools they need to react appropriately if they are ever cyber-bullied. And a primer on this topic, combined with lessons in empathy and compassion, can help prevent kids from becoming cyber-bullies themselves.
This article from UNICEF is a good primer to the world of cyberbullying.
Maintaining a healthy use of technology is important - and surprisingly difficult. Most of the internet is designed to keep our attention for as long as possible, which can lead to addictive and unhealthy tendencies.
Social media can be particularly invasive, eating up a shocking percentage of our free time. Digital wellness is a broad concept that includes keeping technology use to an appropriate level, setting boundaries on use during certain hours, and maintaining a good balance between technology use and our own physical & mental wellbeing.
This Digital Wellness 101 guide from the University of Washington is a good primer resource for all internet users.
Social media is one of the most popular - and most pervasive - online activities. Keeping social media use in check is important for all of us, but it’s particularly important for children. Social media activity can affect kids’ body image, focus, mental health, and more. Additionally, social media accounts can be used as a hotbed of personal information for hackers and other bad actors, creating notable safety concerns for parents.
Kids Health has a good guide for parents on what to teach kids about social media use.
Learning about the “digital divide”, or the inequality of technological access, is an important part of being a responsible digital citizen. While many of us take internet access for granted, it’s still very much a luxury when you adopt a global perspective. While around 85% of people in the United States have internet access, only around 59% of global citizens do.
Explaining to your children or students that technology is a privilege and a luxury may help foster a sense of appreciation, and will also help shape a more empathetic world-view.
The internet is rife with scams, pyramid schemes, malware, “phishing” emails, identity theft attempts, and more. Introducing children and teens to these scams is important. Ideally, a good digital citizen can spot a scam posting or a phishing email at a glance - but doesn’t become overly paranoid or distrusting.
Scams can take hundreds of different shapes, and often take critical thinking to identify. Phishing emails are usually easier to spot - focus on the sender email address, and verify that the email is actually from the organization it’s pretending to be.
The FTC has a detailed guide on how to spot phishing scams.
Limiting “screen time”, meaning any interaction with digital technologies, cell phones and other devices, is important for all of us. Excessive screen time can cause sleep problems, addictive tendencies, mood problems, physical health effects, and more.
This is a good primer on screen time for children and teens, from the AACAP.
In many ways, being a good digital citizen is just as important as being a good citizen in general. And just as parents must teach their children to say please and thank you, and to look both ways when crossing the street, parents in the digital age must now teach children how to responsibly navigate the world of technology. Fortunately, there are many digital citizenship resources available to parents and educators.
Advertisements on websites can be really annoying and some sites overwhelm their content by drowning them out with ads. The good news is that it is possible to filter out most of the ads on websites and improve your browsing experience by installing an ad blocker.
Ad blocking isn’t illegal but it does annoy the people who run websites. To clarify, placing advertisements on a website is not illegal. Many ad blockers are also tracker blockers, but trackers are a separate issue. Ad blockers just strip the ads out of web pages. Many of them also block trackers. They don't remove cookies -- that's also a separate issue. With retargeting, ad blockers will remove the ads in most cases.
Many information-based businesses, such as newspapers, rely entirely on the intrusive ads on their sites for revenue. The use of ad blockers has seriously damaged the profitability of those businesses. However, they need to find different income models because the use of ads on websites has gotten out of control.
As a response to ad blockers, some prestigious news sites have switched to a subscription model. They allow the general public to see their main websites, but block access to individual articles to those who haven’t paid (known as a paywall). However, they still plaster ads all over the websites that people pay to access. Others block access when they detect an ad blocker and insist that the viewer whitelists their site (excludes it from the ad blocking action) before allowing access.
Video ads that take a while to load and have high-volume sound on them can be particularly embarrassing if the viewer of that web page is in a public place or place of work at the time. They are the most intrusive ads on the web. Fortunately, video ads are particularly easy to block.
Amazingly, most of the best ad blockers available are free to use. The usual format deployed by these systems is the browser extension. These free ad blocker plugins:
With most free ad blocker browser extensions, some acceptable ads will still get through, particularly if they are embedded in the text of the web page. However, one or two ads are not as distracting as the ads-soaked websites that people without ad blocking utilities have to put up with.
Systems that block ads aren’t just catering to anti-capitalists. Malware can infect computers by hiding in online ads and downloading onto the viewer’s computer as the code for ads loads into the web browser. Popular ad blockers don’t just block ads, they are also pop-up blockers and they block trackers as well. These handy add-ons are actually cybersecurity tools.
