Monday, 23 July 2018 14:00

Thank goodness for my ad blocker, but it masks the Internet site performance crisis


COMMENT I'm using the excellent 1Blocker software on my 13-inch MacBook Retina 2013 model, and it ensures I can have my usual suite of too many tabs open without too slow performance.

Ads, ad networks, tracking scripts, cryptocurrency miners and more never used to be so bad.

Today, they're at epidemic levels, and it's slowing our browsers and computers down terribly.

I use the 1Blocker app on my 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and obviously, there are a range of sites that I whitelist, because I want to support them or because they bug me relentlessly if I don't, which basically means I want to support them.

If I turn the blocking temporarily off, which I sometimes do instead of whitelisting, it's not long before Safari is warning me of various websites, including popular News sites in Australia, that various pages are "using a lot of energy".

As soon as I turn the ad blocker back on, boom – a much smoother experience, a much happier computer and a much happier user, being me.

Thank goodness for my ad blocker, but the reason I need it is a terrible, horrible development in the world of browsing and computing!

Sadly, running ads is a requirement for companies that aren't running paywalls, which includes sites like iTWire and most news sites on the Internet, but many of these tracking scripts and cryptocurrency miners are really getting out of hand. 

Obviously, if you are running a website, it would be better to have as few scripts as possible so you don't overburden readers' computers and browsers, but if these tracking scripts and ad networks are earning publishers money, it's all too easy for users to just say "block it".

Who will pay for content if the ads don't, and the readers otherwise won't?

I have a 2017 MacBook Pro 13-inch that I am testing, but must do much more intensive testing on to see if ever faster processors, memory and storage in a machine effectively half-a-decade newer is still overburdened by too many scripts and ads. 

But even if all of that extra grunt masks the performance problem, it's still a terrible waste of resources, the equivalent of handicapping your computer with weights the way horses are handicapped at the races.

Of course, handicapping horses is a completely different thing, but again, it's a computation burden wasting gazillions of computing cycles, punishing those with older computers most especially.

Maybe it's a plot to get people to keep buying new and better technology sooner, even if they don't really need it yet.

Sadly, it's just a reality in an otherwise happily capitalist world, but it's a shame humanity, with all its brilliance, hasn't found better, more productive ways to make money.

Until then, I'm very thankful for the 1Blocker software I use on my Mac, iPad and iPhone – and at the moment, it is only available on those platforms. It makes a huge difference and I have the granularity required to whitelist sites or elements I'm happy to let in. 

Not everyone will know how to use these effectively, however, and not all ad blockers are the same.

1Blocker notes in its news section that the very popular Ghostery blocker has been purchased by a browser company, while other ad blockers are designed to let some ads in and not others, but at least these are also available for PCs as well as Macs. 

There's no perfect solution, unfortunately, but ad/script/miner/etc blockers exist, and they can make a massive difference in the performance of your computer, especially if it's older.

Also, please whitelist the sites and discussion systems you like to read, and learn how to use your ad blocker properly. Get help from a knowledgeable friend or competent paid tech support service if you need it!

Whatever you do, good luck, but if you've been suffering from poor performance when browsing and working online, even on an SSD-equipped computer, an ad blocker may well be the only current solution.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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