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What is ad blocking and should you use it?

Ad-blocking is a simple way to block annoying ads that make your browsing experience worse. Those ads clutter large parts of websites, slow downloading speeds, and might be sources of malware. However, there are several factors to take into account when blocking ads.

Paulius Ilevičius

Paulius Ilevičius

What is ad blocking and should you use it?

What is ad blocking and how does it work?

An ad blocker is any app (usually a browser extension) that removes advertising material, including intrusive ads, from websites. While a site is loading, the ad blocking software checks the domain names of the elements loading on the web page against massive blacklists. If any site component is flagged as advertising material, the ad blocker stops it from loading. An effective ad blocker will block commercials from every media player in your browser.

After the page content is displayed, the ad blocker looks for elements that meet certain rules, e.g., images in common banner dimensions, and hides them from the screen.

Is using an ad block legal?

Yes, it’s perfectly legal to block ads. While websites will specifically curate what they show or advertise to consumers, it’s up to user behavior to determine how they want to consume that content. It just so happens that the perfect user experience is without ads.

Is ad blocking safe?

Ad blocking is generally safe, but you should always choose a reliable ad blocking software. However, you should also note that ad blockers don’t replace anti-malware software and won’t fully protect you from malware and viruses. All they do is hide online ads from you.

Why do people use ad blockers?

The good thing about blocking advertisements is that it significantly improves your browsing experience by removing intrusive ads, video ads, and tons of content that doesn’t interest you at all. However, there are more benefits of installing ad-blocking software:

  • Security. Online advertising can be used by cybercriminals to distribute malware, so if you block online ads, you can actually save your device from being infected;
  • Privacy. The software can also prevent some third-party trackers from loading, meaning those advertisers can no longer collect information about your online behavior. You can even use ad blockers to block email tracking;
  • Speed. Websites will open faster because they won’t have to load dozens of advertising tags, plug-ins, and third-party analytics. If you block ads, you may notice better performances.

Pros and cons of ad blocking

Pros

  • pros
    Ad blocking software blocks malicious ads that can infect your device with malware if you click on them.
  • pros
    Ad blocking makes your browsing experience smoother. Ads usually clutter the websites you browse, sometimes to the point that you can’t see the actual content. Also, they make browsing slower by consuming your bandwidth.
  • pros
    Ad blocking makes your browsing experience smoother. Ads usually clutter the websites you browse, sometimes to the point that you can’t see the actual content. Also, they make browsing slower by consuming your bandwidth.
  • pros
    Annoying and unwanted ads violate your privacy. Advertisers use trackers to monitor your browsing habits and then target ads at you. Ad blocking prevents others who use your device from seeing your personalized ads and protects you from the annoying experience of seeing ads for recently searched items.
  • pros
    Ad blocking can help you save battery life because ads can drain your battery.

Cons

  • cons
    Ads are the only source of income for many websites and online services. They are one of the methods you “pay” for the content you like. Ads are also often an important source of revenue for independent media outlets. By disabling them, you may financially hurt publishers or service providers.
  • cons
    Many advertisers and website developers discover new methods of bypassing ad blocking, so it doesn’t fully protect you from all the malicious ads.
  • cons
    Acceptable ads can be relevant and useful. Some advertisers use ethical advertising techniques. Those acceptable ads also don’t impact your browsing experience much.

Why you may want to turn your ad blocker off

With an ad blocker turned on, you can finally read your favorite articles, watch YouTube videos, and browse in peace without flashy ads popping up on your screen. However, publishers don’t get paid for ads that don’t reach you. That's why some publishers will unfortunately invest in intrusive ads.

Sometimes, the content you are used to accessing for free is actually paid for by ads – and advertisers only pay for ads that get served. If an ad doesn’t appear on your mobile or desktop screen because you blocked it, the site you love to read simply won’t get paid if you block ads.

Publishers, of course, try their best to find ways around ad blocking. Some of them produce sponsored content, while others offer paid subscriptions or ask you politely to whitelist their website or pause your ad blocker for a while. Some even prevent readers from accessing their content if an ad blocker is turned on. Blocking ads can unfortunately hurt some publishers.

