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Is It Time to Start Using an Adblocker?

One of the positions I’ve held for as long as Ask Leo! been around is that adblockers are fundamentally wrong. They prevent sites that depend on advertising from making the revenue they need to survive.

Let’s be clear about one thing up front: this isn’t about greed. This is about survival. Many useful websites exist solely because of the advertising revenue they’re able generate. If that goes away, the sites go away. Rarely does advertising on small- and medium-sized sites cover more than the basic costs.

If you consider viewing advertisements the “cost” of consuming the content you want for free, then blocking those ads can rightfully be considered theft. You’re using the content without paying the price.

That’s been my position for years.

But, at the risk of being hypocritical, I’m starting to change my mind. And the advertisers have no one to blame but themselves.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Success is their downfall

My position to date has been that if you don’t like the advertisements on a site, then don’t visit that site. “Vote with your feet.” Go to another site that has less annoying ads, or pay for a site that has as an option to remove ads1.

There are sites with useful information that I don’t visit, reference, or point people to, simply because the advertising on those sites is so bad.

However, voting with your feet doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Because ads are so ubiquitous, so many web sites use the same ad networks, and so many ad networks use the same techniques, it’s become nearly impossible to find alternative sites that actually meet the criteria of less-annoying ads.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Manipulation is their downfall

For many years, one of the techniques used by advertisers in the tech space was to make their ads look like download buttons. Visit a site to get the latest download of your favorite image-burning software, and you’ll see half a dozen nearly indistinguishable DOWNLOAD buttons, only one of which is the “real” download button you want. The rest? Ads.

Ad Block My sense is that this has improved somewhat, but the problem remains: ads don’t always look like ads. They try to manipulate visitors into thinking the ad is part of the content. This is why it’s important to learn to recognize ads.

Manipulation also appears in another guise called “sponsored content”. This is content someone pays to place on a web site.2 Sometimes it’s obvious, but often it’s indistinguishable from the site’s own content. What you think is a legitimate recommendation or evaluation of a product may really be an article written by that product’s creator. In other words, it might be an ad.

Tracking is their downfall

As long-time readers know, I’m not terribly concerned about the tracking that results in ads “following me” around the internet. But I know they concern some. To many, it feels like an invasion of privacy, and to others, it just feels creepy.

The problem, of course, is that the technique works. Ads that follow people are effective. And because they’re effective, more and more advertisers and advertising networks use the technique to sell more of whatever it is they’re selling. As more and more advertisers use it, more and more ads start “following” you. Even though it really is benign, the result is that the internet feels creepier and creepier.

As an advertising-supported site, it also means I have even less control over what ads appear here. The ads that “follow” you might have nothing to do with technology, or anything I’ve ever even heard of. You may see ads here for all manner of things, for good or bad.

Malware is their downfall

Honestly, the final straw breaking my adblocking back is malware. It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve definitely heard of situations where an ad isn’t an ad at all, but rather a conduit for installing malware on your machine.

This can happen for either of two reasons:

  • An advertising network, or the software it uses to display ads on your machine, gets hacked into displaying malicious ads.
  • An advertising network has insufficient safeguards in place, and advertisers are unintentionally allowed to display ads that are malicious.

The reason this concerns me is not because it’s common — it’s not — but that it’s almost completely out of your control.

I’ve long taught that you can’t get into trouble if you only visit reputable sites. But now, if that site happens to use an ad network that’s somehow compromised, that’s simply not true. And there’s no way to know beforehand.

My Ask Leo! compromise

As a website owner, I know adblockers are inevitable, and in the face of malware, they’re more and more difficult to argue against.

If you visit Ask Leo! with an adblocker turned on, in place of the ads I normally use to pay for the site from Google’s Adsense program3, you’ll see a static image asking you to consider becoming a patron to help support the site.

I know other sites – particularly news sites – get more aggressive, often showing a pop-up to visitors using an adblocker. I’ve seen a handful go so far as to actually block access completely if you’re using an adblocker.

How do I know this?

Because for the last few months I’ve been test-driving an adblocker.

What adblocker to use?

I really, really, wanted to be able to use Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As its name implies, it’s focused not on ad blocking, but on maintaining your privacy. Its approach is heuristic, meaning it looks for website behavior that looks like tracking and blocks it. As it turns out, there’s a high degree of overlap between advertising and tracking techniques, so it functions as a relatively effective ad blocker as well.

Sadly, it’s pretty close to an everything-blocker or everything-breaker. The problem is that Privacy Badger is quite aggressive, and many techniques used to detect tracking are valid for other purposes as well. For example, a technique I use here on Ask Leo! — to speed up the site by using a content delivery network — is detected as tracking by Privacy Badger. As a result, visiting Ask Leo! would result in a jumbled mess on your screen.

