Advertising on our favorite sites can be super annoying. It used to be that they would have mostly banner ads, side-bar ads, or an image in the text. But now it’s much more aggressive. There are full-screen pop-up ads or movies that play on the side of your screen, taking over your sound. All I want is to read an article, but I’m blasted by awful, intrusive ads (I’m looking at you, Forbes). But there is a way to stop all this. You need ad blocker software.
How Web Advertising Works
Traditional advertising works differently from Internet advertising. In traditional advertising, the publisher connects their publication directly to people who want to market their products. Car companies arrange contracts with TV stations to show their commercials on a particular channel in a particular market. Newspapers sell ad space in their dailies, and their copy goes out to a mass audience. Traditional marketing is one-way communication.
Big Data Tracking
Internet marketing works differently. First, companies collect tons of data about you, your interests, and your internet traffic. They use it to create a profile for you so they can target ads directly to you based on that profile. Companies do this by monitoring your behavior.
Social media companies track your every post, like, and article you read. They even track what accounts you hold on other websites, especially if you use your social accounts to log into other sites.
Others, like Google, use your search traffic to help target ads to you. They keep a record of every search, every click, and every website you visit through their tools, including maps and email, to give you ads that appeal to your interests. Frequently, this includes more than just your search traffic, because they leave cookies on your browser to follow you wherever your traffic goes.
In this system, marketers don’t contact publications directly. Instead, they produce ads through middle companies, like Google or Facebook. These companies use their vast data archives to target ads to you on your computer.
Unlike traditional advertising, these ads also track your response to them. If you click on an ad, data companies track your click, and they report it back to the advertiser. Frequently, advertisers pay by impression or by click instead of by the amount of time an ad has been pushed.
We users typically have two problems with this new advertising method. First, web ads are annoying. Years ago, ads use to create new windows that would pop up over the site you really want to visit. Then software companies created pop-up blockers. Now, they don’t create new windows. Instead, sites have pop-up windows directly over their content. You get landing pages, videos, and ads that scroll with you. It’s all awful.
Second, web ads have privacy questions. As big data tracks you, they gather a profile that can know you better than you know yourself. I remember hearing an interview with the CEO of Yahoo. At a public forum, a man asked her why the Yahoo front page kept showing articles about the Kardashians rather than hard news. He implied that Yahoo highlights fluff rather than solid articles. The CEO answered simply: The front page is based on your own click habits. If you click on hard news, you get more news. If you click on Kardashians, you get more Kardashians.
Ad blocker software
Ad-blocker software deals with the first concern. It works to block annoying ad content that gets in the way of your browsing. It works after you install and run an ad blocker extension or software.
When you send your browser to a website, the ad blocker software scans through the site looking for suspect scripts. When it finds them, it blocks them. So, it looks through a list of websites and traffic that the software has on its block list, and it shuts it down.
Stopping ad-supported content
Ad blocking can make it much easier to enjoy the internet, especially on the worst offending websites. But there are downsides to it. Many of our favorite content sites get their funding from ad revenue. They sign up to an ad service, and they get their revenue from people who click on those ads.
If you turn on an ad blocker, it means that your favorite sites lose out on their ad revenue, especially the sites you visit regularly. If you want to get free content, you we need some sort of ads. Most ad blocker software lets you whitelist certain sites so you can see ads on your favorites.
Best Ad blocker software
Now that we know what’s going on, let’s take a look at the best ad blocker software out there. There are a few things you want in an ad blockers. You want to have privacy, so you want to be able to use it without an account. It needs to work both on all the browsers and on your mobile devices. It should be free, too. Here’s what we came up with.
Adblock Plus works on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Edge (beta), Opera, Maxthon, and Yandex Browser. It specifically states that it doesn’t collect user information, in fact, most of your information doesn’t go to their servers at all. A part of the Acceptable Ads Initiative, they don’t block all ads, just the worst ones.
Adblock, unrelated to Adblock Plus, is a browser extension that works in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, iOS, and Android. It’s a free service that has had great reviews. Adblock doesn’t block all ads by default, just the most intrusive and annoying ones, which is great if you still want to support your favorite websites. You can always change that feature if you want.
uBlock supports the big three browsers: Chrome, Safari, and Firefox plus iOS. uBlock can come as a desktop app and a browser extension. The app has more features and settings to customize the blocking software. It lets you customize what kinds of ads get through, if any, and it has extensive third-party filtering lists in case you don’t like the ones they already use. If you don’t want to dig into all that, it’s easy enough just to install and go.
Windscribe: VPN Ad Blocker Software
The best way to deal with annoying ads isn’t just an adblocker. You might also want a VPN with ad blocking features. Why a VPN? A virtual private network hides your browsing traffic from just about anyone who wants to snoop on your activity. Many VPN services also come with ad blocker software, keeping your traffic private and stopping annoying ads from distracting you from your content.
Windscribe has both a free service and a paid service, but the free one has two limits: 2GB per month without submitting and email address and 10GB per month with an email address. Still, it doesn’t require you to sign in to use the VPN. It’s ad blocker software also will stop ads and trackers, too. It works from an app for Mac, Windows, Linux, and iOS.
Unfortunately, Windscribe is one of the few free VPN’s that offer ad blocking in their free service. Windscribe is a great VPN, so it’s a good choice is you want both privacy and ad blocking.
The new era of ads is annoying. The way some websites throw their digital marketing in your face makes browsing awful. Fortunately, the ad blocker software has stepped up to make blocking ads really easy. A VPN with ad blocker software is even better, since it not only stops ads, but it also keeps your private information private.