Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ad/Content Blockers

Content blockers, aka ad blockers, aren't that new with desktop browsers but Apple just introduced with iOS 9 content blocking on the mobile platform. For years I have been using Adblock Plus as a Chrome extension. There is another Chrome extension called uBlock Origin that seems to work extremely well. It isn't very customizable and is intended for the non-technical user that just wants to block trackers, especially annoying ads and known malware. I have been using it for a while and am amazed at the number of trackers and ads on some web pages. But to enable this behavior, you need to know enough about your browser to search for and install extensions and how to configure them. They aren't there by default.

There has been a growing concern on the Internet as many websites remain free because of ad revenue generated by simply the display of an ad on their page. This has generated some poor behavior such as "The Top Ten ____" (you fill in the blank) and the site will require you to load a new page just to see the next one. They get revenue each time the ad is displayed. If you choose to use an ad or content blocker, the ad won't load and they don't get the revenue. If the ads aren't even being requested, the page view can't be seen by the ad agency. Also the ad won't be consuming the data you're paying your ISP or mobile provider for. And the page loads faster. In some cases ten times faster. The other concern are the trackers. This is why if you happen to search for something like rocking chairs, you suddenly start to see ads on completely unrelated web pages for rocking chairs. The web sites are unrelated but they may be using the same ad service. Some website owners have gone as far as declaring that anyone that blocks their trackers and/or ads is a thief.

With the release of iOS 9, Apple allows you to get an content blocker from the App Store and you can configure Safari to use it for content blocking. I picked up Crystal and Peace yesterday and have been trying them to see what works and what breaks. Many pages do load much faster even on our slow Wi-Fi with any of these blockers. If I turn things up too high, I can't even reply to comments on my blog. So this is a learning process.

For me, this one feature of iOS 9 was enough to get me to install it on the day of its release instead of waiting for at least a couple of days.

Since Google generates all of their revenue with advertising, I'm not really surprised to see that there are no ad/content blockers within the default browser on Android. But I have been trying the Adblock Browser and Ghostery. Both are browsers that allow you to filter content and they are available in the GooglePlay Store. Both seem to have odd pauses when requesting a page which makes me wonder why.

Crystal was free yesterday but today it's 99¢. Peace it $2.99. uBlock Origin is free. Both Adblock Browser and Ghostery were free.


Trobairitz said...

My iMac is old enough I can't update the operating system anymore. It doesn't have the capabilities/memory to upgrade to Snow Leopard, Maverick, or Yosemite. No ad blockers for me, sigh.

Webpages keep telling me I need to update my browser, but they don't understand I can't.

RichardM said...

Your iMac is older than mid-2007? This Summer I upgraded my mom's iMac from Snow Leopard to Yosemite. It needed a memory upgrade first but that was something like $20 (memory is very easy to upgrade on the older iMacs).

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post. Ad Blocker seems to work. Should have known about it and used it long ago.

RichardM said...

Adblock has bee around for a while but its almost a continuous battle between the blockers and the advertisers. But desktop browsers are seen as a minor percentage of all web traffic. Many sites see mobile browsers are leading.

Conchscooter said...

That was the best explanation I've read about ad blockers. I am reluctant to use them because I like free internet, and now that you've explained how they work and their purpose I am ready to live with them.
Not possibly the correct reaction but there is a tiny capitalist in me struggling to get out.

RichardM said...

Many of the tech sites are sort of torn between reporting the benefits and the fact that they rely on the ad revenue to provide free content. I'm in the group who doesn't care about seeing ads but object to the tracking cookies that some use. They always have the option of hosing their own ads (first person content) but that would be a major revision of their business model.