Ad-blocking: key benefits and potential problems
The ad-blocked experience is superior in a lot of really important ways.
Advertising is such a seemingly intrinsic part of the modern internet experience that it can seem impossible to get away from. For many, the problem is not the fact that there is advertising on the web (sites do after all need to make money), but how intrusive they can be.
Ad-blocking seems like a great solution to this problem. You don’t have to look at every piece of spam mail that is posted through your letterbox or sent to your inbox, so why should you be required to look at every ad you come across on the web?
Of course, no solution is ever 100% effective, and ad-blockers can have some drawbacks (we’ll get to those later). But with the technology available on every platform, including smartphones, it is clear that a lot of consumers are enjoying the benefits.
This is perhaps the main reason an ever-growing number of people are adopting ad-blockers. Making the websites you read cleaner and more user friendly can have a huge effect on your experience of navigating around online.
The ads that you see online are not just designed to aggressively grab your attention or disrupt your activity, they are sometimes also used by cybercriminals to hide malware. This is called ‘malvertising’ and can lead to a whole host of problems for users that have the malicious software let loose on their devices. Some of these bad ads are so sophisticated that they don’t even need to be clicked on to begin wreaking havoc, but an ad-blocker should stop them straight away.
All those ads flashing along the side of content and popping up across your screen eat into data. This leads some sites loading slowly as content takes an age to render. Getting rid of them can, therefore, make pages load faster, making a dramatic difference in your user experience. There is a debate over just how much faster, but everyone is in agreement that it is noticeable.
Things to look out for:
You may be sold on ad-blockers now, but before you rush out to get yourself one and enjoy the internet ad-free, there are some potential issues that you need to be aware of.
Firstly, ad-blocking is not always the universal shield that its proponents make it out to be.
Companies have been known to pay ad-blockers to not block ads on their sites. This means that not all blockers out there will give you the cover you want, so make sure to do your due diligence before you buy.
Ad-blockers can also prevent you from seeing other important kinds of content that you might actually really need to see. Common problems that people have reported are disappearing online shopping baskets or flight booking engines. However, the ability to whitelist sites means that this shouldn’t be a problem for most users.
Another important part of the equation is the fact that many ad-blockers will track your online behaviour in order to sell it to third parties for additional income. Again, a little time spent researching should mean that you can avoid this if you are uncomfortable with it.
You may have also noticed that an increasing amount of sites are requiring users to whitelist them in order to view their content. This trend highlights one of the main things anyone considering using an ad-blocker should think about. The internet that we all know and love is built largely on the idea that content is free to the user because it is paid for by online advertising. So, if you block ads, it may directly lead to some of your favourite sites losing revenue. You can bypass this tricky ethical conundrum by making sure you whitelist the sites you love.
There is no getting around it: the ad-blocked experience is superior in a lot of really important ways to the one where it often feels like you are being hounded by adverts. And, as long as you actively make sure to whitelist the good sites and block the bad ones, you know that you are actively supporting the move towards a more user-friendly internet.
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