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uBlock Origin vs Adblock Plus – Which Blocks Better?

uBlock Origin vs Adblock Plus - Which Blocks Better?

Adblocking is now essential for every internet user. It takes power back from advertising networks and allows you to specify exactly what online advertising you are exposed to and which you want to allow. Today I put two of the most popular adblockers to the test in uBlock Origin vs Adblock Plus – Which blocks best?

Advertising is nothing new but it has shifted from a passive medium where we were free to ignore it to a more aggressive medium that actively tries to get our attention. As someone who writes for a tech website, I have a mixed relationship with online advertising. Essentially it pays my bills so it is necessary for me to be able to do what I love doing. On the flip side, some advertising networks are better than others and the quality and intrusiveness of adverts differs massively. This impacts the user experience which in turn impacts me.

The case for adblocking

I am a firm believer in allowing websites with well-behaved adverts to continue to advertise. They need the money and deserve a little revenue to help keep the lights on. I also believe that those websites that feature annoying or intrusive ads deserve to have them blocked. Only by hitting them in the wallet will anything ever change.

Online advertising has a couple of overheads. The web page is larger and takes longer to load. Graphical ads require more resources to display and will eat up more RAM. On a decent computer, this will make no difference but on a mobile it does impact the user experience. On a mobile using cell data, it is felt even more.

Then there is the risk of malware. Examples of advertising networks being hacked to serve infected ads are many. This means if you allow online advertising, you need to have a malware scanner and antivirus running on your computer at all times. Arguably, you should have them running at all times anyway, but ads are another risk vector we could do without.

So of the two browser extensions that block ads, which is best, uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus?

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. It is free and open source and was released in 2014. The developer is independent and does not accept donations from any company or corporate back to maintain impartiality. This extension was designed to offer similar protections to Adblock Plus while using fewer system resources.

The UI is minimal and for most web users this is fine. Click the little shield icon in the browser and you see a big blue power button that shows whether uBlock Origin is active or not. You can drill down if you wish and add websites to a whitelist (hint: TechJunkie) and configure the extension further if you wish. uBlock Origin works out of the box though so no configuration is actually necessary.

uBlock Origin can use third party filters if you wish but this comes with a process overhead. That overhead is mitigated somewhat by the resource savings the extension provides by not serving advertising.

For the average user, uBlock Origin is an install and forget extension. Install it onto every browser, make sure it is enabled and leave it to work. No configuration is necessary unless you want to add extra third-party filters.

Adblock Plus

Adblock Plus is apparently the most popular ad blocker around. Originally designed to take on the popular Adblock, it quickly overtook it to become ‘the’ ad blocker for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and most other browsers. There is also an Android plugin for mobile ad blocking.

Adblock Plus is not entirely impartial but does not hide the fact. It has been linked to companies that provide ‘acceptable advertising’ and whitelists some of these by default. I think there is nothing wrong with this as it teaches advertisers that well-behaved ads are fine but intrusive ones are not. Hopefully that message will eventually spread.

When you go into Adblock Plus Options, you will see the ‘Allow some non-intrusive advertising’ option is checked by default. Adblock Plus differs from uBlock Origin in that it does not block all ads. It is designed to only block intrusive ads such as popups while allowing other ads through. This is fine and I have no problem with seeing sensible ads but it means I am loading those ads and potentially exposed to any malware infected adverts. Aside from that, the browsing experience is maintained.

For most users Adblock Plus is also an install and forget extension. You may want to check the filter list and uncheck the non-intrusive ad option but you don’t need to do anything else.

So which is best?

In my opinion, uBlock Origin does the better job of blocking ads. It’s a fire and forget extension, doesn’t have deals with ad networks or allow ‘acceptable ads’ and has the option to use many different third-party filters. Better still, uBlock Origin has very little resource overhead while saving a lot of memory and processor time by blocking ads.

So you use uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus? Got a different opinion? You know what to do.

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Dec 5, 2017

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