Tech Tips

Favourite Firefox Extensions - Number 6 - FlashBlock / AdBlockPlus

I've been using Mozilla Firefox for a long time now, since the days when its version number started with zero & it was still called "Phoenix". In that time, I have been fairly conservative about installing extensions, but there are still a small handful that I can't do without; this is a list of my top 6 favourite extensions for Firefox.

Number 6 - FlashBlock / AdBlockPlus

FlashBlock and AdBlockPlus are really two separate extensions, but I've lumped them together because they're both help make the web significantly less-irritating. As the name suggests, FlashBlock blocks Flash content from loading automatically - instead, you see a play button in its place. You can then start the Flash movie by clicking on the play button, or you can whitelist that site file so that Flash content loads automatically next time.

On slower internet connections, running FlashBlock can make webpages load much faster - especially pages that contain Flash-based ads. And on faster internet connections, it's FlashBlock handy if you want to block advertisements audio and/or videos ads, since those typically use Flash. Until about six months ago, I didn't bother running any other ad-blocking extensions, because FlashBlock already took care of the truly obnoxious ads.

Which brings us to AdBlock Plus (or ABP), which is easily one of the most popular Firefox extensions. If you really dislike advertisement on the web, ABP can block the vast majority - including ads from the large advertising networks like Google AdSense & the ads displayed by common self-hosted banner applications. Personally, I try to avoid blocking ads unless they're genuinely obnoxious or distracting, and FlashBlock already takes care of most of those. I finally broke down when video sites started going really overboard with the pre-roll & post-roll video ads, and even started running ads in the middle of videos - for me, final straw was getting a pre-roll ad on that couldn't even be paused or muted.

AdBlockPlus doesn't block most in-video ads by default (except on youTube), but it can with about 3 minutes of effort to add the "EasyList" subscription. That's one of the best features of AdBlock Plus: anyone can create & publish a blocklist that other ABP users can subscribe to. When new ads (or types of ads) are discovered and added to a list that you subscribe to, your copy of AdBlockPlus updates itself and the new ads are blocked automatically - similar in principle to definition updates for anti-virus software.


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