Best Free Ad Blockers for Web Browsers
Advertisements on websites can be really annoying and some sites overwhelm their content by drowning them out with ads. The good news is that it is possible to filter out most of the ads on websites and improve your browsing experience by installing an ad blocker.
Ad blocking isn’t illegal but it does annoy the people who run websites. To clarify, placing advertisements on a website is not illegal. Many ad blockers are also tracker blockers, but trackers are a separate issue. Ad blockers just strip the ads out of web pages. Many of them also block trackers. They don't remove cookies -- that's also a separate issue. With retargeting, ad blockers will remove the ads in most cases.
Many information-based businesses, such as newspapers, rely entirely on the intrusive ads on their sites for revenue. The use of ad blockers has seriously damaged the profitability of those businesses. However, they need to find different income models because the use of ads on websites has gotten out of control.
As a response to ad blockers, some prestigious news sites have switched to a subscription model. They allow the general public to see their main websites, but block access to individual articles to those who haven’t paid (known as a paywall). However, they still plaster ads all over the websites that people pay to access. Others block access when they detect an ad blocker and insist that the viewer whitelists their site (excludes it from the ad blocking action) before allowing access.
Video ads that take a while to load and have high-volume sound on them can be particularly embarrassing if the viewer of that web page is in a public place or place of work at the time. They are the most intrusive ads on the web. Fortunately, video ads are particularly easy to block.
Free ad blockers
Amazingly, most of the best ad blockers available are free to use. The usual format deployed by these systems is the browser extension. These free ad blocker plugins:
- Hijack all of the code for a web page as it arrives at the web browser
- Run that code through a scanning program
- Pass all code for the page on to the browser, except for the code that loads ads
With most free ad blocker browser extensions, some acceptable ads will still get through, particularly if they are embedded in the text of the web page. However, one or two ads are not as distracting as the ads-soaked websites that people without ad blocking utilities have to put up with.
Web browser security
Systems that block ads aren’t just catering to anti-capitalists. Malware can infect computers by hiding in online ads and downloading onto the viewer’s computer as the code for ads loads into the web browser. Popular ad blockers don’t just block ads, they are also pop-up blockers and they block trackers as well. These handy add-ons are actually cybersecurity tools.
Social media buttons are not as likable as people think. They are trackers because the images for them have to be fetched from the sites that they advertise. That action gives the social media companies the opportunity to log the visit to a website from your IP address. So, Facebook and Twitter can compile a profile of your internet surfing even if you don’t have an account with those platform.
The best ad blockers will strip out social media buttons (called “widgets”) from your favorite websites as an added blocking feature. This task is performed while also blocking banner ads, pop-up ads, video ads, trackers, and other adware and malware from your favorite sites.
Ad blocker add-ons for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and other web browsers
Whereas most cybersecurity tools are written to work on specific operating systems, ad blockers run in web browsers, so you don’t have to worry about whether the service will run on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS (for iPhones and iPads), or Android. However, you need to pay attention to which web browser they are made for.
As Google Chrome is the most widely-used web browser, there are more ad blocking extensions available for that browser than any other. The next best catered for web browser is Mozilla Firefox.
Many anti-adware producers don’t bother to create versions for Internet Explorer because that web browser has been replaced by Microsoft Edge. The Edge web browser is the third most catered-for browser in the ad blocking market.
Safari and Opera web browsers have far fewer ad blocking add-ons available. The Opera web browser’s producers have resolved the problem of their utility being overlooked by the creators of ad blocker extensions and built their own ad blocker app into settings of the web browser.
Best ad blocking web browser extensions
Here is our list of the best ad blocker plugins available for the major web browsers:
- Adblock Plus (ABP)
- AdBlocker Ultimate
- uBlock Origin
- Poper Blocker
- TunnelBear Blocker
- Opera Ad Blocker
You can read more about these popular ad blockers in the following sections.
AdBlock is a very popular ad blocker with more than 40 million users all over the world. This useful tool blocks ads on websites in a variety of formats, including banner ads, pop up ads, and video ads. The ad blocker features include whitelisting and the option to allow acceptable ads.
The plugin has a handy icon that sits at the end of the address bar in your web browser. This reports on its activities while it blocks ads. It will also block trackers. It is the most widely use ad blocker as a Google Chrome extension. The free add-on is also available for Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. There is also an ad blocker app for Android, iPhone, and iPad.
Adblock Plus (ABP)
Despite similarities in the name, Adblock and Adblock Plus are not related and they are produced by two different software houses. So, which is better AdBlock or AdBlock Plus? Honestly, it is very hard to choose between these two excellent ad blocking add-ons. However, the social media widget blocker in ABP pushes it ahead slightly.
