Are Ad Blockers the Right Solution for an Annoying Problem?
Ad blockers have raised countless questions about the structure of the internet as we know it. They’ve forced marketers to innovate their strategies, pulled the plug on the ‘adpocalypse,’ and ruffled the feathers of some of the most prominent online businesses. However, their power is slowly waning, as web platforms continue to find new ways to circumvent their influence. Today, you need more than just a simple Ad-block extension to guarantee a commercial-free online experience.
Ads have always been central to the world of media. They provide an outlet for companies to reach specific demographics while providing a paycheck for content creators. The internet is no different. Over the last decade or so, ads have become an increasingly common phenomenon. In fact, it’s estimated that we now see an average of 5000 ads a day – a 100% increase since the 1970s.
In some ways, ads are integral to our culture. Many websites monetize their content by using adverts; your favorite YouTubers, social networks, and blogs all create revenue by providing marketing space for third-parties.
However, the harsh reality is that we’ve reached a tipping point. Today, web users are bombarded by these online sale strategies. Not only is the overload incredibly annoying, but it could also be having adverse effects on our mental health. Particularly in younger people, adverts have the power to change our perceptions, often leading to a sense of dissatisfaction and/or impulsive spending.
Fortunately, Ad-blockers allow users to regain control over their online experience.
Ad Blockers: A Brief History
The original AdBlock was born in 2002, existing solely as an extension for Firefox. Since its conception, several iterations have existed. The most common – developed by Michael Gundlach – was first released in 2009. By this point, online ads were everywhere; as pop-ups, banners, mid-text or in footers. Not only was this incredibly frustrating for users, but it also carried other repercussions.
- Malware was regularly transported through infected ads – i.e., malvertising.
- They increased bandwidth usage.
- Page loading times were slower.
- It decreased the battery life of portable devices.
- Tracking software threatened user privacy.
Once AdBlock was installed, it changed the internet experience dramatically. It allowed users to surf the web without constant distractions, cluttered pages and endless loading times. It also increased privacy, as many marketers use tracking and profiling software the monitor their campaigns – which record who is clicking where, and what commonalities exist in their audiences buying habits.
How Do Ad Blockers Actually Work?
Ad blockers are browser extensions; plugins that work whenever you open that specific internet portal. In most cases, they act as filters, using information from regularly updated lists – which are aggregated by multiple parties. When you visit a domain, the ad blocker will quickly review all of the site’s scripts. If they find code that matches known advertisements from the filter list, that content will automatically be blocked. Sometimes the ad will disappear completely, others you will see a loading error in the area where it should have been.
Not all ad blockers work in the same way. Some dedicate their time to removing all advertisements on a certain page, while others target their efforts into eliminating potential privacy threats. The latter puts a greater focus on in-built tracking software and malware, which may be active even if visible ads aren’t.
Unfortunately, ad blocking software’s power is far from ubiquitous.
The Problem with Their Promise
Ad blocks do what they say on the tin: they block ads. Unfortunately, this promise comes with a whole list of risk. As ads continue to be the primary source of income for most online businesses, it’s understandable that ad blockers caused a significant backlash. The tug of war over ad space is ongoing and, already, many marketing campaigns have found a way to slip through the cracks.
These are just a few examples of situations where ad block won’t work:
- The Acceptable Ads Committee was created in 2017, as a bid to temper the war between ad blocks and online marketers. It provided a template for non-intrusive advertising, granting those who met the criteria a place on a whitelist. Once accepted, marketing campaigns are allowed to pass the blocks imposed by the software.
- As ad blockers are usually browser extensions, they fail to provide any protection when using specific apps. As the majority of web traffic now comes from mobile devices – which consist primarily of applications – a significant proportion of online activity now exists outside the remit of ad blocks.
- AdBlock is configured to work with HTML5 videos. However, some sites still use the older Adobe flash player format, which is not targeted by software designed to shut out advertisements.
- After upgrading their browsers, many users find that their ad blocker no longer works. This problem is due to specific bugs – such as the prevalent Chrome 3.17 bug or the Chrome YouTube bug of 2015 – that nullify the AdBlock powers due to coding issues.
- Other browser extensions – such as Magic Actions – have been known to interfere with ad blocking software.
AdBlock has long been a target for some of the web’s biggest players. Already, Google, Facebook, YouTube and similar companies are investing time and money into ways to circumvent the blocks. There has already been evidence that Google Adwords has paid to be included in a universal whitelist, and it’s likely that similar situations will continue to occur.
Enhance Your Ad Blocker with a VPN
Since 2017 and the introduction of the whitelist, AdBlock has failed to provide the level of protection that users require. Whether it’s allowing tracking software and targeted advertisements or failing to filter annoying ads, the general online consensus is that a new solution is required.
The first step is to look at the advanced settings of your AdBlock, to customize the material that it lets through. If that doesn’t work, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As the software dictates web traffic across your whole device – rather than a specific browser – it’s easier to circumvent ad script anywhere online. Plus, it anonymizes your connection so no tracking or filtering can occur. A few tactics can be employed to bolster you ad-blocking capabilities with a VPN.
- Find a VPN provider with built-in ad-blocking protection. An increasing number of companies are offering this service, and it’s easy to download, install and run the software.
- Get a VPN-ready router and configure it to block ads – this takes a bit more effort, but ensures you will always be protected.
Reclaim Control Over Internet Ads
If you are tired of marketing campaigns slipping through the cracks of your AdBlock, then investing in a good VPN will allow you to regain control over your online experience.
It’s understandable that online businesses want to make money, but that’s no excuse for breaching user privacy and overwhelming their browsing activity with endless ads.
Be sure to do your research and find a trusted VPN provider that offers specific ad-blocking capabilities – so you won’t get caught out again!