What are the pros and cons of using ad blockers in my browser?
This question was answered on March 15, 2017. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Ads on the Internet are a fact of life that frankly speaking, help pay for many of the ‘free’ services that we all enjoy.
Having said that, the way that ads are delivered via third party networks often causes slow loading of pages or makes it difficult to find the actual information that we seek.
Mobile users on a limited data plan can reduce the amount of data they use by eliminating the bandwidth required for loading ads.
Throw in the potential for ‘malvertising’, which are legitimate ad networks that have been infiltrated by malware-laden ads and you have plenty of reasons for wanting to limit ads while you surf the web.
How Ad Blockers Work
Ad blockers employ similar filtering techniques to anti-virus programs for identifying scripts which are then compared to a list of known sites and scripts that are blocked based on the programs pre-set parameters.
They can also simply hide certain HTML elements of the page from your view even if your browser loads them.
It’s far from a perfect technology, but by and large, they do a pretty good job.
Ad blockers are not limited to your desktop or laptop computer; you can also use them on just about any of your mobile devices.
The Downside of Ad Blockers
While the reasons for using an ad blocker may be many, there are some side effects you should be aware of.
The most obvious side-effect will be on pages that rely on scripts that when blocked can totally ‘break’ the page and dramatically change what you actually see.
For hardcore privacy advocates, there may be data privacy risks as some of the free ad-blocking tools collect your browsing behaviors for third-party use.
There’s also the very real issue of using a 'free' site that can only provide its content if they can pay for it through delivering ads.
Technically speaking, if everyone on the Internet used ad blockers, it would essentially destroy the business model that is the basis for what we all take for granted on a daily basis.
One way to use the technology but support your favorite websites is to use the ‘whitelisting’ option most of them employ, which allows ads on just the sites you choose.
One of the most popular browser add-on called AdBlock Plus (https://adblockplus.org) works with most major browsers and offers apps for both Android and iPhone users.
The Opera (https://opera.com) browser for computers and Opera Mini for mobile devices has an ad blocker built-in, so you can install it as an alternative browser for when you want to use ad blocking.
Firefox fans have long used the NoScript plugin (https://noscript.net) to manage a variety of scripts that range from ads to malware attacks, but I would only recommend this more elaborate tool for tech savvy users.
Fans of Google’s Chrome browser can also try ScriptSafe (https://goo.gl/9ow7Au) to offer similar features to NoScript, though it’s not nearly as powerful.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 15, 2017