back to article Ad blocking basically doesn't exist on mobile

Ad blocking may prompt fearful publishers to seek help from consultancies, but it isn't actually interfering with the delivery of ads on mobile devices. According to Augustine Fou – a cybersecurity and ad fraud researcher who runs Marketing Science, an ad consultancy – the actual rate of ad blocking on mobile devices in the US …


  1. Thomas Wolf

    I don’t get the author’s comment about ad blocking: he says that iOS 9 introduced support for ad blocking...but people just revert to the default browser...Safari and Chrome?!!! Wasn’t it Safari on iOS 9 where Apple added said ad-blocking support??? As we speak, I have 2 installed (although I have to admit they don’t seem to be blocking all that much).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Safari blocks the worst of the ads

      I just picked an ad blocker at random a couple months after the facility became available with iOS 9 - I couldn't even tell you the name of the one I'm using without looking, or if there's something better about. I have no idea how it is deciding what ads to block, but I'll see pages that have panels reading "advertisement" here and there which presumably are the blocked ones, but there are also some ads left in place.

      There's a great way to tell how well it actually works though: Facebook. When you follow links in the Facebook app you're using Facebook's built-in browser. It uses WebKit for rendering but doesn't invoke Safari's support for ad blocking. You see all the horrible ads in all their glory, including all the ads that pull you into a different page you can't escape (you can hit Facebook's back arrow at the top left to leave its browser, but then if you go back to the link you have lost your place) that tells you "you won" or shows a roulette wheel type thing...I don't really pay attention because I rarely see that since I got the ad blocker. It is also much slower browsing in Facebook - not sure if that's because Safari is faster, or all that crappy ads are slowing things down.

      If you try to read a site using such mal-adware (is there a name for ads that steal you from the page you want?) it is impossible if it requires hitting "next" a dozen times to read the whole thing, like "listicles" will do. You'll get pulled off your page before you can get through it, and then if you go back you'll be at the start again! However, if you use the "open in Safari" option and read it there, it works perfectly. Even better than perfect for pages that support 'reader mode' so it is all in one page with ALL the ads gone. I've never once had an ad steal me to a different page there, either the ad blocker is getting them all or Safari itself has built in protection for ads trying to pull you to another page. It is night and day different.

      I know some people hate Apple's control freakery, but one place they could exert some positive control (well positive for users, not for mal-adware scammers or Facebook's bank account) is to require every app using the WebKit framework to use the available adblockers like Safari does.

    2. Gordan


      I'm quite certain it does exist, and while not as advanced as full fat desktop variants, it is definitely effective.

      For example:

      Additionally, AdNauseam (and uBlock [Origin]) plugins work just fine on Firefox for Android.

  2. Tromos

    Needs more work

    "About 43 per cent of mobile display ad impressions are fraudulent"

    Disappointing. We must aim to get this up to at least 98%.

    1. Andytug

      Re: Needs more work

      That seems to fit rather nicely with the chap who said something like "I know I waste half of my advertising money. The problem is I don't know which half......."

  3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Finally I'm the 1%

    I run Firefox on Android with Ublock Origin installed, so I guess I'm in that ~0%. Giving Firefox Focus a try now, though.

    1. src

      Re: Finally I'm the 1%

      I use Firefox and Ublock Origin as well. Works fine. Another good thing about Firefox for Android is that via "about:config" you can set minimum font sizes.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: Finally I'm the 1%

      I use Firefox and the Ghostery plugin for it. It does a bang up job blocking ads and such, just like on a desktop.

    3. DropBear

      Re: Finally I'm the 1%

      I'm using AdAway, blocking everything at system level - no ads in any browser OR any app. Wouldn't use a smartphone without it...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Finally I'm the 1%

        So, in a few short posts we've got recommendations for Ublock, Ghostery and AdAway. I use two of those, but how many of us pay for these? And if people don't, how does it all hang together?

        Individually, some of us can probably say "I pay, I do!", but that's still not true of the majority of users of these add ons. So what's the catch?

        1. Adam 1

          Re: Finally I'm the 1%

          uBlock origin (for example) is on github and is GPLv3. The moment they stay any funny business will be the same moment the project gets forked. Whilst I'm sure they would appreciate your donations (and need some), the amount they actually need to survive and even thrive works out to be a very small amount by a very small percentage of users.

          Asking "how does this thing make money" is never a bad idea though.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't exist.. my ass..

    The only real issue is to do it meticulously requires a device to be rooted, so novices beware and ensure you accept the risk.

    I've rooted all my devices for the past several years and enjoy an ad free experience even for most native applications.. but I've had to spend many long hours fixing a bricked phone after an upgrade as gone wrong. Is it worth it, hell yes.

    1. Bob Vistakin
      Big Brother

      Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

      Same here, but I've recently noticed apps detecting rooted devices and refusing to run. Most recently it was the Tesco PayQwik one, which is even worse because when I installed it there was no problem, it's just an update that now throws a fit. The message waffles on about the phone being more susceptible to malware because it's rooted. Some banking or finance app did it a while back too, can't remember which now because, err, it never made it to my phone.

