What Will It Take For You To Disable Your Ad/Content Blocker?

| Dave Hamilton's Blog

With yesterday's release of iOS 9 to the masses, Content Blockers (a.k.a. ad blockers) have made their way into the iOS mainstream. As I recently said, as both a reader and publisher of web content I'm happy about this.

Part of what I'm happy about is the change this will bring to our industry as a whole. I'm also happy about some of the specific changes it will bring to TMO

Ad blockers are, of course, a slippery slope. It's easy to start by saying, "well, I'm going to use it on sites that are egregious with the amount of ads and trackers and pop-up windows they use." Once enabled, though, ad blockers will block everything everywhere. Sure, you can whitelist your favorite sites, but I have a feeling the majority of folks won't bother to do that. Most will take the Ronco-style set-it-and-forget-it path.

This is where it gets dangerous: Blocking every bit of advertising and then doing nothing to pay for the content you read on a daily basis will naturally erode away at the web. You already know this, of course, I'm just pointing it out to set up a question.

Now that you have the ability to easily run content blockers on both your desktop and mobile browsers, what will it take for you to stop using them? What changes do your favorite sites — including TMO, specifically — need to make until you no longer feel the need to run a content blocker at all?

We have our own ideas for these answers and, as I mentioned in my original piece on the subject, we routinely re-examine and iterate upon our monetization methods to balance your experience with our need to successfully fund a business. That's as it always has been and this will continue here at TMO.

So it's with that in mind that I leave you with my question: Now that you have your ad blocker in place, what will it take for you to disable it?

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Easy. No flashing or animated graphics, auto-start movies, or ads that track me from one site to the next. If my Amazon searches turn up on your site, I’m removing your site from the whitelist.


I HATE roll over pop ups. I’ll be on a page and then without realizing it my mouse will slide over some magic spot. Suddenly the page I’m looking at is grayed out and an ad for something like Home Depot is covering the screen. Worse yet is when they hide the close X or have it the last element to load.

Fortunately I haven’t noticed this on TMO.

John C. Welch

the only “blocking” thing I’ve done is disable flash except for the two things I actually need it for, (Thanks VMware).

Other than that, if the annoyance level of the ads on a given site get too high, I stop going there. There’s rarely any content I can’t find anywhere else.


I’ve got TMO whitelisted in AdBlocker


I am on a very slow limited connection at home.  I live in a rural area and only get .75mbit.  For me it makes the web work much better.

I am running blockers on IOS 9, ublock/ghostery in Safari, and ublock origin in chrome.


I have TMO whitelisted, too. And it is easy: don’t track me. Don’t data mine me. Don’t assault me with video ads. Only create partnerships with companies or services that you would consider utilizing yourselves, and that are relevant to the content of your site or at the least your visitor’s clear interests. 

Targeted advertising was stupid and ineffective enough in the old snail mail days, so much of it ended up in the trash can. These days we aren’t wasting trees, we are wasting our time and our patience.

For anyone that’s interested, this is a great piece about the current state of that culture, and why most sites will almost certainly be blocked. It also makes me wonder how long it will be before we have content blockers in apps (which brings up a separate point. It’s been stated that the mobile web is a sort of second internet, which is false, it’s the same network in which hits are hits regardless of device or platform. A more accurate statement would be framing the app culture that way as people turn to apps more frequently than sites in the mobile space, and as they reside on one device together, what distinctions are to be made. But I digress wink )


And not to worry, I will absolutely continue to whitelist TMO, you guys and gals got class. wink


Alphaman hits it right on!


I installed an AdBlocker on my work computer when I saw an ad that I deemed inappropriate. That means anything related to dating or intimacy. I also rather dislike “one weird trick” or insurance ads or the thing Warren Buffet knows that the government wishes no one knew or whatever other link-bate stupidity comes up. Ads that are always present (so I can’t ignore them if i don’t like them) or that block the content I’m looking at are also annoying.

It was on TMO that I saw something inappropriate at work so installed a blocker. Sorry.