Yes, you can whitelist things, but so many sites break, and it’s such a frustrating exercise to try and figure out what to whitelist (would you know to whitelist and to get Ask Leo! to work?), Privacy Badger is simply a non-starter for the average computer user.

Give it a try if you like, but expect lots of things to break.

uBlock Origin What I’ve settled on is uBlock Origin (not to be confused with uBlock). Technically, it’s not “just” an adblocker; in their words, it’s “… a wide-spectrum blocker … default behavior of uBlock Origin when newly installed is to block ads, trackers and malware sites”. It’s a browser add-on that runs quietly in the background as web pages are displayed. It’s lightweight, has a good reputation, and doesn’t break too much.

Unfortunately, it does break some things. But the mechanism to whitelist, or temporarily whitelist, a site in order to make it work is simple and effective. (Click the uBlock Origin icon in the browser, and then click an “off” icon.) And it’s quite configurable.

More to the point, after running it for a couple of months (in Google Chrome, but there are versions for FireFox as well) my browsing experience was not seriously impacted, except for the occasional “we see you’re using an adblocker” message. Rarely did I need to whitelist a site I was visiting, and that was easy and quick.

Where do we go from here?

Internet advertising is broken.

Between sites plastered with ads, the perception of privacy issues, misleading and manipulative advertisements, and the risk — however small — of malware, it’s hard to say anything else.

Advertising has also enabled the varied and rich experience that is the internet today. Without ads, a significant number of the sites you rely on daily — perhaps even most of them — simply wouldn’t exist.

As a website owner, I have to be pragmatic to keep my site and service afloat. Ads allowed Ask Leo! to come into being, and ads in some form will certainly be here as long as I can envision. At the same time, I’m not taking any draconian actions against those who choose to use adblockers — I get it, I really do. In my case, I simply explore other ways to pay the bills, be it books, services, or direct patronage.4

As an internet user, I’ve become much less averse to financially supporting the sites and services I use that give me value. Be it subscriptions, purchases, or patronage, I believe it’s important to put my money where my mouth is. If advertising is broken — and it is — then these same sites and services are almost certainly dealing with the same kinds of issues I am.

I know how the sausage is made, and it takes money to turn the crank.

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Footnotes & references

1: I don’t currently offer that option, primarily because it means every paying visitor would need an account (another account for you to manage), and the impact on the server of managing each account’s access would require me to pay more for a more powerful server. Besides, as you’ll see, I have a compromise.

2: Something I’ve never accepted on Ask Leo!, and have no plans of accepting in the future. All Ask Leo! content currently originates exclusively from me. If that ever changes, it’ll be obvious.

3: Ironically, as I write this, I’m also testing a program from Adsense that occasionally places a little “Can you help us?” tab at the bottom of the screen as an additional way to solicit support. It’s ironic because many adblockers block this as well.

4: Or coffee. Or beer. Smile

70 comments on “Is It Time to Start Using an Adblocker?”

  1. Hey Leo,
    Why don’t you link PayPal to your website donation list? I prefer to use it versus credit cards when supporting websites. Thanks for your continued work!

  2. Hey Leo,
    Another “Downfall” you didn’t mention is how ads slow down browsing.
    One of my favourite sites is – but their ads are excruciatingly slow to load (lots of videos), so browsing their site is painfully slow.
    I had never bothered with an adblocker before, as seeing ads doesn’t really offend me in any other way. But because of, I now use one.


    • Exactly. I agree with you. I actually like ads. If the ads didn’t slow me down, or block my content, or the website refuse to let me read an article without first signing up for a newsletter, I’d support ads (worse yet, are the paywalls before allowing reading). I would even reluctantly support the intrusive ads (up to a point) if they didn’t slow my computer down so much, that is, take up my time.

  3. I fully understand that many sites depend on their advertising to survive. But come on, there is advertising and there is network bullying. When(if) I have a new install, I do not install an adblocker. But when the advertisers think that I absolutely have to look at their ad, or they won’t let me see the page because of their ads, I make changes. I install an adblocker when the ads start popping up over my screen so the content cannot be seen. Whatever ads are on the page itself, I do not mind at all Load the page down with them and I will never install an adblocker until as described.

    But the problem is that the good guys get hurt along with the bad guys. I know it is logistically impossible to implement, but we need some way to block only pop-ups, or pop-overs. Figure out some way to do that and I will incapacitate my ad blocker.

  4. The original concept of the personal computer community and the internet was the dissemination of information completely free. Advertising was never part of them.

    Ther a millions of web sites that still espouse to this concept, if you look for them.

    The problems of the world and the internet, are not an inability to produce but an unwillingness to share.