      1. stephanh

        Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

        You don't need to root your device to block ads, just use e.g. Firefox as your browser.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

          That only works within Firefox though. As above, I use Firefox with ublock and it does the job. All of the other apps I use are ad-free because if they're not, they get uninstalled.

          I'm happy enough with the situation. If advertisers get to spam the majority of the population then that's fine by me, as long as I don't have to waste my screen space on annoying flashy graphics that I'll never click on.

        2. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

          Though you need root privs to do the mobe equivalent of editing hosts file to "kill" various ad serving domains- lots of us like to fix some ad issues at that level, as then it's less relevant what browser you use,

      2. Updraft102

        Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

        There are other root apps that claim to be able to hide the root status from other apps.

      3. SadPanda

        Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

        It's not really necessary to root. There is DNS66 which is basically a local proxy with a hosts file. It doesn't require root, but can't be used if you need a VPN.

    2. Oh Homer

      Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

      Yup. Root -> Xposed -> AdAway -> AdBlocker Reborn.


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

      > The only real issue is to do it meticulously requires a device to be rooted, so novices beware and ensure you accept the risk.

      Assuming stock Android or LineageOS (ex-Cyanogenmod), root is not strictly necessary if the user is capable of "freezing" so-called non-uninstallable apps and uses only ad- and tracking-free applications from F-Droid. Of course, if you are misguided enough to have a phone from a certain South Korean manufacturer, you're shafted.

      Personally, I will not own any computers that I cannot gain root access to, and that includes phones. All mine are rooted, do not have a Google account (I myself don't), all the Google applications are removed, and of course I do not have any so-called "social media" accounts. Oh, and back to the point, the mobile browsers all have uBlock Origin installed: works a charm.

    4. NonSSL-Login

      Re: Doesn't exist.. my ass..

      Adguard for android gets around having to have root to ad-block all traffic by pushing traffic through a pretend VPN connection on the phone. Neat little trick, just can't be used at the same time as a real VPN on your phone, which is not an issue for most users.

      As stupid as this sounds, I carry around two phones these days. One rooted, xposed, ad-free but also with some security software and other apps that require root. The second phone as much as I would like to root, I run banking apps, android pay and media streaming that refuse to work on rooted phone.

      Running banking apps on my rooted for years before getting a new phone was safer as ads were blocked at such a low level that there was no chance of malware-laden ads infecting me with a drive by exploit. Then the banks updated their apps to not work with root...barstewards.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I use Firefox Focus and Opera Mini for nearly all my mobile browsing, both of which have built-in ad-blocking. I use them because they are so much better and faster than Chrome. I don't know anyone else who uses anything but the default browser though.

  6. Jamesit

    On my phone I use Firefox and ublock origin I disabled Chrome. I don't see any ads.

  7. Tim99 Silver badge

    iOS Safari

    I don't see adverts since installing a blocker app: Purify ($1.99). An on/off button on the taskbar would be good (Against Apple rules?).

    For particularly troublesome sites, I turn Javascript off.

    1. Justin Clift

      Re: iOS Safari

      Tried out "Firefox Focus" on iOS a few days ago... but it doesn't seem to support tabs (or at least I couldn't find them) so was pretty useless.

      Went to delete it then discovered that it can provide ad blocking for Safari. So enabled that, fired up Safari... and no ads on things. And that has tabs.

      It's kind of weird that Firefox Focus makes Safari usable, and well, it works so no worries. :)

  8. Big-nosed Pengie

    No ads for me since I installed Adguard.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      adguard +1

      Ghostery & AdBlock browser also good ...

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. stephanh

      Re: I just want to point out

      I use Firefox on Android all the time and never had any issue with it. Performance seems comparable to Chrome.

      1. david bates

        Re: I just want to point out

        Firefox seems a lot faster than Chrome to me.

        Manys the time I've opened something in Chrome, given up after a few seconds and reverted to Firefox.

    2. To Mars in Man Bras!

      Re: I just want to point out

      Same here [re Firefox on Android]. Luckily my phone is rooted and I have AdAway installed which does it properly [and system-wide] by blocking ads/etc at the hosts file.

      So I can use Chrome [or any other apps I want] and still never see any ads

      1. To Mars in Man Bras!

        Re: I just want to point out

        BTW —my "same here" above referred to finding "...Firefox fucking unusable on Android". But unfortunately, due to the vagaries of The Reg's idiotic 'random shuffle' comments system, it appears after people praising Firefox, so looks like I'm saying the opposite.

        Just thought I'd set the [extremely unimportant] record straight.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I just want to point out

      Firefox seems fine to me. With Ublock Origin, it keeps the adverts away.