What I appreciate is the vast majority of TMO ads that sit quietly on the side of the page and advertise computer-related things. I dislike the word-popover ads but TMO’s are not as annoying as some place’s so I can deal with it.

(BTW, have you seen ultralink.me? It tries to be a more helpful popover and is built by a friend of mine.)

Allison Sheridan

Others have articulated the top things like moving ads and pop overs. I originally started using a content blocker because of the percentage of the screen that was ads.  If I saw a commitment on sites that there would be no moving ads, no pop up, over or in ads, AND say no more that 10-15% ads to content, then I’d turn it off.


Your question was what would make me turn my ad blocker off. The answer: have a fair conversation with me (like you are doing) and ensure me that you won’t allow ads that offend me. It only happened once in all the years I’ve been reading this site (a few months ago, I forget when), but that was enough to turn on a blocker. Tell me its fixed and I’ll white list you guys because I know you are not a bad actor.


Auto playing ads blasting through my speakers over my music. Ads that FORCE you to watch. Sites with these ads I just leave. Any website that puts up a full page overlay ad as you arrive - I just leave.

I used to contact the sites and voice my displeasure of this stuff - now I literally never go back to the site (Macworld site never for over a year now) and delete my bookmark of the site. These sites that don’t respect me - bye. Too many other sites with similar info - news sites, tech/computer sites etc…

And as these sites lose clicks what do they do - add more ads. Why do you think people are massively abandoning network/cable TV and regular radio - 6 minutes of ads - 3 minutes of show - 6 minutes of ads - 2 minutes of show. And why we get Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes. I cut the cable TV cord almost 6 years now.


Regarding iOS 9’ s adblocker.

What are folks preferring / recommending ?


I don’t have a problem with ads. I will block any tracking and targeted adds. Do not have a problem with static adds. Just will not be tracked.
Autostart videos are not welcome either


I will add one more Ad type. If my browser is ever redirected automatically to another site I will see red and ad locking will be the least of that sites problems for me.

Lee Dronick

As most everyone has mentioned, ads that are respectful and behave with decorum.

Now if we can just have a way of blocking the “Download our app” popups.

John Dingler 1

Are there blockers that can block only trackers?

Bart B

At the moment, ads and trackers are client-side, not server side, it is our browser that directly connects to the ad servers, and the tracking servers, at teh request of the sites hosting the ads/trackers. Because of this direct connection between our browser and these servers, blocking is possible, and iOS 9 is even making it easy for regular folks to do.

Ads don’t have to be delivered in this way! If the sites presenting ads served those ads directly, rather than just linking off to a separate server, they could not be blocked.

If you simply move the fetching of the ad from the client side to the server side, it can’t be blocked any more. Changing from one model to another would make integrating with an ad service a little more cumbersome for ad-poweredd sites, but not much, so expect to see ads change to being first-party rather than 3rd party, and for blockers to be neutered!

The situation with tracking is a little different. The reason ads are delivered as they are now is to plant cookies into your browser that can then be used to track you from site to site. Those cookies can only track you because your browser has a direct relationship with the tracking servers. And that direct relationship makes them blockable.

If you tried to switch tracking to a first-party model, it would not be possible to use cookies to connect your interactions with different sites together into a unified profile, so you would think that would mean an end to tracking. Alas no, it just means an end to using cookies for tracking, advertisers would need to get content providers to inject tracking code directrly into their sites (not just link people to them), and trackers would need to switch from cookies which are simple, to more complex techniques like browser fingerprinting.

If we’re lucky we’ll get less tracking out of this, but I doubt we’ll get any less ads.

That’s fine with me, because I think blocking ads is morally wrong. Free sites need to be able to pay their bills! If you want good content, someone has to pay salaries to good people!

What I also find morally wrong is tracking people without their proir INFORMED concent, so I have no problem at all with tracker blockers. Just because you technically can track people, that does not make it OK to do so!

If we’re lucky, ubiquitous content blockers will seriously dent tracking, but I doubt it will have much impact on the number of ads we see - mark my words, when enough people start blocking 3rd party ad, sites will switch to 1st party ads, which can’t be blocked easily, if at all.

