uBlock Origin—everything you need to know about the ad blocker

Rare is the browser extension that can satisfy both passive and power users. But that’s an essential part of uBlock Origin’s brilliance—it is an ad blocker you could recommend to your most tech forward friend as easily as you could to someone who’s just emerged from the jungle lost for the past 20 years. 

uBlock Origin by Raymond Hill

Finally, an efficient wide-spectrum content blocker. Easy on CPU and memory.

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If you install uBlock Origin and do nothing else, right out of the box it will block nearly all types of internet advertising—everything from big blinking banners to search ads and video pre-rolls and all the rest. However if you want extremely granular levels of content control, uBlock Origin can accommodate via advanced settings. 

We’ll try to split the middle here and walk through a few of the extension’s most intriguing features and options…

Does using uBlock Origin actually speed up my web experience? 

Yes. Not only do web pages load faster because the extension blocks unwanted ads from loading, but uBlock Origin utilizes a uniquely lightweight approach to content filtering so it imposes minimal impact on memory consumption. It is generally accepted that uBlock Origin offers the most performative speed boost among top ad blockers. 

But don’t ad blockers also break pages? 

Occasionally that can occur, where a page breaks if certain content is blocked or some websites will even detect the presence of an ad blocker and halt passage. 

Fortunately this doesn’t happen as frequently with uBlock Origin as it might with other ad blockers and the extension is also extremely effective at bypassing anti-ad blockers (yes, an ongoing battle rages between ad tech and content blocking software). But if uBlock Origin does happen to break a page you want to access it’s easy to turn off content blocking for specific pages you trust or perhaps even want to see their ads.

Hit the blue on/off button if you want to suspend content blocking on any page.

Show us a few tips & tricks

Let’s take a look at some high level settings and what you can do with them. 

  • Lightning bolt button enables Element Zapper, which lets you temporarily remove page elements by simply mousing over them and clicking. For example, this is convenient for removing embedded gifs or for hiding disturbing images you may encounter in some news articles.
  • Eye dropper button enables Element Picker, which lets you permanently remove page elements. For example, if you find Facebook Stories a complete waste of time, just activate Element Picker, mouse over/click the Stories section of the page, select “Create” and presto—The End of Facebook Stories.    

The five buttons on this row will only affect the page you’re on.

  • Pop-up button blocks—you guessed it—pop-ups
  • Film button blocks large media elements like embedded video, audio, or images
  • Eye slash button disables cosmetic filtering, which is on by default and elegantly reformats your pages when ads are removed, but if you’d prefer to see pages laid out as they were intended (with just empty spaces instead of ads) then you have that option
  • “Aa” button blocks remote fonts from loading on the page
  • “</>” button disables JavaScript on the page

Does uBlock Origin protect against malware? 

In addition to using various advertising block lists, uBlock Origin also leverages potent lists of known malware sources, so it automatically blocks those for you as well. To be clear, there is no software that can offer 100% malware protection, but it doesn’t hurt to give yourself enhanced protections like this. 

All of the content block lists are actively maintained by volunteers who believe in the mission of providing users with more choice and control over the content they see online. “uBlock Origin stands uncompromisingly for all users’ best interests, it’s not monetized, and its development and maintenance is driven only by volunteers who share the same view,” says uBlock Origin founder and developer Raymond Hill. “As long as I am the maintainer of [uBlock Origin], this will not change.”

We could go into a lot more detail about uBlock Origin—how you can create your own custom filter lists, how you can set it to block only media of a certain size, cloud storage sync, and so on—but power users will discover these delights on their own. Hopefully we’ve provided enough insight here to help you make an informed choice about exploring uBlock Origin, whether it be your first ad blocker or just the latest. 

If you’d like to check out other amazing ad blocker options, please see What’s the best ad blocker for you?