    • I agree, Geoff. The idea that using an ad blocker somehow constitutes theft is ridiculous. The real theft occurs when sites take away my freedom to visit without having extraneous material forced on me, or they track my progress. The time to start using an adblocker was when sites started displaying advertising. I have used one since advertising became obtrusive and I don’t have any plans to stop using it.

      I’ve never been able to understand the ad-supported model, whether it’s applied to websites or software. Either provide your content/program for free or charge for it. Those who think your content or program is worth it will pay if they think the cost is reasonable. I pay for access to one news site but I don’t recall donating to any sites. (I do own numerous software programs for which I’ve paid and I’ve also made donations to a number of software vendors who provide good freeware programs.)

      I own a couple of websites (one to publish my novels and short stories; the other my family history) which do not carry advertising. I do not charge for access because I want the content to be freely available; the cost is low and I meet all of it myself. (I do this on my age pension, which is my only income; I don’t have money to throw around.)

      Finally, I disagree with you, Leo, when you say, “Advertising has also enabled the varied and rich experience that is the internet today.” The internet provided a rich and varied experience for free long before advertising became endemic. As Geoff says above, there are still many sites dedicated to providing free content – and a lot of those provide better content than advertising-supported sites. I suspect internet advertising has more to do with greed than paying bills in a lot of cases.

      • Fascinating. And yet you’re OK with magazines and newspapers using an advertising model (i.e. you’re FORCED to see the ads on every page where they take room away content), IN ADDITION to paying for them. As they have for, what, 100 years or more?

        You are correct. We disagree.

        And I’ll stand by my statement: if advertising revenue were not present, thousands, if not millions, of web sites that we take for granted would simply not exist today. Including this one.

        • Well, having read what you said in the article I didn’t expect you to agree; I was simply offering a different point of view because I think yours is flawed. I don’t buy magazines or newspapers, so I’m not “forced” to see their ads. In any case, advertising in print media is not as obtrusive or demanding as that on websites and it’s easy to ignore. The two are a world apart, so it’s pointless trying to use print media advertising as an example to back up your argument. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t watch commercial TV, either.)

          The millions of sites you claim wouldn’t exist without advertising wouldn’t be missed by me or a lot of other internet users: we simply don’t visit those sites, let alone “take them for granted”. My point was that there are plenty of other sites that don’t use advertising, and they get my vote over those that do use advertising. You may stand by your statement, but I also stand by mine: there are still many sites providing excellent free content.

          I’m sure you think it’s ironic that I’m complaining about advertising yet visiting your advertising-supported site. I subscribed to your newsfeed about three years ago, and only visit the site very occasionally – when the headline of an article in the feed catches my interest and I come here to read the full article. In the period I’ve been subscribed only a handful of articles have been interesting enough for me to do that.

        • I disagree totally with you Leo as I have always had magazines with e certain amount of advertising, I have also stopped buying certain magazines because the advertising became or seemed a higher priority than the magazines content. I will also do the same with internet sites that put more effort into providing advertising than making sure the content they are wanting to provide.
          If what you are saying is that the expense of running these sites is so high that they cannot exist without advertising then at least regulate the advertising. Most people are okay with advertising loading with the page but I agree that it is a complete waste of time loading a page where the advertising covers the page you have loaded, in my opinion the owner of these sites is more interested in the revenue they can gain far more than the information they are offering (for Free???)

      • You remind me of someone who has either never been self-employed, or has failed at it and doesn’t understand why. Totally free content is provided by personal ego and not by someone who is to trying to support a family.

      • LOL… you completely missed the point of Geoff’s comment. Many people ARE willing to share without expectation of reward.

    • To use Ask Leo! as an example. Leo has a small staff of people who help with comment moderation, answering questions, website maintenance, transcription, editing, bookkeeping and more. So even if Leo wanted to work for free, he somehow would have to pay for his staff or greatly reduce the amount of content on the website. That’s just one example. The web can’t be supplied with good content without spending to produce that content.

      • Indeed. I also hear often from people who – very legitimately – can’t afford to pay for things like website subscriptions or whatever alternative model might be used to support a web site. The presence of ads for everyone make huge amounts of important information free for everyone. In some cases it’s the only way people have of accessing content.

    • Yes, the original concept of the Internet was to provide free (except phone charges) access to information. But then, it was solely text based, and the information available was quite limited.

      Advertising has been an integral part of the Internet for over 20 years. I began using the Internet in 1993 using a 7.2K dial-up modem. Then the three main free portals were COMPUSERVE, AOL and Prodigy. COMPUSERVE did not have ads, but had only a few static articles for free. Anything else was fee-based. AOL had more free content, but there was some advertising. Prodigy had the most free content, but also had a lot of ads.