Ads can be intrusive and annoying, but they are also the reason some of your favorite websites and online services exist. Ad blocker statistics show that they are generally worth it, but you can also consider shutting them off while browsing reputable sites you’d like to support. They may be aggravating, but some annoying ads here and there will help your favored publishers.

Where ad-block software does not work

Ad-block software is not fool-proof protection and might not work in the following cases:

  • Acceptable ads. These are the ads that are respectful, unobtrusive, clearly labeled as ads, and are approved by the Acceptable Ads Committee. These aren't normally annoying ads and might pass ad-blocker filters;
  • As noted above, you could be required to disable to ad-block by websites that get their revenue from ads;
  • Some sites (like Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch) use special workarounds to bypass ad-blocks. While ad-blocks constantly counter them by introducing new updates, you might still regularly encounter ads on social media platforms;
  • Ad content. Some ads are bound with the content you watch. This might be a video in which the person speaking pushes a product or an article that suggests using certain products. This type of advertising is difficult to avoid without blocking the entirety of the content.

How to block ads

How to block ads on YouTube

YouTube celebrities used to heavily rely on the income that pre-roll advertisements and mid-roll advertisements could provide. After a change in policy, this isn’t the case anymore. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel too guilty even blocking the ads on your favorite influencer’s channel. Blocking ads on YouTube is as easy as installing the latest ad-blocking extension of your choice. Some browsers will even have access to specific YouTube tools, where you can block annoying pre-roll ads with just the click of a button.

How to block ads on Facebook

Blocking ads on Facebook unfortunately isn’t as easy as setting up an ad-block extension. The developers at Facebook configured their website to outmaneuver a lot of ad-blocking technology.

1. Log in to your Facebook and get to the Settings menu.

2. Once there, go to your Account Settings.

3. Find the selection called Ads.

4. Click on it and go into Ad Settings.

5. Change both ad options you see to Not Allowed.

While this will help block targeted ads and the occasional mid-roll ad while watching a Facebook video, it won’t completely cleanse the site of adverts. Facebook has it's own unique brand of behavioral monitoring that can't be outsmarted by a lot of ad blocking technology.

How to block ads on Twitch

Here are a few ways to block Twitch ads:

  • Buy a Turbo Twitch account, which makes Twitch ad-free. However, you would have to pay an additional monthly fee for it;
  • Get an ad blocker, but make sure it works properly on Twitch. However, ad-blockers cannot block annoying ads on mobile devices. Also, browser extensions might not always work, especially on video ads, so getting a stand-alone ad-blocker is an option as well;
  • Report video-on-demand ads you don’t like. If you report an ad several times, it won’t play.

How to choose ad blocking software

As there is a wide variety of ad-blocking programs and browser extensions available, here are a few aspects to pay attention to when choosing the right one:

  • Avoiding ad-blocker scams. Always research the app you are going to use. Fake ad-blocker software does not function properly and might gather your data for third-parties or infect you with malware;
  • Various types of ads blocked. Make sure an ad-blocker blocks different ads including video ads, banners, pop-ups, etc.;
  • Customization possibilities and functionality. Check if an ad-blocker has enough customization options to easily whitelist specific type of ads to access pages, apply filters, etc.;
  • Customer support. This is vital in case you would encounter any problems;
  • Some ad-blockers can be too forceful and block the relevant content.

Does a VPN block ads?

Ad blocking is not VPN's primary function, but some premium VPN services have additional features that block ads.

PRO TIP: Use a VPN with a built-in ad blocker to prevent ads from following you online and keep your browsing activity private. Premium VPNs with ad blockers (like NordVPN) work on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and more.

NordVPN's Threat Protection

NordVPN’s Threat Protection technology efficiently blocks suspicious domains so that no malware or other cyber threats can infect your device. It also effectively blocks annoying ads on mobile. On top of that, it will hide unwanted pop-ups, autoplay video ads, and other advertising material the moment you enter a website. Just make sure you download our VPN for android from our official website as it no longer blocks ads if downloaded from Google Play store due to Google’s policies.

Privacy protection starts with a click.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN


Paulius Ilevičius
Paulius Ilevičius Paulius Ilevičius
Paulius Ilevičius is a technology and art enthusiast who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in cybersec and internet freedom. He is always in search for new and unexplored angles to share with his readers.