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Explanation of the state of uBlock Origin (and other blockers) for Safari #158

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ghost opened this issue Sep 8, 2019 · 106 comments
Open

Explanation of the state of uBlock Origin (and other blockers) for Safari #158

ghost opened this issue Sep 8, 2019 · 106 comments

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@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 8, 2019

Very quick tl;dr: uBO will no longer work with Safari, use Firefox or a new "content blocker" app (see below for good replacements).

In the past few months, and especially in the past week, there have been a lot of posts and comments questioning the status of uBlock Origin for Safari. This should answer all questions on the status of uBO for safari.

uBlock Origin was ported for Safari in 2016, and was updated regulary (mostly changes from the main project) until 2018 when development completley stopped. Since then Apple has begun phasing out Safari extensions as extensions, and has instead been implenting a new extensions framework which is extremley limited in adblocking functions, only allowing "content blockers", which are just links bundled as an app which Safari enforces. From Safari 12 / macOS Mojave, old legacy Safari extensions were still allowed, but came with warnings saying that they will slow down your browsing (they infact won't, or at least not noticably). Safari also recently shut their Extension Gallery, instead redirecting it to the mac app store. Though it is still curently possible to install uBlock Origin by downloading the extension from Github (edit: must follow these instructions, it will not be starting from Safari 13 / macOS Catalina, when the legacy entension API will be fully deprecated.

It will not possible for uBlock Origin to work with the upcoming Safari 13 / macOS Catalina release
If you are a current user of uBlock Origin for Safari here are the options to continue blocking ads:

  1. For the moment continue to use Safari 12 with uBlockOrigin. Anybody with uBO currently installed, it won't be removed until you update to Safari 13. If you don't have uBO installed, and wish to install on a pre-Catalina version of Safari, Download the latest (and final) release here and follow these instructions to install it. Unfortunately it's a bit complicated. This will stop working with macOS Catalina (coming "this fall"). Update: It appears that it is not possible to install uBO permanently, it will always uninstall on a restart of Safari. If you have it, it should stay.
  2. Switch to a different browser. If you choose this, I strongly recomend Firefox. Chrome will itself be ending support for uBlockOrigin soon. If battery life is an issue for you get Firefox Beta, Nightly or Developer which has massive battery life improvements to bring it on par with Safari / Chrome being tested (note: somewhat unstable). This will come to the stable version, hopefully in time for uBO-Safari's eol.
  3. Get a content blocker. Not nearly as powerful as uBO, but the best option if you want to stay with Safari. Do not get the app called "uBlock", this is unassociated with uBlockOrigin (read about the split here), and is simply a content blocker with a big negative feature of having acceptable ads built in (which is AdBlockPlus's pay-to-play ad and tracker unblocking program). It shares no code with uBO and has no advantages over any other content blocking app. Here are some recomendations of content blockers:

Top picks

  • Adguard for Safari, very good blocking and free. Very customisable. Doesnt always have the best performance (though this has apparently been fixed). AdGuard's performance is quite controversial, read discussion [here].(#158 (comment)). AdGuard also uses the same lists and filter syntax as uBO, making migration easier.
    - 1Blocker, by far the most powerful, with custom rules and an element picker. This is the best option if you don't mind paying. Costs $10. Update: do not buy. 1Blocker has teased 1BlockerX for Mac, which will be a paid upgrade. I cannot reccomend buying an app now which will soon be obsolete.. Update 2: 1Blocker has said that it will be a free upgrade to 1BlockerX from the current version, so there isn't any reason to wait if you want it. 1Blocker has switched to a subscription model, even for people who already paid for it. Avoid.
  • Ka-block. Unexceptional. Free. Will block ads, nothing more. Pretty sure it's just a wrapper for easylist, but it's a good option if you mind paying for 1Blocker. Also open-source.

Other Good Options

  • Ghostery Lite. Free. Ghostery. Some advanced options for whitelisting. Good lists for ad and tracker blocking.
  • Adguard for Mac. Fully featured system wide adblocker, contains custom lists and element picker. Does cost after a trial, see here for prices.
  • Wipr. $1.99, simple featureless and popular. Don't see any advantage in this over Ka-block (see above) for an extra $1.99. Apparently Ka-Block doesn't work for youtube (wipr does), and Wipr uses 3 extensions to get around the limit in rules.

