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A lot of us use Adblock without thinking of the consequences, without thinking about how the Internet is powered. I’m not going to expand on this debate now, as my colleagues at MakeUseOf have already done so, far more eloquently than I, and their arguments are right on the money. So rather than lecture you further, I thought we’d explore the options for those people wishing to use Adblock with Internet Explorer and see if there are any additional considerations to make if you’re in the IE camp.
I personally have a very love/hate relationship with Adblock, and any other software or browser app designed to block advertising. This relationship is sliding toward the camp of hatred more and more, after all, my wages have to come from somewhere. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing about technology, and if someone wants to line my pockets because of it, I’m totally game. I still use Adblock for certain sites, but I’m proactive in white-listing my regular Internet haunts.
We All Have Choices
And the users of Internet Explorer and Adblock are no different. Adblock has been functional for quite some time, amassing some 300 million cross-browser installs.
However, for a while Adblock didn’t work with Internet Explorer 11 – at least not in the same easy-to-manage plugin style associated with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome – but Microsoft had an inbuilt advertisement blocking solution already configured within the browser itself.
The Internet Explorer Gallery first appeared with Internet Explorer 9 and once activated enables you use of Microsoft Tracking Protection Lists – a very similar service to the mainstream alternatives.
Tracking Protection Lists
Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs) is the jolly phrase Microsoft uses to describe adblocking. Tracking Protection is designed to protect your privacy whilst maintaining a white-list of ad-accepted sites. Using the predefined Microsoft lists works well, and you can increase the number of trackers/advertisements you hide by adding more secure lists to your browser.
Tracking Protection prevents third-party content providers from showing you their adverts, with Internet Explorer blocking or allowing third-party URIs based upon the rules set by the Tracking Protection List.
Once you’ve added some Tracking Protection Lists to IE, you can easily edit them via Manage Add-ons, found by selecting the cog in the top right corner of your IE browser window, or you can add your own custom lists using the Your Personalized List function.
The Tracking Protection Lists work well, effectively blocking all adverts across a massive range of sites. However, if you feel bad about blocking some sites’ only source of income, you’ll note the blue “stop” sign has appeared in your address box. Clicking this gives you the option to manually allow individual sites through whichever TPLs you have enabled — we’d suggest letting MakeUseOf through, kind, generous, beautiful reader…
…though Microsoft have done a robust job of curtailing ads without having to introduce an extra element to your browser. It is a lighter, quieter Internet Explorer.
Do Not Track
Alongside the Tracking Protection Lists, Internet Explorer features a Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism. DNT is present in the communicative header field when requesting information from a website, requesting the site recognize one of three values:
- (1): User does not want to be tracked
- (0): User consents to tracking
- (null): No header sent; user hasn’t specified a preference.
Microsoft caused quite a stir with the release of Internet Explorer 10. DNT was enabled by default. This lead many prominent advertising agencies to suggest a violation of the Digital Advertising Alliance’s agreement to honor such as setting – so long as the feature wasn’t enabled by default. Microsoft responded well, stating its belief that users want an out-of-box browser that actually protects their privacy, rather than blasting their credentials across the airwaves.
However, this year Microsoft announced that following the upcoming Windows 10 release, DNT would no install as default browser feature – rather, Microsoft would provide “clear information on how to turn this feature on.”
Will Spartan Change Things?
In some ways, yes, Spartan will alter our relationship with Internet Explorer. Our memories of ghastly Internet experiences will gradually dissipate into the ether, with the warming, integrated embrace of Spartan replacing all bad feeling.
this maybe the extensions APIs for Spartan, window.msBrowser.runtime/storage/tabs/browserAction http://t.co/g4Bi32o0Hd similiar to Chrome
— WalkingCat (@h0x0d) January 15, 2015
Joking aside, Spartan will feature extensions and add-ons, so the likelihood of Adblock making the leap is pretty high. Spartan is currently available as part of Windows 10 Technical Preview 10049, and will feature in each build up to the release date, so you can test these features as they arrive – but as yet, no extensions, leaving Spartan feeling very…well…Spartan.
If Spartan does change things for the better, so be it. Microsoft have given us tools to protect ourselves from rampant advertising, so let’s use them. More users > more development > better service > more users – and so on. That’s a positive feedback loop if I’ve ever seen one.
That said, we shouldn’t blithely signup for the preordained Tracking Protection Lists without considering exactly who were are blocking, or if you use a trusted URL list, exactly what companies you are allowing through the barriers.
For example, the current TRUSTe Tracking Protection List allows a number of third-party advertising companies to track your online credentials. They might not all be malicious, or bombarding us with awful adverts, but this is exactly the type of behavior these lists are meant to prevent, and flies in the face of privacy that you are actively seeking – so be careful!
Looking forward to Spartan? Do you use Adblock for IE, or the Tracking Protection Lists? What works for you? Let us know below!
Image Credits: Do Not Track via Wikimedia Commons