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Why I use Adblock and NoScript

Published: 02/08/2010

The Internet is full of disease and annoyance as far as I'm concerned. When I'm surfing websites, I want to get the content. Fast. I don't want to wait for the Flash banner to load up just so the site looks prettier, I don't need fancy animated menus for cheap sci-fi-ish navigation, and most of all, I want control of everything that influences my system ... like client-side scripts which the server thinks I should run because it might somehow enhance my viewing experience.

Most websites these days have too much clutter. It's like walking into a hoarder's house where you can barely step through the room without hitting some weird object with mold growing on the side of it. If a site has too many distractions such as blinking advertisements or unnecessary graphics which do not illustrate the content I'm looking at, it wastes my time because it makes it that much harder for me to readily absorb the material I'm looking for.

As a result, the typical website serves me the content I want, but adds a side order of ads which have no relevance to me, slows down my time-to-completion in downloading all elements which make up the webpage, and potentially performs other things under the cover using JavaScript without my approval. In other words, I have to trust that the website operator has my best interests at heart.

I don't think so.

Most ads are shoved down the pipeline through third-party aggregators. Flash ads are the worst since they are typically much larger than simple graphics or banners of the old days. They are called by the script routine embedded in the webpage, and perhaps might just happen to include a payload I didn't ask for (like malware). Plus you have privacy concerns with "Flash cookies."

I'm tired of all that. It sucks up bandwidth, my time, and the amount of processing power available in my system. Plus it also potentially exposes me to threats that are too quick for me to terminate without going through a series of keystrokes.

1) I run my home system with the least possible privilege level for my user account. If I somehow decide that a website is trustworthy to allow scripts to run in my browser when in reality the site is actually compromised, any malicious action on the site would have a more limited effect throughout my system compared to if I was running with administrative privileges.

2) Adblock, although not perfect, does a great job eliminating the need to download ads that just get in the way.

3) NoScript is my first go-to Add-on for Firefox. This effectively stops a good majority of browser-based threats. As mentioned earlier, if i decide to let scripts run from a given trusted site and that site is actually compromised, there's an attack vector there ... but it's much better than allowing scripts to run for every website that I visit. And while I do also use a PDF reader, I'm also mindful to disable the JavaScript capability that is usually enabled by default.

Of course, having more add-ons or applications for "protection" also results in a more complex system, which is potentially a problem if there's a security issue with those extras.

While I understand the need for website operators to generate revenue through advertising, I also think the whole advertising game is archaic as a whole. Most ads are not targeted very well. They're a "fire and forget" proposition in which a marketer casts out the net to the widest area possible hoping to pull in a catch or two. You see this on TV a lot. On the rare occasion when I do sit in front of a TV and watch something, I find that virtually every advertisement is non-relevant to me.

The general answer to this is to ask for demographic information in order to assure "marketing messages of increasing relevance." Sorry, advertisers generally don't have my best interests in mind so I'm not giving up anything unless they can sucker me in with a free <something>. And even that rarely works on me since I don't buy into gimmicks very often. It's time for the advertising industry to create a whole new approach, otherwise they're wasting my time and bandwidth.

This is why I run Adblock and NoScript. The web is bad enough as it is and I want the cleanest, well-scrubbed experience as possible. If it takes several thousand packets just to render a single webpage, I'm going to assume that there's more fat than meat on the site. The more elements coming through my interface, the more anti-virus has to process and suck up resources.

I have work to do, and I don't need a bloated website getting in my way.

Go back to my list of rambles.