On Mac Content Blockers

Just use Ghostery and call it a day.

After my iOS content blocker extravaganza, many people wanted to know when and if I would be posting a similar analysis for Mac content blockers. (iOS developers can easily port their iOS content blockers to the Mac and have a nice little plugin.) I initially figured this was something I would tackle, but after playing with Mac content blockers I won’t be looking into these.

There are some reasons why:

  • For the most part Mac content blockers are really limited tools and can’t compete with what was already out there.
  • Network performance is typically better on Mac, since they are usually on a broadband WiFi connection — so even though content blockers will speed things up, it’s not nearly as dramatic and noticeable as on iOS.
  • They are all easy enough for people to try out. I don’t believe I have seen a paid one.

I know that some of you won’t be happy about this, as a few have been gently reminding me to do this, but with where the Mac content blockers current reside, there’s really no contest — Ghostery is easily the best of the lot.

Why Ghostery

On iOS, when you encounter a site which is not loading correctly, you have three options for turning off the content blocker:

  1. Long tap on the refresh button and chose to reload without content blockers. This will help you for that one page, but if you navigate further on the site you are fucked and will be annoyed for the rest of the time you are on that site.
  2. You can head back into settings and disable content blockers.
  3. If you are using a good content blocker, then there is a share sheet extension to whitelist the site, and you can continue on your merry way.

None of these options are ideal, as on the Mac you could just go and selectively enable the blocked scripts which are causing the issues. But you can’t do that easily, or sometimes at all on iOS.

Why talk about all of this?

Because most of the content blockers have an even worse situation on the Mac. You cannot reload without content blockers on the Mac, or whitelist in most of the apps — instead you have to head into settings and disable the content blocker. It’s a pain in the ass and the chief reason I can’t, and won’t, look at the Mac content blockers. They are better setup on iOS than they are on OS X.

Plus you can do all these things and more with Ghostery. You can selectively block and unblock scripts for a given site, pause, whitelist, and even see all the scripts the site is trying to load from one handy title bar button in Safari. It is killer, and the only way to go.

Ghostery can feel overwhelming at first, but if you just stick to the defaults and tweak site by site, you will have a custom tailored setup inside a week. Better yet, you can always enable the one script you need turned on for your banking website to work properly.

There’s just no contest.

You also get to see all the scripts which sites are trying to load, whereas most of the iOS ported blockers hide that data away, not allowing you to see it. I love this as it is good metric as to the health of a site: more scripts equates to more desperation from the site.

Ghostery is also free.

There is no reason to use anything other than Ghostery on the Mac. I personally use Ghostery — every other content blocker I have tried just isn’t even worth testing as the features are simply not there.

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