AdBlocks - advert blocking browser plugin beats Microsoft, Google and advertisers

Published: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 by Rad

AdBlocks - advert blocking browser plugin beats Microsoft, Google and advertisers. The creator of software that stops adverts from appearing on websites has won in German court and defended itself against 2 news publishers that wanted to prevent its tech being used on their pages. A court in Hamburg ruled that users do have the right to use the plug-in.

"We are extremely happy with the decision reached today by the Hamburg regional court. This is a victory for every single Internet user because it confirms each individual's right to block annoying ads, protect their privacy, and, by extension, determine his or her own Internet experience. It is living proof of the unalienable right of every user to enjoy online self-determination."

Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus in Germany

Court case history

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that adblockers impede their multi-billion dollar business (or in this case, euros) of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it. In fact, a group of publishers in Hamburg, Germany was so upset that they actually took Adblock Plus to court.

  • Zeit Online GmbH and Handelsblatt GmbH took AdBlock owner Eyeo to court in December 2014
  • lawsuit charged that we should not be allowed to block ads on websites
  • four months of litigation
  • April 2015 - judge in Hamburg ruled in favor of Adblock Plus, ruled that the practice of blocking advertising is perfectly legitimate
ABP logo, source wikimedia
AdBlock logo, licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Adblock Plus is the most popular browser extension available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Android. Its primary purpose is to remove all intrusive advertisements from your browsing experience.

Filter lists are created by members of the open source community and free to use. If you don't want to rely on filter lists, you can create your own blocking rules to customize your web experience.

  • blocks YouTube video ads, Facebook ads, banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, background ads etc
  • unobtrusive ads aren't being blocked in order to support websites
  • whitelists could be created by users
  • free blocklists added by community regularly
  • free, OpenSource, under GPLv3
  • over 300 million downloads
  • privacy guaranteed, never collects any personal data

Plaintiffs - Advertisers

  • Zeit Online GmbH and Handelsblatt GmbH
  • they operate sites,, and
  • challenged AdBlocks business model
  • objected against AdBlocks charging money by operating a "white list" of adverts that it allows to get through its filters
  • AdBlock charge fees for what it terms "support services", the details of which are not made public.
  • allegedly these support fees could be up to 30% of the extra revenues it would have made by having ads on its platform unblocked
  • AdBlock insists that term is "imprecise and wrong"

"The Hamburg court decision is an important one, because it sets a precedent that may help us avoid additional lawsuits and expenses defending what we feel is an obvious consumer right: giving people the ability to control their own screens by letting them block annoying ads and protect their privacy"

Ben Williams, a director of Eyeo

AdBlock however, wants to be seen as more than just an ad-blocking tool; it has an Acceptable Ads initiative with which it hopes to move the Internet toward better ads. Adblock Plus is designed to only block annoying ads but to allow decent ads through, a compromise between users and advertisers.

How ad blocking in AdBlock Plus works

According to Mozilla developer Nicholas Nethercote, there is a 60-70MB memory hit having Adblock Plus run in the background on Firefox. The main problem, though, is the process by which ABP actually blocks ads.

Basically, ABP inserts a massive CSS stylesheet - occupying around 4MB of RAM - into every single webpage that you visit, stripping out the ads.

Adblock Plus, which is by far the most popular add-on for Firefox and Chrome, is actually increasing the amount of memory used by your web browser.Furthermore, ABP also increases the amount of CPU cycles required to render a website. This implies that ABP actually makes your surfing experience slower.

This would be especially through for websites using a lot if iframes - which are separate, individual webpages that are loaded and embedded within the page you're currently looking at.

The most common example is the ubiquitous social sharing widget (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) which is actually an iframe containing a separate webpage hosted on Facebook/Twitter's servers.

Alternatives to AdBlock - supporting websites which rely on ads

Some might consider fact that some - especially smaller websites - rely on advertising revenue - and we don't want those free websites to go under. If you're more worried about advertisers tracking you across the web, disabling third-party tracking cookies or using an add-on like NoScript is a much more effective (and efficient) route than using ABP.

For annoying Flash ads, click-to-play add-ons like Flashblock (Firefox/Chrome) are a better option than ABP.

The other option, if you really want to block ads (especially those pesky pre-roll video ads on YouTube and the like), is to use some kind of ad-blocking proxy server.

Privoxy is free, and if you run it locally there should be a minimal performance hit. As with all proxy servers, though, the one caveat is that it doesn't work with HTTPS connections (which is a problem, because you really should be using HTTPS connections wherever possible, if you want to escape the ever-watchful eye of cyber crooks and the government).

AdBlock - from around the web

Our previous news stories