AdBlock Plus is one of the most controversial pieces of software you will ever encounter. This is not because it is inherently dangerous, or because it will cause damage to you, your computer or even compromise your data. It is simply because it allows a user to easily block the display adverts that so many of the best sites on the Internet use to generate the income they need to keep going.
We at Techworld rely on advertising revenue, as do most of the other news sites offering content and commentary on the web. Our distinguished rivals at Ars Technica wrote an impassioned defence of the ad, calling on people to stop using adblockers if they value the output of their impressive stable of writers and bloggers.
However, the fact remains that people still use AdBlock, and in certain circumstances they are totally justified in doing so. Intrusive, annoying and malicious ads are endemic to the web, and can make navigation a misery. Blocking them makes an annoying problem simply disappear.
With AdFree Android, that simple solution is available for rooted phones on the Android mobile platform. Without making any moral judgements, here is our experience with using the app.
AdFree Android uses the same approach as most popular blocking plugins for web browsers. Basically, the application downloads a list of ad-serving web addresses from a central server. Then, every time an application requests a web connection, the application checks its destination against the list. If it turns out the request is for a suspected ad server, it is re-directed to a blank IP such as 127.0.0.1.
Hey presto, no more advert pop-ups. While this doesn't protect you from ads in your mobile web browser (adblocker for Dolphin HD will do that), it is nice not to have Google Ads sprayed across everything you download from the Android Market.
The upside, apart from no longer having irritating ads assailing you at every turn, is supposed to be an increase in speed. If the application isn’t waiting for adverts to load, it should run faster, the thinking goes. However, in our testing on a low performance HTC Hero phone, games like Angry Birds exhibited the same amount of lag with ads enabled and disabled. On faster phones like the HTC Desire, no appreciable speed boost was detected.
Not all ads are blocked, although the lists are constantly added to. In our testing, several applications managed to sneak ad copy through onto our screen. Because those sneaky ad networks are always changing the names and IP addresses of their servers, in order to get the best coverage the lists must be updated regularly. We found that checking for an update every week kept us fairly free.
Also, the app requires a rooted phone, and superuser permissions have to be given permanently. This does of course leave it open as an excellent channel for malware infestation, although we’ve heard no reports of these kind of hijacks.
AdFree Android is a simple app that does exactly what it says, block advertising. While it isn’t 100% effective, it is constantly updated, so the chances are it will improve with time. The interface is simple and self-explanatory, and if you have a rooted phone the chances are you will be capable of picking it up straight away.
This ignores the moral question of whether it is right to use it. All I would say is that, while you have every right to use your hardware and software however you wish, if you enjoyed the article we would be very grateful if you didn’t block the ads on our sites. We like being able to pay our rent and eat.