When a salesman comes to your door, you always have the option of not listening. You can shut the door in their face, if you want to, or never open it in the first place. Unfortunately, that’s harder to do on your web browser. Pop-ups clog your computer desktop, and some websites are so littered with advertisements that they’re almost impossible to read. Not to mention how long they take to load!
To add insult to injury, those ads rely on the use of your browsing history. Third-party data brokers buy and sell your private web info to customize ads for you, but the whole system is built on surveillance. Websites use trackers to record what you view, what ads you click - and of course, what you buy.
Uncomfortable with that scenario? You’re not alone. More and more people are turning to ad blockers to make their surfing experience, cleaner, faster, and less intrusive. In this article, we’ll cover how ad-blockers work, what benefits they offer, and whether you really need one or not!
How do ad blockers work?
Most ad blockers start with a list. Specifically, when you tell your browser to load a website, the ad blocker will look at the various resources to load on the site, compare them to a list of known advertisements, and block them accordingly.
That seems pretty simplistic, but the actual process is more complicated. Ad blockers will follow a list of rules to determine what is an ad, and what isn’t. With most ad blockers, not all ads are forbidden - there are further rules to separate “bad” ads from “good” ones. Ads that follow certain rules and generally stay unobtrusive might be allowed to get through.
Adblock Plus, one of the most popular ad blocking extensions, follows a whole list of rules for ads. These include restrictions on how much space an ad can occupy on a given webpage, animated ads, video ads with autoplay, and more.
After checking scripts against the lists and rules, most ad blockers use two methods to prevent the ads from appearing on your screen:
HTTP request blocking
Most ads are stored on a different server from the website they are displayed on. Ad blockers can identify ads and then block the requests to load them - essentially cutting them off early and preventing them from ever being loaded.
If an ad is stored on the website itself, an ad blocker can conceal the ad using a CSS script that overwrites the ad script. This is less common than request blocking, which stops ads before they ever load.
What is the best ad blocker for Chrome?
1. uBlock Origin
The list of best ad blockers begins with uBlock Origin. A free and open-source ad blocking extension, uBlock Origin offers a few unique features. There aren’t any “acceptable ads”; uBlock blocks everything, giving fewer opportunities for trackers to follow your activity. The open-source nature of uBlock Origin means there are a lot of options when it comes to which lists to use for ad-blocking, and more lists can be added or removed as needed.
Of course, blocking everything poses its own problems. Some elements may not display correctly, and uBlock Origin doesn’t have any allowances for the supposedly “good” ads that most websites rely on for financial support. Since those ads still track your activity, uBlock stops them as well.
- Completely open-source
- Cross-browser support
- Strong privacy features
- Add or remove lists as needed
- More elements may not display correctly than with other ad blockers
Instead of using Chrome with an ad blocker you had to research and install - try Brave, which blocks unwanted ads automatically. Stop trackers, control advertising, earn rewards - drop Chrome and switch to Brave.
2. Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus originated as a small project way back in 2002, and today is by far the most popular ad blocking tool available. Adblock Plus is available as an extension for Google Chrome and gives users a number of settings for how strict Adblock Plus will be.
The biggest concern with AdBlock Plus is the presence of a default list of “acceptable” ads - pay-to-play ads sponsored by AdBlock Plus.
- Built-in exception list for “acceptable” ads
- Could be resource-heavy, can slow things down
A popular alternative to Adblock Plus, AdGuard blocks ads before they load to your browser, speeding up your browsing experience. AdGuard still provides options for security, privacy, and targeting filter lists, and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from users.
- Less resource-heavy than other ad blockers
- Complete suite of extras, including AdGuard DNS and AdGuard Home for home server protection.
- Limited customer support
- Need to upgrade to the paid version to take advantage of all the features
What is the best ad blocker for Android?
If anything, pop-up ads seem even worse on mobile devices. Not surprisingly, many of the extensions available for Chrome also work to block ads on Android devices.
Offers the same features as the desktop version, and a subscription to the paid version of AdGuard that works for both desktop and mobile.
Free to use, with an unusual approach - rather than block any ads, AdAway simply intercepts the request to load them and redirects it to a nonexistent location. It’s a simple approach, but has at least one drawback; AdAway works by detecting ads from other domains and redirecting, but if the ad is hosted on the source domain (the webpage in question), then the ads will get through. Third-party ads are blocked effectively, but some first-party ads will still be displayed.
3. AdBlock Plus
Once again, AdBlock makes the list with a comprehensive approach to ad blocking. AdBlock also offers some limited blocking of trackers and malware, making it more than just an ad blocker.
Ad blockers and Internet privacy
Almost every web browser offers its own integrated ad blocker. In most cases, these aren’t very good, and users will need to install a third-party extension to block ads.
However, adding extensions to your browser does come with some risks of its own. There can be security issues with extensions and add-ons, and there is the added drawback of increased load on your web browser, which can lead to a slower browsing experience. Extensions also increase your online fingerprint, making you more identifiable to the sites you visit.
The ideal ad-blocking solution is a browser that actually blocks ads automatically, giving you a high level of ad blocking without the need for a risky extension. That’s where Brave comes in.
Building a better Internet: Brave and the future of ad blockers
What is the biggest problem with ad blockers? Ironically, it’s the fact that they block ads. While everyone agrees that blocking annoying pop-ups, flashing gifs, and autoplay videos is a good thing, there is an underlying problem: the entire Internet economy relies on those ads.
Google? The search engine giant is actually an advertising company (as an example, you can read here about how much information Google tracks on your searching habits). All your favorite blogs and websites? They rely on paid ads as their primary source of income. If you take away those ads, you undermine the entire economy.
Brave features a unique approach to Internet ads. Any creepy or unwanted ads are blocked outright, with the only exceptions being ads you choose to view. It is similar to the approach other ad blockers take, but to avoid the same problems for Internet content creators, Brave rewards users for viewing those ads and lets them pass those rewards on to the creators they enjoyed as tips in the form of Basic Attention Tokens (BAT).
The result is a radically different Internet. Creators, like the news agencies, small bloggers, and channels on YouTube and Twitch that we all know and love, can be rewarded simply and directly. No more obscure Google Ads middle-man, just a direct contribution from consumers to creators, all powered by Brave’s privacy-based Internet economy.
Brave - the browser you’ve been looking for
With Brave, you get a faster browsing experience, quicker load times, and cleaner websites. You also get second-to-none privacy thanks to the third-party tracker blocking.
Most importantly, you get an approach to the Internet that starts with keeping your personal data to yourself. No company deserves your data automatically, so Brave empowers you to view the ads you want to on your terms. At the same time, Brave enables you to reward content creators directly. Brave doesn’t just disrupt the old surveillance-based Internet economy - it demonstrates a better alternative. Download Brave now.