      There may be “millions of web sites” that are totally free, but what content do they provide? Most are personal web pages that would interest very few people. Some I know haven’t been updated in several years. John S, below, mentions having a couple of sites. The question is, though, how many visitors does he have? AskLeo probably gets more visitors in a day than he does in a year. Another thing to consider is the content volume. The more content and visitation, the greater the server and bandwidth requirements, and higher the cost.

      Yes, there are sites that I occasionally visit that are either ad-free or have a few unobtrusive ads. These are mainly archive sites. However, if I want current national/world news, tech news/reviews, recipes, and a host of other up-to-date information, I am inundated with ads. (Actually, newspaper sites are the worst.) So far I haven’t found any sites with current affairs/information that are ad-free.

      Websites are like any other business. There are those who only charge enough (or have paying ads) to cover costs. Then there are those who are out for all they can get. Like Leo, there are some sites I quit visiting because of their ads. There will always be people who overdo a good thing – only to their own detriment. However, not everyone is driven by greed or a lack of willingness to share.

  5. I have a question but I don’t know exactly where to put it, so i’ll put it here … i have a few different Yahoo emails. When i go to sign in it asks if i want to add an address to that account… NO! i don’t, but how do i stop it from doing that?


  6. uBlock Origin – Tried to sign up for the app but the website is just too confusing to find how to order, price, etc. Maybe the developers should vend this out to a personal desktop user. I do have a Computer Science degree that was obtained in the days of Cobol.

  7. What really pushed me to using ad blockers are the fraudulent ads trying to tell me I have a virus or some sort of malware installed. The ones claiming to be from Microsoft are the most blatent. I’ve seen them everywhere.

    I can’t agree with your statement that you can’t control the ads that show up on your site. I believe you when you say it. I just can’t see allowing anyone that much blanket control over what appears on a page that I own.

    • The ad provider is Google. Specific ads can be blocked, but it’s impossible to predetermine which ads will be displayed.

      • I agree. I was dealing with one website about their obnoxious ads and was given the same reply. They have very little control over the type of ads the company provides. I think they ended up changing companies, as the total nature of the ads are different now.

  8. The best thing I did to stop annoying, slow down the browser, auto-play video ads is to turn off the Flash Player. It’s amazing how many websites suggest I turn on the Flash Player, but all the content I want from the website doesn’t need Flash turned on. I’ve only had to put in an exception and turn on Flash on one or two sites permanently. It seems only the annoying video ads use Flash these days. So essentially I have blocked the annoying ads while not blocking static ads. It’s kind of the best of both worlds because I still get ads to support websites I visit, but I’ve got rid of the most annoying.

    • For Chrome users, you could previously uncheck “always allowed to run” in chrome://plugins as that overrode the option of “always ask” in settings that never worked.

      Since Chrome Version 57, the old page has become chrome://components with no enable/disable functionality.

      If in Settings you choose “ask first before allowing sites to run Flash”, sites always run Flash. In my experience no site ever asks.

  9. I am a long-time advertiser, having been advertising my business for over 40 years. What I long for is the days when I could specify exactly where I wanted my ad to appear (the local newspaper, a specific trade journal, for example) and I dealt directly with the publication concerned. Now it’s all done through aggregators who place my ads anywhere they want, being seen by viewers who are hardly or not at all connected with my target audience. I think that’s where a lot of the problem with the current internet model lies. Advertisers have lost control of where there ads are displayed. If advertisers could ensure that only specific audiences of interested people saw their ads there would be much less to complain about. I never heard of complaints about local newspapers advertising local services, for example, or readers of a trade journal complaining about ads that target that particular trade. But today I make a purchase on Amazon and mindless ads for the item I purchased follow me around the internet for weeks – too late, I already bought the item.

    • Hi John,

      I was forced to use an ad blocker because of obtrusive advertising methods, like a flashing ad. You are trying to read an article and this little moving ad distracts you. Television is being ruined by ads, radio is being ruined by ads. I used to drive a lot for business and would try to listen to the radio. So many obnoxious ads, and I would simply turn the radio off. Peace and quiet. An ad blocker is like turning the obnoxious ads off. It is your own fault.

  10. RE: ads that follow you after a search term or page visit …
    Aren’t these reliant on cookies? So, delete all cookies periodically, or write a BAT file to delete certain cookies and run it periodically, whenever you feel like it? Also, many of those ads that follow have options on them allowing you to indicate that you are no longer interested ( e.g., you have already purchased the item — even if you haven’t really).

    • Some tracking is done with cookies, but not all. I have my browsers set to clear my cookies/cache/history each time they are closed. Also, I periodically clear them manually. Even with that, I’ve had some ads follow me.

      Some sites have a tracking pixel on the page that identifies your IP address. This, along with the item viewed, are sent to the ad companies. These are two methods known to me, but there are probably more.

