The Best Ad Blockers for Desktop and Mobile in 2018

published May 5, 2018

A pile of woodworking tools.

In my last post, I detailed the questionable business practices of Adblock Plus and some of their competitors. I got a huge response, and a lot of people wanted a shorter, practical guide on which ad blockers they should use.

Let's go over the best ad blockers and privacy tools on each platform. This list is current as of May 5, 2018.

Desktop Ad Blockers

uBlock Origin is now the undisputed king of desktop ad blockers.

The user interface for whitelisting could be a little more clear, but for the most part, it just works. It also uses less memory than Adblock Plus.

Best of all, it's now supported in every major desktop browser:

Desktop Privacy Tools

Ads are just the beginning of online corporate spying. Besides visible ads, many websites use tracking cookies to follow you around the web and profile your behavior.

To combat this, the EFF created a tool called Privacy Badger.

Right now, it's available for:

They hope to make it available for Microsoft Edge and Firefox Mobile in the future. For now, I have to recommend replacing Edge with one of the browsers above.

There's a really popular extension out there named Ghostery which claims to do the same thing.

Do not install Ghostery.

At some point I may write a post all about why, but here's the short version. Back in 2013 Ghostery was exposed for selling its users' data to ad companies. They were acquired in 2017 and have reportedly stopped selling data to 3rd parties as of March 2018.

Since Privacy Badger requires no configuration and is backed by the EFF, I think it's a perfect choice.

iOS Ad Blockers

You have two choices for blocking ads in iOS:

Install a Safari Content Blocker

Apple allows users to install a content blocker which transparently blocks ads when using Safari. If you like Safari, this is a solid choice.

Using Firefox Focus as a browser is simple enough (just open the app). Mozilla has a guide on how to enable the Safari content blocker here.

Credit to rever from HN for telling me about this functionality.

Install an Ad Blocking Browser

I did some research, and the only browser I could find that seemed trustworthy was Firefox Focus.

You can use it as both a standalone browser and a Safari content blocker.

Firefox on iOS does not support add-ons, so you can't use uBlock Origin here.

Android Ad Blockers

Google is allergic to ad blockers, so they don't allow any kind of system-wide ad blocker to be installed. Instead, just use an ad blocking browser:

Credit to fencepost and 03- from HN for telling me about add-ons in Firefox for Android.

Notable mention: Pi-hole

If you're technically inclined, the Pi-hole project is a way to block all ads on your local network.

Basically, you run a custom DNS server which blocks ads on the network level. This works great for platforms that don't support ad blocking at all, like video game consoles or Blu-ray players. It also blocks ads for your guests.

Please don't use these…

Here is a list of programs I specifically recommend against.

This section could get really long, so I'm only going to list the most popular ones I can think of.

This is not a list of my personal grievances; everything on this list is here for a reason. Perhaps I'll write a detailed post on some of these in the future:

AdNauseam is in a category of its own. It actually downloads the ads, which wastes bandwidth and CPU. It basically amounts to click fraud and could harm your favorite content creators. I do see the point and actually think it's pretty clever, but I don't think it's good for users.

Read more on uBlock Origin's issues page.

Did I forget any?

I want to keep this page short and filled with only the best choices.

If you think I left out the best option in a category, let me know and I'll review my opinions ☺

Thoughts? Send me an email at samuel[at]sricks.com or tweet me: @trybravery