How to block ads on YouTube

YouTube is one of the most popular sites on the Web. It draws more than 2.7 billion active users per month, who stream more than a billion hours of content each day. It’s the single largest home of online videos; it also happens to be filled with annoying ads.

Blocking these ads is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game—after all, YouTube wants you to view ads so they can maximize profit. So a good ad blocker needs to always stay one step ahead of YouTube’s latest anti-ad block efforts.

In this article: an overview of how YouTube ads work, and the most effective strategies to block them for uninterrupted viewing.

The problem with YouTube ads

The most obvious problem with ads is that they’re an annoyance. YouTube ads delay your content, interrupt your flow, and require effort to skip (if they can even be skipped at all). YouTube ads steal your attention away from whatever it is you’re actually trying to focus on.

But ads aren’t just annoying—most online ads are built to suck up your data, track you across the Web, and profile you to make it easier to show you “targeted” ads. This model—where your Internet browsing data is tracked, collected, and sold—is referred to as the surveillance economy.

How to block YouTube ads

Most users reluctantly accept this deal from YouTube as just the price of admission: To use the world’s biggest and most popular video site, you’ve got to deal with ads (or else switch to some other platform). But many Internet users, privacy activists, and companies like Brave believe that participation in the surveillance economy shouldn’t be a mandatory part of using the Internet.

That’s where ad-blocking technology comes in. Here we’ll look at some of the best ways to block YouTube ads.

Use an ad-blocking browser like Brave

An ad-blocking browser like Brave is—by far—the easiest way to block ads on any site, including YouTube.

The Brave browser is powered by Brave Shields, which block ads, trackers, cookies, and other privacy-harming page elements while you browse. From the minute you download Brave, Shields are up and running to protect your privacy and make your browsing experience clutter-free.

Brave Browser new tab page ad block stats When you open a new tab, Brave Stats will display just how effective Brave Shields are

Shields represent a new model of Web browsing where ad-blocking is baked into the browser, not something extra you have to seek out. It’s just one more way that Brave puts users first, letting you choose what you do (and don’t) want to see online. It’s easy to see the difference for yourself:

YouTube on Brave vs. another browser

And while Brave works great on YouTube, it’s actually a comprehensive ad-blocking tool that works all over the Web—and enhances your privacy online, too.

Pay for YouTube Premium

YouTube gives you the option to pay for an ad-free version of their service. The idea here is that YouTube will make money off you either way—either indirectly as a user who’s forced to view ads, or directly as a paying subscriber who wants to disable those ads. Paying for YouTube Premium will get rid of ads, but many users don’t want to pay to use the Internet freely.

Use ad-blocking browser extensions

Browser extensions—little pieces of software that extend/modify the capabilities of your Web browser—are one of the most popular options to block YouTube ads. Extension-based YouTube ad blockers mostly work by using various techniques (e.g. filter lists) to prevent ad-loading page elements from successfully loading ads. Some of the most popular ad-blocking extensions include AdGuard, Adblock Plus, and uBlock Origin.

While browser extensions aren’t inherently bad, they do require you to download and install third-party software to your browser. And, in order to function, they often require broad permissions over your browser. Both of these aspects have important implications for security and performance.

Extension warning popup It’s common to see extensions requesting permissions like this in order to function

It’s also common for scammers to imitate legitimate extensions in phishing attempts that trick users into downloading malware.

Screenshot of imitation uBlock extension On the left, the real uBlock Origin extension; on the right, a phishing attempt

Extensions may be safe, have security weaknesses, be outright malicious, or fall somewhere in that spectrum. In any case, whenever you install an extension, you’re implicitly trusting whoever made it with sensitive data in your browser. You’ll also be responsible for keeping extensions updated to patch any potential security threats.

Extensions can also result in degraded performance and slower browsing (since each one is a new piece of software running on your device). Extensions also need to be properly configured to work. Internet forums are full of users trying to figure out why their extensions aren’t working, or why one extension is breaking another, and so on. All that to say, extensions can sometimes introduce more problems than they solve.

