Removing adverts from web pages

There are lots of programs which remove banner ads and other adverts from web sites. They can be a vital tonic in a garish world. This used to be a comprehensive list of all such software, but I no longer keep it up to date. If you'd like to take it over, then please email me.

Want to remove all adverts now? Try these simple instructions.

(recommended) This means that somebody has recommended the program to me.

Better browsers

Any good browser includes a feature to block unwanted pop-up and pop-under adverts. If your browser does not, I recommend you upgrade to one of these:

Firefox (recommended) This browser disables pop-up adverts by default. As if that isn't enough, its speed, tabbed browsing and security make it worth upgrading to from out of date Internet Explorer.

Camino for Mac OS X is based on Mozilla but with a native interface. To disable pop-up adverts in Camino: Select Camino | Preferences | Web Features | Enable popup blocking.

Opera (recommended) is the fastest browser. It's free to download and use. Opera has popup advert removal, see the instructions here, and can also block in page adverts by size.

Safari (recommended) by Apple for Mac OS X is ultra-fast and can block pop-ups. Choose Safarai | Block Pop-up Windows or just hit Command-K.

Note: Using a browser to block pop-ups can be a lot better than some of the pop-up blocking software listed below. The browser can tell if you requested the pop-up yourself by clicking on a control panel on the web page, as opposed to the page opening the window against your wishes. These instructions give more details on how to disable pop-up adverts with all capable browsers.

Netscape 7.0 is based on Mozilla, but has this feature removed. Here are instructions to reenable it.

The ever-growing Alexa toolbar, Altavista toolbar and Google toolbar can now really be considered as an upgrade to Internet Explorer. They all add the features that Microsoft would be adding, if in their monopoly position they thought they needed to compete. In particular, they block popup adverts.

Multiple platforms

AdBuster - Straightforward proxy filter program for Windows and Linux. Easy to add new filters directly from the clipboard. Free. Source code available. The Linux version uses GTK+, but crashes Netscape.

AdKiller - Ad removal for Windows, Unix (SPARC Solaris) and MacOS. Not much information on the web site.

AdSuppression - Intriguingly uses Netscape's automatic proxy configuration feature to block advertisements. A proxy.pac file contains JavaScript which detects the URLs to be blocked. Colin Kong has written a more up to date .pac file, which improves this idea with more sophisticated and detailed filters. John LoVerso has a site which has been doing this since 1996... Giel from Holland has one also.

adzapper - Python program to turn adverts into transparent gifs. Uses zaplets - little blocking rules - to decide what to remove. Released under the Zope Public License.

Alfajor - Python cookie remover, named after a Chilean pastry. Latest version can block addresses which match regular expressions, and so block adverts.

BannerBlind - Mozilla's very own banner remover, written entirely within the browser's flexible GUI framework. This makes it a breeze to install and totally cross platform. It is however quite naive, removing graphics based entirely on their size. Mozilla also has a built in preference to turn off unsolicited pop-ups.

CTC - Advert filter proxy written in Python. An early version. Source code under GPL.

Guidescope - Advert filter that collaboratively shares a database of blocked adverts. Easy user interface from within your browser allows you to notify the database of new adverts to block. Recommended by Junkbuster. Runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris. Free for non commercial use, and the source code likely to be released under the GPL in the future.

Hosts file - Not so much a program, but a crazy last resort way of blocking adverts. It works by changing your local DNS hosts file to redirect all requests for advert sites to your own computer. Cunning. Another page gives a detailed account of the same idea. IP Ad Blocker is a program that automatically updates the hosts and proxy settings under Windows for you. Ad Terminator (made by who have now shut down) has a simple installer and a comprehensive hosts file. More interestingly they got a refusal letter from TUCOWS, who quite reasonably wouldn't list it as TUCOWS existence depends on adverts. Here's a fresh and detailed list of ad servers for your host file.

Internet Junkbuster - Web advertising filter with C source code available. Binaries are available for Windows, Linux (RedHat or Debian) and OS/2. Junkbuster have not made a new release since 1998, so I recommend you instead use Privoxy, a fork of Junkbuster. For completeness, you may be interested in two other variations here and here.

Muffin - Excellent general purpose web proxy filter for any platform which runs Java. Comes with a comprehensive set of filters; and it's easy to write your own if you know Java. Needs a Java run time installed on your computer. Source code under GPL.

nobanner - HTML filtering proxy written in Perl. Low performance, but flexible and straightforward. Public domain. Source code available.

Privoxy (recommended) - Based on Junkbuster and much improved. In particular Privoxy can block pop-up windows, and has a browser-based configuration tool.

RabbIT - Proxy designed to speed up surfing over slow links, by removing adverts and compressing the data stream using gzip and jpegs. Java. Freeware with source.

Smart Cache - Client side of the Ad Busters advert removal network. Runs under Java, and automatically updates its block list from the net. You can add, and share, new block entries, or report bad ones. Also a cache program. Czech language only.