Social media buttons are not as likable as people think. They are trackers because the images for them have to be fetched from the sites that they advertise. That action gives the social media companies the opportunity to log the visit to a website from your IP address. So, Facebook and Twitter can compile a profile of your internet surfing even if you don’t have an account with those platform.
The best ad blockers will strip out social media buttons (called “widgets”) from your favorite websites as an added blocking feature. This task is performed while also blocking banner ads, pop-up ads, video ads, trackers, and other adware and malware from your favorite sites.
Whereas most cybersecurity tools are written to work on specific operating systems, ad blockers run in web browsers, so you don’t have to worry about whether the service will run on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS (for iPhones and iPads), or Android. However, you need to pay attention to which web browser they are made for.
As Google Chrome is the most widely-used web browser, there are more ad blocking extensions available for that browser than any other. The next best catered for web browser is Mozilla Firefox.
Many anti-adware producers don’t bother to create versions for Internet Explorer because that web browser has been replaced by Microsoft Edge. The Edge web browser is the third most catered-for browser in the ad blocking market.
Safari and Opera web browsers have far fewer ad blocking add-ons available. The Opera web browser’s producers have resolved the problem of their utility being overlooked by the creators of ad blocker extensions and built their own ad blocker app into settings of the web browser.
Here is our list of the best ad blocker plugins available for the major web browsers:
You can read more about these popular ad blockers in the following sections.
AdBlock is a very popular ad blocker with more than 40 million users all over the world. This useful tool blocks ads on websites in a variety of formats, including banner ads, pop up ads, and video ads. The ad blocker features include whitelisting and the option to allow acceptable ads.
The plugin has a handy icon that sits at the end of the address bar in your web browser. This reports on its activities while it blocks ads. It will also block trackers. It is the most widely use ad blocker as a Google Chrome extension. The free add-on is also available for Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. There is also an ad blocker app for Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Despite similarities in the name, Adblock and Adblock Plus are not related and they are produced by two different software houses. So, which is better AdBlock or AdBlock Plus? Honestly, it is very hard to choose between these two excellent ad blocking add-ons. However, the social media widget blocker in ABP pushes it ahead slightly.
ABP is a free ad blocker and is available as a Google Chrome extension. It is also possible to add this plugin to Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera. The tool add-on includes whitelisting and an acceptable ads setting. Otherwise, it will block banner ads, video ads, and any other adware and malware contained in websites. It is also a pup up blocker and it will block trackers. Another ad blocker feature of this plugin is the ability to remove special media buttons from websites. Look for the secure web browser produced by ABP for Android devices and iPhones in your app store.
This ad blocker is a good choice for those who insist on only using open source software. An open source project is one that allows anyone to see its programming code. This enables users to be sure that there is no hidden malware within the system.
This is a Chrome extension and is available as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Yandex. A version for Safari will run on iPhones and iPads. there is also a secure AdBlocker Ultimate browser for Android devices and a version that runs on Microsoft Windows, protecting all internet connected software from adware and malware. All versions of this anti-adware system block banner ads, video ads, phishing attempts, pop-up ads, and trackers. The Windows-based version is more of an anti-malware system and it is charged for by subscription. The web browser extensions are free.
uBlock Origin is a free, open source ad blocking system that is available as a Google Chrome extension and as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera web browsers. Users with advanced understanding of how ad blockers operate have the option of switching between pre-installed filter lists or installing a new one. Ad blocking features include the blocking of banner ads, popup ads, and video ads. The system will also pre-filter URLs and block trackers.
Ghostery was designed to block trackers, including social media widgets, but it also functions as an ad blocker. The web browser extension is free to use. It is a product of the company Cliqz, which produces a secure web browser. There is a Ghostery add on for the Cliqz browser and also a Google Chrome extension. Ghostery is also available as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Safari. There are secure Ghostery ad blocker apps for Android devices and iOS (iPhones and iPads).
AdGuard is free as a browser extension. The company behind the add-on also producers operating system-based security services for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS (iPhones and iPad). The Android and iOS free versions provide a base level of protection with upgrade options available for a fee. The web browser plugins are available for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and Yandex. There is also a Google Chrome extension version of AdGuard.
This ad blocker will block trackers and spyware as well as all types of adware. It has a blacklist that warns about phishing websites and it has extra procedures to trap ad blocker circumvention attempts. It offers users the opportunity of both whitelisting and blacklisting. The Chrome extension has been installed more than 4 million times, so this is a very popular ad blocker.
