Best Ad Blockers: Comparing the Top 5
What would a world without ads look like? Most would probably answer "better". Thankfully, there are plenty of ad blocking tools available online that prevent banners, pop-ups, and more from distracting you from what you're doing online. But which is the best?
In this guide, we'll introduce you to some of the best ad-blocking extensions and let you know how they differ from one another.
Why Use an Ad Blocker?
Most people install an ad blocker because they're convenient and keep annoying ads away. The advantages of an ad-free Internet surfing experience are obvious. However, ad blockers also enhance your digital security in a number of ways.
Ad blockers are beneficial because they:
Protect against "malvertising" that seeks to smuggle harmful software onto your computer through ads
Make websites easier and faster to navigate by removing distractions
Conserve your data volume, especially when surfing on the go
Protect your personal information – i.e. by minimizing HTTP cookies or preventing web tracking (if only limited)
Prevent websites you don't want to support from profiting off of your visit
Are There Any Arguments Against Using Ad Blockers?
The above gives the impression that ad blockers are essential for ensuring a pleasant surfing experience. However, there are critics who warn of their drawbacks, for both practical and ethical reasons. As they argue, ad blockers could impair or even unwittingly destroy your favorite websites.
Ad blockers are problematic because they:
Cut websites off from lucrative income streams, hurting them financially
Don't provide sufficient data protection and can track and sell your data (i.e. relating to your browsing habits)
Can limit a website's functionality, blocking legitimate content alongside ads
On occasion, are financed by ads and may let "unobtrusive" ones through
Are easily recognized by websites, preventing you from entering until you disable them
As a consumer, there are many reasons to use an ad blocker, however, you should be aware of the implications and potential risks of doing so.
A number of websites, especially those which provide news, require visitors to turn off their ad blockers before granting them access to content. Users can make a one-time exception for websites or permanently whitelist them.
However, not every ad blocker is created equal, and a wide range of options are available to find the one that best suits your needs.
Which Ad Blocker Is the Best for Me?
You're only ever a few clicks away from an ad blocker. Nearly all are free and compatible with the most common browsers, however, some differences do exist between the individual apps. Below, we've provided a selection of our five favorites:
uBlock Origin is one of the most powerful ad blockers out there.
By heading over to the plugin's dashboard, you can access its advanced settings, which allow you to modify different filter lists, protecting against tracking or annoying cookie requests. More adventurous or technically-minded users can also define their own filters and rules. Needless to say, there's also a whitelist to which you can add specific websites.
More than 60 million people use AdBlock ⇱. Thanks to its different filters, the browser extension blocks both static as well as video ads, also making it easy to add exceptions if needed. Initially developed for Google Chrome, AdBlock is now available for Safari, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera.
AdBlock's user interface features a relatively simple design, showing how many ads have been blocked on the current page and overall. It's possible to specify whether the add-on should temporarily allow ads on the site you're visiting, or always allow them.
You can pause Adblock on the site you're currently visiting.
By clicking on the gear in the upper right, you can access additional features. These include the ability to allow less-annoying ads (we have the feeling that AdBlock is paid by certain companies to mark their ads as "acceptable"). There's also an option to automatically pause the tool when watching specific YouTube or Twitch channels. Thanks to the add-on's manual filters and filter lists, it's possible to really customize your user experience.
There's also a premium version of AdBlock. It includes a few cosmetic extras (different themes and a dark mode), additional pop-up blocking, and allows synchronization across different devices. AdBlock even offers its own VPN, which can be purchased either individually, or as part of the AdBlock Premium package.
Note: When conducting our evaluation, the exact price for an AdBlock Premium subscription was unclear. On the German version of the site, an annual subscription would set you back 10 €. However, on the English-language version of the website, AdBlock Premium was priced at $20 (with a VPN, $40), per year.
Don't let the name fool you, Adblock Plus ⇱ has nothing to do with AdBlock and was actually created by an entirely different team of developers. AdBlock Plus comes with a nice selection of adjustable filters and is open source, making it freely customizable.
All the same, Adblock Plus' user interface is nearly identical to that of AdBlock. The self-advertising, in which AdBlock Plus solicits donations and links to its social media channels, is a bit annoying. However, since it's rarely necessary to open the actual extension, this minor inconvenience isn't a big problem.
AdBlock Plus is open source and free.
As with the other providers listed above, clicking on the gear symbol in the extension opens additional settings. There, you'll find filters that automatically block push notifications or cookie banners. You can also specify that only those ads which aren't tracked by third parties be allowed to open.
No premium version of Adblock Plus is offered.
Ghostery ⇱ isn't an ad blocker in the classic sense, instead being a data protection tool with ad-blocking capabilities. The app blocks web trackers and analytical tools that collect your user data, and through configuring additional settings, ads.
The extension also doubles as an analytical tool: In the detailed view of the dashboard, you can see who is tracking you and what sort of information they're after. We should point out though, that for just blocking ads, Ghostery isn't as reliable as the other programs on this list.
Ghostery keeps you informed about who is tracking you and why.
Ghostery Plus provides access to even more statistics but will set you back $50 per year. This gives you greater insight into who is tracking you, more customization owing to the extra themes, and an anonymous search engine.
Like Ghostery, Privacy Badger ⇱ is more geared towards data protection and privacy than ad blocking. More specifically, it isn't an ad blocker, but an anti-tracking tool, which isn't the same, even though the two are often closely linked. The app doesn't rely entirely on filter lists as regular ad blockers do, and instead, constantly learns more about your behavior, refining its activities in the process. As a result, it is capable of effectively blocking trackers and ads that seek to spy on you.
Privacy Badger isn't an ad blocker per se, but owing to its robust anti-tracking capabilities, will see off plenty of ads.
Owing to its functionality, Privacy Badger won't be able to match the numbers of blocked ads of fully-fledged ad blockers, however, as an enhancement to your array of data protection tools, it's well worth consideration.
Browsers With Integrated Adblockers
The solution to your difficulties with online ads doesn't have to be a dedicated tool: So-called privacy browsers come with integrated ad blockers, while regular browsers come with similar features built-in. One of the most popular privacy browsers is Brave ⇱: Not only does it automatically delete your data after each session, but also blocks ads and tracking by default.
With Brave, ad blocking is enabled by default.
How Do I Install an Adblocker?
Since most adblockers are offered as browser extensions, installing them is child's play. We'll walk you through the process using uBlock Origin for Chrome as an example:
Step 1: When visiting uBlock Origin's website ⇱, your browser should automatically recognize your operating system. Click on Get uBlock Origin to be redirected to the appropriate web store.
uBlock Origin automatically detects which browser and operating system you're using and recommends the appropriate extension.
Step 2: Click on Add Extension, in order to install uBlock Origin.
Next, install the extension.
Step 3: uBlock Origin is now installed in your browser, and will ward off annoying ads. In case you want to add an exception, all you have to do is click on the large, blue power button.
Now, thanks to uBlock Origin, you can enjoy an ad-free surfing experience.
In the extension's dashboard, you'll be able to manage your whitelist, check and configure filters, and make other user-defined adjustments and changes.
Without a doubt, ad blockers make surfing the web more enjoyable, since they remove the frustration of ads opening when you're trying to do something. A wide selection of applications are available and we recommend going with the one that suits you and your needs best. Should you be after greater speed, higher usability, enhanced data protection and privacy, or something else, there's definitely an ad blocker out there for you.
At the same time, it's a good idea to remove websites that you enjoy and wish to support from your blacklist. By doing so, you'll be able to surf ad-free most of the time, while still helping out trusted pages and content creators.