How to Remove Banners and Popup Ads

Intro

This web page is about how you can have your freedom on the web. I will explain how you can remove the annoying popup ads and the bandwith consuming banner ads. Some commercial software are available to do this, however, without much difficulty, you can get rid of them with open source software (i.e. for free).

Popups are really annoying. If most web users close the popups (as I do) as soon as they pop up, web advertisers make little money from them. They just annoy the user. Banners are less annoying as long as they don't flash and don't take all the space. However they do take quite a long time to download (especially if you are using a modem). Disabling them increases your "internet speed". Also, it is good for the overall Internet health, as it decreases the network traffic.

Someone suggested (although I don't have the link) that ISPs/companies should provide 2 proxy servers for the web. One that suppresses ads/banners and the other that doesn't. The end-user could then decide if he wants banners or not. Everyone is a winner. The ISPs/companies pay less bandwith, the user is not annoyed with ads.

Document History

$Id: nobanner.html,v 1.11 2003/07/18 22:01:35 dbelan2 Exp $

$Log: nobanner.html,v $
Revision 1.11  2003/07/18 22:01:35  dbelan2
- Added info about AvantBrowser and Crazy Browser.

Revision 1.10  2003/07/18 21:11:35  dbelan2
- Added Galeon info.
- Fixed licence type info for Firebird.

Revision 1.9  2003/04/15 22:00:24  dbelan2
Updated Phoenix name to Firebird.

Revision 1.8  2003/04/14 16:50:08  dbelan2
Added info about IE for completeness.

Revision 1.7  2003/04/14 16:20:39  dbelan2
Added info about location of the option for Mozilla 1.3 and Netscape.

Revision 1.6  2003/04/03 23:17:47  dbelan2
- Added general explanation about fields used: platform, rendering engine...
- Added general info about Galeon.  Will comment on it next time.

Revision 1.5  2003/04/03 16:15:36  dbelan2
- Added more info about Opera
- Now using a CSS.

Revision 1.4  2003/04/03 02:09:19  dbelan2
Small fix.

Revision 1.3  2003/04/03 02:07:56  dbelan2
- Sorted browsers by alphabetical order.
- Updated info about Camino and Phoenix.
- Added Safari screenshot.

Platforms

We summarize the info in the table below. The last column says whether I tested the features or not. A no means that I did not try (or not a lot) the blocking capabilities of the browsers.

Note: The browsers are listed in alphabetical order.
BrowserPlatform/EnvironmentDescription/NotesPopups RemovalBanner RemovalTestedLicence Type
AvantBrowserWindows / Internet ExplorerAn alternative interface that extends Internet Exploreryes?noProprietary
Camino (previously known as Chimera)Mac OS XA mozilla-based browser for Aqua?, maybe with hack (see Netscape)?, maybe with hacknoOpen source
Crazy BrowserWindows / Internet ExplorerAn alternative interface that extends Internet Exploreryes?noProprietary
Firebird (previously known as Phoenix)GNU/Linux, Windows, Solaris (eventually others)Small mozilla-based browserBlocked by defaultyesnoOpen Source
GaleonUnix/GnomeThe Gnome web browser. Mozilla-based.yes, via menuyes, via proxyyesOpen Source
Internet ExplorerWindows, Mac OS XThe MS-Windows browsernomaybe via proxy?noProprietary
KonquerorUnix/KDEThe KDE Browser?yes, via proxynoOpen Source
MozillaAll the ones you can think of...The Mozilla Browseryes, via menuyes, with banner blind and with proxyyes but banner blind not testedOpen Source
NetscapeSeveralNewer versions are mozilla-basedyes, with hack in 7.0, via menu in 7.01yes, via proxynoCommercial version of an open source product
OperaSeveralSuper small and fast browser.yes, via menu?noCommercial
SafariMac OS XFast browser based on Konqueror rendering engineyes, via menu?noRendering engine is open source (khtml). GUI may be proprietary?

Browser Specific Information

This part (except the paragraph Note about my systems) has been written to a general audience including non-technical users. Let me know if the instructions are unclear.

