Adverts, and how to block them for free

“What’s so bad about ads?”

Next to spam, online adverts are probably the most irritating thing on the Internet. They’re annoying, distracting - they’re DESIGNED to get your attention - and they waste your time, money and bandwidth. There are various types of ads online, including banner ads, sidebar ads, moving flash ads, text-based ads like Google’s AdSense (Ad NONsense more like!), pop-up windows, pop-unders, pop-overs and various other pop- and non-popflavours of flashingirritating junk.

“But you can just ignore adverts, right?”

Why not go one better and block them - it’s easy - see below! Besides, no you cant just ignore them. Because if everyone did that, advertising wouldn’t be profitable and no-one would bother paying to advertise. But they do, therefore adverts must be having an effect. Subliminally, even if you don’t actually click on them… have estimated that the average person is exposed to over 3,000 advertising messages, brand logos etc per day. That adds up to millions of messages every year, telling you what to buy, what to think… Have you ever wondered what the long-term effect on people’s mental health, and society in general will be?

Ad-blocking in the real world

The concern over the “visual pollution” of advertising isn’t new, and it isn’t just restricted to online adverts. In 1965, US President Linden Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act to control outdoor billboard advertising. The US states ofAlaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont now have statewide bans, along with several California cities. The largest city in South America,Sao Paulo in Brazil, banned outdoor public advertising in 2007. They found it brought a new identity to the city, made people happier and exposed previously-hidden problems the city didn’t know about.

Many public spaces on the web are plastered with ads too. Fortunately, if you want to avoid advertising online, YOU can do something about it. (Official bans on online advertising would be unthinkable, and unworkable, due to the international nature of the Internet). If you want to know more about the chilling effects of advertising, if you have a spare 15 minutes and an open mind, you might want to read this thought-provoking essay entitledAdvertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse.

How adverts waste your time and money online

Ever gone to a “busy” web site, like the New York Times or many blogger blogs, then had your computer slow down to a crawl, loading and display all the ads and flash content? Then you’ll know how much web adverts slow down your computer down and make pages take longer to load.

Not only that, but adverts canwaste your money too. First, the obvious way:making you spend your hard-earned money on stuff you didn’t want and don’t need. But do you everbrowse the internet on your mobile phone, or use it as a modem, or plug in a USB 3G broadband Internet dongle for your laptop? As you may know, phones and 3G dongles usually have monthly limits on data transfer, with hefty fees if you exceed your quota. If you surf the web a lot, the adverts alone will take great chunks out of your monthly allowance, on top of making browsing the web painfully slow.

Online advertising also invades your privacy. How? Tracking cookies. For more info, see All Things Digital’s statement ontracking cookies and how to opt out; orthis funny post about cookies, lies and marketing jargon, entitledSugar-coated corporate speakby marketing expert Seth Godin.

“The new secret how YOU can save$123,456…”

Ever come across adverts that take up the whole site? Online sales letters, they’re called. You know, BIG FLASHY HEADLINE followed by reams of advertising copy text, peppered with amazing claims and glowing testimonials… [In case you're thinking "Oh yeah? Certain pages on this site are like that", then go read my FAQ]. Online sales letters work because people are willing to buy into them. At least they’re easy to avoid. Look out for an upcoming page on this site about how to “immunize” yourself from them.

Knowing what’s out there is one thing, but as ever, there’s an important question to ask yourself:

What can you do about them?

AdBlock Plus - blocking an advert

Blocking a banner advert using Adblock Plus

Use a free advert blocker for your browser! I do, and have done for years, along with hundreds of thousands of others. What’s an ad blocker? It’s a bit of software that blocks ads, silly! Advert blockers remove adverts from web pages you’re looking at. Why do that? Remember, the Internet isn’t like watching TV - you can control what you see, and the way you see it. Using an ad-blocker is like using a Tivo box to record programs then skip over the adverts.

Ad blockers can do more besides just blocking most adverts automatically though. For example, if any adverts slip through the automated filters - or you just don’t like a company’s logo - right-click on the image, choose to block it, and you’ll never have to see it again. With the Greasemonkey and Platypus add-ons for Firefox, you can even edit any page you like - delete stuff, change the layout, choose different colours and fonts - fun for all the family!
So your next question should be:

How do I get an ad blocker for the web, and how much does one cost?

What do you mean, “how much?”Most ad blockers are FREE! (Why free? Many things are free on the Internet, that way everybody benefits - but you can donate if you want). How do you get one? Well, you might already have one - if not, just download one. You see, virtually all browsers have pop-up blockers built-in - and you should turn them on - but that’s not what I meant. Some browsers also have an extra option to block web adverts. For example, Camino browser for Macs or Avant browser for Windows PCs. So, look in your browser’s settings/tools/options menus and turn on the advert blocker if you have one. Not all browsers do.

For example, if you’re using Internet Explorer (IE) - or you don’t even know what a browser is - then you’re out of luck, and really should Use Firefox [yes I know there areadvert blocking toolbars for IE, but I can't recommend any of them, because I don't recommend using IE in the first place!].

If you are using Firefox, then you need an add-on called Adblock Plus - it’s free and simple to use. If your first language isn’t English, Adblock Plus is available in 30 different languages. If you have Firefox, you can install Adblock Plus from Mozilla’s official directory of Firefox add-ons. Or go to the project’s website, for a 1-minute video on how to install and use Adblock Plus.

It really won’t take more than two minutes to set up an ad blocker first time, then you can continue using the web in peace. I recommend you Use Firefox and getAdblock Plus- it’s the first add-on I install whenever friends ask me for help with their computers. But whatever type of ad blocker you use, USE ONE.

What, are you still here? Do you value your time, money, privacy and even sanity online? Go get/use an ad blocker now!