Poper Blocker’s user rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the Chrome Store, where it has been downloaded more than 2 million times. The free pop-up blocker prevents websites opening new tabs or creating a new browser window, so it scuppers a lot of the annoying tricks that infected websites get forced to perform, not just those sites that intentionally launch pop-ups.
The service will also block overlay ads, which cover up the content of a web page that you want to read. This browser add-on won’t strip out ads embedded in web pages but it is better at blocking pop-ups than standard ad blockers. It is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Baidu.
AdLock produces system protection for Windows and Android which are charged for. However, it also provides free browser plugins. There is a free Google Chrome extension and a free add-on for Safari. These web browser extensions will block banner ads, pop-up ads, and video ads. The utility will also protect your privacy by blocking spyware and trackers. The AdLock system also detects damaging elements in websites such as phishing strategies and malware and blocks them from loading in the web browser.
The TunnelBear Blocker is an awesome ad blocker and privacy system. TunnelBear is a VPN system and it is charged for by subscription. However, the TunnelBear Blocker is free to use and you don’t have to install the VPN in order for it to work.
The TunnelBear Blocker goes a little further than most blockers. It will block ultrasonic tracking methods. This little-known tracking system plays as invisible signals under the soundtrack of videos in websites. The system also blocks regular trackers and affiliate links. This blocker also scans websites for malware and phishing strategies before allowing them to load into protected web browsers.
The one problem with the TunnelBear web browser extension is that it is only available for Google Chrome.
Although most of the ad blockers in this list produce add-ons for Opera, the makers of the Opera web browser didn’t realize that their web browser would be so well catered for when the concept of ad blockers first arose. They decided to stake their pitch for new users by making their web browser a very secure service.
The idea of an ad blocker within a browser makes sense, which is why all of the successful ad blockers operate as browser extensions. Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocker, but it isn’t very good because it doesn’t work too well to block Google Ads. Opera doesn’t get an income stream from placing ads in websites, so its ad blocker is a lot more effective.
Once you have an ad blocker installed, you will find that quite a few websites will just block your access entirely until you whitelist them. Some features that you want to access won’t work anymore. For example, many online streaming video players won’t run if you have an ad blocker in place.
Ad blockers fix one problem and create others. Thanks to whitelisting, ad blockers allow you to be in control. You will be able to decide when to allow pop-ups and ads and when to block them. You will be in control of what happened on the devices you own.
The Amazon Fire Stick is like a mini set-top box. It plugs directly into a socket on the back of your TV, so it takes up no space and it doesn’t require trailing cables. For everything you need to know about the gadget (and how to set up Fire Stick) before committing to buying one, read this beginner’s guide.
The Amazon Fire Stick is a TV decoder. TV signals travel in a digital format and so can easily be encoded both to block unauthorized access and to speed up transmissions through compression. Anyone who has cable or satellite TV is familiar with the set-top box. The Amazon Fire TV system started out as a box but then Amazon worked out how to reduce the hardware of the streaming device down to just a small device that looks a bit like a thumb drive. This format has been widely used before to provide mobile internet for laptop computers some software and IT security systems also use dongles, so the gadget’s shape and appearance is not new.
Your home or car stereo system probably has a socket for a USB stick. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is the same thing, but for TVs. Rather than storing files, this device is a little computer that interprets encoded digital TV signals so that they can become TV shows on the screen.
The Amazon Firestick has many names. It is officially called the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It is a miniaturized advancement on the original Amazon Fire TV box. No one else makes a Fire TV dongle, so many people drop the Amazon and just call it the Fire TV stick or sometimes it is written as Fire-TV stick. Well, there isn’t a stick version of any other Amazon Fire product, so it is just as easy to drop the “TV” and so it is also known as the Fire Stick. Over time, writers have tended to remove the space and just call it Firestick. So, Firestick, Fire Stick, Fire TV Stick, Fire-TV Stick, Amazon Firestick, and Amazon Fire Stick are all the same thing. They are all ways to describe the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Why Fire? Fire OS is an operating system that Amazon created for its mobile devices, such as the Amazon Kindle e-book reader, the Amazon Fire tablet and the now-defunct Amazon Fire Phone. Fire OS is a proprietary adaptation of the Android operating system, which was created by Google. There are many Android TV boxes on the market. These are set-top boxes that use Android for an operating system. As Fire OS is a version of Android and the Firestick is a TV decoder, it could be said that the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a type of Android TV box.
TV set-top boxes have evolved over the years. They were first used by cable TV companies as part of an encryption system that prevented people from just plugging the cable for the service into the TV and getting entertainment without paying for it.
Another use for a set-top box is as a base-station for a remote control device. The set-top box interprets the commands that come in from the remote control and implements them on the TV.