Note that feedback is welcome. There are so many browsers that it is difficult to keep up with the most current information about the most current version. Comments from fans of specific browsers are welcome.

Index

  1. AvantBrowser
  2. Camino
  3. CrazyBrowser
  4. Firebird (previously known as Phoenix)
  5. Galeon
  6. Internet Explorer
  7. Konqueror
  8. Mozilla
  9. Netscape
  10. Opera
  11. Safari

Explanation

You may want to skip directly to your browser and read this part if you don't understand the meaning of the fields I am using.

  1. Official website: The official web site of the project.
  2. Rendering engine: The technology behind the way web pages are formatted and displays.

    For example, web pages that uses Gecko should look all the same (or almost) on all the Gecko-based browsers, only the user interface is different.

    The widest familly is the Gecko family. A non-exhaustive list of browsers using the Gecko engine is listed below:

    1. Mozilla
    2. Camino
    3. Firebird (previously known as Phoenix)
    4. Galeon
    5. K-Meleon

    KHTML and KJS are the rendering engine behind Konqueror. This rendering engine is also Open Source. In the best of my knowledge, there is only another browser using khtml, Safari, developed by Apple. Apple did several changes to the rendering engine. These changes will be merged back to the Konqueror source tree.

  3. Platform: The computing system required to run the browser. This includes the operating system and the processor architecture.

  4. Licence type:

    Open Source: free as speech.
    Proprietary: may be free, but more like free as beer.

  5. Version reviewed: The version the comments are based on. Most browsers are always improving.
  6. Latest version: This basically means at the time I updated the browser information, a newer version exists but I was too lazy to install it. I used the version already installed on my system for the review. Note that the latest version, may not be the browser latest version. Take it as: "A newer version exists, the information may not be relevant anymore".

Note about my systems

Note that my computer systems are a PC/x86 running Debian GNU/Linux and a iBook/ppc running both Debian GNU/Linux PPC and Mac OS X. Yes, this is why this page is UNIX-oriented. This is also why I may not be able to review/test the correctness of the information of some browsers that are too platform specific. I will still mention these browsers for completeness.

AvantBrowser

Official website: http://www.avantbrowser/
Rendering engine: Internet Explorer
Platform: Windows / Internet Explorer
Licence type: Proprietary
Version reviewed: N/A
Latest version: N/A

It is possible to block popups.

Note: I cannot review this browser. See this note for more info.

Camino (Previously known as Chimera)

Official website: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/camino/
Rendering engine: Gecko
Platform: Mac OS X
Licence type: Open Source
Version reviewed: 0.5
Latest version: 0.7

There do not seem to be to be any way to block popups via menus in version 0.5. Note that the project is quite active and a lot of new features have been added. I did not download the latest version yet but I did find this in the release notes:

"Camino will only show "Connection Refused" and "Unknown host" errors for the main page now, rather than images and iframe contents. This helps those using proxy techniques for image blocking."

This means that there should be no need to run the Nobanner software or a web server to do banner removal by the proxy method described later in this document. Simply setting a proxy configuration file should work.

To do: Install version 0.7 and try it out.

Crazy Browser

Official website: http://www.crazybrowser/
Rendering engine: Internet Explorer
Platform: Windows / Internet Explorer
Licence type: Proprietary
Version reviewed: N/A
Latest version: N/A

It is possible to block popups.

Note: I cannot review this browser. See this note for more info.

Galeon

Official website: http://galeon.sourceforge.net/
Rendering engine: Gecko
Platform: Requires Gnome and Mozilla. It runs on GNU/Linux, the BSDs, Mac OS X (via fink) and many other Unix systems.
Licence type: Open Source
Version reviewed: 1.2.5
Latest version: 1.2.9

The option to disable popups is easily accessible via the Setting menu.


The Setting menu.

Internet Explorer

The Microsoft Windows browser. It is (or was) also the pre-installed browser on Mac OS X.

