Sunday, October 20, 2013

The evolution of the online ad

Reason for Blog:

I've created this blog to discuss the reasons we block ads. Over the course of the next three posts, we will discuss how to block ads on Windows, Mac and Android.  This current post will deal more with why online ads became so bothersome and yet so profitable, helping to make
Google worth $334 Billion.

The Ads starting out:

The above ad was the first banner ad ever on the internet and it was released on Oct. 27, 1994, on HotWired for AT&T.  At this time, the internet was considered more of an information source as opposed to a money-making resource.  As ugly and as uninformative as this ad is, it sparked the development of an increasingly invasive ad system.

Today we have multiple types of ads that have become increasingly annoying and controlling over our computers.  Some of these include:

  • Pop-ups ads that appear when you first visit a website by opening a new window that you have to close to continue.
  • Pop-under ads are like pop-up ads except that they display after you leave the website
  • Floating ads which are ads that hover over the text of a website before you close them out
  • Expanding ads which start out smaller and them expand sometimes to take up the whole screen until you close them
  •  Video ads which play sometimes automatically when visiting a website and other times between video content such as the ads you would see on
  • Text ads which are often marketed to the user based on the text on a website.  Google uses these ads often on the top of search results.  Alternatively if you have gmail, Google places ads along the interface of your mail.
Ads continue to grow and continue to stand out in websites.  As more users start to ignore a certain type of ad, advertisers continue to find ways to make ads mandatory to see.  Sometimes they require you to view an ad for a certain amount of time before continuing to an article or website.  Such ads need to have controls or protocols or be stopped and that is where this blog comes in.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ads on Windows

Ads on Windows are dangerous:

One of the most widely used operating systems out there is Windows.  Often ads have malicious software embedded in them--even on reputable websites.  Avast reported that major sites that include The New York Times and gave their users malware through advertising companies such as Yield Manager and DoubleClick--two major ad companies that connect advertisers with websites to advertise on.

Fight Between Advertisers and end users:

Because of security reasons and pure annoyance, many users have been adding ad blocking software or add-ons to their computers to block ads.  The problem is that ads bring in big money to the websites they are on and websites have started showing nag screens or blocking users from seeing content while ad blockers are enabled on their website.

How to block ads on windows:

First you want to install a program called Ad Muncher. This program filters all ads on non-encrypted websites (websites without the https in front of it)  This is a paid program but the company offers a free trial so you can test out the software before you buy it.  This program will filter information before it actually hits your computer, saving you bandwidth and the possibility of your getting unwanted software to your computer.  You can also add custom filters to block elements the developers do not consider ads.

Next you want to get to get Adblock Plus and the Element Hiding Helper for Ad Block Plus add-ons if you run Firefox.  This program will help you block ads on secure or https websites.  The first custom filter you want to add for this program is "@@http://" so that it does not get detected by the websites that recognize it.  No programs recognize Ad Muncher because it actually rewrites websites to remove their ad block detectors.  As you come across ads, you want to go into the Ad Block element hider and select the part/element of the website you want to block and continue to press the 'W' button until you select the entire ad.  Once you've extended past the intended one time, you need to press 'N' and then click to save the element area you want to block.

This process should block ads on almost all websites.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ads on Mac

Blocking ads on a mac is slightly more complex.  It  is harder to block ads effectively without making websites incomplete and being detected.

Ad Muncher is not compatible with Mac OS X and therefore cannot be used to block ads on http or non secure websites. However, there are alternatives, for example Privoxy, which filters all browsers on a computer.

The best thing to do on the Mac OS X is to get the AdBlock Plus for each browser you plan to use as a plugin and then configure it for each website that you still see ads on or that detects it. People who are willing to learn some coding can create what is called a Cascading Style Sheet(CSS) and apply it to their  web browsers. A CSS file essentially tells a web browser how to display websites and the content on them. The downside to this process is that you need to know or be willing to learn how to code in CSS which although easy once you learn can be a daunting task for the beginner. It is nearly impossible for a script to see a CSS file being implemented because it is something built into the browser that simply hides or masks the content being shown to the user.

Below I've added a video of Ad Muncher blocking ads in Mac OS X 10.9 using CrossOver which simulates Windows on a Mac.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ads on Android

Much like the progression of the development of ads on internet browsers over the years, ads on phones have also started to mature into an unsafe and annoying occurrence.

Ads not only exist on the internet browser but also in Applications called Apps on the phone itself. 
Some Apps such as Pandora offer a paid service called Pandora One which for a fee will remove the ads from their program.  Others such as Angry Birds do not offer an Ad free version of their program and force you to see ads on their program for them to get revenue.

Outside of rewriting the code for Apps on your phone or disconnecting from the internet, every time you use your phone there is only one way to remove ads in Apps—this way involves using programs that edit the hosts file on your Android phone so that it cannot connect to Ad servers to retrieve ads.  A host file is a file built into your internet device that helps your device, in this case the phone, find a website instead of using DNS servers.  To edit the host file and install these programs, you need to "root" your phone.  Rooting your phone often voids your warranty. For more information on how to root your specific phone, refer to and then select your phone.  I've rooted my phone because I hate ads and I can assure you that every phone I've rooted has had a different procedure.

Once you have added a program like AdAway, you won't get ads on your games anymore which is helpful especially if you were accidentally clicking on them as you were playing your touch based game.  The major drawback of this approach is that it doesn't hide the section of the websites for the ads it blocks when browsing the web so you will randomly see a "page not found" section on some websites that would have otherwise shown a banner ad on the site.  This does not apply for web browsers that generate the website on the server and then give it to your phone in a reduced size such as Opera Mini.