  11. Other commenters note that ads are obnoxious, which is why I block them.
    The LA Times site is among the sites that refuse to run if it detects a blocker. I disable Adblock Plus on their site, but I visit their site only seldom.
    I have a 1 MHz connection, so time lost to advertising sometimes becomes noticeable.
    Also, I kill popups without reading them.
    Whoever produces an undetectable blocker will earn a fortune! Now that I would pay for.

  12. In a short period I was tagged with malware while visiting several AAA websites. I learned from one of them that it “not us, but them” – and the them was the ad networks. Lacking any assurances that the folks serving ads pay any attention to this critical issue, I have blocked ads and removed Flash. I am delighted to read any static advertising but I will only relent on blocking when I have good assurance that the ad stream is CLEAN. I doubt this will ever happen.

  13. While I understand the need for advertising to support websites, publications and TV/Radio, I disagree that not viewing those ads is equivalent to theft. There is no agreement, tacit or otherwise, that requires that ads be viewed. 99.9% of ads that I’m exposed to are of no interest to me with the exception of special interest magazines where the ads can be as valuable as the content. For example, ads in boating magazines are of interest to me as a boater while ads on TV are of no interest whatsoever and generally loud and annoying. Reading a paper or magazine, I can turn the page or ignore ads for things of no interest – and they don’t make noise or flash or interrupt the content. For TV, I record what I want to watch and skip through the commercials as I’m not in pain, don’t drink beer or soda, don’t eat at fast food joints, don’t need car insurance, am not in the market for a truck and don’t care that Crazy Somebody is selling crappy furniture with no payments for 5 years. Online, most of the ads I do see are for things I’ve already ordered recently. I place an order for an item online and then see ads for it for a week after its already been delivered!
    I understand that sites need money to operate and I don’t mind a few static ads on the side of the screen, However, so many sites allow their content to be hijacked by all manner of slow loading, obnoxious, distasteful and potentially dangerous ads (that I would never click on anyway) that an adblocker is almost mandatory. I don’t mind whitelisting sites that I regularly visit like “Ask Leo” but I don’t care enough about most others to bother.

    • Well put! My thoughts exactly. The biggest scam going is all the money being made by supposedly sending “targeted” ads to us–I almost never see anything I am remotely interested in.

  14. i only recently started using adblock a free extenson on chrome. I never used to mind having ads on a site as plenty of times they were helpful. The problem that recently occurred is that the sites have made the ads so intrusive that it has been so difficult to read the content on the site. On sites that ask me to pause my adblocker for them I comply. That has been my solution.

    • I’m learning that many of the sites with multiple ads (especially multiple videos) where the advertising takes over the page, are really just pages created to make money on advertising. These are probably not your reliable websites. Whereas sites like AskLeo where the content overwhelms the advertising are much more reliable. The creator cares more about serving content than advertising dollars.

  15. I have had good luck with privacy badger. 2 clicks to whitelist AskLeo. My big issue is video ads that autorun at the same time as the video I want to see on the site (not the ones that run as a leader to the video). A blocker for these almost always breaks the site.

    It’s the creepy tracking that actually bothers me. The actual ads are not such a big deal because I have a real effective wetware filter behind my eyes that does a good job and doesn’t break sites.

    • Two aids I have for my wetware are a 6×12 cardboard ad blocker and the volume mute option. Both are easily turned “on” and “off”.

  16. I use an ad blocker, not because I mind a tasteful ad or three. Leo’s is an example of a well-designed site but how many websites out there resemble Leo’s? Most look like an online visual representation of the set of Sanford and Son and are so overpacked that loading time is prohibitive for busy persons.

    Websites are usually replete with far too many images and links and, as Leo mentioned, ads for “articles” that are actually ads. Then there are the animated ads that are pure distraction from the content on the website. Fine for people who find distraction entertaining but this contributes to the reason people use ad blockers.

  17. I have avoided ad blockers. I appreciate the fact that I have access to so much information, for “free”. All I have to do is give up my eyeballs to ads. I try to ignore them but I can’t help looking.
    The problem is now that so many sites use ads that take over the whole screen and make it hard, or sometimes don’t show it until a certain amount of time has passed, to find the X or close button. Videos that load very slowly, who has the time to wait for that. So I close the whole page and don’t look at anything on that site. How is that productive?
    I don’t know what the answer is but I hope someone figures it out soon.

    • Those are probably sites with less reliable information, since the creator cares more about the advertising then serving up content.

