How to deal with obnoxious ads on your iOS device

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Reader Al Young has had it with the cruft that appears on his iPad. He writes:

I spend a lot of time surfing the web on my iPad. In the last couple of years it’s become more frustrating because of all the pop-up ads that hide the stuff I want to read. Is there some way to get rid of it?

Let me begin by saying that a lot of the websites you enjoy rely on ad revenue to stay in business—this one included. The tradeoff for you getting “free” content are the ads that are placed before you. That said, I’m sympathetic in those cases where pop-up ads obscure what you’re trying to read and bear minuscule Close buttons that you have to tap 20 times to dismiss.

Ad-blocking on a computer is a cinch compared to the hoops you have to jump through on an iOS device. And it is because a computer’s web browser can be modified through plug-ins and extensions. This isn’t the case with the mobile version of Safari. Safari does offer some protection from pop-up ads, but the people who create these ads have found other ways to deliver their messages. And because they have you have to either turn to a different web browser or play games with a proxy server. Both options are available to iOS users.

The first technique is used in Benjamin Loewe’s AdBlock for iOS. This is a web browser app that blocks pop-up ads, YouTube video ads, blinking banner ads, and so on. It definitely works, but it paints with a very broad brush. For example, while it will block video ads, there are occasions when it will block videos that you actually want to watch.


AdBlock can be effective, but it works very broadly.

FutureMind’s $2 Weblock uses the proxy method. When you configure Weblock you’re asked to set up an HTTP Proxy for your local Wi-Fi network. Once everything’s configured Weblock will send a list of blocked ad servers to your device. When that device attempts to connect to one of these servers to retrieve its content, it’s prevented from doing so. So, it’s worth noting that only this traffic runs through the proxy. Any other connections you make use your regular Wi-Fi settings.

Although Weblock can act on Safari pages, it too can produce hit-or-miss results. Ads can disappear, but so too can some of the content you want to see. And, with one site, navigation buttons ceased to function when I switched on what I thought was reasonable filtering.


Weblock works by playing with proxies.

The short story is that if you really, really hate ads of every stripe, these tools will help. Otherwise, you might take advantage of Safari’s Reader view when it’s available. When a page loads and you spy the four lines that appear on the left of the address field, tap them and you’ll see the good stuff and only the good stuff.

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