Ad blockers: myths and facts

Visit any end-user message board where amateur computer advice is dispensed and discussed, and you will start to see that just use an ad blocker has started to replace just update your antivirus or just turn on your firewall as the default advice for when someone's computer is acting hinky.

  • Creepy ads following you around? Just use an ad blocker!

  • Internet slow? Just use an ad blocker!

  • New unwanted feature in an application? Just use an ad blocker!

Ad blockers are no more magic than antivirus or firewalls. But they do give users a sense of agency, so simply admonishing users to turn the ad blocker off is no solution. The turn off your ad blocker message is unlikely to get someone to abandon a tool that he or she sees as essential protection, and just reflects badly on the site that uses it.

At the same time, though, sites will benefit by educating users about the limitations and non-magical qualities of ad blockers. For example, by default, the most popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, will allow many risky third-party trackers through. The privacy features are not enabled at install time.

In order to warn users about the problem, the Aloodo tracking protection test now includes a simple ad blocker test (using a harmless transparent image called ad.gif).

The test result page now includes an additional message shown to ad blocker users who are still vulnerable to third-party tracking. All part of the process of refining the message and helping to move users from general ad blocking to tracking protection.

Don Marti · #