It’s no secret that ad blocking extensions like AdBlock, Adblock Plus, and AdBlock Pro are becoming increasingly popular today with over 200 million active users and it’s costing publishers billions of dollars.

In fact, as I write this blog post, both AdBlock and Adblock Plus have over 50 million users. I was actually not using an adblocker until few months ago as I rarely click ads. So, I argued with myself why should I install an adblocker when it doesn’t make any difference.

However, I tried AdBlock few months back — when YouTube ads became increasingly annoying — and immediately realized that it’s a must-have for me. The only thing is… it’s NOT the extension’s ad blocking capability that I find interesting. But it’s something else — which I will explain below.

Adblock & Adblock Plus: A Brief History

As you probably know, the two most popular ad blockers for Google Chrome are AdBlock and Adblock Plus. What’s the difference? Well, it sounds similar but they are two different extensions developed independently.

Apparently, AdBlock was inspired by Adblock Plus itself when it was just a Firefox only add-on. Now  ‘AdBlock Plus’ is also available for Google Chrome, Android, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc. and ‘AdBlock’ is available for Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, and iOS.

Adblock Plus is the most popular Firefox add-on with over 21 million users (it’s got the first-mover advantage on Mozilla Firefox) and AdBlock is the most popular Chrome extension (it’s got the first-mover advantage on Google Chrome).

By the way, both AdBlock and Adblock Plus claims that it’s the most popular ad blocker and both have over 40 million users. However, AdBlock has almost 2x more ratings than Adblock Plus on Chrome Web Store, so I guess it’s safe to assume that it’s the most popular ad blocker on Google Chrome.

Adblock vs. Adblock Plus: Features

Once again, both AdBlock for Chrome and Adblock Plus for Chrome offers similar features as far as basic features (malware protection, shows number of ads blocked, blacklisting, whitelisting) and options (acceptable ads, right-click menu) are concerned.

In fact both use the same filters as well and they are calling it the EasyList (created by Adblock Plus). It basically means that if Adblock Plus is blocking an ad then it will be blocked by AdBlock as well or vice versa.

That’s not all! There’s an ugly similarity too. Both Adblock Plus and Adblock allow what they call “non-intrusive advertising”. It means that they do not block ads that are considered as Acceptable Ads and hence they have whitelisted few advertisers.

Actually, if reports like this and this are true then Google and other large advertisers have paid Adblock Plus to not block their ads. And Adblock Plus itself has disclosed that big entities are paying them a licensing fee for whitelisting their ads.

When it comes to “Options”, I feels like Adblock Plus is a better choice for non techies as their plugin options are very simple and easy to understand. They do not have a ton of customization options and you can easily disable all ads (including the “non-intrusive advertising”) with just one-click. That is, by unchecking “Allow some non-intrusive advertising” on extension options.

Adblock Plus Options – Filter listsAdblock Plus Options – Add your own filters

Adblock Plus Options – Whitelisted domains

Adblock Plus Options – General

Apart from this, they don’t have much options other than the obvious custom filters and whitelisted domains plus there’s an option to enable/disable the right-click “Block element” menu item.

On the other side, AdBlock for Chrome gives you a ton of options and it can actually confuse you. Wait, they will offer you even more options if you enable the “I’m an advanced user, show me advanced options” on extension options.

AdBlock Options – General

AdBlock Options – Filter Lists

AdBlock Options – Customize

For instance, it gives you additional control to whitelist specific YouTube channels (maybe you can support your favorite YouTuber that way), Dropbox syncing, filters to block social media buttons, etc.

Adblock vs. Adblock Plus: Pros and Cons

Adblock Plus

Pros
  • It’s an open-source project.
  • It’s the most popular browser extension on the web.
  • Its options are easy to understand and navigate.
  • It makes manual whitelisting super-easy and it’s like entering a URL on your web browser’s address bar.
  • It blocks malware, popups, and popunders.
  • It blocks ads on Facebook and YouTube.
Cons
  • It has advanced options available but it’s hidden.
  • If you want to enable/disable certain features then you need to do it manually. For example, if you want to disable social media buttons on websites then you need to visit Adblock Plus Features and click on the “open this dialogue” option under “Disable Social Media Buttons”. Or, you need to know the syntax to create custom filters.
  • Its “Block element” feature (or the right-click menu item) is not so useful as it doesn’t detect web page elements efficiently.
  • You have to use the browser extension button to block specific web page elements (as the right-click menu doesn’t detect all).
  • It shows ads that they think are non-intrusive by default instead of giving us an option to enable it.

AdBlock

Pros
  • It’s the most popular Google Chrome extension.
  • It’s using the same ad filter that Adblock Plus uses.
  • Its extension button is more useful than Adblock Plus’ as it gives more options and more control over ad blocking.
  • Its right-click menu is super-useful as it can be used to block virtually any element on a web page (it’s the reason why I prefer AdBlock over Adblock Plus).
  • It blocks malware, popups, and popunders.
  • It blocks ads on Facebook and YouTube.
Cons
  • It’s an open source project but I don’t know why they are not disclosing it anywhere on their homepage or on the Chrome extension page (though they have published the source code here).
  • It’s becoming more commercial and there are some privacy policy concerns (as pointed out by Matt @ ReadWrite).
  • Its options can be confusing to not-so tech savvy users (especially the “Filter Lists” & “Customize” option).
  • It gives an option to enable “advanced options” but it’s not so effective as most of the advanced options and filters are not hidden by default.
  • It shows ads that they think are non-intrusive by default instead of giving us an option to enable it.

