Ad Blockers are software programs that block ads from appearing on the websites you visit. They were originally designed to eliminate those annoying, flashing, pop-up ads that ruined many a website experience.
Ad Blockers typically come as extensions on web browsers. One of the most popular – or recommended – blocker has been AdBlock Plus.
Ad Blocker software actually served multiple purposes – to eliminate annoying ads, speed up page loads, and to protect against the malware sometimes embedded in those ads.
But as this software grew popular, several things happened.
- Publishers discovered they couldn’t sell as much online advertising because of questions as to whether any of it would be seen. Sites need ad support to survive, so now sites sometimes ask you to disable your ad blocker to see their content. (If a site actively disables your ad blocker behind your back, stop visiting that site!)
- International regulations on data use and tracking took effect, requiring companies to state upfront how they track visitors and use visitor data. Two of these regulations are GDPR (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation) and California’s Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA.
You’ve probably seen the related notices asking you to agree or accept their policies before continuing on to the site’s content.
- In 2016, advertisers and their networks, including Google, created the Coalition for Better Ads, which identified annoying ad formats that should be avoided. Google’s Chrome browser now automatically blocks those ad formats.
- At the same time, modern browsers now incorporate ad-blocking and anti-tracking as standard features. Browsers with these features include Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Microsoft’s Edge.
So today, your web experience probably does include more ads than a few years ago, although you still will also see blank white space labeled as an ad. This is happening even if you haven’t actively downloaded or updated your ad blocker.
If you are tempted to remove ads completely from your browsing experience, be careful what you add on. Adding an Ad Blocker can speed up your page loads and increase your online privacy – but only if you add from a reputable source.
Chances are your browser may recommend a reputable ad blocker or two as a browser add-on. But if you go to Google Play and download something that catches your fancy – watch out.
Some ad blocking programs capture your data and sell it themselves. Or they may be vehicles for malware from unscrupulous developers.
Your best approach may be to simply keep your browser up-to-date. The reputable ones are already watching out for you!