Spamvert - Perl script for removing adverts and other things from web pages. Also known as abiprox. Only suitable for programmers. No license.

userContent.css stylesheets - A most ingenious and effective way to block adverts, entirely with HTML formatting. It's a CSS stylesheet for Mozilla, which contains text formatting rules to set "display: none" on adverts. Download the userContent.css file, customise it and save it in your .mozilla/default/[whatever]/chrome/ directory.

WebWasher (recommended)(recommended) - Sophisticated advert remover originally from Siemens, of all people. Now owned by a spin-off company called AG. They employ 29 people on privacy related software, and make money from corporate clients buying an enterprise version. Companies use it to remove adverts, reduce bandwidth and filter other undesirable content. For Windows, Mac and Linux. Free for home and educational use.

WWWOFFLE - For Unix and Win32, and more than just an advertisement blocker. This proxy also provides caching, automated downloading, cache indices and security features.

Public online proxies

AdEater - Given a database of adverts and non-adverts, this learns to recognise any advert from a non-advert by machine learning. AdEater is currently a public proxy that you can use with any browser and OS, but it will slow down your browsing. Uses Muffin, which is described above.

DeAd - Online only advert filtering for specific web sites (e.g. Yahoo). Unusual approach, but not recently maintained. Link now broken.

Single platform

Macintosh only

AdScreen - Interesting Mac advert filter in that it is no longer available. Was withdrawn shortly after release by the company ClearWay. An article on CNET explains more.

PithHelmet - First filter I've seen that removes Google text adverts. Safari only.

WebFree - Macintosh advertising filter, which can also stop gifs animating, and remove cookies. This isn't a proxy; instead it directly intercepts the Mac TCP/IP stream. Shareware.

Unix only

Cookie Jar - Entirely Perl, concentrates on cookies and privacy, but also blocks adverts. Open source with a BSD-style license (but IANAL).

FilterProxy - Modular filter program written in Perl. Has lots of modules to remove adverts, compress web pages, remove animations and so on. Open source, and available in the main Debian archive.

Squid - A caching proxy which runs on most Unix platforms. You can use it to block adverts, this page explains how. You can also use squidGuard and SleezeBall to help do this.

V6 Web Engine - General purpose Web filtering and processing proxy. Position paper presented at 5th World Wide Web Conference in May 1996. Source and binary distributions available.

WebFilter - Web advertising filter based on Cern's httpd web server. Runs on most Unix dialects.

Windows only

Ad-aware - Removes spyware from your system. Lots of spyware programs unexpectedly pop up adverts in browser windows. They are often installed with free (as in beer) software, like BearShare. If you have problems with adverts popping up when you aren't even browsing, try this. This is a bit off the topic of advert removal, but if you are having trouble with spyware try Pest Patrol, SpySubtract or Spybot as well.

AdDelete - Free cut down version, commercial versions available. Free version nicely removes adverts using a proxy filter, automatically configured if you're using Internet Explorer.

Ad Extinguisher - Excellent proxy advert remover which is very easy to install. Automatically configures Netscape or Internet Explorer to work with it. Web based configuration interface from within your browser. Can automatically update its blocking list from the web. Free. Source code under GPL.

Ad Muncher - 100% assembly and tiny, this quirky advert blocker has an interesting scramble feature which randomly uses anonymous proxies. It isn't a proxy, but works at the system level by replacing wsock32.dll for the browser's process. Shareware.

AdShield (recommended) - This Internet Explorer extension blocks adverts and popups. Interestingly, it identifies web bugs in your browser window. Commercial with free trial, but an honest and friendly website.

AdsOff - Advertising filter which creates its own wsock32.dll to allow it to apply filters. Shareware.

AdSubtract - An internet filter from interMute, which controversially deliberately targets DoubleClick adverts and cookies. There is a free trial, but the full version costs $29.95. This one uses an interesting technology. It is written in Java, and runs in the Java virtual machine of your browser. Curiously, this means that your browser acts as a proxy for itself.

AdWiper - Advertising filter which works directly through a filtering hook in Internet Explorer 4.0. Shareware.

AllegroSurf - Web content filter and caching accelerator, this software also includes advert blocking. Shareware.

Clickgarden - Web browser with integrated advert filtering. It uses Internet Explorer as its rendering engine, wrapped with lots of other features.

ComeBanners - Tiny and Spanish. This very minimal and easy to install advert blocker is only a 12Kb download.

DNS Redirector - Designed to block adverts and other annoyances from entire networks. Serves a custom welcome page to users joining the network. Useful in cafes, schools, libraries... Commercial, runs as a Windows service.

FilterGate - As well as removing adverts, can filter adult content and help privacy. Built in automatic update of filter sets, and of the program itself, ensures advert removing is always up to date. Free trial, with full commercial version. Was called ADfilter.

Internet Watcher - Slick, commercial advert remover, web accelerator and content restricter. Easy to use, automatically configures the browser, and comes in five European languages.

InterQuick - Enterprise web accelerator and filter. Fails to say anywhere on the web site which operating system it is for, so I'm assuming Windows. Commercial, quotes site licenses. Mentions a key use of advert filters - to reduce employee distractions.