  18. Mr. Notemboom,

    I’ll stop using an Ad Blocker when, and only when I know the Ads are coming from the website I visit and not from some Ad farm in Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. Thanks to my using Ad Blockers I haven’t had a problem with Malware/Trojans/Virus’s etc . . . on any of my machines [HP Desktop, HP Laptop, Asus Chromebook or Samsung Chromebook running Win 7 or 10, Pro and Home versions and Ubuntu as well on these devices] for several years now. Course I also use OpenDNS and that helps tremendously as well. So does NoSCRIPT and a few other extensions I rely on while surfing the Web.

    What got me using an Ad Blocker? First & Foremost, I remember using the Internet back when there was little to no advertising and what there was was very much unobtrusive. Now, forget it! But the real reason I started to use an Ad Blocker was when I read a story that described how one could get their computer infected just by simply running the mouse cursor OVER an AD. BAM and your computing device could now be infected. Too this I say: NO THANKS.

    You state we should pay to use the Internet and the websites we visit. Well fella, I already am. Back in Dec my ISP raised my rate $3.45 per MONTH. I’m now shelling out $35 for a 3 MB circuit. And before anybody says “sounds like a pretty good deal” I was paying the same amount back in Nov of 2009 BUT I was getting 8 MB service. So what happened? Over time and my price crept up ten dollars per month although my circuit speed had climbed to 15 MB’s. I didn’t care to be shelling out $50/month for 15 Megabytes so I asked for cheaper service. Got the current 3/MB for $31/month until last Dec when the rate was increased. And of course the ISP did not state why the price increase was necessary.

    As for what my ISP offers now, they went with higher speeds: 50, 100 and 150 MB’s service for residential customers. Of course these circuit speeds come with hefty monthly prices and MUCH higher Fees & Taxes. They also require a cable modem capable of the higher speeds which means ditching what I have and use now.

    I expect in less than ten years and I’ll be forking over upwards of $50/month for my paltry 3 Meg circuit. Oh BTW, did I mention I can’t use my ISP’s competition? That’s because they have none. They’re the only cable company for hundreds of miles around.

    And Leo, I’m using Privacy Badger and uBlock simultaneously and neither “messes up your website to the point where I can’t read anything”.

  19. I used to put up with ads, as I knew, as Leo says, that ads pay the freight. I even put up with slow loading and noisy videos. I switched to ad blocking after naked women started appearing on pages I used in my business at the same time as a drive-by poisoned ad on a regularly used fully reputable site locked my business computer with the FBI child porn malware.

    When Google figures out that it could charge advertisers a premium by providing a service that shows only well-behaved ads that are checked for poisoning malware each and every time such an ad is served up, I’ll return to paying for the site with my eyeballs.

    • Any time you choose to download something from almost any web site, I would run Malwarebytes, either the free or paid version. The free version needs to be run manually. MB will find PUPs and most will not.

      I did shut down AdBlocker in Firefox. Not sure it was at fault but I could not play videos on one teleseminar web site. Not even the audio would load. I went back in using Edge. I like menus so rarely use it.

      Amazon is one of the most invasive of all the vendors. Ccleaner will remove Amazon ads appearing all over your other web sites and maybe other useful stuff to get rid of.

    • There are services which attempt to address that issue. For example OpenDNS blocks many websites they’ve determined to be harmful.

    • To be clear, every malicious ad to date has worked by exploiting vulnerabilities in old/unpatched OSes and software. Keep your OS and software up to date, and you’ll significantly reduce the risk of your computer being compromised.

  20. Sorry, Leo, but there is no agreement between a reader and a website owner that a reader must view advertisements. If the web owner insists everyone must view ads than make it so by requiring the disabling of ad blockers, but otherwise there is nothing morally wrong if someone doesn’t want to view ads. Sure, I can purchase a magazine with advertising, but none of the ads block my view of pages, or slow up my reading, or blare out video at me. Personally, I would be fine if ads were all static, reasonably sized, and had no auto-play features. Make them images like in magazines and I would gladly leave off the ad blocker. Your argument is the same as saying it is morally wrong to watch television if you turn down the sound when the ad comes on or leave the room. Absolutely ludicrous. I don’t like Internet ads so I don’t look at them. My choice and none of your business. However, you need to make money to keep doing what you are doing. Readers understand that, but intrusive, often obnoxious, usually irrelevant advertising is not the way to do it. By the way, despite all the talk about tracking for advertising purposes why do I almost never see relevant ads? For example, on your site if I turn off U Block I see an ad for the Yellow Pages online–I have zero interest in that, and would never use it.

  21. Malware ads don’t happen often? I wonder if you are using the same Internet that my residential tech support clients use. We get calls every week with some version of “Help! This website says my computer has 275,468 viruses and I must not restart it before I call this number for Microsoft Tech Support!”