Do Not Reccomend

  • AdBlock Plus for Safari - Supports acceptable ads, a pay-to-play ad allowing system which allows certain ads and trackers which meet guidelines and pay AdBlock Plus. Some of these ads, imo, are not acceptable, and I don't consider any trackers acceptable. Uses Easylist so otherwise is identical to Ka-Block!.
  • uBlock - Don't at all associated with uBO or the code which uBO contains. Is instead identical to AdBlock Plus in all but name including acceptable ads.
  • AdBlock for Safari (made by BETAFISH INC) - Yet another acceptable ads-supporting blocker which just uses easylist. Avoid.
  • There are plenty more on the mac app store, have a look if none of these suit. No new content blockers can spy on you as they send lists though Safari's built in system, so they are all pretty safe. If you find a good one comment and I'll add it to this list.

Update: Here is a statement from gorhill (uBO developer) on the state of Safari

Edit: a lot people are asking about uBlock Origin not working in the future on Chrome. If you'd like more information on this, here is an article from ghacks from january, and a statement from gorhill, developer of uBlock.**

There has been discussion of this on Reddit Github and Hacker News.

@dpkonofa
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@dpkonofa dpkonofa commented Sep 19, 2019

What differentiates an "ad-blocker" from a "content-blocker" that makes it impossible for this change? Isn't an "ad-blocker" just a "content-blocker" that only blocks a very specific type of content?

@Tongzhao9417
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@Tongzhao9417 Tongzhao9417 commented Sep 20, 2019

thanks for u summation. it's so sad:( i have used it for three years and it's time to say goodbye...

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 20, 2019

What differentiates an "ad-blocker" from a "content-blocker" that makes it impossible for this change? Isn't an "ad-blocker" just a "content-blocker" that only blocks a very specific type of content?

I must admit the the terminology isn't very clear. A Safari "content-blocker" app sends a list to Safari, and Safari blocks it. A regular blocker (like uBO) blocks content itself. Safari content blockers aren't all bad, they are more secure in that they can't possibly collect your browsing history (not that uBO does), but lack the level of customisation and power that a regular blocker like uBO can provide.

@nheeren
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@nheeren nheeren commented Sep 20, 2019

Thanks! You should pin this issue.

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 20, 2019

Thanks! You should pin this issue.

only @el1t can do that

@Rjevski
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@Rjevski Rjevski commented Sep 20, 2019

Just FIY I would not recommend buying 1Blocker. I paid both for the initial version and the "1Blocker X" one on IOS but I had the constant feeling the filter lists weren't being updated and I wasn't sure of their origin (I'm assuming they use EasyList for the ads, but which one do they use for privacy & annoyances?).

AdGuard for Safari is free, open-source and is compatible with uBlock-style filter lists (it has code that does its best to convert them to Safari content blocking lists). You can choose to use EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Fanboy's lists or any of the regional lists so I would recommend it over 1Blocker.

@ameshkov
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@ameshkov ameshkov commented Sep 20, 2019

Adguard for Safari, the most effective, but contains electron (chromium). I'm not entirely sure how it works, but it will cost performance and battery life on your computer so I would avoid it.

  1. Electron is used for the UI part of it only. All other parts are native.
  2. Running the electron part in the background is not necessary. Although, it is recommended so that AG could update filters automatically.
  3. The linked issue was resolved in the latest release

I'm not entirely sure how it works

You can take a look - https://github.com/AdguardTeam/AdGuardForSafari

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 20, 2019

Adguard for Safari, the most effective, but contains electron (chromium). I'm not entirely sure how it works, but it will cost performance and battery life on your computer so I would avoid it.

1. Electron is used for the UI part of it only. All other parts are native.

2. Running the electron part in the background is not necessary. Although, it is recommended so that AG could update filters automatically.

3. The linked issue was [resolved](https://github.com/AdguardTeam/AdGuardForSafari/issues/210) in the latest release

I'm not entirely sure how it works

You can take a look - https://github.com/AdguardTeam/AdGuardForSafari

Thank you for responding. Ive updated the post and corrected my errors.

Based on point 2, for filters to update, the electron part needs to be running. Does leaving this running for filters to update have any serious power or performance issues?

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 20, 2019

Just FIY I would not recommend buying 1Blocker. I paid both for the initial version and the "1Blocker X" one on IOS but I had the constant feeling the filter lists weren't being updated and I wasn't sure of their origin (I'm assuming they use EasyList for the ads, but which one do they use for privacy & annoyances?).

AdGuard for Safari is free, open-source and is compatible with uBlock-style filter lists (it has code that does its best to convert them to Safari content blocking lists). You can choose to use EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Fanboy's lists or any of the regional lists so I would recommend it over 1Blocker.

thats odd, when I wrote this post, everything I could find had it as the best or one of the best. This guy tested them quite thoroughly from 2015 to 2018, and found 1Blocker to stand out. Looking at it again now, it seems that 1Blocker requires an app update to update their lists (entirely based on the changelog), which would explain the slow rate of updates. Tommorow I will investigate further and update my list once again.

