In her Aging With Geekitude series, self-professed “recovering technophobe” Erica Manfred writes about her adventures with technology and shares what she’s learned as she navigates the not-so-scary waters.
There’s nothing worse than clicking through to a website, only to have it blocked by a huge ad that keeps you from seeing what’s there. You search and search for that goddamned little X to close it out, only to have the exact same shoes you were looking at a few days ago on Amazon show up right in the middle of the article you’re reading. Creepy? Coincidence?
Of course not. Most sites where you shop (and many where you don’t) place a little piece of tracking software on your computer that remembers the pages you visited and options you selected when you were there (black, size 8?). Then, those companies make their ads more “relevant” to you by paying other sites to put the products you were looking at in front of you — until the entire right column on the site you’re trying to read is filled with shoes. Grrrrrrr.
I ignorantly thought that banner ads, enormous popups and creepy advertisements that follow you around were just the price we had to pay for free web content until I talked to my web savvy friend Barb Stras, who told me about Adblock, a simple browser extension that does exactly what it says. Could it possibly be that easy? In fact, yes. I went to the Adblock site, clicked “yes” to add the extension to my browser and all of a sudden, ads disappeared from the webpages I visited and browsing became uninterrupted fun again.
Of course, there is a downside: The majority of YouTube videos have pre-roll ads, and when you have Adblock enabled on your browser, it may block you from watching the whole video, depending on which browser you’re using. Google Chrome has circumvented Adblock for some videos. Here’s an article with the lowdown. I only ran into one YouTube video that refused to play — it informed me that I had to watch an ad if I wanted to see it. But that was a small price to pay for freedom from noxious ads.
Also, techie types complain that Adblock slows down your computer, but that wasn’t my experience.
Adblock isn’t the only option available for getting rid of annoying advertising. There are other browser extensions made by other companies, including Adblock Plus, which sounds as if it’s a better version of Adblock but in fact is made by an entirely different company. (Some people prefer to use Adblock Plus because it’s open source – if you want to know more, you can read this.) And now Apple has entered the game, too, by allowing ad blocking on its newest iPhone operating system. Naturally, advertisers are anxious. Here’s an article about that.
What about the publishers that rely on ads to support their sites? If you want to support your favorite blog or online magazine, you can use your adblocker’s settings to whitelist select sites that display “acceptable” ads — the ones that don’t block what you’re reading.
When it comes to browsing on my computer, I’m sticking to my Adblock extension, because why mess with success?
- Adblock is available for Google, Chrome and Safari browsers and is pay-what-you-want software — you get to name your price. Click here to visit the Adblock site and download.