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What are Ad Blockers?

Definition of Ad Blockers

Ad filters, also known as ad blockers, are software tools that alter or block online advertisements. They are almost always implemented as a web browser extension, either on desktop or mobile. These tools are becoming ever more popular. People have various reasons for using an ad blocker:

  • fewer annoying ads
  • save bandwidth
  • save battery usage on mobile devices
  • protection from malvertising (ads that spread malware)
  • fewer distractions on webpages

Some Ad-Blocker History

We could safely say that the 1st ad blocker was a television remote control. It allowed people to change the channel when there was an advertisement.

In the 1990’s the TiVo, a digital video recorder, was developed. This allowed people to fast forward through the commercials.

Founded in 2016, The Coalition for Better Ads is a merger of large technology companies, professional associations in advertising, and other internet industries. Their goal is to assess what ads are working or not working, why people use ad blockers, and to produce standards for using advertising materials on the internet.

In 2018, you may be surprised to hear, Google Chrome added a built-in ad blocker. This ad blocker only blocks certain ads (which has caused some controversy).

How Many People Use Ad Blockers

Some noteworthy ad blocker usage statistics include:

  • 42.7% of internet users worldwide (16-64 years old) use ad blocking tools at least once a month.
  • 27% of American internet users block ads.
  • AdBlock, a popular blocking extension, is reported to have more than 65 million users.
  • Ad blocking is most common among internet users between 16 and 24 years old. Among this demographic, 46.2% of users worldwide admit to using ad blockers.
  • Globally, 42.7% of internet users use ad blockers.

How Ad Blockers Work

A website will use an ad server to manage their ads. As a web page loads, a connection is made with the ad server in order to find an ad and display it on the website. This is where an ad blocker comes into play. The ad blocker interrupts that connection so the ad server never receives the request. So, of course, the ad server does not respond.

When an ad is blocked, a couple different things might happen: a blank white space shows on the page where the ad would have been OR the website content will expand to use that space.

Ad blockers use various methods such as browser extensions (extensions are commonly just source code) or plug-ins (plug-ins are executables). In recent times, most browsers have disapproved of plug-ins, while extensions are widely used. For example: Google Chrome no longer supports plug-ins but has tens of thousands of extensions.

Other ad-blocking/content-blocking methods include hardware like PiHole, proxy software like Squid, Domain Name System filtering and more.

Advertertisers Response to Ad Blocking

Advertising companies have lost ad revenue due to ad blockers. On the other hand, the increased use of ad blockers has shed light on how user experience needs to be improved. Publishers have found ways to counteract ad blockers, such as using anti-adblock tools.

Detecting ad blockers or filters can also be useful. Publishers can detect if someone is using an ad blocker by using scripts, many of which can be found by doing a search for “ad-blocking scripts”. “An effective ad-block-detection script takes just a couple lines of code and is relatively easy to implement. There are a few providers that spare publishers the hassle of actually having to come up with their own script.”

Doakio’s Position on Ad Blockers

We do derive some of our funding from ads, but at the same time we are acutely aware of our reader’s experience. We don’t discourage our readers from using ad blockers. Quite the opposite, we’ve comprehensively evaluated and compared ad-blocking solutions so our users can find the best ad-blockers for their needs.  We may someday offer alternate means of supporting our work to give our readers more options.

Ad Blocker Features

This list shows commonly used features of ad block tools, in order of popularity, based on our research:

  1. Web Application: The adblocker installs as an extension on any kind of web browser.
  1. Block Trackers: Stops or limits tracking (recording user's online activity) which provides more privacy.
  1. Counts Blocked Ads: Counts the blocked advertisements on web pages, Android or IPhone Operating Systems.
  1. Block Pop ups: Pop up advertisements are disabled on web browsers, Android or IPhone Operating Systems.
  1. Block Video Ads: Video advertisements are disabled on web browsers, Android or IPhone Operating Systems.
  1. Whitelisting / Allow-Listing: Ability to add website URLs to an allow-list or whitelist in order to view ads on those sites, for example: websites that you want to support.

Ad Blocking Tools

The most popular ad blockers include:

  • AdBlock Plus
  • AdGuard
  • AdBlock
  • AdLock
  • Adaware Ad Block
  • Stands Fair AdBlocker

To find an ad blocker that fits your needs, please see our original research publication on Ad-Blocking Extensions and Plugins Compared that is always kept up-to-date. We also provide a custom ad-blocking survey that allows you to add your own importance prioritization for each feature.

Ad blockers are here to stay, even though publishers are getting more and more aggressive about maintaining that funding source. We’ll certainly see more creative solutions deployed as market conditions and customer expectations change over time.

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