Advertising appears to be a necessary nuisance on the internet. It remains the primary method for paying content creators, allowing sites such as the one you're reading to avoid paywalls or subscriptions - but sometimes adverts go too far in terms of distraction and intrusiveness.
When that happens - and you find the constant barrage of consumerism too much - you'll be pleased to know it's actually easy to block ads when using Safari on your iPhone or iPad. In this article, we show you how.
How to install an ad blocker on iPhone & iPad
The way ad blockers work is through Safari extensions. This feature has been around since iOS 9 and isn't solely restricted to removing pesky solicitations - in fact, there's a wide variety of useful add-ons. (Take a look at our guide to the Best Safari extensions for more ideas.)
For this tutorial we've opted for AdGuard, but the instructions will be identical for any ad blocker.
Download the app, open it, then tap the Get Started option. You'll see the control panel, with various filter settings available.
You may also notice that at the top of the screen there's a message in red that states 'Safari content blocker is disabled'. This is because it requires permissions for iOS.
Go back to the home screen and select Settings > Safari, then look in the General section for Content Blockers. Tap the latter and you'll see a list of any ad blocker you have installed. Tap the toggle switch to the right of AdGuard to turn it on.
Next, open AdGuard once more and the red warning should have disappeared, meaning you're able to start configuring the app itself. This isn't as daunting as it sounds, because AdGuard has a set of defaults designed to speed up your online experience by stopping any annoying ads from appearing.
You can see what this default contains by going to Filters and checking which ones are enabled. It's easy to find out thanks to the green ticks to the left of their names.
Each blocker will have different methods for setting up filters, so check the help sections to discover the way it's done on that particular app. One of the advantages of AdGuard is that the home page features a video at the top which takes you through the steps for refining the blocking techniques. Very useful.
One thing worth considering is using the whitelist feature. This allows you to instruct the blocker to exempt certain websites, meaning ads will still appear when you're visiting it. This is a good thing because it allows the site to receive revenue and continue providing you with the content you enjoy.
To do this on AdGuard you'll need to open Safari and navigate to the site in question. When there, tap the share button (the one that looks like a square with an arrow pointing out of the top), then scroll the row of grey icons until you find the More option.
Tap this, scroll to AdGuard, and toggle on the switch. Tap Done and you'll return to the first menu. The grey icons should now include one for AdGuard.
Tap it and you'll be presented with the option to 'Enable on this website', which will usually be switched on. Toggle the switch off and AdGuard will now automatically allow ads on this site.
Remember ad blockers only work in Safari, so any articles you click on in Facebook, Twitter or other apps will not have the blocker activated.
An added benefit of a blocker is that you should end up using less data, as adverts are often visual and therefore larger to download than the text on any given web page. You may also see prolonged battery life, but we wouldn't hold out too much hope for more than a few minutes here and there.
Are ad blockers safe?
For the most part ad blockers are as safe as any other app on the Store. There were some controversial ones a little while back which Apple removed, following reports that they were running man-in-the-middle attacks (this is where software sits between yourself and a website, doing naughty things). But for the most part, they are safe to use.
Content Blockers do, by their nature, monitor your web traffic and interfere with your web browsing, which does present temptation for less-than-gentlemanly behaviour. So, stick to the major apps - such as the ones mentioned above - and you should have no problems.
Is using an ad blocker a good thing?
Now, here's the rub.
Everyone likes to enjoy the free content available on the web. Paywalls are generally frowned upon, and not many sites have made them work.
But, and this is important, the only way that sites are able to create such great content and provide it to you at no cost is through advertisers paying them for access to the readership.
It was a similar story when magazines and newspapers ruled the information highway, but back then you couldn't have the publication automatically eviscerate its ads before you enjoyed the articles. Not unless you had a very dutiful butler with a sharp pair of scissors.
Therefore it's important that publishers gain that ad revenue in order to pay their staff, continue to exist, and produce features such as the one you're reading.
Ads can be unpleasant, that's certainly true. So if you find a regular haunt whose content you enjoy, but uses intrusive ads, write to the editor and complain. This can be fed back to the advertisers and hopefully bring about a change on the site that benefits everyone.
If you do use an ad blocker generally, then consider opting for one with a whitelist, and put your favourite sites on that list. The non-intrusive settings available on apps such as Crystal also allow you to contribute to the financial wellbeing of a site by rewarding advertising that respects the reader.
In the end, it's up to your own conscience. You can block all ads, take content, and no-one will be knocking on your door with a warrant for your arrest.
Just be prepared to live in world where the streets are littered with dishevelled ex-journalists, holding out their withered hands to you as they plaintively cry '50p for a how-to tutorial, guv'nor?'