John Walker's Electronic House

How To Use AdBlock Nicely

by on Aug.20, 2015, under Rants

AdBlock is a useful tool. There are websites that are close to unusable, or even entirely broken, because of their advertising. There are sites that use dirty, underhanded tactics like pop-unders. While clearly the best argument is to say that perhaps one should just not visit such websites at all, it’s obvious that people are going to use AdBlock instead. Denying it is silly. However, by default, AdBlock removes advertising from every site you visit with that browser, no matter how relevant, responsible or reasonable. And when ads don’t load on websites, those sites don’t get money. This means they either eventually wither and die due to lack of funds, or they resort to even more intrusive, gross, unblockable advertising, like paid advertorial disguised as genuine articles, or hollow pieces written purely to stuff with affiliate links. As much as you may not revel in seeing a Taboola list of The Amazing Tricks Insurance Companies Don’t Want You To Know, those sites are only there for you to read because those ads are there too.

Default AdBlock causes you to become a smash-and-grab user of the internet. You may be Googling to work out why your boiler isn’t working, find the solution on a super-helpful website you’ll never visit again, and then get on with your hot watery day. But that super-helpful website got nothing from you in return, because the ads they depend on didn’t load. And the couple of banner ads that would have appeared would have made no difference to you at all.

But there is a way to use AdBlock entirely differently, that’s very simple to set up. Instead of blacklisting the entire internet, and perhaps whitelisting (allowing ads on) sites you may one day remember to try to support, you can whitelist the whole web, and blacklist those that offend. Like this:

1) Click on the Adblock logo, and pick “Options”.

2) Select “Customize” from the top row, and then click on “Show ads everywhere except for these domains”.

3) In the options that appear, add at least one website (without the ‘http://’ and the ‘/’ at the end), and then click “OK!”

And you’re done!

Now the whole web is whitelisted apart from that dreadful site with its pop-under auto-playing video ads for hitmen and poison. Although, once again, perhaps consider whether you want to just not visit the website at all. If you want to blacklist something else, you just click on the AdBlock button and choose “Enable AdBlock on this page” to automatically add it to the list.

You’re a much fairer user of the internet now. And you’re helping sites you enjoy, or even sites you flitter past, to stay online.


11 Comments for this entry

  • Emmet

    I use Adblock Plus, and I do try to remember to turn it off for websites I want to actively support. A blacklist, although great in theory, will probably never work unless Adblock add it as an easy to use feature rather than having to manually type a domain.

    However, Adblock Plus do allow non-intrusive advertising. I don’t know anything about it but they have a page about it here

    “No applicant will be favored or treated differently, and no one can buy their way onto the whitelist. Everyone has to comply with the criteria and everyone has to go through the same process before the ads qualify as “acceptable.” “

  • Martin

    The problem with the ‘show all ads except here’ method is that it assumes you know which sites present the problem. If I’m looking for that hypothetical boiler repair site, chances are I’m not just going to go to one site to find my answer and they’re all potentially full of aggressive, over-bearing, under-handed ads. Putting up with all that is precisely the opposite reason people have ad-block (and if I’m looking to repair my boiler, chances are I’m in too much of a hurry to deal with slogging through ads to find answers). Much better (for the user) to block by default and then allow ads on sites they know and trust.

    The other issue is that I’m usually not blocking per site, but per advertising company. Not all banner ads are equal and I don’t care what site you are, if you’re using the more invasive and aggressive types of ads (auto-playing videos, flash overlays) they’re getting blocked at the root, always.

  • John Walker

    Emmet – as I say above, you don’t need to manually type it in. Once you’ve done the above, you can just blacklist a site in the same way you would have whitelisted previously.

  • Pasco

    This is lovely in theory John, but your example of random-boiler-question-answering-website is exactly the sort of place to host malicious ads that need to be blocked pre-emptively.

    Having a relationship with a site like RPS, or Eurogamer, or NeoGAF, or whatever lovely place has convinced you “We will only host ads not designed to fuck you over, and we’re worth it” is one thing, and those sites are what the whitelist is for.

    The rest of the internet is a cesspit of endless ad-based filth, which is either trying to maliciously fuck with your PC, or merely fucks your PC accidentally as it loads the 18th flash based full-screen audio/video advertising extravaganza. It’s the Wild West and your only defense is Ad Block (plus Ghostery and a few script killers to be extra safe).