Information on removing popups is here. However, the suggestion is to disable scripting. This may also disable other functionality in some web pages. Note that this suggestion also applies to other browsers. Disabling Java script will remove a lot of junk. However, in some badly designed website it is impossible to navigate without Javascript turned on. Microsoft also suggests looking for commercial popups remover. Indeed, several commercial popups/ads remover exist for Internet Explorer. However, this web page is about non-commercial solutions and we will therefore not review them.

Konqueror

To do.

Mozilla

Official website: http://www.mozilla.org/
Rendering engine: Gecko
Platform: GNU/Linux, BSDs, other Unixes, Mac OS X (via fink), Windows, BeOS, ...
Licence type: Open Source
Version reviewed: 1.0.0
Latest version: 1.3

Note that Mozilla will block only "unrequested" windows. Popups that pops automatically when the user visit the page are blocked. However, clicking on a link that opens a document in a new window will work. Note that this is the behaviour we usually want.

In Mozilla 1.3

To block popups, select Preferences... in the Edit menu. Then select Privacy and Security and Popup Window Control.
(Info received from a visitor)

In Mozilla 1.0.0

To block popups, select Preferences... in the Edit menu. Then select Scripts & Windows in the Advanced category. Uncheck the checkbox Open unrequested windows.

In other versions

I don't know, try to look at both locations.

Netscape

Note that I do not have a recent version of Netscape installed on my computer, this info is taken from the web. I did not test it.

See instructions for Mozilla 1.3 for the location of the option in the menus.

7.01

Netscape 7.01 has added the popup ad remover in the menus. In other words, if you are using Netscape 7.01, you don't need to do the work around described in the paragraph below. The release notes explain how to do it via the menus. Note that the feature itself is not new, it was simply not accessible through menus before.

7.0

Although Netscape is based on the Mozilla code for commercial reasons did not have the "disable popups" feature. However, it seems that there is a work around. Since they can be removed in a newer version, you may prefer to upgrade instead.

Opera

Official website: http://www.opera.com/
Rendering engine: using their own
Platforms: Windows, Linux (x86, ppc, sparc), FreeBSD (x86), BeOS, Mac OS, OS/2, QNX, Solaris, Symbian OS. Note: It is unclear from website if it runs on Mac OS X (without classic mode). Note: It is available only as a precompiled binary, this is why all the architectures are listed.
Licence type: Proprietary
Version reviewed: 5 and 6
Latest version: 6.12

Opera has several options concerning popups. You may have them to open in the background (behind the windows) or disable them. With Opera 5 (Linux version), you cannot disable them but you can select to have them open in the background (pop-under?). With Opera 6 (Linux version), you can do both.

What's incredible with this browser is its small binary size and memory footprint. It is also interesting to see that this company is not afraid to support multiple platforms.

A small note, the free download has one banner constantly displayed. The registered version (non-free) will not have one. It may seem silly to talk about this browser on a no banner page but it was one of the few commercial browsers that could block somewhat popups as I wrote the initial draft of this page. Note that the banner in the free version is not annoying and sometimes cartoons are displayed there :).

Firebird (previously known as Phoenix)

Official website: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/phoenix/
Rendering engine: Gecko
Platforms: Currently Windows, Linux and Solaris. Will be ported to others eventually.
Licence type: Open Source
Version reviewed: Not reviewed yet.
Latest version: 0.5 (meaningless, not reviewed)

To do: Install and try out Firebird.

I received some info by Phoenix fans that I am posting below:

"I ran across your page about browsers at /~dbelan2/nobanner/nobanner.html and since I am a huge Phoenix fan, I thought I would fill in your gaps. Phoenix is Open Source, and currently available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris (only due to lack of developer time--these are some of the netscape/mozilla guys and-- --gals on their own time) but is written in XUL and-- --will eventually be ported to other platforms.-- --Netscape, Moz, Galeon, Kmelon, and Chimera (now-- --called Camino for legal reasons--Px will change name soon too) are all Gecko-based browsers. That's the "engine". Px removes popups (w/menu), banners, and all ads (w/hack) from known ad sites (eg. *doubleclick.com) very well."
(Comment received from a Phoenix fan)

