Every now and again someone comes along with an app that changes the game. Lotus 1-2-3. Excel. WordStar. Word. Whether it’s Mac or iPhone or iPad or even Windows PCs, an app that blocks browser ads is a trend with legs.
Off and on over the past year I’ve been using and trying out a variety of ad blockers for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, et al, and I’ve come to a single conclusion. Browsing the interwebs is better if you use an ad blocker. Much better.
Danger, Will Robinson
What happens with a good ad blocker is as much what you don’t see as what you see. First, you don’t see all the ads which clutter up many websites. Second, your ad blocker can dispose of all those cookies, tracking scripts, trackers, and analytics trackers that you don’t see visibly, but which hog your bandwidth and slow down the browsing experience.
What is not to like about blocking ads? Well, not handled appropriately, such blocking could mean the end of the free internet as we know it. Advertising greases the wheels of online commerce as much as anything, user experience be damned, and without something to pay the freight of viewing websites for free, they won’t be around and those that are around may not be free.
What’s the problem? Greed and avarice come into play. The internet brought with it technology that can and does track your online behavior while you traverse the interwebs on your favorite browser. Advertisers like the data they can gather from your viewing habits and build a profile targeted at you. That means websites have ever more ad images that clutter the view, and even more trackers lurking in the background to suck up bandwidth, slow down the browser, and give you little in return.
Internet users are revolting. No, not in the sense that politicians think of their constituents, but revolting as in, 1) not playing the ad clutter game, and 2) not clicking on advertisements anymore, and 3) doing something about it by installing ad blockers.
Here’s a good example.
I read Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s Apple 3.0 website because the articles are insightful and Apple related. Most website articles have about 100k of text; seldom more. GTMetrix’s performance test shows PED 3.0 took more than 4-seconds to load, had a Total Page Size of almost half a megabyte, and had 33 requests to outside sources. All of those help to slow down page load time and take up bandwidth. PED 3.0 is faster, smaller, lighter than the average website.
Elsewhere, the popular LoopInsight is slower and heavier, even with a single modestly long article, and garners 134 server requests. What about Macworld’s Macalope? I love the articles as they are brief, to the point, and insightful in a humorous way. But Macworld’s articles weigh far more than most.
In this case, the performance test took almost a minute to load up completely, had a Total Page Size of nearly 3.7-megabytes, and had 720 server requests.
Browsing the interwebs just isn’t what it used to be but it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is today. Check one my articles using the GTMetrix score for a comparison. Fast, small page size, far fewer requests. And that’s with a few ads here and there.
Browser ad blocking is a thing and it has legs because browser users are tired of the visual clutter, tired of slow page downloads, tired of websites that use up bandwidth and time, and have taken their browsing life into their own hands. I started my ad blocking with the free Ghostery, advanced to Adblock Plus— until I found out both were in cahoots with advertisers. I use and try a number of ad blockers, including 1Blocker and Better Blocker (because they work on iPhone and iPad; but there are many to choose from now that Apple opened Safari to handle content management; a.k.a. ad blockers).
If your website browsing experience is not what you want, you know what to do.