  22. I don’t mind the idea of targeted advertisements – I think that they benefit both the business and the consumer. Why wouldn’t I want to see an ad for a good deal on something that I want? The problem with the ads, as Joe McNeill mentioned above, is the impact they can have on browsing. I was becoming extremely frustrated with my browsing experience – my computer would keep getting locked up, and I would eventually get the “unresponsive script” error in my browser. It was in researching how to deal with this problem that I discovered the NoScript addon for Firefox (and its forks) – and discovered exactly how many scripts are in use on various websites. No wonder my browser was constantly locked up! (Facebook and Google track just about everyone, everywhere.) Now, I whitelist the scripts I want to allow. This has solved the “unresponsive script” problem, but often creates other (content-viewing) problems instead. The result is that if a website has so freakin’ many scripts on it that I can’t figure out how to make it work easily, I avoid it. Unfortunately, Patreon is one of those websites – getting it to work with my browser is on my list of things to do, but since trying to diagnose it has become such a huge, time-consuming pain-in-the-*, it drops to the back burner.

    As for privacy – I don’t really mind sharing my interests in order to see relevant content, though I understand that people will have wildly different comfort levels regarding how much they wish to share (this is why privacy policies should be transparent). My problem with the tracking isn’t the targeted advertising (though, as already noted, this really isn’t implemented well, anyway) – it’s the possibility of my information being misused in other ways. I don’t think I’m being paranoid to worry that my browsing history during the time that my best friend was dying of cancer could come back to bite me on my health insurance eligibility/rates. Companies ARE looking. (,–figured-teen-father-did.html (Thanks to Ray Smith for this one.)) Even if it is truly intended for only advertising, what happens if all this compiled information (from Google? Your ISP?) gets hacked? Truly, this level of knowledge is too valuable to expect it to remain out of the hands of agencies that will use it against you – even if you’re not doing anything “wrong”.

  23. I can put up with some ads, but some are so intrusive and block the page content to the point you can’t read what’s on the page. That’s when I get the urge to edit the Hosts file.

  24. I haven’t commented before but this issue is one that I struggle with so much! I have tried ad blockers but, as some of you have reported, some websites won’t work at all! I often watch TV programs online at the network sites. When I tried using an ad blocker, all I would get when I clicked on the link to the program I wanted to watch, all I’d get was a black screen. That happened on both Firefox and Chrome. This proved to be true on all network sites, by the way. There are some websites that I have completely stopped visiting because they would have 3 or 4 videos playing at once, popups, scrolling ads across the bottom or top of the screen which would completely lock up my browser! They were websites that I enjoyed visiting until all that happened. I have also had the experience of script errors on some sites. I don’t mind reasonable ads appearing at all. I get that ads pay for content just as commercials do for radio and TV. But some of the websites need to take a look at the benefit of a bunch of ads vs losing customers. There are some sites that try to link to “bad” sites but fortunately I have the premium version of Malwarebytes that stops those types of pages from loading. I would love to see Google, Facebook, Amazon tackle the problem together and perhaps find a “middle-of-the-road” solution for us all. Finally, those sites that try to link to malware sites should be reported but I don’t know to whom? Any ideas out there?

  25. I have never understood how the advertising model works successfully. I completely ignore unsolicited ads on TV or websites. I cannot imagine ever purchasing a product or service simply because it was shoved down my throat via some advertisement. However, it must work with a large enough portion of the population, otherwise companies would not spend billions each year on advertising. Maybe I got vaccinated against ads when I was a baby!!

    Here in Australia, we have one TV network which is free of ads, and another one which has some ads. These networks are owned and operated by the national government, so we are paying for them through taxation whether we watch them or not. (IMO, their programs are generally a lot better than many of those on the commercial networks.) The only commercial TV program that I watch live regularly is the evening news. They show the first 17 minutes of news ad free – after that they have ad breaks after every two news items. However, as the important news of the day usually comes first, I can usually switch off safely at the first ad break (after 17 minutes). The public broadcaster also has an excellent (ad free) news program at night, but the timing is inconvenient for me.

    I do watch some other commercial network programs, but I always record these and watch later so that I can skip through the ad breaks. As I am getting older, time is precious and I can’t afford to spend hours every day twiddling my thumbs through all the ad breaks (sometimes up to five minutes long). Besides, as memory starts to fail, I sometimes forget what was happening just before the ads started!

    Regarding internet advertising, the ads are wasted on me – I just don’t look at them, let alone click on any. I have been using Ad Block Plus (on Firefox) for years, so am little bothered by ads. If I am being tracked, I would never know it. However, at Leo’s request some time ago, I whitelisted this site. I hope that Leo gets compensated just for displaying the ads, because I would never read or click on any.

    I have been using Privacy Badger for about a year now. It has never messed up any website that I have visited. AskLeo displays normally. If I click on the Privacy Badger button, it lists “10 POTENTIAL trackers” on the site, with a colour code showing how each one is treated by PB. I can change how each is treated by way of a slider switch. All but two are coded green (allowed) or yellow (blocked cookies) – the remaining two are coded red (link blocked) and are apparently related to Google Ads.