      And here's the thing, I have had adverts attempt to STEAL from me - I would visit a page and get those messages that my phone has a billion viruses, forced downloads of apks of tainted software, all followed by a text message from Orange saying something like my Internet+ transaction could not be completed because I have disabled the service. WTF? So even if Firefox was "fucking unusable" on my device, which it very much isn't, I would stick with it because...fuck advertisers. And fuck sites that beg, grovel, and try to guilt me into allowing advertising for them when they're happy to use the same sleazy advertisers that I'm trying to avoid.

    4. Chika

      Re: I just want to point out

      that firefox is fucking unusable on Android.

      It is? I've been using it for quite some time. Seems to work fine here. Which version of Android are you using and on which phone? Sounds like a localised problem rather than a general one.

      I'm like a die hard Stallman like hippy, rooted phone, droid-wall, write software for it myself - and this is the only place I use Chrome (as such I don't use it for much) but firefox is fucking unusably slow. It's awful.

      I've used Firefox on more than one phone, rooted and not. And yes, I mostly started using Firefox on my phone because it was possible to stop ads where other browsers didn't offer the same capability. OK, that was a long time ago, but it still works.

      I've actually started to wonder if the PC situation is similar and looked for a degoogled version of Chrome.

      Hmm. Now if you take the PC approach, I use all three major browsers and have even dabbled with Opera. There's not a lot of difference overall; you'll find slight differences in each that may persuade you to use one over another but that's about it right now. How this will change is another matter - I'm a little sceptical about the oncoming changes in Firefox 57, for example.

      It's inexplicably crap. Surely they know about this? But it's been crap since 2012.

      That sounds like you haven't tried it since then. Not every version of Firefox has been good, just as not every version of any browser has been good, but I'm using a version right now that works pretty well so I'd be a little cautious about flinging crap about like that. It makes you sound like a Google shill.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I just want to point out

        > but I'm using a version right now that works pretty well

        Out of curiosity, how heavily customised is your user.js? Hyperbole apart, I tend to agree with the chap above that out of the box Firefox is fucking unusable, on every platform, if you care about security and privacy. Of course if your requirements do not cover either then not much tweaking is needed and your experience may be closer to test coverage cases.

        For me it's a case of the devil you know, but I for one would like to see the Mozilla Corp... ahem... "Foundation" disappear and the project be led in a more Linux-like fashion.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: I just want to point out

          "and the project be led in a more Linux-like fashion"

          Now, is that the Linux with or without systemd?

  10. John Robson Silver badge

    1Blocker here

    But I suspect that elreg readers are in a minority smaller than 1%, and I'm not even in Canada/USofA

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try pihole....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Try pihole....

      I was just going to mention that one, I use it for all the tablets at home, my phone runs cm and an adblocker, can't remember which one without checking as it's been that long since I installed it or saw an ad. I also run a firewall which lets me choose which network apps can access, very useful.

      All the apps on all the devices work and you still do get some ads but they are the ones served by the app themselves so no annoying videos etc...

    2. K

      Re: Try pihole....

      Good post.. but any pointers to installing it on android? If it's Linux only, or requires root, it won't be of much use to your average user.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Try pihole....

        It's an AdBlock for your LAN. The equivalent for an Android phone is AdAway. If you don't have root on your phone then Firefox + uBlock Origin will do.

        It's nicer to disable ad blocking for certain sites you read regularly (as long as they don't serve up malvertising).

  12. Richy Freeway

    Block This

    Runs a local VPN on your Android phone and routes all traffic through it, stripping the ads along the way.

    To be honest though I haven't thought to reinstall it since resetting my phone last time, not sure why.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Root Firewall

    I use this to block ads on software that definitely don't need Internet access, such as calculators, torches and the like. For Internet web browsing, Firefox and Ublock Origin.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: No Root Firewall

      Why don't you just use a calculator or torch that doesn't need Internet access?

      1. DropBear

        Re: No Root Firewall

        Sage advice, but these days it's quite literally only calculator or torch apps that don't insist on having Internet access, and I'm not even sure about those either these days... there are entire classes of apps I have to stay away from because no matter how long you search, there's not a single one that doesn't want everything all the way to your sock size.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: No Root Firewall

          Well, there's always F-Droid.

  14. Not also known as SC


    I'm stuck with an iphone at the moment. The only way of blocking ads I've found is to disable javascript in the options. Most websites are still usable and the ones which aren't I just don't visit. A fringe benefit apart from no ads is that I don't seem to get auto-playing videos in the middle of the page any more.

    1. Martin-R

      Re: iOS

      AdBlock Plus installed as a Safari Content Blocker seems to just work for me - no root, no hassle, no ads!

      1. Not also known as SC

        Re: iOS

        I'll give that a try.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iOS

      There are plenty of adblockers for iOS. I just checked and I use Firefox Focus (it is a browser but also functions as an adblocker)

      It looks like iOS can support more than one at once, even. I honestly haven't checked into this at all since iOS 9 added the support because what few ads do get through when I'm browsing with Safari are not problematic as far as I'm concerned. I don't need perfection, just a good browsing experience, which Firefox Focus seems to provide (and I didn't have to disable Javascript)


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