What is an ad blocker: A brief look and FAQ

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What is an ad blocker: A brief look and FAQ

A bit of history. First blockers emerged back in 1996, but large advertisers tried to shut it down. Nevertheless, new tools were appearing that could block ads not only in browsers, but also in desktop applications. In 2003, AdBlock was first introduced. The creator, Henrik Sorenson, simply posted the news on the Mozilla Forum, and since then the name AdBlock has become basically a synonym for ad blocking. So what is an ad blocker?

What is an ad blocker?

A blocker is often a browser extension that blocks video ads, banners, pop-ups, video ads and other types of intrusive and/or annoying ads. Some tools also provide anti-tracking and anti-malware. Popular websites are flooded with advertisements, distracting us from the information we seek. Some sites have just a bit of ads to cover the costs, others have too many for the sake of profit. 

Basically, now all blockers are free, but there are also paid ones with advanced functionality. The price is a monthly, yearly or lifetime subscription. There are several types of blockers – browser extensions, applications, VPNs with a blocker (e.g. Windscribe and NordVPN), network blockers. For smartphones it is mostly extensions for browsers such as Samsung Internet, Safari, or browsers like Firefox Focus.

How do ad blockers work?

Most banners are loaded from similar repositories. Therefore, removing banner ads on YouTube, Facebook and other resources is not difficult. It is tougher to determine what is advertising and what is not. To tackle this, software vendors get assistance from users and testers, who create filters and rules.

To bypass this, some websites can identify extensions and display banners of other formats that will still be visible, or bring up an alert asking to turn a block off to view the content. In return, many modern blockers can counteract such efforts too.

Why use an adblock?

First of all, to remove distractions and excessive unnecessary content. Secondly, to protect our children from unwanted or inappropriate advertising. Thirdly, as a user / a reader you don’t want to be closing a bunch of banners and skipping video ads. Benefits are clear: view content without distracting elements, stop advertising networks from receiving your browsing activity, saving time and web traffic. 

Let’s do a quick and easy comparison. Here’s a CNN news page with 3 types of ads at the very beginning: a top banner, a video ad and a sidebar AdSense block. When we scroll the page down, there are more ads.

On a smaller screen, say your smartphone, all of it would get crammed and even more in-your-face. Now we activate a Chrome extension, and see no ads at all. None. A clear page with a piece of news.


According to the Blockthrough 2020 Adblock Report, there were 236 million active users per month in the 4th quarter of 2019. Currently, these extensions and apps are on the rise due to the ever growing amount of advertising on the Internet. And ads are not always friendly, and may contain phishing links or malware. Thus, it’s kind of a natural balance. Blockers come in different forms: browser extensions, browser built-in functions, desktop applications. 

Useful links from our research:


Q: What does an ad blocker do?
A: These tools specifically target all types of online ads and prevent it from loading and displaying.

Q: What is the best ad blocker?
A: It is subjective and a personal choice. There are plenty of good tools, e.g. AdBlock, uBlock, AdGuard, AdBlock Plus. For more details check out our related articles.

Q: How to check if an ad blocker is working?
A: The easiest way would be to compare a few pages with an extension off and on. Alternatively, there are online services analyzing multiple aspects – Canyoublockit, Pi-hole, ThePCSpy.

Q: Can I exclude a website from ad blocking?
A: Yes, most ad blockers have a whitelist function for this.

Q: How does a blocker affect computer resources?
A: A blocker loads CPU and RAM, as any other running processes do. The more functions are applied, the greater the load.

Q: Why do I still see ads?
A: Not all extensions act in the interest of users, partnering with certain websites and/or advertisers to omit their ads. Also, web developers may adjust the code to counteract ad blockers.

Q: Why can’t I view websites when an ad blocker is on?
A: Some website owners specifically block access when a blocker is detected.

Q: Should I buy a Premium version?
A: Not necessarily, as most ad blockers provide basic functions for free. Pro or Premium subscriptions offer advanced features, as a rule.

Q: Can I use multiple blockers at the same time?
A: Yes, but do not forget – the more extensions are running, the bigger load on the CPU.

Q: Why do sites ask to disable the blocker?
A: Advertising is often a way to compensate the costs of maintaining a website.

Q: What should I do if I see ads on all websites?
A: Perhaps your extension has stopped working or crashed. Try reinstalling it or using another tool.

Q: Why do some websites display incorrectly?
A: This may be due to the overall design, HTML, JavaScript elements, etc., get affected by an adblock and thus display erroneously.

Q: Who do I contact for adblock issues?
A: Each SaaS has a technical support team.

Q: Do I need to configure a blocker?
A: You can if you wish. Yet, most tools are set up by default to be able to perform their duties as is.

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