Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to get rid of those annoying web page ads (for free)

One of the most annoying things nowadays on the Web pages are ads of all kinds shapes and forms (well at least for me). They've evolved and mutated from very beginning of the Web just to get as much possible of our attention (and possibly money of our pockets). But, still they're not unbeatable ...

Here I'll give you a quick overview of 3 methods that can help you get rid of ads on any web page. It is quite obvious why are those little tools called ad blockers, but I like to differentiate them by their nature, knowledge needed to implement them as well as scope of their use. OK, this might sound a bit dramatic, but actually only one method will require a bit more knowledge and that is non-cache web proxy, which makes possible not to protect just one computer, rather the whole network from displaying ads on web pages, but more about it later. Other 2 methods are standalone programs and browser extensions. The best thing regarding all of the mentioned ad blocker types is a fact they aren't exclusive, better to say the are complements. This means you can have a standalone program, browser extensions and non-cache proxy installed at the same time. The most flexible type are extensions as usually you can have more of them installed at the same time without any interference between them. Standalone programs and non-cache proxy are a bit less flexible at this point, as most of them don't like any complements of the same type installed. This means you probably won't be able to have 2 standalone ad blockers installed at the same time, but this is in no way a drawback, since there is really no need for this. If you're asking for a reason why they're so intolerable to each other, answer is quite simple - they work on a principle of intercepting all browser traffic. They remove ads by analyzing received page code and removing any ad code code from received page code before it is actually sent to and displayed in browser. If this is done by two or more programs at the same time of course there is a big chance of some kind of interference between them to occur. You could even think of standalone programs as non-cache proxy with nice GUI (Graphical User Interface) and more user friendly. Regarding code interception and altering it by standalone ad blockers one other positive feature is derived for end user - bandwidth reduction and web page speed loading increase as ads won't just be hidden on web pages, they won't be loaded at all. This might and might not be a positive value for you depending on your ISP access speed, but it definitely is a good one to have.
My advice to you is if you're up to for a quick and efficient solution for ad blocking you should stick to standalone programs and browser extensions and forget about non-cache web proxy and you'll be just fine.
While standalone programs usually cover most of todays popular web browsers, add-ons are more browser specific even some of the are available for more more than just one browser. For more than obvious reasons I prefer free ad blockers over paid ones so I'll start naming them first.

Since I'm a Firefox fan I'll start with Firefox ad blocking extensions first:
  • Adblock Plus - One of the best and most popular ad blocking add-ons for Firefox
  • Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus -This is an upgrade for Adblock Plus add-on which will enable you to hide certain elements on web pages. It can be used to rememove ads from your Gmail account.
  • Customizations for Adblock Plus - This add-on will provide you with more options to customize Adblock Plus add-on.
  • NoScript - This is actually not an ad blocker, but it can be used to block certain types of ads like flash ads.
  • Gmelius Ad Remover and Better UI for Gmail - As it name says this add-on will help you libearte your Gmail account from all ads. It is a specialized version of 2nd add-on to work just with Gmail.
Of course there are other ad blocking add-ons for Firefox available, but I've mentioned the ones I've been using for a long time now and which have proven to be reliable and useful. But I strongly suggest you to browse & search Firefox add-ons database for other ad blocking add-ons and report back if you find one or more of them which are not mentioned here to be very useful.Also be sure to regularly check and subscribe to my Firefox add-on collection as I regularly update it with the latest and most useful add-ons including ad blockers.

Except Firefox I'll just mention my favourite Chrome extensions as I'm familiar with it as well:
In this case I also strongly suggest you to browse & search Chrome web store for more ad blocking extensions as there are really plenty of them there. Some of them are more of general purpose while  some of them are specialized for certain web pages (Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, etc.)

As mentioned before I guess there should be extensions for other web browser available too, but you're on your own to discover them as I'm not much into any other web browsers as I really have all I need with Firefox and Chrome or better to say CoolNovo (a bit more privacy oriented Chrome clone).

And finally the last group left over to say something about are standalone ad blockers which block ads for multiple web browsers:
  • AdFender - Free utility to remove ads, working just fine if you're not up to paying for a commercial one.
  • Ad Muncher - One of the oldest ad blockers, very efficient, but it is a commercial one. I think this is quite mature product which is still being actively developed.
  • Adguard - Newly created Russian utility, seems to work quite well too. It is still being actively developed.
  • Simple Adblock - Ad blocker for IE. Haven't tired it, but try it if you're IE fan.
The third and last solution is a non-cache web proxy. Here ia a short explanation of it's functionality - "a non-caching web proxy has advanced filtering capabilities for enhancing privacy, modifying web page data and HTTP headers, controlling access, and removing ads and other obnoxious Internet junk.. From this definition you can see why is is so similar to standalone programs which as I've already mentioned do almost the same thing but just in a more user friendly way. The main benefit of using non-caching internet web proxy is ability to stop ads on multiple computers in LAN simultaneously. One of the most popular ones (and still developed and maintained) is called Privoxy. I won't go into any further details about how to install and use it since you can find a very good installation and user manual on its web page. I also forgot to mention how Privoxy unlike previously mentioned standalone programs is a multi-platform solution, which is also one of its main advantages.

And at the end I want you to be aware of just one more fact, no matter how good any of the mentioned or any other available ad blocking solution is good at the moment, web ads are a real shapeshifters since they were made for the first time, so except finding a good ad blocker you'll also need to keep in mind you need it to be updated regularly.

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