How to Block Ads on Your iPad

If you've ever become exasperated by how long it takes to load a website inundated with advertisements, you are not alone. Getty Images/ Mauro Grigollo

While watching the Super Bowl may be partially about the funny commercials, most of the time, we don't like advertisements. It's one reason why we DVR our favorite show to fast-forward past the ads. And this is never truer than some parts of the web where pages bombard us with annoying videos that automatically play, pop-up ads that cover content and so many advertisements that the page itself becomes unusable and unreadable.

But there is a simple and easy way past the problem: ad blockers.

It might sound like a daunting task to download an ad blocker and install it into the Safari web browser, but it is actually quite easy. And with a good ad blocker, you can even "whitelist" websites, which allows that particular website to show you ads. 

Ad blockers and content workers will only work in the web browser, so you may still see ads in individual apps, including web pages shown within the Facebook and Twitter apps.  Also, content blocking only works on newer iPad models such as the iPad Air and the iPad Mini 2 or newer.  

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First, Download an Ad Blocker to Your iPad

Perhaps the hardest part of the equation is actually finding a good ad blocker to download. Many ad blockers are paid apps, which means you will be charged a dollar or two for the blocker. There are also blockers like AdBlock Plus, which advertises that unobtrusive ads aren't blocked to "support websites" but actually charges a fee in the form of a cut of ad revenue from some of these websites.

Not to really compare websites with ads to criminals, but that is a bit like a police officer protecting your home from being burglarized unless the thief gives the officer some of the money.

So which one to choose? The top of my recommended list is 1Blocker. It is free to download, which is always good but especially good with ad blockers.

Ad blocking is an on-going effort, which means an ad blocker that is no longer maintained will develop "leaks" as advertising companies find ways around the blocker or new ad companies pop up.  If you didn't spend any money on the ad blocker, you won't feel as perturbed if it doesn't work quite as good in a year.

1Blocker is also extremely configurable. You can whitelist your favorite websites, which allows ads on the site, and 1Blocker is also capable of blocking trackers, social media links, comment sections and other areas of a website that might slow download speeds. However, you can only block one element at a time in the free version. An in-app purchase is required to block multiple elements such as both advertisements and tracking widgets.

Adguard is a solid alternative to 1Blocker. It is also free and includes a whitelist feature. You can also block different trackers, social media buttons and "annoying website features" like full page banners in addition to blocking ads.

And if you don't mind paying a couple of bucks, Purify Blocker is easily the best-paid ad blocker on the App Store. It blocks ads, trackers, social media links, comment sections and can whitelist your favorite sites.

You can even use Purify to block images on the page which can really speed up how fast pages load.

Next, Enable the Ad Blocker in Settings

Now that you have downloaded your ad blocker, you will need to enable it. This isn't something you can do in the Safari web browser or in the app you just downloaded. You will need to launch the iPad's Settings app. (Find out how to do this...)

In settings, scroll down the left-side menu and tap "Safari". This is in the section that begins with "Mail, Contacts, Calendars". There are a lot of Safari settings. The one you are looking for is "Content Blockers" which is the last entry in the General section of Safari's settings.

It's just below "Block Pop-ups".

After you tap on Content Blockers, you will go to a screen that lists all of the ad blockers and content blockers you have downloaded. Simply flip the switch next to the content blocker you have chosen and the blocker will begin working against ads in Safari.

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How to Whitelist a Website in Your Ad Blocker

It is important to remember that most content is free on the web specifically because of the advertising. Certain websites definitely take advertising to the extreme, but for web sites that display a normal amount of unobtrusive ads, especially if it is one of your favorite websites, it can be a good thing to "whitelist" the website. This will allow the website to display ads as an exception to the rules set up in your ad blocker.

In order to whitelist a website, you will need to enable the action within the Safari browser. First, click on the Share button. This is the button that looks like a rectangle with an arrow pointing out of it. The share button will bring up a window with actions like sending the web page's link to a friend in a text message or adding the website to your favorites. Scroll through the bottom list and choose the More button.

This new screen will include an action specific to your ad blocker. It may say "Whitelist in 1Blocker" or simply "Adguard". Tap the switch beside the action to enable it. And if you think you will be using the whitelist feature on a regular basis, you can even move it up in the list by placing your finger down on the three lines to the right of the switch and moving your finger toward the top of the screen.

You will see the action move with your finger, allowing you to place it exactly where you want it on the list.

Should You Even Use an Ad Blocker?

I've saved the preaching for last, but it is important to remember that the free web exists because of advertising. The war against ads and ad blockers have been going on for a couple of decades now, and it is a war that we may not want the ad blockers to win. The only recourse for websites that begin losing advertising revenues are to (1) become even more obnoxious in their advertising for those that don't use ad blockers, a practice that has helped lead us to the web that is so inundated with ads; (2) charge a fee for the content, which is how many websites like the New York Times have dealt with the issue; or (3) simply shut down.

Can you imagine what might happen if most web users blocked advertisements? We might go back to the dark ages when we paid subscription fees for the newspaper and for magazines. We already see websites like the Wall Street Times tease us with a couple of paragraphs and then demand money to get past their paywall. Most of us just turn to an alternative, but what if there are no alternatives?

It is certainly a question that begs some consideration. As a content writer who makes money because of ads, I definitely have a stake in the answer. I've also been infuriated with websites that jump all over the place because of the ads, making it almost impossible to actually read the article. It's not just the ads that make us want an ad-blocker.

It is how obnoxious they present themselves to us and how bad they make the browsing experience.   

Perhaps a better solution would be for Apple to introduce a blacklist button in the Safari browser that blocks all future advertising from a website or web domain.  This would allow websites to show advertisements by default and allow us to block them on websites that are simply too obnoxious.  

But until that better solution exists, some are going to turn to ad blockers.  My recommendation if you go that route is to take the time to whitelist your favorite sites.  

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