If like me, you hate ads popping up all over the place when you are browsing the internet you might wish to check out Adblock Plus. The developers of the software claim it is among the most popular extensions and it will remove intrusive ads. This sounded promising to me. I resolved to check it out, and I will share my findings with you.
Things I will be discussing include:
- Which browsers the extension works with
- How to install it
- How the software works
- The filter list options
- The features
- A word about Facebook tracking
- Enabling and Disabling
Which Web Browsers Does Adblock Plus Work With?
The extension works with all of the most popular web browsers, these are:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome
In all the above web browsers, the software works in the same way in that it takes away all adverts classed as being intrusive. This meant that I could enjoy my experience surfing the internet without bombardment by ads.
Installing the Extension
I found installing Adblock Plus in my browser to be easy. I have the Firefox browser and simply clicked on the large button for installing in that browser. I did notice that underneath the button there was an option to install on a different web browser.
Once I clicked to install the extension, it downloaded within a second. A dialogue box popped up asking if I wanted to install it. I clicked allow.
Another box pop upped asking for confirmation that I trusted the author and I clicked on “Install now”.
As far as I could see, the installation process is very similar for other web browsers.
I was happy to find there is an app for Android available. If the device is not rooted, there are some limitations to the app. However, I found it works fine to block the majority of ads.
How Adblock Plus Works
The software relies on filters in order to block ads. The filters tell the software what requests to watch out for when web pages are loading in the web browser.
I was a little worried when I read that out of the box it does not come with filters. However, the developers state that the software offers the chance to add a filter subscription when the software starts.
I would have preferred the software to come with some basic filters installed, as this is what the extension requires to block ads.
With filters enabled, it blocks requests when sites are loading. Generally, these are requests to load an advertisement.
When an ad is blocked there are blank spaces left behind on the page. The software removes these by way of “element-hiding”, they are removed based on specific characteristics.
The Filter Lists
I found that the filter lists are at the heart of the software. These stop the ads from loading in the browser.
The software does not install filters during installation. Instead, after the extension is set up, a filter list is suggested. The browser language setting determines what filter is installed.
Two basic lists are Fanboy list and Easy list. Both block advertisements from the most popular websites online. Websites blocked are generally in English. I was concerned when I read that they do not block any advertising on the national less popular websites.
I found the filters to be a little complicated. If the correct filters are not installed it does not function as it should.
Users can install many filter lists. With this in mind, I recommend downloading the Easy list along with the Easy list for your specific country. For example, if you live in Bulgaria download the list for Bulgaria and so on.
Important Point to Note about Filters
I will stress that it is important not to download and install too many lists. Too many lists will only slow the software down. This results in web pages being slow to load. On saying this, you can install the Easy list and the Easy list for a specific country.
However, there is no need to install both the Easy list and the Fanboy list.
Along with blocking ads, I found that filter lists provide protection against malware, tracking, and social media tracking. It is feasible to make your own lists but I did not look into this. It may be too technical for the majority of users.
The Features of the Software
Adblock Plus has many features, these include:
- Blocking ads;
- Allowing ads that are acceptable;
- Disabling tracking;
- Disabling domains with malware;
- Disabling social media buttons.
Blocking Ads from Showing on Web Pages
As the name suggests, the core benefit of installing the software is to block adverts from showing while browsing websites.
I found the software does this very well. When it is up and running with the filters in place it blocks banners, pop-ups and pop-unders, ads on YouTube and Facebook ads, among others.
The software does this based on the filters chosen, as explained above. If you find it is not blocking ads, head over to install filters or check they are installed.
Allowing Ads that are Acceptable
I was surprised to find that some ads are acceptable. Not all are merely nuisance ads that spoil the browsing experience.
Various ads show up on websites so that webmasters can earn money from clicks. Adblock stops ads such as these from appearing. The default settings of the software allow ads that are not intrusive.
I wondered what the criterion was for such ads. What makes an ad obtrusive, how does the software know?
The developers of the software set out what they call the “Acceptable Ads Initiative”. The developers base this on strict guidelines. In short, ads should not disrupt the reading flow of the user. There are of course additional criteria, but I did not want to go into all the technicalities. It seemed to work and that was all that I cared about.
Ads not acceptable that the software blocks include:
- Ads that have excessive hover effects;
- Ads with animation;
- Autoplay ads;
- Video ads;
- Ads that expand;
- Overlay ads;
- Pop-up ads;
- Pop-under ads;
- Rich media ads.
I did discover there is a way to block all ads regardless of whether the developers class them as “Acceptable”.
This is dependent on the web browser you are using. I used Firefox. To do it click on the icon for the software, choose options, then uncheck “Allow Acceptable Ads”.
On other browsers, this option is under settings.
I was shocked to see just how many companies track me online. Every time I browse the internet, there are numerous firms tracking me and the same applies to you.
This means hundreds of agencies track every move of people. Adblock Plus puts an end to this if you enable the feature. Enabling it is by way of downloading and installing a filter. I would like to see this enabled by default.
Malware is another issue. I found my computer riddled with it when it began to slow down to a crawl. This was despite having virus protection installed on my computer.
Malware-infected computers are open to cyber-attacks. It is a way of stealing identities online. Malware also opens up the computer to spam email, stolen passwords, credit card information and more.
I was pleased to find Adblock provides protection by default against malware. It also offers the option to take things further and block domains known for spreading malware. This is done by way of another filter.
Adblock Plus and Social Media
The developers of Adblock Plus have introduced a new feature to the software. This is disabling social media buttons. The developers added in the new feature following the disturbing news that Facebook had been misusing data.
On almost all web pages, there are social media buttons or widgets. These include Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn. These buttons allow for tracking. Worse still, I found out that they could track me even if I do not click on them.
This stems from the fact they send requests to the servers of the social networks. They then use information and come up with a profile based on the browsing habits of that user.
Facebook also came under fire for disguising sponsored ads as regular posts. These showed up in the feed and I have these in my personal feed. It seems that by making the ads look like regular posts, ad blockers could not block them. However, developers of Adblock Plus managed to fix this.
Thankfully, I can put a stop to this tracking with the software.
Enabling or Disabling the Software
There might be cases where you need to disable the software for some reason. In my case, this was when I was working on my personal websites.
If for any reason, you need to disable the extension you can do so easily. However, it is key to bear in mind that if it is disabled, so is the protection against malware and tracking.
To disable the software on a temporary basis simply click on the icon in the toolbar of the web browser and a menu pops up. Here you can disable or activate the extension.
It is also possible to choose not to block ads on a particular website by white listing that site.
I found that with the software installed and enabled some websites show a notice on the screen telling you they rely on ads. Some sites allow for clicking off the banner while others will not give access until the user disables the ad-blocker for that site. To do this click on the icon and choosing not to block ads just on that site.
The software works well for blocking ads on sites. Along with blocking ads, I also recommend it for disabling tracking along with helping to stop malware. I also liked the addition of being able to turn off social media tracking.
I never took into consideration the fact that social media sites could track even if I did not interact with the buttons, but it seems they do. I always want to feel safe and secure when browsing the internet and Adblock Plus gives me that security.