@ameshkov
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@ameshkov ameshkov commented Sep 20, 2019

Based on point 2, for filters to update, the electron part needs to be running. Does leaving this running for filters to update have any serious power or performance issues?

Not really. Here's how it looks on my MBP, and in my case, I am actually actively using it, not just keep it in the background:

There was indeed an issue with the version of Electron we were using previously, but it's now gone.

On the other hand, I share your sentiments about Electron. The UI is generally worse and slower than it could be if we made it native. But it allowed reusing a lot of existing code from the Chrome/FF extensions so here we are.

@freediverx
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@freediverx freediverx commented Sep 20, 2019

@freediverx
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@freediverx freediverx commented Sep 20, 2019

@benjamingr
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@benjamingr benjamingr commented Sep 20, 2019

What about building uBlockOrigin as either a proxy with a root certificate or using applescript and making it a Mac app?

@vassudanagunta
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@vassudanagunta vassudanagunta commented Sep 20, 2019

Further options are being discussed in #145.

@vassudanagunta
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@vassudanagunta vassudanagunta commented Sep 20, 2019

@p4t44, you may want to link to the HackerNews discussion of the whys and pros and cons of Apple's change to Safari: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21025252

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 20, 2019

Based on point 2, for filters to update, the electron part needs to be running. Does leaving this running for filters to update have any serious power or performance issues?

Not really. Here's how it looks on my MBP, and in my case, I am actually actively using it, not just keep it in the background:

There was indeed an issue with the version of Electron we were using previously, but it's now gone.

On the other hand, I share your sentiments about Electron. The UI is generally worse and slower than it could be if we made it native. But it allowed reusing a lot of existing code from the Chrome/FF extensions so here we are.

As AdGuard's performance is far from settled, I've linked here. If it goes fast for you, use it. If it goes slow for you, don't use and delete it.

@xtian
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@xtian xtian commented Sep 20, 2019

Just FYI for anyone reading this thread: AdGuard for Mac requires installing a kernel extension which as far as I know none of the other options do. I didn't feel comfortable with that so I went with one of the other options.

@El-Fitz
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@El-Fitz El-Fitz commented Sep 21, 2019

I would also suggest Little Snitch or some free equivalent, using block lists. Since it's a firewall, it won't be impacted by any changes in Safari.

@CrazyPython
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@CrazyPython CrazyPython commented Sep 21, 2019

I was using a manually installed build of uBlock Origin on Safari, but Safari crashed twice, and uBlock was dissabled.

@kfur
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@kfur kfur commented Sep 21, 2019

@p4t44 @freediverx Do you need nifty macos app or just good ad blocker ?
You don't need to run it. Electron app i needed only for rule updates. It can't slow down your safari browser. So i think slowness of this app it's not critical issue. You can run it from time to time just for update rules.

@kfur
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@kfur kfur commented Sep 21, 2019

@El-Fitz but functionality of this ad blocker will be limited to blocking hosts when real ad blockers much more powerful and it will diffidently slow down your browser. Better use dnscrypt-proxy with blocklist in this case if you could satisfied by host blockers.

@ameshkov
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@ameshkov ameshkov commented Sep 21, 2019

@p4t44

As AdGuard's performance is far from settled, I've linked here. If it goes fast for you, use it. If it goes slow for you, don't use and delete it.

Why? It seems settled that the UI is slow as it's Electron-based, and I don't argue with that. It just has nothing to do with ad blocking performance, and there's no one on this thread complaining about that. Also, "slow" does not mean that it consumes additional energy or whatever. It simply takes more time to render when you decide to use it.

@cosmarc
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@cosmarc cosmarc commented Sep 21, 2019

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Sep 21, 2019

@p4t44

As AdGuard's performance is far from settled, I've linked here. If it goes fast for you, use it. If it goes slow for you, don't use and delete it.

Why? It seems settled that the UI is slow as it's Electron-based, and I don't argue with that. It just has nothing to do with ad blocking performance, and there's no one on this thread complaining about that. Also, "slow" does not mean that it consumes additional energy or whatever. It simply takes more time to render when you decide to use it.

It used to be that it was slower even without the UI open before a recent update. It is also reccomended that you leave the app open constantly for filters to update (which or may not slow it down). I can link you to a dozen reports of AdGuard going slow, so I think it is unreasonable not to mention it in the list.

