How To Never See An Ad on the Internet Ever Again (Including YouTube Commercials)
The 2-minute process I’ve taken to avoid 2.57+ million ads so far
The 2-minute process I’ve taken to avoid 2.57+ million ads so far
Having now spent more than two decades of my life online — I attended an early e-high school while still on dial-up — I’ve come to the conclusion that the internet is like God: The experience isn’t the same for any two people.
Sadly, for most people, the internet has become a highly-toxic, anxiety-inducing, privacy-eroding, sleep-robbing, work-distracting, ad-blitzing, time-devouring wormhole to nowhere. Or, you know, believing the world is run by lizard people.
For most of my friends, the internet is like a giant shopping mall where they’re bombarded with ads the entire time — Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Gmail ads, YouTube commercials, popup ads, sidebar ads, the list goes on and on.
But not for me.
In our home, the internet is like a library. It’s quiet and informational — a real house of knowledge — a place to go learn and ponder and read and write and create. And, like most old-school libraries, it’s completely ad-free.
The Future Is Ad-Free
My mother-in-law still sits through eight minutes of commercials per half-hour of television, but I don’t know anyone in my generation who even owns a TV with cable or satellite.
Ad-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram are dead, they just don’t know it yet. People are growing wary of privacy-invading addiction algorithms. More nations will adopt ad-protection policies like the EU’s GDPR and go far stricter. We can all spot and avoid paid ads from a mile away. As the cost of advertising rises and the return on investment falls, the market will simply evaporate.
To be clear, permission-based content marketing isn’t going anywhere, but traditional paid-placement digital advertising’s best days are in the past.
The future of marketing looks a lot more like Medium and Netflix.
The Internet Is a Tool
The reality is that all tools use us.
A hammer cannot hit a nail without using a human.
A saw cannot cut a board without using a human.
A phone cannot deliver ads without using a human.
Once we understand that tools use us instead of the other way around, then we can start to figure out what sort of a tool a cell phone actually is. To do that, we have to ask an extremely uncomfortable question.
What Is the Smartphone’s Primary Commercial Purpose?
It isn’t a trick question.
Based on total revenues, the answer is clearly to serve advertisements. The phone’s secondary commercial purpose is to sell apps. Its tertiary commercial purpose is to get you to upgrade your phone every few years. But primarily, the smartphone is an ad-delivery device. That’s how the FAANGs became trillion-dollar companies.
Social media is particularly horrible for blitzing us with ads. Unlike subscription services like Medium and Netflix, social media’s entire business plan is:
Step 1: Promise connection with others
Step 2: Get you addicted
Step 3: Advertise to you
Social media sites literally cannot make money without our eyeballs seeing ads and/or Russian propaganda. Our phones are using us to earn big bucks for powerful elites — but are we receiving a fair value exchange?
And far more importantly, do we really need advertising to connect our lives to other people?
Being Social vs. Social + Media
When I was a kid growing up in the early nineties, life was extremely social. So much so that my parents had to limit my talk time on the (corded) phone, and had to force me inside for supper. There was simply too much basketball and road hockey to play with the neighboring kids.
By high school, we had sleepovers, parties, campouts, movie nights, road-trips (sometimes across the entire country), and not a single one of us required a phone or an offshore multinational company with an addiction algorithm to keep us connected.
We didn’t need media to be social.
What Is Advertising?
Advertising is the promise of life improvement in exchange for cash. The problem is that goods and services never give us more value than they take. It’s pure math: profit margin = retaining more value than expending. This doesn’t stop advertisers from promising us the moon, of course. As Seth Godin said, “all marketers are liars.”
Today’s advertising is almost exclusively screen-based. It’s a computer-manipulated cue that nudges us in the direction of the advertiser’s desired behavior, not our own.
We’re Seeing More Ads Than Ever
Back in the seventies, people saw an average of 500 ads per day. Today, that number has jumped more than tenfold. We now see an average of 6,000–10,000 ads per day. Most people don’t realize the millions of nudges they’re receiving each year.
The average internet user sees 1,700 banner ads per month. Facebook serves up hundreds of billions of ads per day. YouTube viewers are wasting millions of hours per year staring at commercials, thousands of little pushes.
