Online advertising can be a divisive thing. On the one hand, ads support the free content model of the internet, with advertising subsidizing many of our favorite websites. On the other hand, badly designed or intrusive ads can be disruptive, to say the least, and tracking cookies and similar advertising trackers raise many privacy concerns. This is where ad blockers and anti-tracking software come in, allowing users to block irritating ads, save bandwidth, opt out of intrusive marketing systems and, in extreme scenarios, block malicious ads that seek to infect computers. Check out our favorite ad blocking extensions and apps to take control of your browsing experience.
NOTE: Ad blocking takes away revenue from publications like the one you're reading and risk the ability of media to provide otherwise free content.
AdBlock Plus (ABP) is among the most popular ad blockers, with versions available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and a new version just released for Internet Explorer. ABP features a quick setup, loading preset filter lists that allow users to quickly block most ads, as well as the option to filter malware and social media buttons. Savvy users can chose additional block lists as well as set custom filters or whitelist their favorite sites to keep their ad revenue in the black. AdBlock Plus allows what it calls "non-intrusive advertising" through filters, which may irk some users, though this can be disabled in settings.
AdBlock (no relation to AdBlock Plus) is the other major ad blocker extension of note, available for users of Chrome, Opera and Safari. AdBlock uses a series of filter lists to automatically block ad content coming from known ad servers and providers. Users can stick with the default block lists, subscribe to additional ones, or even create their own, as well as whitelist their favorite websites. As one of the most downloaded Chrome and Safari extensions, AdBlock has the trust of many users worldwide.
AdBlock Plus also makes sure to cover the mobile front with two different offerings for Android and iOS users. On Android, the AdBlock Browser provides users with a Firefox-based Android browser that automatically blocks all incoming advertising, without having to get down and dirty with root permissions like AdBlock Plus's previous Android app. On iOS, the AdBlock Plus app integrates with iOS 9's content blocker system in order to seamlessly block advertising on Safari with minimal setup.
Another app that makes good use of iOS 9's new content-blocking features is 1Blocker, a powerful and highly configurable content blocker that comes preloaded with a wide array of ad blocking settings, while also providing users with the freedom to create their own content blocking rules. Users can easily block unsightly ads and social widgets with a flick of a switch, and users can also whitelist specific pages if they want to let content through. Previously a paid app, 1Blocker is now free to try, with free users able to block one kind of content (ads, social widgets, etc.), with a premium upgrade unlocking unlimited blocking.
HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension available in Chrome, Firefox and Opera that is produced as part of a collaboration between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt your online browsing and communications by rewriting HTTP link requests to HTTPS when within a whitelist of sites that support HTTPS. This means that when an SSL secured version of the site exists (https), then HTTPS Everywhere automatically redirects you to the secured version of a website that you're accessing.
ScriptSafe is a Chrome tool inspired by the likes of NoScript in order to provide a similar scriptblocking functionality to Chrome users. Unfortunately, due to technical details in Chrome's design, ScriptSafe and similar programs can't quite match the functionality of NoScript on Firefox. Still, the people behind ScriptSafe make a good effort, allowing users to block set different levels of blocking, blacklist or whitelist domains, and more.