    Marco Arment wrote a great blog post about the inevitability of Ad Blocking (which I wont link because I know how picky these sort of forms can be about links=spam, almost like some sort of software designed to block unwanted advertising), I really recommend giving it a read if you haven’t.

  • st33d

    @Pasco Dude. That article recommends sponsored bullshit stories as the best way to get revenue. You’re arguing that being lied to is better than transparent advertising. Even beyond that the article is arguing against script-tag advertising – not advertising in general. He’s recommending advertising methods you can’t block.

    You’re also painting everyone as the bad guy. Some people are shit so we should punish everyone. It’s quite an unpleasant world you live in.

  • aoanla

    To be fair to Pasco, he has a point, which is that if you’re using AdBlock as a mode of internet security (and given that the most common vector for remote compromises is Flash adverts, you really should be using an Ad blocker as a first line of defence), then a blacklist is worse than useless. This is basically the argument that Martin also makes.

    Clearly, it can make sense to whitelist sites that you trust, but honestly, arguing for blacklists is just arguing for everyone to browse insecurely.

  • TomHoward

    @st33d No, I think he’s arguing it is inevitable, not that it is better. Take the popup blocker example. I assume you use the popup blocker of your browser, and not maintain a blacklist of the popups you don’t want? This is because popups were deemed as “too far”.

    Well currently advertising tracks people, invades privacy, wastes precious mobile bandwidth, CPU cycles, and battery, and is a popular vector for malware. I know it sucks and I wish it were not the case, but until these issues are not a concern some users will block them. iOS 9 will include ad blocking capabilities in the OS because of the detrimental effects that ads have on mobile.

    The industry will change and adapt. I don’t know if it’ll be good or bad, but it’s going to happen.

  • wolfkin

    I’m a whitelister. I can’t be bothered to wait for the ads before I block them. Most sites have upgraded to javascript popups anyway so ad-block is limited anyway. But any site that puts in a script asking me to unblock them gets into my whitelist until I have to remove them for lying (which rarely happens). Any site I visit regularly. I’ll give them a chance on the white list. If you can get sites to stop with the javascript “DO you want to sign up for my newsletter?” javascript popups that you have to x before you can see anything. Then maybe we can talk but until then we never left the AOL era pop up/pop under ads. They just changed them and ad-block is still the only way to make most websites managable.

    Somewebsites are horrendous with their ads. Take for instance the absolutely wonderful and hilarious AvasDemon ( A great comic that I love but I read it on library computers which don’t have ad block and those ads are glarrying and intrusive to my experience there. It makes me sad that when my computer is fixed I’ll be whitelisting that website because I want to support it but it hurts my web design sensibilities that such website would have so much effort put into it’s overall look that’s just completely destroyed by the ads. I’m still half sure the computers are filled with malware because I can’t imagine someone would choose to have such ugly ads on their site.

  • Tetracycloide

    ALL sites with ads use dirty underhanded tricks actually. Creating an “anonymous profile” based on wherever you browse with ads is something practically synonymous with internet ads and as such every user should block them wherever they appear until such practices are ended.

  • Jambe

    AdBlock and ABP are bloaty anymore; I use uBlock Origin with my own filter to blacklist only bad sites.

    I also nuke flash/mp4 from orbit as a matter of principle. I’m capable of initiating motion graphics of my own accord, thanks.

    For instance, Rock Paper Shotgun’s current Neverwinter takeover ad wants to run this video in a perpetual loop at the right side of the screen. Nope!

    There’s enough distracting color and contrast in the web’s mediocre designs and UIs without select bits of them pulsating and gyrating in my peripheral vision as I attempt to read or watch other things. Crutchy McGee, that shit gets my dander right up.

  • Winterborn

    I don’t use adblock for these very reasons. I have flashkiller. Which I will use to kill all flash adds on a page after they load if they’re aggressive and distracting. I also have an an addon that blocks pop-up/pop-under adds more aggressively. Anything that is fair and hell, a good portion of what is not gets its impression from me. Part of being a good citizen is understanding your place in digital economy and claiming you’re ‘blocking everything until the whole system collapses and something better comes along’ is both naive and selfish.

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