My best friend always asks: How many pushes make a shove?
Are we really making our own life decisions, or are there commercialized life-script editors who are trying to re-write our thoughts, words, and actions?
For now, the reality is that we’re all being digitally profiled, tracked, stalked, addicted, and influenced by sophisticated algorithms that even their creators cannot fully understand. Accordingly, we need to defend ourselves against the onslaught of advertiser-manipulators that want to control our actions.
Here’s how I created an ad-free internet in five easy steps. This will take you less than three minutes to execute and will save you hundreds of hours of life.
1. Download uBlockOrigin
Forget AdBlocker — uBlockOrigin blows it out of the water. This free wonder app has blocked over 2,573,000 ads since I installed it in 2018. Best of all? No more YouTube commercials!
2. Download Ghostery
Ghostery specifically focuses on blocking trackers. It’s shocking to see the massive list of blocked trackers populate when you visit a new site.
The one-two punch of uBlock+Ghostery should eliminate 95+% of the advertising in your life.
3. Use an Anonymous Browser
If you’re really serious about protecting your data from ad trackers, consider switching from Google-owned Chrome or Apple-owned Safari to an anonymous browser that doesn’t track your clicks or record your history.
Epic is “a private, secure web browser that blocks ads, trackers, fingerprinting, crypto mining, ultrasound signaling, and more.” It stops 600+ ad-tracking attempts in an average browsing session and has the option to turn on network privacy with a free built-in VPN with servers in eight countries.
This is especially handy for accessing articles and videos in other countries. Can’t watch that YouTube video because you’re in Canada? Switch the server to America. Can’t read that article because you’re in Sweden? Switch the server to the United Kingdom.
Tor is a long-time favorite web browser of journalists working within authoritarian regimes (and, sadly, child pornographers.) People use Tor to protect themselves against tracking, surveillance, and censorship — there’s even an option to connect a bridge if Tor is censored in your home country.
If you’re really serious about getting unhooked from ad shoves, check out one of the many browsers that wipe all images from the web. (This is especially handy in places with weak internet connections.)
Once you’ve switched to an anonymous browser, you can also switch from Google/Yahoo/Bing to an anonymous search engine.
4. Use an Anonymous Search Engine
As the U.S. government’s anti-monopoly suit against Google progresses, millions of people are realizing it knows far too much about us, and are abandoning the search engine for a more privacy-friendly alternative.
The leading contender is the rather dopily-named DuckDuckGo. Other options include Qwant, Gibiru, SwissCows, or SearchEncrypt. (I like DuckDuckGo for its ability to change your location to one of several dozen different countries before searching locally.)
Basically, use any search engine but Google.
5. Install Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator
The average Facebook user spends nearly 58 minutes per day on the social media behemoth. I calculate that this free app has saved me over 1,000 hours in the past four years — the equivalent of 25 weeks of full-time work.
I cannot recommend Newsfeed Eradicator enough. You can still see what your friends are up to, but you’ll have to consciously and intentionally visit their walls. Today, I just have Facebook (desktop) Messenger — no Newsfeed, zero ads, no mobile version. It’s effectively my social inbox and little else.
“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
— Jerzy Gregorek
The end of non-permission-based paid digital advertising is an extremely good thing for innovative marketers and their customers. Rather than bombarding strangers and manipulating them with nudges, pushes, and shoves, creative marketers find ways to delight their fanbase so thoroughly that their customers become their greatest advertisers, spreading the word authentically, organically, and for free.
I hope this article saves you thousands of hours and millions of ads.
For me, the web is now an enjoyable, private, low-anxiety, time-controlled environment with zero ads and minimal tracking. It’s a nice place to be, and it contributes to my life goals instead of keeping me from achieving them.
No matter your level of screen management, the key is to have a plan. We need to know our values and priorities and goals and life purposes, and then choose and use our tools accordingly.
There are unbelievably powerful entities whose addiction algorithms are aggressively seeking to shape every waking minute of our lives, but with deep intentionality, we can not only stop them but live life on our own terms.
The power is literally in our hands.