How to . . . block annoying online ads

And a few reasons why you might want to reconsider

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

We’ve all been there – ads that take over your web browser, redirect you to unwanted websites or try to force you to download some software that you never asked for. Rogue ads, ones that Google has been clamping down on, are an annoyance at best and harmful to your machines at worst.

So what can you do? Google said earlier this week it had blocked 1.7 billion bad ads in 2016, far more than in 2015 as it stepped up the fight against advertisers who don’t exactly play fair.

But all that takes time. If you are being hit with ads you’d rather not see, what can you do to make your web browsing a little less irritating?

A few things to note before you do go ahead to block ads. First of all, ad blocking isn’t a refined process. You can block ads because a particular one is annoying you, but it won’t just be that one ad that it targets. Most ads will be blocked – one or two may sneak through – and that can be a problem. Like it or not, websites need revenue to keep going, and while major sites may have other sources of revenue – sponsored content, partnerships etc – smaller sites may not have the same options. A major drop in advertising revenue for a site could be bad for the site if it depends on it to stay in business.

Some websites have got around that by blocking the adblockers. When you visit a website that has decided to go down that route, you’ll get a notification that you need to either disable the adblocker or pay a fee to access the content. There are other ways around that too – blocking the adblocking blockers – but that could be a never-ending cycle.

There is also a limit to what adblocking software can do. Ads find new ways to creep into your eyeline, so blocking technology has to evolve. Plus some adblockers have an “acceptable ad” list, so some may still make it through.

Finally, not all adblockers are created equal: some just hide them from your view, others will allow some that they deem acceptable through.

Where to start

You have a few choices when it comes to blocking ads, regardless of whether you are using a desktop, phone or tablet. Here are a few ideas of where to start; it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it should start you in the right direction.

Browsers:

If you are on a desktop, you can use a browser that blocks ads for you, such as as Opera or the latest from Mozilla cofounder Brendan Eich, Brave.

Opera is straightforward enough: download the software and your adblocker is built in so there is no need to download any extra software to get started. You can choose to unblock ads for certain websites, so if you visit a certain news site on a regular basis and don’t mind getting ads in exchange for content, you can allow ads for that site.

Brave works a little differently. It blocks ads but you can choose (or not) to nominate a certain amount of money each month that gets shared between the publishers you visit most often online.

Ad blocker add-ons:

If you are using a web browser such as Chrome or Firefox, you can download add-ons that will help weed out ads. Take a look for Adblock or Adblock Plus in the list of extensions. They are fairly effective, even weeding out ads in Facebook. You can also choose to block individual elements by right clicking on the image or element and choosing to block it

It’s worth noting that Adblocker Plus will allow ads it has deemed acceptable, so you may still see some popping up.

Mobile:

If you are on Android, block pop up ads in your Chrome browser by going to Menu (the three dots in the top right. Choose Settings>site settings and scroll down to Pop-ups. Ensure that this is set to Blocked.

In the regular Android browser – if you bother with it – open up the menu within the browser by clicking More>Settings>Advanced and sliding the Block Pop ups slider across to the right.

You can also download third party adblockers through the Play Store – but do your research before you install them.

On iOS, you can block pop ups through Settings>Safari and slide the Block Pop-ups option to green. For other types of ads, you’ll need to install an adblocker first. The current favourite appears to be Crystal, which costs 99 cent, although there are some free options out there. Once you have downloaded the app, go to Settings>Safari>Content blockers and choose Crystal.

Once you’ve done that, go back to Crystal’s app and you can configure it to your liking, eg disabling the “acceptable ads” option, and adding sites to a whitelist to allow ads to show up on specific sites only.

Browsers that block ads are also available on mobile devices. Opera, for example, has a mobile version for both iOS and Android that will take care of in-browser ads. Simply go to O menu >Savings mode >Block ads.