Ushering Total Ad-Silence with Firefox

Display-ads are the money makers of the world wide web. While I encourage everyone to support his or her favorite website by allowing ads and perhaps even clicking on them if interesting enough, online advertisements are often over-used with the clear intent of baiting visitors. If you’re also the type to easily get annoyed with online ads constantly prodding at you wherever you go, there is a non-laborious way to make them a thing of the past.

You may have guessed it: Firefox can infer ad-silence if loaded up with the right extensions. In this post I would like to discuss two of my most beloved ad fighters: AdBlock Plus and FlashBlock. And interestingly, they will work in tandem to eliminate ~90% of ads encountered on the web so you can surf clutter-free.

AdBlock Plus

AdBlock Plus on addons.mozilla.org

AdBlock Plus has to be my favorite extension. It’s probably one of the most popular add-ons for Firefox, too. Nonetheless, it still pays off to discuss some of its most important features that help combat unwanted Internet ads.

Upon installation and after the compulsory Firefox reboot you’re presented with a dialog urging you to make a selection from of the list of available blocking-filters. I generally pick the first one off the top of the list, because I don’t believe it makes a substantial difference which one you pick.

AdBlock Plus blocks ads based on a set of filters which are pulled from the list you’ve just chosen. Because it’s list-based, it has to be maintained by someone, so be aware of the fact that it isn’t always up-to-date. As a result, ads sometimes crop up on websites anyway from time to time. Although the aforementioned event is an oddity, you’re able to add additional filters by simply right-clicking the trespassing ad and selecting ‘AdBlock Plus: Block Image’. From then on the disturbance won’t be able to pierce through AdBlock’s armor any longer.

FlashBlock

FlashBlock at addons.mozilla.org

Most unsurprisingly, there are ways for advertisers to get around add-ons like AdBlock Plus (of which they’re undoubtedly very aware ). One of the most popular ways of doing this is to make use of Flash animations instead of conventional HTML and/or images.

To counteract Flash, FlashBlock was born. When run in conjunction with AdBlock it stomps on advertisers specifically circumventing browser-based blocking mechanisms like AdBlock by employing Flash. Additionally, Adobe Flash has become a serious security-threat and with Adobe’s track-record in this field there’s little hope for change in the near future.

FlashBlock’s original use wasn’t necessarily to block Flash-based ads, in fact, it was designed to block all Flash-content in a convenient way. Coincidentally, it can also be applied to the disposing of ads.

When activated, Flash content will be replaced by a placeholder graphic featuring a familiar play-button. Pressing this button will evidently load up the animation of your choosing. This does away with flashy animations (no pun intended ;-)) and disturbing music starting at will upon visiting a website. I’m sure you’ll receive the silence well, as did I.

Blacklisting vs. whitelisting

There’s a fundamental operational difference between the extensions I just talked about: AdBlock relies on blacklisting, while FlashBlock opts for explicit whitelisting. In the case of FlashBlock, all Flash is expelled, except for the exemptions you enter into the whitelist by using the pull-down menu, incorporated in the toolbar button installed into Firefox along with the add-on.

Adversely, AdBlock Plus can be configured to whitelist a site you’d like to see ads on. You can easily do so by selecting ‘Disable on http://www.somesite.com’ – once more by using the drop-down in the toolbar.

Closing Note

FlashBlock and AdBlock Plus are great tools for getting rid of most of the unwanted advertising that plague the Internet and its users. That said, I’d like to add a little disclaimer to this article:

It’s not because I wrote this article that I condemn all forms of online advertising.

Quite to the contrary, I feel it is our duty as good netizens to support the sites/blogs we really like by disabling these tools selectively. You’ll be doing the site/person in question a favor, in most cases, since this is how people monetize their sites. This, in turn, keeps them running.

So if you particularly like an online venue, please allow ads, by all means. And while you’re at it, you may want to consider whitelisting mine :-).

* Promo image courtesy of Steve Rhodes on Flickr. Creative Commons License applies: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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