"To disable unrequested popups in phoenix, do nothing. By default, they are disabled. The first time you hit one, you get a phoenix popup explaining that unrequested popup windows have been blocked, and informs you that from now on, the only notice you'll get is a little (i) icon that appears in the lower-left hand bar of the browser. By clicking on the (i), you can enable popups for particular websites."
(Comment received from a 2nd Phoenix fan)

Two excellent points about this browser:

  1. Popups are disabled by default
  2. Possible to enable popups for specific websites. This is quite useful as some websites uses popups to request information from the user.

Safari

Official website: http://www.apple.com/safari/
Rendering engine: khtml
Platforms: Mac OS X
Licence type: User interface is proprietary, the rendering engine is open source.
Version reviewed: 1.0 Beta (v48)
Latest version: Safari Update 2-12-03

To remove popups, click Block Pop-Up Windows in the Safari menu to check it. It is as simple as that.

You can also do press the Command+K key combination to check/uncheck the menu item. This might be convenient since some sites uses popups to ask for user input. I don't know yet if Safari blocks all of them or only the unrequested ones as Mozilla does.

Advanced Banner Removal

This section is more advanced, requires more work and requires some technical knowledge.

From this article by @Man, there are 2 techniques available to remove ads:

  1. hosts file
  2. Proxy configuration

@Man explains also several reasons why one would want to block ads such as improving your privacy. Consult the article for more info on that and how to use the hosts file technique.

I would not recommend the hosts file technique for several reasons. As stated, you need to be the system administrator on Un*x (and some Windows) systems. Also, I do not think it is good to modify the hosts file (a system file) for this. Finally, it is not very flexible as you either block an entire host or not. However, this method will work with any browser. Note that if you are using Mozilla, you should instead use Mozilla built-in blocking image feature. Simply right click on the banner image and select Block Images from this Server from the popup menu.

The second method is the one I am currently using. It is simple and flexible as it allows you to block based on a regular expressions on hosts and urls. It is descibed in this article.

I found it somewhat time consuming installing and configuring Apache (especially if you use computers at several locations). Also, if you have a disk quota imposed, Apache take quite some space. To solve these issue, I invented Nobanner.

Nobanner

Nobanner is a simple small web server that simply returns an "invisible" gif images to any request made to it. It uses the proxy method. Make sure to read Ad Blocking in order to configure your browser and understand how it works. Note that Nobanner is used as a replacement for Apache for ad blocking only. Instead of using a full-featured web server such as Apache, it may be easier to use Nobanner.

It is licensed under the GPL.

My proxy configuration file is here. It comes from Ad Blocking with a few more entries added by me at the beginning. Feel free to use it. Please copy it to your system. Do not link it directly to avoid unnecessary traffic to the CS web server.

Download Nobanner

Currently, it has not been heavily tested. Use at your own risk. When I will have time, I will make the code more robust (i.e. to avoid possible buffer overflows, add more error checks etc.) and release it as 0.1.x (x > 0). Future versions may have a logging feature.

Update (2002-11-07) - Note that I have been using it for a few months now with great success.

Release 0.2.0

It has been tested on the following platforms: Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X. It should work on other unixes also.

Update (2002-11-07) - Release 0.2.0. Did a small change so it compiles on Mac OS X. For some reason, socklen_t is not defined on Mac OS X. Note to users of version 0.1.0, there is no new features in 0.2.0. It is only a port to Mac OS X. Note to Mac OS X users, nobanner is still a true command line unix application, there is no graphical version of it (at least not yet). You need to have the developper tools installed and know your way around in the Terminal.

Files
-----
README     - Some instructions
COPYING    - The license
Makefile   - Simple Makefile
nobanner.c - The program
-----

Older Releases
--------------
Release 0.1.0

Comments

Send comments/questions/suggestions to dbelan2@cs?mcgill?ca (replace ? by .).

I would like to know if you find it useful.


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