Once the internet started to be popular, entertainment distributors realized that this medium could carry digitized TV signals, making everyone’s telephone service into pre-laid cable TV wires. However, these services still needed a set-top box to convert the signals from the internet connection into the input format that TVs understand. This is how IPTV boxes came about. This includes Apple TV boxes and Android boxes. The Amazon Fire TV box became part of this trend and it eventually got boiled down into a dongle.
Newer versions of the Amazon Fire TV Stick have the voice-controlled Alex integrated into them and that removes the need to use a remote control unit.
Chromecast is an alternative method to get input from online streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, or live TV from station websites onto your TV screen.
There are a few different versions of the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon does produce an official Amazon Fire TV Stick User Guide for each. Here is a list of links to the help guides for each type of Fire Stick. These links each lead to a PDF file.
Amazon has a world-leading product sales platform, so that is the obvious first port of call when looking for a new Amazon Fire TV Stick. Unsurprisingly, these streaming devices are among Amazon’s best sellers in the United States and around the world. Check out the big discount deals that the site offers. Before you Buy Now with 1-click, shop around because Amazon also distributes its devices through all of the consumer electronics retailers both online and real-world. Check out Best Buy, Target, and Staples in the USA and Canada and Currys, Argos, and Tesco in the UK.
Added to that, it is also possible to buy secondhand Amazon Fire TV devices in places such as eBay.
To master your Amazon Fire Stick, you first need to get it working. Here is a step-by-step guide to an Amazon Fire Stick setup.
Plug the power cable into the Amazon Fire Stick. The slot for this cable is on the side of the Fire Stick. Stick the small socket of the power cable into it. You have two options for where to get a power source. The other end of the power cord is a full-size USB connector. If your TV has a USB socket, you can plug it into that or you can plug it into the power plug that comes with the Amazon Fire Stick and plug that into an electric socket near the TV. Amazon recommends that you use the power socket rather than a USB port on the TV.
Stick the plug the protrudes from one end of the Amazon Fire Stick into an HDMI port on the back or the side of your TV. This is how to connect Amazon Fire Stick to TV sets – there is no other way. Some people struggle to find the right socket. However, don’t give up because there is no other way to connect your Fire TV Stick to your TV. An HDMI port looks like a USB socket, but the top corners are slanted off.
Put two AAA batteries into the Amazon Fire TV Stick’s remote control unit. Both the unit and the batteries are in the box with the Amazon Fire Stick. The back of the control unit slides up to reveal the battery box.
Make sure your TV is plugged in. Turn it on. Use the remote control of your TV to get to the Source options. Select the HDMI port that you plugged the Amazon Fire Stick into. If you chose the right one, the logo for the Fire TV Stick will appear on the screen.
Wait for the Amazon Fire TV Stick to boot up. You will be prompted to pair your remote control unit with the Amazon Fire Stick. The TV will show a message that the Fire Stick is searching for a nearby remote. Press the Home button on the remote. This has an icon of a little house on it. The TV display will change back to the Fire Stick logo once pairing has completed successfully.
Wait for the display on the TV to settle down. It is not unusual for the software to go through an update procedure after pairing with the remote. You can’t speed that up; just let it complete. The display will tell you to press the play button on the remote. Do that.
Select your preferred language from the presented options. Use the top and bottom edges of the navigation dial at the top of the remote to move between options. Press the center of the circle when you arrive at the right language option.
If you chose to plug the power cord into the TV, you will probably get a warning message that the power source is no good. If this worries you, switch to the electric socket option instead. However, many people have no problems when using the TV USB port as a power source. Dismiss the message by clicking on the big round select button on the remote if you are happy to continue as is.
Connect the Fire Stick to your home wifi network. The system will detect your wifi box and display it as an option on the TV screen. Press the select button on the remote and enter the wifi password into the screen. Navigate to the Connect button on the screen and press the select button on the remote.
The Amazon Fire Stick will register your home network to your Amazon Fire account. The account should be generated automatically and associated with the Fire Stick before it is shipped. If you bought the Fire Stick secondhand, you should opt to create Amazon account for Fire Stick through the Change Account button in this screen.
Once these steps have been completed, the Amazon Fire Stick will check your connection speed and then show you a cartoon on how to use the system.
Choose whether to enable parental controls. The Amazon Fire Stick will then explain to you about Alexa if it is part of the Fire Stick version that you chose. Dismiss this screen to get to the home screen of the Fire Stick.
You need to have the Amazon Fire Stick remote control unit turned on an with live batteries in order to access the content on an Amazon Fire TV Stick.