Learn more about browser extensions and their related safety concerns.

Other (more complicated) attempts at ad blocking

If extension-based ad blockers weren’t complicated enough, some users attempt to block ads in even more complex ways.

There’s network- or router-level ad blocking (e.g. with products/services like Pi-hole or AdGuard Home) which works by establishing a DNS filter to block ads for all your devices. As you might guess, the setup is not easy.

Still more complex is blocking ads by modifying your “hosts file”—a file that translates websites’ names into numeric IP addresses, before sending requests to the DNS. You can edit your hosts file to block connections from certain sites known to spread malware or load ads; it’s functionally like a filter list that lives locally on your computer. But you’ll be responsible for keeping it updated either with manual entries or publicly available blocklists.

If your eyes are glazing over reading this, then these YouTube ad blockers are probably not right for you.

How many types of YouTube ads are there?

If you’re one of YouTube’s 122 million daily users, you probably already know how some of its ads work (at least the most obvious and intrusive ones). But YouTube has many types of ads, some of which might sneak by unnoticed (thankfully, a tool like Brave can block both flavors of YouTube ads).

YouTube ads are broadly divided into two categories: those that play in-stream (i.e. before, during, or after a video), and those placed elsewhere on the page. Here’s an incomplete list:

Skippable in-stream ads

By most accounts, skippable in-stream ads are YouTube’s most popular ad format. These can appear before, in the middle of, or after YouTube videos (i.e. as pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll ads). After 5 seconds, you can skip these ads, otherwise they’ll continue playing.

Non-skippable in-stream ads

Arguably the most distracting YouTube ad format, non-skippable in-stream ads play for up to 30 seconds with no option to skip. These, too, can appear before, during, or after YouTube videos.

Bumper ads

Bumper ads are another type of in-stream YouTube ad that appear before, during, or after videos. They’re non-skippable, but they max out at 6 seconds. They’re essentially just shorter non-skippable in-stream ads, and most users won’t recognize the difference.

In-feed video ads

YouTube’s in-feed video ads work differently than in-stream ads; you’ll instead see a thumbnail and video description (much like a normal, non-ad YouTube video) that invites you to click and watch. In some instances, though, these ads can also autoplay. They also appear in more places:

  • In YouTube search results
  • Alongside related YouTube videos
  • On the homepage of YouTube mobile

Outstream ads and Accompanying Content

YouTube’s outstream ads are video-based, mobile-only ads that are designed to play outside a traditional video player. They come in different forms, and might be skippable or non-skippable.

On mobile Web browsers, these appear as banners; on mobile apps, these can appear as banners, interstitials, in-feed videos, native videos, and more. Think of video ads (above, alongside, or in the middle of your desired content) that start playing as you scroll down a webpage. You might also recognize them by the fact that these ads begin playing without sound (the sound only comes on when you click, tap, or otherwise interact with them).

Masthead ads

Masthead ads take up the most on-page real estate of all YouTube ads. These appear on the YouTube homepage (on desktop, mobile, and other places like YouTube’s TV apps) as a featured video that autoplays without sound (again, unless you interact with them) for 30 seconds. Masthead ads can also include an additional information panel with headline and description text, additional videos, a CTA that links to another site, and more depending on which platform you’re viewing them on.

Why is using Brave the best option for you?

With Brave, you don’t have to download extra software to make your browser work the way you want; just open Brave and start browsing. You can leave the ad blocking to the privacy experts at Brave; don’t bother finding the right extensions, or downloading, installing, configuring, and updating them. Ditch that whole complicated setup process and use Brave to block YouTube ads by default, right out of the box.

And, as a bonus, Brave offers other awesome tools for YouTube, like background play on mobile, offline video playback with Playlist, and more. Download Brave for a more enjoyable, secure, and ad-free browsing and video-watching experience on YouTube and beyond.

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