    I am not sure how displaying third party ads on a website works – does the site get paid just for displaying them, or only if the user clicks the ad, or if the user actually purchases something via the ad? Or perhaps all three in aggregate?

    If I ever need to purchase something I will either go directly to websites of reputable local suppliers to look for the item and best price, or will do an internet search for the item (ignoring “sponsored links”). Where I purchase the item is a result of my research, not the result of clicking on some random ad link for something I don’t need or want.

  26. Leo, you say that newspapers and mags have advertising so whats the difference.? Those do NOT force you to read them. I choose to read them or not. I dont object to website ads if I can chose to read or not. What makes my blood boil is when you start to read the content you have searched for then one of those infernal pop ups blocks out the content. Put it to one side or on a button/tab no problem, but pop into my face and I am immediately put off that site/advertiser/product. Whats worse they often put the pop up delete X out of the way so you have to search for it. What do these people think? Making life hard for me endears me to their ad/product?! – nerds who think they know how to advertise do damage to the message advertisers are trying to get across. Advertisers should
    take more control of how their message is being presented. So, I would prefer not to use an ad blockers if I could get a pop up blocker only.

  27. I am totally flabbergasted that so many people expect to get valuable content for free on the internet. On the other hand advertising HAS gotten out of hand when trickery is involved. I hope and expect that at some point a happy medium will occur. I do not provide any content on the internet nor do I use an adblocker. I just ignore the advertising as I have done for many years with print media and TV. I am willing to pay for content that I consider valuable. Providing content on the internet costs money and if you want it enough then you should be willing to pay for it or put up with advertising.

  28. some ads resonable in content can result in benefit to the viewer of the site, i can be searching for led lamps and advertising based on that may be acceptable and in some ocassions the viewer can benefit because of just business competition, on the other side of the card sites like ( a popular website for checking BW speed its out of all acceptable limits, they make a lot of advertising on “Sexual Content” like girls in suggestive clothing looking for guys, or trying to induce guys into their dirty sites. This kind of sexual explotation should be banned completly, or popular browswers should have a setting so bad influence advertising be blocked on users options.

    I know about Open DNS and all control it offers for free and its very effective blocking websites, maybe its time for a regulation on online content advertising, people just use adblockers because they have just passed the line between decency and porn in many cases, for me this just should not happen.

    This is obviosly my sole opinion, hope you respect it as i do respect others opinions.

  29. I do not use Adblocker. However, on some pages A warning is displayed.
    On this page you will see ads on google.

  30. Here’s a thought for those who hate advertising. If you are using IE, Edge or Firefox (those I know), you will notice what looks like an open book at the right end of the address bar. If you reach a site with more (or obnoxious) ads, just click on the book. The page will become text-only. WOW!
    The best part is that it is free, already installed and is not registered as an ad-blocker.

    (Those who use other browsers will have to check to see if it has this option.)

  31. Been using a large Hosts file to remedy this situation for a very long time. Speeds up my browsing quite a bit. If a site disallows me entry because of it, I just go elsewhere.

  32. I use adblockers for 2 main reasons:

    1. Some ads are inappropriate
    2. Many ads slow down the loading of pages significantly

    The second one really gets me irked. I don’t mind ads if they load LAST. But most sites have the ads load FIRST and it really slows down viewing the site. In some cases on my iPhone, I have to reload the site because ads crash the browser. This just isn’t acceptable.

    It would be the equivalent of watching a tv show and then the commercial makes your TV switch off or the sound gets out of sync or something.

  33. Leo you make a valid argument for needed revenue from ads but IMHO the tail is now wagging the dog. When the entire PC freezes forcing power-down to recover (recently in Firefox) or merely waits for a l-o-n-g time while irrelevant garbage downloads, it’s time for a change. It’s no fun being held hostage because the browser fails to allow only a limited brief period of time for ad downloading. Give us a break !!

  34. I”ve been using uBlock Origin and EFF Privacy Badger for as long as they have existed. It’s true Privacy Badger can cause part of a URL not to display, or a click within a URL not to function with no message to know the reason for the failure. However a white number on an orange background in the Chrome extension icon for uBlock tells you uBlock may be causing the “problem” and a click on that icon gives clear ways to circumvent the problem. If the problem is not in fact caused by Privacy Badger, you can see if any other extension is causing the problem by running the problem URL in an incognito window, which disables all extensions (unless you have explicitly previously overridden that). This technique may point to the need to white-list the problem URL in uBlock, for example.

    All these concerns and circumventions are quite rare to see for me, but they do happen.


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