Naviscope - General purpose web accelerator and internet tools, including advert removal. Lets you see a description of removed adverts, and hold the mouse over them to show them if you want. Free at the moment, later versions will be commercial. Exploring porting to Linux.

Norton Internet Security 2000 - A commercial product which offers numerous personal firewall features. According to this article, Internet Security 2000 can block banner adverts.

Outpost - A firewall product which lets third party developers make plugins. One of the plugins included with Outpost blocks adverts, so you can solve two problems with one program. Free version, you can pay for more features and support.

PopNot, PopUpKiller, Pop-Up Stopper, winRISER, NoAds, Banner Zapper, Meaya, PopupEliminator, PopupAgent, History Killer, Zero Popup, Meaya, 12Ghosts - Various programs which only remove pop-up ads; they leave other adverts untouched. This is a basic function that your web browser should provide. If it does not, consider upgrading your web browser.

PopUpCop (recommended) - As well as removing popups, this Internet Explorer plugin can also stop websites performing other evil acts. For example, resizing the browser window, changing your home page and more. Commercial, with a free trial.

Proxomitron (recommended)(recommended)(recommended) - Uses powerful general purpose rules to filter the web the way you want. Comes with advert removing rules, and many others. Uniquely ShonenWare and psychadelic.

Proxy Stopper - Simple freeware Windows 95 web proxy, blocks URLs and changes HTTP headers for some privacy.

WebEarly - Downloads pages before you get to them to accelerate browsing. Can also filter adverts. Commercial; a free trial version with nag dialogs is available.

ZoneAlarm Pro (recommended) - The professional version of the popular personal firewall features banner and popup advert removal. Commercial.

Related projects

ADBusters - These folk are dedicated to helping your remove adverts from ICQ.

AOTop - Covers up adverts in Windows applications, using a top level window displaying your own picture (perhaps a soothing view of nature). It is customisable and so can be used to obscure anything from the spinning logo of an ISP in your browser, to an advert in a piece of shareware. Works with AOL and MSN. Free trial version, buy it on a subscription basis.

CritSuite - Interesting project to enhance the web by a filter adding information at the top and bottom of each page. e.g. By giving pages which link to the current page. Have a go on-line.

Crowds - Anonymity protocol, based on the idea that being in a crowd provides privacy. A proxy redirects your requests for web pages via random other people in the crowd, so no request can be traced to its true source.

LeanWeb - Tidies up HTML to make it easier to read on handheld computing devices. Can be used as a general proxying tool to postprocess web sites, to make them look more like you want. Derived from Junkbuster.

Mozilla Blue Sky - The web site for the Open Source version of Netscape Navigator has an interesting section suggesting possible future features. One is a general purpose web filter.

OreO - Paper from the 4th World Wide Web Conference in December 1995. Describes a generalisation of the proxy concept to transduce HTML streams for various purposes. Written in very theoretical language.

Peacefire - The Anti-Filtering Proxy Proxy is similar to Crowds, described above. It is used to bypass parental censorship software by providing an anonymous, changing proxy for web access.

Povarov - Windows proxy that lets you monitor HTTP requests, cycle through lots of proxies in a Crowds-style way, and block whole domains.

Realtime Backhoe List - Quirky, out of the box? Would you believe it, a genuine non-software solution.

WAB - Makes web-surfing easier for the blind and visually impaired.

Triangle Boy - SafeWeb is a privacy company giving easy access to hard to track browsing. You connect over a secure http link to their web site, and browse other web sites via it. The clever bit is Triangle Boy, their solution to censors who block the SafeWeb site. Volunteers install this peer-to-peer application so that other users can connect via it instead. The interesting part is that only web site requests get sent to Triangle Boy. Triangle Boy forwards the request to the SafeWeb servers, and the response is sent from there. The response is IP spoofed so it appears to be coming from the machine running Triangle Boy. This bypasses the firewalls, keeps bandwidth requirements on the volunteer machines low, and prevents the volunteer spying on the browser. Much too centralised though.

Further information

The Junkbusters site has a set of links to articles and other information about web filtering. Also you can find a category for web filtering in The Open Directory Project.

Interesting history in an article about the stir caused by an early advert filter in 1996. Internet Fast Forward by PrivNet was a Netscape plugin. Since the company was taken over by PGP, it is no longer available. A CNET article claims that this was because of risk of lawsuits.

Some web sites try to detect advert blockers, and prevent access to their content if they think you are using one. This seems like a reasonable thing to do, although obviously a determined person can get round it. An example error message, given in February 2001, from

Denied Access: This site is supported by ads so you must load graphics to access information here. @Guard users and WRQ employees do not have access. WebWasher users do not have access. Email for more information. The only other reason we deny access is due to past abuse. Some domains may read but not post to eScribe.

This was particularly interesting, as I wasn't using an advert blocker, just Netscape under Linux.

To Francis's page $Id: complete.html 699 2006-03-13 21:16:59Z francis $