Lee Dronick

As Bart says eventually the advertisers and websites will find a way to deliver ads. Hopefully the ads won’t be as annoying, but I won’t hold on to hope about that.


I’ll add my vote to what’s been said already:-
- no animated GIFs
- no Flash (not installed, anyway smile
- no movies with autorun
- no blinkies, scrolls or other stuff that moves (unless very slow)

Basically, if it moves in order to get my attention, I’ll get rid of it.


Since today I’ve been using Ghostery to block ads and trackers. In Safari/OS X on this very page Ghostery found 10 trackers. Here are some stats:

- With Ghostery OFF (i.e. everything allowed), the total page size was 11.6 MB and load time 11.4s.

- With Ghostery ON (all 10 trackers blocked), the page size went down to 2.47 MB and load time was 2.57s.

Speed, resources and data usage matters especially on smartphones. Make the pages lighter and faster and I’ll consider disabling my content blockers.


Basically, every time I have to use a browser that I don’t have ad blocking setup on, I’m appalled at how cluttered and ugly most websites are because of all the ads.

I wouldn’t be visiting some websites if I had to deal with them without blocking most of the ads. Sorry, I understand the need for ads to pay their bills, but when it makes it hard to actually read the content of a site or get any usefulness out of it, then I won’t bother.

TMO isn’t that bad without adblocker, but a lot of sites are unusable without cutting out at least some of the ads.

I also use noscript and am amazed at how many sites are involved with some webpages to deliver content, scripts, ads. I’ve seen some bloated sites that have 20+ domains that are involved.

Lee Dronick

Basically, every time I have to use a browser that I don’t have ad blocking setup on, I’m appalled at how cluttered and ugly most websites are because of all the ads.

Like the TV screen from the movie Idiocracy


Michael 2

Why I block: to avoid malware, excessive ads, unwanted (more than reasonable) ads, tracking.

What it will take to stop blocking: assurance a site is avoiding malware, unknown third party ads, tracking (counting is OK). If asked nicely (without an ultimatum) on a site I frequent I am willing to white list. Better still, an an ad source or industry self-policed “certification” that ads are safe, managed and if tracked respect privacy. Without any of this I will chose to use the sledge hammer and shut it all off excepting a small list of proven friendly sites. TMO shows good intentions so they are whitelist candidate.

Cynically I doubt any of this will happen until enough users shut off 100% and get the message to the ad brokers like Goggle that low cost automated ads with malware, excess quantity and tracking privacy issues will compromise their business model. Reform or loose. Sorry for the innocent bystanders that loose the revenue in the mean time, but frankly, that is their problem to solve, not mine.

Good luck.


It is probably too late. But a first step is to honor the Do Not Track (DNT) setting of my browser. The first thing Apple tried to stop the privacy invasive ways of the ad industry was pretty polite. Let a user opt in to do not track and the ad industry voluntarily stop tracking that user.

Advertisers did not merely ignore this request but were actively disdainful. Welp, guess what, there is always another escalation if an industry does not want to self-regulate. That’s were we are now. Good luck to them at this point.


I don’t care for the whole system of outsiders watching every move I make on my computer so they can “make my experience more enjoyable.” It’s a gross invasion of privacy, so I not only try to block ads, but all of the despicable little trackers and beacons. It continues to get more difficult to keep up with it. They can find a thousand words to justify it and I won’t buy it.

John Dingler 1

Can Ghostery distinguish between ads and trackers or does it indiscriminately block both?


Good for you to ask that so I can be clearer. Ghostery blocks the trackers. That’s exactly what i use it for. Trackers, Beacons, Widgets. When it lists things to block under “Advertising,” I don’t think it blocks ads themselves, but rather the software that creates them on your next web pages.

When I first got Ghostery for Safari and Firefox, I was shocked at what all popped up with every web page (in a little box that lasts for a few seconds in the corner of your browser screen.) . It felt like seeing hundreds of trespassers looking into your home’s windows at night. We’ve truly lost our privacy. We just flat gave it away. I’m less concerned about ads themselves than the way we’re watched so they’ll know what to send us.

