Nobody likes ads. They are annoying, they get in the way of our enjoyment of content online, and they are increasingly invasive. It is no secret that many of the ads that we are on the receiving end of nowadays are the result of another online entity selling our personal data. Advertisements and commercials have long been one of the banes of media, one of those things that we have just had to deal with, begrudgingly.
In more recent years, though, there has been an unprecedented pushback to ads and commercials. This is, in part, due to the fact that we have a great deal more technology at our disposal than we did in the 20th century when commercials were king. But this is also partially because companies have gotten out of hand with their advertising tactics. Advertising has become an extremely profitable business model in and of itself, as opposed to a way for media companies to make extra money.
Ads are now at the very core of the way companies conduct business. This is how media content and many online services have become ‘free.’ In other words, users get to watch videos on YouTube, for instance, without having to pay a monthly fee. Anyone who is willing to put up with the aggressive advertising tactics of YouTube does not have to pay with their dollar; they just have to pay with their time in viewing ads.
An even more pernicious way that internet users are offered free services can be seen in the way that many social media sites sell our personal data to advertisers. This is where the real money lies, in the big data business. Sites like Facebook and Instagram shamelessly sell our personal interests and browsing history to a number of companies that, then, use this information to sell us products that, statistically speaking, we are likely to want.
Sometimes this can be perceived as convenient – I see quite a few Instagram ads for products that I would, in fact, enjoy – but as a matter of principal, it is, in my opinion, a gross invasion of privacy and unethical.
One answer, of course, to avoid advertising online is to avoid using social media sites. But for many of us, that is not a realistic alternative – so much depends on having a social media profile these days. But when you zoom out and see the full scope of how ad-ridden the internet is as a whole, this solution would quickly turn into saying, ‘well, I guess you just have to quit the internet altogether if you don’t want to see ads.’ Luckily, though, there is another way of evading the ever-expanding role of ads on the internet that doesn’t necessitate going off the grid and abandoning your favorite streaming services … and that is to find yourself a high-quality, powerful ad blocker.
Maybe you even have an ad blocker of some sort. For a long time, I used the standard extensions that are offered by most major web browsers. These, however, proved not to be strong enough – especially when put up against the extremely ad-heavy free streaming sites that I like to use. Eventually, I figured out that if I wanted to continue using these free streaming sites (and enjoy them), I was going to have to find something better.
Which is how I would eventually come across the ad blocking software known as uBlock Origin. Unlike the majority of other ad blocking plugins and apps, uBlock Origin’s claim to fame is that it does not allow “acceptable ads,” which are nothing more than ads for which an advertiser pays extra money in order to bypass ad blockers. The other standout quality of uBlock Origin is the fact that it is 100% free and open sourced – profit has never been and will never be the goal for uBlock Origin – an ad blocker that can be trusted.
This was not always the case for uBlock, though. The whole reason that uBlock Origin came to be (as an evolution of the original software, uBlock) was as a return to form, a return to the origins of what uBlock was originally meant to be: a fully free, open sourced ad-block software.
The original developer of uBlock, Raymond Hill transferred the uBlock project’s official repository to Chris Aijoudi in April of 2015. Hill made this transfer because of frustration that came from dealing with requests. Immediately, however, upon this transfer, Hill forked uBlock himself, continuing his anti-advertising efforts under his newly forked software. This software would later become known as uBlock Origin. It is now100% separate from the uBlock of Aijoudi.
Although uBlock has ceased development since 2015 (it is still occasionally updated), In July of 2018, uBlock was acquired by AdBlock. As of February of 2019, uBlock (under the new AdBlock ownership) began allowing “acceptable ads,” which, as I mentioned before, are ads that the software allows through based on payments received.
uBlock Origin, however, remains an independent entity and does not accept money in order to allow ads. It is one of the last living ad blockers out there with integrity.
There is not much to speak of when it comes to the design of uBlock Origin, seeing as it is a browser extension. Nonetheless, the extension itself is intuitive, user friendly, lightweight, and quick to install. Upon adding the extension to Google Chrome, I was immediately able to make use of it – like many VPNs, the add-on appears with a large power button at the top of its dropdown interface – quickly turn uBlock Origin on or off according to your needs.
Below this power button, you’ll find additional features, as well as some simple data about what uBlock Origin has done – such as how many ads have been blocked on a given page, number of domains connected, and number of ads blocked since install. The design is sparse, making it as clear as possible how to use uBlock Origin, as well as how effective the extension has been.
Content and Features
In addition to blocking as many ads as possible, uBlock Origin allows users to be put in full control over what ads are blocked, as well as how ads are being blocked. As far as ad blockers are concerned, uBlock Origin is easily the most features-rich one that I have seen.
You can also take advantage of the software’s Element Zapper Mode, which allows you to click on specific content on a web page and zap it to eliminate it. This is an extremely powerful feature. Just click on a piece of any website and watch it disappear before your very eyes.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
It does not appear as if there is a mobile version of uBlock Origin. This is a shame, too, because there are not many solid ad blockers for mobile devices. Therefore, mobile web browsing is usually the most inundated with ads – it is a wild jungle of commercialism. Sure, if you are a tech wiz, you can figure out a workaround for Android … but if you use iOS, you are sort of SOL.
Pricings and Plans
As I mentioned earlier, uBlock Origin is 100% free to use and tweak to your liking, as it is open-sourced software with source code available on Git Hub. That being said, uBlock Origin does survive on donations. So, if you have the means and you find yourself enjoying uBlock Origin, I highly recommend considering a donation – whatever you can afford to give to show your appreciation and help ensure that Hill and uBlock Origin continue to be able to stay afloat and provide everyone with the best, most fastidious ad blocking service on the web today.
Suggestions that I have for uBlock Origin
Honestly, I don’t have many complaints. The one thing that would be nice, though, is if it were easier to undo individual actions committed with the extension. For instance, if I am using element zapper and I accidentally zap the wrong element, I should be able to undo that action without too much trouble. I, however, struggled to figure out how to un-zap (if it is possible at all).