INside Performance Marketing
Ten Ad Blockers: Trialled and Tested

Ten Ad Blockers: Trialled and Tested

You may have heard about AdBlock Plus’s millions of users, maybe Crystal’s topping of the paid app download charts for iOS, but there are plenty of other ad blockers out there if ever you felt like being picky.

What about the blockers that donate to charity? The mobile specialists with eyes on the iPhone and iPad user base, or the free apps which cut a balance between serving ads from partners and removing many of them from view?

With the aim of providing context around the discussions surrounding ad blockers, here are ten options to try out this week, complete with short descriptions showing what’s on offer.

1. uBlock Origin

Probably the closest contender to the ubiquitous AdBlock Plus, uBlock Origin has been lauded for its lightweight CPU and memory usage, as well as extensive customising options. 

UBlock Origin allows users to edit its ready-made content filter lists, which include ads, tracking servers and malware sites. However, when loading a page uBlock Origin only loads filters needed by that particular site, which leads to a faster start-up time than most.

With the plugin active on Chrome, the uBlock Origin swept away any trace of display advertising from local news sites, Facebook was sponsored post-free, and YouTube videos played uninterrupted. However, some ads, including pop-ups, did make it to the surface on the more shadowy streaming sites such as putlocker.com and solarmovies.com.   

UBlock Origin combines a simple ready-to-use interface for those who want a simple cover-all ad blocker plugin, but for those ready-to-roll up their sleeves, there’s no shortage of customisation options in the advanced settings.

2. Privoxy

Privoxy is a ‘privacy enhancing proxy’ service which manipulates cookies, modifies web page data and HTTP headers before your page has rendered. 

It takes a bit longer to set up than its plug-in peers - requiring users to download the programme and then adjust their browser network settings to work via the proxy address - but detailed and easy-to-navigate documentation guides you through the initial setup process with relative ease. 

While it’s straightforward to install, however, it’s challenging to configure and tailor correctly - bombarding many users with a lot of information they may not really need. So Privoxy, while a powerful option, may not be the one for a quick fix. 

3. AdBlock Plus

Europe is all sewn up for AdBlock Plus, which has been the subject of a swathe of good and bad press in 2015. 

Few tools can boast a user base above the 300 million housed within Eyeo’s tool, which encompasses browser extension offerings for all the main players, including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Maxthon, Opera and more.

AdBlock Plus will allow you to see the back of YouTube’s video ads, Facebook ads, banners and pop-ups, but the presence of over 300 ad-serving businesses on the group’s whitelist means that users are still going to get a fair amount of inventory accompanying their journey through the web.

4. Ghostery

A big name in the US which saw its fame rise significantly in the wake of Marco Arment taking his Peace ad blocker offline before recommending Ghostery as an ideal replacement.

Ghostery seeks to protect users from “scary” tags on pages and other methods of obtaining data. After a simple download, its add-on feature allows users to customise what they block as well as the information they provide to companies, which can be changed via the tools on any of its Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari options.

Mobile users may be glad to hear that iOS and Android version are available, but users in general should be warned about reports in 2013 of the company - ironically - selling its data to advertisers. Woops. 

5. Purify

Another to gain the seal of approval from Arment, Purify was one of the first ad blockers to make it onto iOS 9 and took little time in making it to the top of the paid app download charts.

At $3.99 a go, you can disable or block ads and trackers in addition to images, scripts and fonts if you really want to go for a stripped-down version of the web. Be warned, though, of reports about pop-ups still showing but without their content, leaving you with a screen full of blank pages.

For additional reading, check the basic layout on the group’s unique-and-in-no-way-inspired-by-Apple website.

6. Fair AdBlock (by STANDS)

It turns out ad blocking doesn’t have to leave billions of pounds of advertiser spend in the air - that money can go to worthy causes instead.

The Fair AdBlock extension by STANDs donates “at least” 50% of the revenue it gains from advertisers to its listed charities, but the actual blocking is minimal. We went across a number of ad-ridden sites to find little change in what we saw before and after downloading the tool. Loading times also increased by a significant margin during our usage.

You can go back onto STANDs to tweak settings for blocking pop-ups, search ads and social network inventory (all disabled by default) but the added attention makes Fair AdBlock an unlikely contender for mass-market adoption.

7. Adguard

Lauded for its clean, good-looking design, Adguard’s free browser extension’s attack is a three-pronged one - offering ad blocking, anti-phishing and parental control. 

While Adguard doesn’t profess to hiding all ads (this promise is saved for its paid offering), its default option makes a pretty all-encompassing go at blocking various forms of promotional content; although we did see a couple of promoted posts sneak through, both on Twitter and a local news site. 

Adguard has been criticised earlier in the year for poor page-loading speeds, but we didn’t encounter this issue at PerformanceIN. One issue we did have, however, was when pausing the app there is no clear ‘restart’ button, which meant having to reinstall to complete the test. 

8. Flashblock

Available on Firefox and SeaMonkey, Flashblock (as you might have guessed from the name) allows users to specifically prevent Flash elements from being displayed on a page. 

While using XBL and CSS to halt elements of Silverlight, Macromedia Authorware, Adobe Director and Adobe Flash from displaying, it doesn’t stop Flash content from downloading or prevent its execution, but allows users to unblock or ‘whitelist’ content by click or via the Flashblock menu. 

While a similar plugin called Flashcontrol is available on Chrome, it’s possible to avoid an extra plugin by adjusting Flash content to ‘click to play’ in advanced settings, saving the bandwidth while giving the user the choice to view the content or not. 

9. The Ethical Ad Blocker

The Ethical Ad Blocker will greet any user to a website funded by any form of advertising with a message telling them to visit non-profit or auto-generating sites that “give their stuff away for free”, warning the anti-advertiser: “It would be unethical to visit this site”. 

Making the internet more or less unusable for the average consumer, we can’t imagine this one will take off, but it seems to sum up at least one perspective of the ongoing ad-blocking debate quite nicely. 

10. Crystal

One of the go-to apps for ad-blocking on iOS and probably one of the most talked about, too. For $0.99, Crystal can be downloaded but with the proviso that users will still see a number of ads on their screens. 

At present, this isn’t the case, and you can still use Crystal to block many forms of inventory on your iPhone or iPad. Having said that, the makers of Crystal have been open in declaring that AdBlock Plus’s whitelist is set to be integrated into the app’s functionality, meaning users pay $0.99 to see… ads. 

Further updates say this will be “entirely optional”, but in a market with no shortage of titles, users may find themselves switching off from one of the early leaders.

Continue the conversation

Got a question or comment – tweet Richard @RichToweyPI or comment on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN.

Richard Towey

Richard Towey

Richard serves as head of content at PerformanceIN. After many years spent covering developments from the automotive, sports, travel and finance sectors, he eventually turned his full attention to reporting on stories from the fast-evolving world of digital marketing. Richard now heads up the editorial team at PerformanceIN: the performance marketing industry's leading publication.  

Read more from Richard

Related Articles

Join over 10,000 performance marketers for the ultimate weekly update on industry news