To block, or not to block, that is the question.
Have you ever been fully immersed in an article, only to have your attention hijacked by an ad? Do you feel paranoid that the ads you see are almost reading your mind?
You’re not alone. And luckily, there’s a way to stop them.
Below we dive into what ad blockers actually are, why you should use them, and offer a few of our favorites you can take out for a test drive.
What Are Ad Blockers?
Ad blockers are nifty little pieces of software that stop ads from taking over your screen. Depending on the ad blocker you’re using, the software will either remove the ads entirely or change the ads to display something else instead—like an inspiring quote.
What actually ends up getting blocked will vary from app to app. Some apps will only block native advertising. Others will target super annoying pop-up ads. And others will even prevent websites from tracking your information through cookies and other means.
Currently, most ad blockers try to target the more annoying type of ads—like flashing banner ads, sidebar ads, and pop-ups. Strangely, you might notice that Google Adwords ads still display prominently. Weird?
Well, not so much. Most ad blockers actually end up whitelisting Google Adwords, since they are supposedly “useful” and because Google even pays some ad blockers to do so. It seems that money really does talk.
In more positive news, Apple is taking a stand against advertising taking over your mobile and tablet screens. With the release of iOS 9, they actually have a built-in ad blocker called Content Blocker. This will let you easily block ads, trackers, and other notorious data-stealers on your App Store apps. Maybe Apple really is trying to be a force for good?
Why Should I Care?
Photo credit: Wojtek Witkowski
Hopefully we’ve already hammered this into your head enough. But, when you’re consuming something free on the web, then you’ve become the product. You are being sold.
Beyond the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings (and other things it’s easy not to care about), there are a variety of tangible benefits you can readily experience. Just think about how blissful your life would be if websites loaded faster, your attention wasn’t being hijacked, and your battery life was improved?
Ad blockers can either be used sparingly or 24/7—so you never have to see a pesky ad ever again. How you implement ad blockers depends on your goals and how much pent up aggression you have toward advertisers.
But, keep in mind that by using ad blockers you could be putting your favorite websites out of business. A lot of companies use advertising to support ongoing content creation. It’s one of many ways publishers have found they can generate enough profit to stay sustainable. Yes, it’s a trade-off. But hey, who said life was fair?
If you find ads distracting or hate the fact that advertisers are using your data against you (and waving it in your face), then you’ll want to use an ad blocker—at least some of the time.
How Do Ad Blockers Work?
Photo credit: Benjamin Child
First a person (you) downloads the ad blocker of your choice. This could either be a plugin, a browser extension, or another piece of software entirely. Then, whenever you visit a website with an ad, magical little fairies erase the ad before it has a chance to pollute your mind and send you into a fit of rage.
For those more technical (who think fairies belong with Santa Claus) we offer another description. When you navigate to a website, the ad blocker will look at the site to see if there are any ad generation scripts. If any of those match the scripts it was programmed to block, it blocks them. It’s as simple as that.
If you want to get started blocking ads, creating a better browsing experience, and protecting your privacy, then explore a few of our recommendations below.
Commonly Used Ad Blockers
Photo credit: Fabian Irsara
There are dozens of different ad blockers you can use. They all serve different purposes and some will have clunkier interfaces than the others. To avoid having to spend hours upon hours finding the perfect ad blocker for your needs, we’re going to do you a little favor and give you a few of our favorites below.
Ghostery is a browser extension that works across every commonly used web browser today. They even have a mobile app for protection on the go. Ghostery claims to have the largest tracking database on the web, which means more protection for you.
You can customize who you want to access your data and which sites you’re going to actively block. Another cool thing about Ghostery is it doubles as an educational tool by providing you with information about the companies who are tracking you. Finally, a little look behind the veil.
1Blocker is an ad and tracker blocker available for iPads and iPhones. If you hate mobile display ads, then this app is a great choice for you. Sure, it costs a couple of bucks. But, doling out some spare change to get rid of ads forever? Seems like a good deal to me.
We like 1Blocker because it’s so simple. All of you have to do is install the app, flip the switch, and say goodbye to ads and tracking.
3. AdBlock Plus
AdBlock Plus is a browser extension that works with a variety of web browsers.
4. Use Apple’s Built-in Blocker
Apple has a built in ad blocker that works for Safari and iOS. Just navigate to Settings>Safari>Content Blockers, and turn it on.
That’s it! Now every time you open Safari, it will load webpages like it normally does—but this time without the ads. There’s something pretty sweet about being able to disable advertising from within the hardware itself. It’s very aesthetically clean, and provides a solid user experience. Makes sense it’s Apple’s idea.
Blocking ads is one of the first steps to taking your data and attention back from unscrupulous forces. We hope we’ve helped to nudge you in the direction of giving ad blockers a chance. |