See Step Two of the How to Set Up the Amazon Fire Stick section, above.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick uses apps to locate TV channels. It will only show channels that are streamed over the internet. Most terrestrial TV channels show live TV on their websites and this content can be pulled through the Amazon Fire Stick onto your TV. Many apps are already loaded onto the Amazon Fire Stick. These include apps for Netflix, HBO, and Spotify. Amazon Prime has its own menu option.
Amazon Fire Stick is a media player. It has a purchase price and then there is no monthly fee to pay. However, it does not gain you free access to entertainment that normally requires a subscription. For example, there is a Netflix app pre-loaded on the Amazon Fire Stick, but you have to subscribe to Netflix and enter your Netflix credentials into the app in order to watch anything through it. In that case, you will be paying a monthly fee to Netflix, not to Amazon.
The main purpose of the Amazon Fire TV stick is to stream video off the internet onto your TV. So, if you don’t have an internet connection, you can still watch stored videos through the Plex app, which is pre-installed on the app.
When a Fire Stick keeps rebooting it probably doesn’t have enough power or the HDMI connector is loose or faulty. If you used a USB port on the TV as a power source switch to using the electric wall socket. Push the Fire Stick into the HDMI socket to make sure it is fully inserted.
You might get a slow response out of your Fire Stick if your internet connection is slow. Another reason could be that the device is clogged up with temporary files and rogue processes. Unplug the Fire Stick from the power supply for one minute then plug it in again. This should reset the memory and get it working properly.
Jailbreaking refers to installing apps on an Apple device that don’t come from the Apple Apps Store. On Android and Android-like devices, such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the practice of installing APKs from a source other than the Fire Stick App Store is called “sideloading.”
Yes. You just have to connect to the wifi system in your friend’s house. The Amazon Fire Stick stores your account details so it will work anywhere.
Yes. If you move, you just take your Amazon Fire Stick with you along with your TV. If you move to another country, the Amazon Firestick will still work, but you will probably need to get a different AC adapter to plug it into the power supply.
Here’s how to download apps on Fire Stick:
Yes. In fact, the Plex app is already loaded on the Amazon Fire Stick out of the box.
Kodi is not available at the Amazon App Store so there is no official APK for Kodi. However, it can be sideloaded onto the Amazon Fire Stick.
Yes. You can find apps for Fire Stick in the Amazon store. The only way to get new channels, such as those for movies on Firestick is to add new apps.
The best apps for new movies are HBO, Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
Be very careful about channels that promise you all of the latest movies for free. They are probably illegal and could get you into trouble. However, you can watch the main terrestrial channels through your Amazon Fire TV stick and those video streaming services regularly include movies in the schedule.
Check out the TV Player App. USTVNow, UKTV, and LiveNetTV. All of these can be accessed through the app screen of your Fire Stick menu.
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Surfshark is a “virtual private network.” VPN services disguise your true location. By selecting a VPN server in a different country, access systems on websites with regional restrictions will allow you to view that restricted content. This type of access block is particularly common on video streaming services, which are usually restricted to show their content only in specific countries.
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The Surfshark website has a back of download pages, one for each operating system-specific app. These are available for:
There are also browser extension versions of Surfshark. These are available for Google Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a good location for privacy services – ExpressVPN is based there, too. Although it is a British protectorate, the colony doesn’t have the same strict data disclosure legislation that is imposed on the UK by the EU. There are no record keeping requirements in the BVI and so Surfshark legally keeps no activity logs. Also, being a remote location with very few flights, Tortola is not an easy place for US copyright lawyers to get to with court orders.
Being located in a place with a lax legal system, Surfshark has no problem with its users downloading with P2P networks, so you don’t need to be shy about your activities if you need to ask the Help Desk about a problem you have with torrenting. That Help Desk is accessible via a web form in the customer account area, by email and through a live chat support system at the Surfshark website.
The Surfshark network includes more than 1,040 servers located in 61 countries. That country count is important because more countries mean that more websites can be unblocked. This is a particularly good service if you live in a country with a government that blocks access to websites. This list includes China, Iran, Russia, and Pakistan. The VPN service can unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, among other video streaming services.
The app contains a number of security services including a very sophisticated kill switch that modifies firewalls to prevent IP leaks even if all of the VPN software is inactive. Surfshark provides its own DNS system, which prevents DNS leaks from giving away your activities. Users get a choice of using OpenVPN or IKE2/IPSec for tunnel management. Session establishment uses a 2048-bit RSA cipher and the data channel is protected by 256-bit AES encryption.
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