Should you use an ad blocker?

Scott Curtiss 12 Apr 2018

The answer is yes. Here are three good reasons why and four things to look out for.

Ad blockers exist for every platform—desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. But is it worth it to install this software? On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. We fast-forward through the commercials on television, throw out the junk mail we find in our mailboxes, delete the spam that infests our email inboxes, so why wouldn’t we want to eliminate those obnoxious and distracting ads that ruin our browsing experience?   

The truth is that ad blockers do cause a bit of complication, but if you’re well-informed—which you will be by this article’s end—then you’ll be able to reap the ad-blocking rewards without the hassle. First, let’s talk about why you should get one.

  1. Safer browsing.

Ads aren’t just annoying or ugly—these days they could also be a security risk. Cybercriminals have developed malvertising, which is the unscrupulous act of hiding malware in digital ads and pushing those ads directly to popular websites via ad-networks. In some cases, you don’t even need to click the ad for the malware to be released into your system, just opening up the website may be enough. Blocking those kinds of ads will prevent lots of headaches.

  1. Decluttered browsing.

Then, of course, there’s this perk. Cleaner websites and reader-friendly pages will transform your online visit to something that actually resembles happiness.. Some argue ad blockers are more than worth it simply because of this rarified experience!

  1. Speed, speedier, and did we mention speediest?

Ads eat up plenty of data. In fact, on some news sites, half the data being employed is strictly for the ads! That’s why it may seem to take extra-long for the content to render itself on the page. Using less data means pages load faster, some say by as much as 40%.  Others say up to 4 times faster.  Like decluttered browsing, this perk changes your online experience. You’ll see only what you want to see, and your content will load at a considerably faster rate.

So in light of all these pluses, what are the minuses of using an ad blocker? Well, for one, not all ad blockers are created equal. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Some companies pay ad blockers NOT to block their ads. For example, Adblock Plus has a large program that allows certain ad types and ad-networks through. Before you install an ad blocker, do your research to make sure it has the option to truly protect you from all ads.

  • Another potential problem is that the ad blocker you use might actually block important non-ad content, such as retail shopping carts or flight booking engines. In this case, you can “whitelist” select sites, which is a way of telling the software not to touch those web pages you know to be safe.

  • Finally, be warned that certain ad blockers do their own tracking, monitor your behavior, and sell that data to third parties. This, too, can be avoided if you do a little research on the ad blocker before installing.

  • While this one isn’t technically a warning, it is definitely worth considering. Most website content is provided free, but “free” is typically paid for by the ads displayed on the website. This leaves us with an ethical dilemma: if you block ads, some websites are no longer receiving their “payment”. For sites that you truly care about, trust, and use frequently, you can whitelist them to help ensure they can continue producing the content you enjoy. (Just a heads-up: Some sites may require you to whitelist them so that you can view the content.)  

So here’s the bottom line—we recommend you use an ad blocker (try the ad blocker in Avast Secure Browser), but conscientiously curate a smart whitelist that includes the sites you truly trust and value. That way, you’ll enjoy a cleaner browsing experience while continuing to support the sites you use regularly.

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