John Dingler 1

I resent tracking, not so much the ads.

Ever since social media, the courts have ruled against the privacy wishes of citizens who did not want to be tracked. The reasoning was that the latter have no “reasonable expectation to privacy” since they, in my opinion, inadvertently click OK when a social site demands an OK to tracking and the collection of info. before it allows you to proceed.

But let’s call trackers for what they are: Private spy agencies, gov. spy agencies, Peeping Toms, and covert operators. There is a whole world-wide network of them, each tied together with one mission in mind: To steal as much of people’s lives as possible. That’s why I just love what Apple is doing and is why I also just love that the FBI, NSA, CIA, and all of the petty local police forces are whining like stuck pigs that they can’t any longer, thanks to Apple, spy every time, always, and forever on us without court order. Their hair is on fire and nearly accusing Apple of harboring the enemy. Shitheads.

So I will look into Ghostery though I know that the wily NSA collects all. If it feels that it can’t, then it simply either buys it off of private enterprise, takes it from its close brethren such as Facebook and Twitter, or gets it from Australia, NZ, Canada, or GB which also spy on Americans.

Seems like there is no place left on earth where one can be alone. And, if they find you there, they would classify that person a terrorist suspect under the US Patriot Act or else, if he/she resists, a “belligerent” (not officially defined) under the National Defense Authorization Act as passed by all presidents since a couple of years after the USPA.


@ skipaq ~ I use Firefox, and I’ve added the ‘Redirect Bypasser’ add-on to defeat this incredibly annoying problem. Works like a dream. There must be similar add-ons for other browsers, in case you’re not Firefox user.

Lee Dronick

I agree with almost all of what others have posted. Invasions of privacy or attention are rude and unacceptable. Blocking the web page or requiring my email gets a quick window close. When I look through a paper magazine or newspaper, advertisers didn’t know whether I looked at their ads. I want to return to that level of privacy.

Small, quick-to-load static ads would be ok.

But how many users are using blockers? Most users I know are haplessly ignorant and apathetic. And don’t understand the price they are paying for “free” email and other apps.


First, let me say I have nothing against adds.  They are a necessary part of life to keep the internet alive.  I do have strong feelings about how the adds are presented.  To many are just outright obnoxious! 

What would it take to get me to remove my add blockers?  Stop making adds with auto start/run videos and audio clips. Stop using pop ups. Eliminate the full page pop ups that start moments after a page or article opens.  Don’t use hidden redirects that suddenly open an add by just dragging your mouse cursor over a portion of the page.  Quit using timers that prevent moving to another article or page until the add runs.

Integrate the adds in to the page and if I’m interested in the product or service let me click on it to see the full theatrics and hopefully some factual information.

What I’d like to see is an app that will block the pop ups, auto run/starts, timers before the add can be skipped, and clearly show where adds are on the page instead of an app that completely blocks the add from displaying.


Jeff said: ‘Should I Use Content Blockers?
Whether or not to use content blockers is a personal choice. Blocking ads cuts into the potential revenue publishers use to keep their sites online, and without money coming in it gets hard to pay the bills.

The trick for publishers is to find a balance that works for them and viewers. TMO’s Dave Hamilton wants your opinion on that, so let him know.’

I’m sorry my opinion about this important subject is so ignorant & uninformed, but if you really want it here it is:

If Apple does in fact provide website publishers with an equivalent/viable alternative to Google’s AdSense revenue-harvesting toolbox, then I would say everyone would ultimately benefit by all eligible iOS users blocking all AdSense postings on the entire Internet, thus potentially strangling/suffocating to death all web publishers who refuse to abandon AdSense revenue & switch to Apple’s alternative (in exactly the same way that the whole Internet is now at last benefiting from Apple’s revolutionary boycott of Flash).


I block cross-site tracking cookies.  I removed flash to ensure this works.  I don’t mind being tracked around a specific domain but don’t want to be profiled between sites.

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