BONUS: AdBlocker Ultimate

The rise of Adblock and Adblock Plus has given birth to a new ad blocker dubbed as AdBlocker Ultimate. When I first installed AdBlocker Ultimate for Chrome, it didn’t look any different. Or maybe it looked like a mashup of Adblock and Adblock Plus.

AdBlocker Ultimate Options

But eventually I realized that it’s doesn’t have the so-called acceptable ads or whitelisted advertisers. In other words, they block ALL ads. It’s again a free extension that blocks ads as well as malware. Of course, it comes with custom filters as well as whitelisted domains (that lets you enable ads on specific websites).

AdBlock vs. Adblock Plus vs. AdBlocker Ultimate: Platforms

  • AdBlock: Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Firefox
  • Adblock Plus: Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Android, Yandex, Maxthon
  • AdBlocker Ultimate: Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Yandex

Here’s Why I Can’t Live Online Without An Ad Blocker

As I have already mentioned, I have avoided using an ad blocker for years as I was okay with ads (because I do not click on it anyway). And if I happened to click an ad then it means it was relevant or was useful to me.

However, when I installed AdBlock I realized that it not only blocks regular ads (banners, popups, popunders, etc.) but also blocks YouTube video ads. I never imagined that these ad blocking extensions were capable of blocking video ads as well.

Hence I expected it to block only image ads on YouTube as that alone was quite annoying. Also, I didn’t even know the difference between Adblock and AdBlock Plus and assumed that they’re just the same. So, somehow I ended up using AdBlock first.

Wait, that’s still not the reason why I love an ad blocker. It’s simply because of its ability to block specific web page elements. It’s such an amazing feature that it can virtually block almost anything on a web page — not just ads.

For instance, if you are an active user on Twitter then you probably know how annoying are their widgets like “Trends”, “Who to follow”, etc. They are not ads and hence they are not blocked by ad blockers.

So when I was playing with “AdBlock”, I realized that it can be blocked permanently by using the right-click menu. It’s just that we have to identify the correct web page element (or those elements will appear again).

If you are not sure about how to accurately block specific web page elements then the best way is to use the extension’s browser button.

Adblock & Adblock Plus: Extension Options

When you click on its extension icon, it opens a popup and gives an option to “Block an ad on this page” (on AdBlock) or “Block element” (on Adblock Plus) and it can be used to identify and block virtually any element on a web page (even if you are not tech-savvy).

And…

Here’s how my Twitter looks with AdBlock (before blocking custom elements):

AdBlock on Twitter (Before Customization)

Here’s how my Twitter looks with AdBlock (after blocking custom elements):

AdBlock on Twitter (After Customization)

Likewise, my Facebook is also clean without annoying sidebar trending topics, events or birthdays. And it’s as simple as that.

Closing Thoughts

I didn’t have a plan to write a comprehensive blog post about ad blocking. Instead, I just wanted to show my gratitude to AdBlock for their “custom blocking” feature as another “3 Cents”.

However, when I started writing, I realized that it’s worth to write and spread some words about the two most popular browser extensions on the Web.

I’m not sure if ad blocking is a good thing or not. I guess the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. It’s a good thing for users as ads are becoming increasingly annoying.

Advertisers may call it targeted ads but they’re not. In fact, even the retargeted ads (it must be the most relevant ads, right?) are much more annoying than the so-called targeted ads.

Moreover, ad blocking enhances the Internet experience and it saves some bandwidth too (as your web browser don’t have to download the complete web page elements).

Now it’s a bad thing for companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Amazon, etc. as they all have a ton of ad supported products. In fact, ads are the reason why Google have so many free products and services.

And it’s equally a bad thing for big and small publishers as they are all supported by ads.

That being said, maybe it’s a good thing for advertisers as well. Because I believe people who are using an ad blocker are the ones who don’t otherwise click those ads (at least a majority of them). And it means advertisers are saving money as they don’t have to pay for those untargeted ad views.

All in all, should you use an ad blocker? Yes, I think you should.

But wait! Google Chrome now comes with an in-built ad blocker. However, it’s totally different from the AdBlock and Adblock Plus of this world. Google Chrome ad-blocker’s purpose is to block only annoying ads on the web (desktop and mobile). It doesn’t have an option to block ALL ads (especially ads by Google). Instead, Google relies on Better Ads Standards to decide whether to block an ad or not.

Google Chrome’s New In-built Ad-blocker

Coalition for Better Ads Standards

However, it does gives you an option to enable/disable ads on specific websites. Just click the “security lock” icon on your Chrome’s omnibox when you visit a website and click “Site Settings” and customize settings accordingly.

So, which ad-blocker do you use and why?

Happy Ad Blocking! 🙂

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