Ask Deemable Tech: Blocking Pop-Up Ads

Aug 22, 2013

Ah, the good ole days! Fortunately pop-up ads are much fewer and farther between now, but how do you make them go away completely?
Credit Wikipedia

Bill asks, "Is there any way to completely block pop-up ads while running Chrome or Internet Explorer? I have turned on the built-in pop-up blocker on both, but that doesn't stop them on many of the sites I visit. What is up with that? I have to wonder what the point of blocking pop-ups is when so many get through anyway, slowing down the page loading to the point that it reminds me of being on dial-up."

To be honest, Bill, it's been so long since we have dealt with a pop-up that we had forgotten Chrome and Internet Explorer even had settings to block them. To turn on the pop-up blocker in Chrome, click the button at the top right of the screen that has three horizontal lines. Then click on "Settings," and search for "pop-ups" in the search box. In Internet Explorer, click on "Tools" and then go to "Internet Options." There you can find the setting under the "Privacy" tab. Recent versions of Firefox have this option too, and you can find it under the Firefox settings.

But as you say, Bill, these settings don't always work. Why is that? Well, you have to understand that pop-up blocking is like an arms race. Every time there's some new advance in pop-up blocker technology, the people making the pop-up ads just get smarter.

To make things even more complicated, browser-makers can't simply ban all pop-ups. There are lots of legitimate uses for pop-ups - in fact, half of the websites on the Internet would stop working without them.

Now, the other way to deal with pop-up ads is with what Firefox calls "extensions". Extensions are small programs you can download which add features to your browser, including more effective pop-up blocking. Extensions also work for Chrome and Internet Explorer, where they're known as "plug-ins" and "add-ons", respectively.

One of the most popular ones is Ad Block Plus, which is available for both Firefox and Chrome. It's an industrial strength pop-up killer, and we've found it effectively blocks most pop-ups. Another good plug-in we've found for Chrome is called Better Pop-Up Blocker. You can find either one of these by just searching for it in Google. Try keywords like "Chrome pop-up blocker", and you should get some very helpful results.

Your options are more limited on Internet Explorer, but there is an add-on called Smart Pop-up Blocker that will block most pop-ups. It's not 100%, but it's the best that we could find.

Regardless of what your favorite browser is, if you're getting fed-up with annoying ads on the websites you frequent, there are tools out there that can make your web-browsing experience a little smoother.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's time for a friendly little PSA about pop-up blocking. Many of your favorite free websites are ad-supported, so when you visit one of those sites and you've got a pop-up blocker running, you may avoid seeing that annoying pop-up ad but you've also cost that site some ad revenue. So be sure to deploy your pop-up blocker judiciously. 

This is such a big issue that the ever-popular Ad Block Plus actually has a setting called "allow non-intrusive advertising" which is on by default. As the name suggest, this allows many of the less annoying ads through. But keep in mind that the ones that it does block - the really annoying ones - may be real money makers for small, independent websites. Ad Block Plus gives you the option to allow pop-ups for certain websites to remedy this. Other pop-up blockers should, at minimum, allow you to turn them on and off.

Please pop-up block responsibly! Ads may be annoying, but they help keep the web free.

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