A Few More Thoughts on My Top Three Content Blockers

The three fastest on the market are three really interesting apps.

This is part two in a four part series on content blockers in iOS 9. Read part one, part three, and part four.

When I speed tested the content blockers I laid out the top three fastest ones:

What I didn’t do is really tell you very much about each of these,1 so I want to go ahead and right that wrong now.

1Blocker

In my testing 1Blocker was the fastest content blocker by a wide margin — and also one of the few content blockers that was faster on every site. (A few content blockers actually slowed down certain sites.) It is also a very full featured content blocker.

The main screen makes it look like the most simple app on the planet, but if you dive into the customization menu — oh boy. Not only can you block: ads, trackers, Twitter widgets, Facebook widgets, sharing widgets, web fonts, Disqus comments, and Adult sites — but you can also block cookies, user defined URLs, and even specify page elements to block. Oh, and there’s a web editor that you can open on your desktop to write a custom package.

All of that is pretty cool, but each option also allows you to dive in. Currently there is 2,922 rules for ad blocking alone — say I wanted to unblock certain ad networks, you can easily toggle individual ad networks on and off (and there is a search to find the one you want). This is the same for each of these toggles, allowing you the finest granularity of control you might want. Or, if you are like me, you just turn them all on (except web fonts) and feel the speed.

The UI is nothing to write home about, but my word — this is not only the fastest content blocker, but the most robust that I tried. The database is also updated over the web, without the need for an update to the app which should keep you ahead of the curve. I really love this little app now that I know how fast it makes things and how much power I have. It feels like Mac level control on iOS.

Ad Block Multi

(See update at bottom of post.)

Sexy name, right? I thought so…

Like 1Blocker this app allows you to block a lot of different things, but with less granular control. You can: block ads and trackers lumped together, block cookie notices on sites, block known malware domains, anti-adblock killer (which tries to get around sites that yell at you for blocking ads, doesn’t work with people on Twitter though), enhanced privacy for blocking even more shit (I assume), anti-Facebook, and a slew of regional blocking settings for non-English countries.

Comically, clicking the “Learn More” button takes you to their Facebook page. Thank god you had content blocking on before you hit that, right?

Overall, it offers decent control, good descriptions of what each control does, and good speed. That said, I am leery that they link to their Facebook page, and there really isn’t as much control as 1Blocker.

I don’t see any reason to use Ad Block Multi over 1Blocker, there’s no advantage, and less speed and control, while the app isn’t any easier to use.

Adamant

This is the first content blocker I used, and so it has a special place in my heart. It’s also the most Apple like of the content blockers I tried — in that it makes a lot of decisions for you, and is fairly vague about those decisions, but they are pretty good decisions all around.

There’s just one setting in the app: block trackers. However the app does block most ads — most notably not blocking ads from The Deck. One nice touch is that the block list can be updated from within the app, so no need to wait for app updates.

And that’s basically it.

Which is what makes Adamant the most Apple like: you don’t have any real control over it, you just have to trust the app makes the right calls. Surprisingly, the app is in the top three for speed, even though it took a hit on the Daring Fireball test (loading the site slower than without a content blocker). Which is pretty impressive, given that it’s not clear what is and isn’t being blocked.

I’d recommend Adamant for people not wanting to stop supporting sites in The Deck ad network, or for anyone just wanting something that is dead simple — set and forget — type of content blocker. You still get immense speed, and you have nothing to worry about tweaking. I plan on recommending this one to my family, that way they aren’t likely to screw up the settings, since there are none.

A Couple Final Thoughts

1Blocker is more like Ghostery than Peace ever was, and additionally 1Blocker feels like running Ghostery, Custom CSS, and my OS X hosts file all on iOS. It is really powerful. Adamant is more iOS like in the sense that it truly is set and forget. And despite the speed of Ad Block Multi, just no.

Hope that helps.

Updates

  • I would substitute Ad Block Multi with Purify, no questions asked. The 1.0.1 update was a fantastic update for the app.
  • Turns out that 1Blocker whitelists The Deck ads by default. To block them you need to add a custom rule, that rule should have the URL Filter that reads: http.*://connect\.decknetwork\.net/* (you will need a \ before each period to make it work) — putting that in will block those ads. Hat tip to: Marcelo Marfil

  1. Apologies I was running late to take the family to a birthday party.