ABP is a free ad blocker and is available as a Google Chrome extension. It is also possible to add this plugin to Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera. The tool add-on includes whitelisting and an acceptable ads setting. Otherwise, it will block banner ads, video ads, and any other adware and malware contained in websites. It is also a pup up blocker and it will block trackers. Another ad blocker feature of this plugin is the ability to remove special media buttons from websites. Look for the secure web browser produced by ABP for Android devices and iPhones in your app store.
This ad blocker is a good choice for those who insist on only using open source software. An open source project is one that allows anyone to see its programming code. This enables users to be sure that there is no hidden malware within the system.
This is a Chrome extension and is available as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Yandex. A version for Safari will run on iPhones and iPads. there is also a secure AdBlocker Ultimate browser for Android devices and a version that runs on Microsoft Windows, protecting all internet connected software from adware and malware. All versions of this anti-adware system block banner ads, video ads, phishing attempts, pop-up ads, and trackers. The Windows-based version is more of an anti-malware system and it is charged for by subscription. The web browser extensions are free.
uBlock Origin is a free, open source ad blocking system that is available as a Google Chrome extension and as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Opera web browsers. Users with advanced understanding of how ad blockers operate have the option of switching between pre-installed filter lists or installing a new one. Ad blocking features include the blocking of banner ads, popup ads, and video ads. The system will also pre-filter URLs and block trackers.
Ghostery was designed to block trackers, including social media widgets, but it also functions as an ad blocker. The web browser extension is free to use. It is a product of the company Cliqz, which produces a secure web browser. There is a Ghostery add on for the Cliqz browser and also a Google Chrome extension. Ghostery is also available as a plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Safari. There are secure Ghostery ad blocker apps for Android devices and iOS (iPhones and iPads).
AdGuard is free as a browser extension. The company behind the add-on also producers operating system-based security services for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS (iPhones and iPad). The Android and iOS free versions provide a base level of protection with upgrade options available for a fee. The web browser plugins are available for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and Yandex. There is also a Google Chrome extension version of AdGuard.
This ad blocker will block trackers and spyware as well as all types of adware. It has a blacklist that warns about phishing websites and it has extra procedures to trap ad blocker circumvention attempts. It offers users the opportunity of both whitelisting and blacklisting. The Chrome extension has been installed more than 4 million times, so this is a very popular ad blocker.
Poper Blocker’s user rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the Chrome Store, where it has been downloaded more than 2 million times. The free pop-up blocker prevents websites opening new tabs or creating a new browser window, so it scuppers a lot of the annoying tricks that infected websites get forced to perform, not just those sites that intentionally launch pop-ups.
The service will also block overlay ads, which cover up the content of a web page that you want to read. This browser add-on won’t strip out ads embedded in web pages but it is better at blocking pop-ups than standard ad blockers. It is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Baidu.
AdLock produces system protection for Windows and Android which are charged for. However, it also provides free browser plugins. There is a free Google Chrome extension and a free add-on for Safari. These web browser extensions will block banner ads, pop-up ads, and video ads. The utility will also protect your privacy by blocking spyware and trackers. The AdLock system also detects damaging elements in websites such as phishing strategies and malware and blocks them from loading in the web browser.
The TunnelBear Blocker is an awesome ad blocker and privacy system. TunnelBear is a VPN system and it is charged for by subscription. However, the TunnelBear Blocker is free to use and you don’t have to install the VPN in order for it to work.
The TunnelBear Blocker goes a little further than most blockers. It will block ultrasonic tracking methods. This little-known tracking system plays as invisible signals under the soundtrack of videos in websites. The system also blocks regular trackers and affiliate links. This blocker also scans websites for malware and phishing strategies before allowing them to load into protected web browsers.
The one problem with the TunnelBear web browser extension is that it is only available for Google Chrome.
Opera Ad Blocker
Although most of the ad blockers in this list produce add-ons for Opera, the makers of the Opera web browser didn’t realize that their web browser would be so well catered for when the concept of ad blockers first arose. They decided to stake their pitch for new users by making their web browser a very secure service.
The idea of an ad blocker within a browser makes sense, which is why all of the successful ad blockers operate as browser extensions. Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocker, but it isn’t very good because it doesn’t work too well to block Google Ads. Opera doesn’t get an income stream from placing ads in websites, so its ad blocker is a lot more effective.
Block Ads in websites
Once you have an ad blocker installed, you will find that quite a few websites will just block your access entirely until you whitelist them. Some features that you want to access won’t work anymore. For example, many online streaming video players won’t run if you have an ad blocker in place.
Ad blockers fix one problem and create others. Thanks to whitelisting, ad blockers allow you to be in control. You will be able to decide when to allow pop-ups and ads and when to block them. You will be in control of what happened on the devices you own.