In part two of this series on the state of ad blockers, I take a look at a new product from a well-known company whose earlier product has been available for nearly a decade: Adblock Plus (ABP). Adblock Plus develops extensions for web browsers which can block tracking, malware sites, and, of course, ads.
Last week, ABP went beyond releasing extensions and launched a standalone Adblock Browser for Android and iOS that has built-in blocking capabilities. Before we take a look at the browser itself, it is worth noting ABP’s interesting (and some call it controversial) business model. ABP signs contracts with companies that agree to its acceptable ads guidelines. Ads from these companies are allowed to pass through the ABP ad filter.
In a 2014 interview, ABP lead investor Tim Schumacher said that only the largest companies pay for these contracts. “Adblock Plus has been experimenting with different models,” he said. “I can’t talk about specific contracts, but in some cases it was performance-based and in other cases it was more of a flat fee. More that 90% of companies don’t pay at all.”
The first thing you should know about the free Adblock Browser is that, unsurprisingly, it works better on recent devices with faster processors. For example, it ran slowly on an iPad 2 with a 32-bit processor in my tests. So, slow, in fact, that there is not much speed advantage to using Safari with ads displayed. However, on a iPhone 6+ with a faster 64-bit processor, Adblock Browser rendered the mostly ad-less web pages fast enough to be interesting and useful. On the Android side, I tested it using a Nexus 4 and Nexus 6.
Here’s the use case that makes Adblock Browser interesting and useful for me: I generally use Google’s own Chrome browser on Android devices and read web pages with ads. However, I often find interesting news items in my Google Now feed. And, some of the sources are either unfamiliar to me with possibly heavy handed ads or are from interesting sources with known heavy ads. So, I have links from Google Now handled by Adblock Browser.
A single ad blocking filter is selected by default: ABP’s own EasyList. ABP describes it as: “The EasyList subscriptions are lists of filters designed for Adblock Plus that automatically remove unwanted content from the internet, including annoying adverts, bothersome banners and troublesome tracking. The subscriptions are currently maintained by four authors.” You can use the Ad Blocking setting option to choose filters for other languages.