Slow means that 1) it takes longer to use, 2) uses excessive CPU and memory to make the rest of your computer go slower and 3) use more battery. I'm really not sure wether it is significantly slower then alternatives, and I don't have the time or will to figure it out. I've linked to this thread so anybody unsure can read the comments of the AdGuard developer and decide for himself.

I think that if you are considering AdGuard, download it. Check activity monitor, if it takes up a lot of CPU or battery, uninstall and get something else. If it doesn't, then don't and use it.

@Sangeppato
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@Sangeppato Sangeppato commented Sep 21, 2019

I would just like to mention a couple of advantages that Wipr has over Ka-Block:

  • Wipr works with YouTube, while Ka-Block doesn't
  • Wipr is actually made of 3 extensions in order to be able to overcome the 50k rules limitation imposed by Apple, so it can go up to 150k and block more stuff (Ka-Block can fail to block ads on some websites in my experience)
  • I don't know if Ka-Block can do this, but Wipr can automatically update the filter list in background without having the app up and running all the time.

Note that with the new Content Block API you don't need to have a white-list option built into the extension, because you can exclude content blocking on specific websites directly from Safari going to Preferences -> Websites -> Content Blockers

@ameshkov
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@ameshkov ameshkov commented Jun 22, 2020

More info here:
https://developer.apple.com/documentation/safariservices/safari_web_extensions

Compatibility and limitations:
https://developer.apple.com/documentation/safariservices/safari_web_extensions/assessing_your_safari_web_extension_s_browser_compatibility

The most important limitation for blockers is this part:

  • webRequest
    • BlockingResponse not supported.
    • Blocking requests not supported.

It basically means that we have to continue using their Safari Content Blocking API.

@freediverx
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@freediverx freediverx commented Jun 22, 2020

@joshdick
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@joshdick joshdick commented Jun 22, 2020

Ugh, their Safari Content Blocking API is worthless, at least based on every content blocker I’ve tested. So much for that idea. Damnit, Apple.

Send feedback to Apple via the Feedback app once you’re able to run a beta! 🙂

@aaronsky
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@aaronsky aaronsky commented Jun 23, 2020

I could be wrong, but those docs look the same as the ones before today. Meaning I'm not so sure they've updated their documentation site with the new APIs

@gwarser
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@gwarser gwarser commented Jun 23, 2020

https://www.reddit.com/r/uBlockOrigin/comments/hdz0bo/will_ublock_origin_back_to_macos_big_sur/fvoc7wk/

Apparently not, this is what it says for the webRequest API:

BlockingResponse not supported.

Blocking requests not supported.

Edit: There are other unsupported API methods:

  • onCreatedNavigationTarget (to deal with unwanted popups);
  • minimal support for insertCSS: no user styles, can't inject on a per-frame basis;
  • No privacy API;
@freediverx
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@freediverx freediverx commented Jun 23, 2020

@gwarser
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@gwarser gwarser commented Jun 23, 2020

image

@amarendra
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@amarendra amarendra commented Jun 24, 2020

Send feedback to Apple via the Feedback app once you’re able to run a beta! 🙂

Apple doesn't make what users want, Apple makes what they want users to want. Besides the overwhelming majority of Apple user/fan base is always happy with what Apple makes or tries/claims to make.

@vegai
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@vegai vegai commented Jun 24, 2020

Here's a fine option if you're comfortable with blocking via /etc/hosts: https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts.git -- as a bonus, it can optionally block fakenews, porn and other such junk.

@gorhill
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@gorhill gorhill commented Jun 24, 2020

@ameshkov Please correct the disinformation in this picture which purports to compare AdGuard for Safari to other blockers on Safari: https://cdn.adguard.com/public/Adguard/Blog/safari-compare.jpg I have no doubt you are well aware that "UBlock" on Safari is not uBO.

@ameshkov
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@ameshkov ameshkov commented Jun 24, 2020

@gorhill uh, wrong logo? sorry for that, we'll fix it. May I ask where you found that picture?

@gorhill
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@gorhill gorhill commented Jun 24, 2020

https://adguard.com/en/adguard-safari/overview.html, "What's the difference between AdGuard for Safari and other ad blockers? ".

@friendlytherapist
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@friendlytherapist friendlytherapist commented Jun 28, 2020

So.. is ubo coming to new safari and big sur? I dont really understand all this technical speak

@llacb47
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@llacb47 llacb47 commented Jun 28, 2020

So.. is ubo coming to new safari and big sur? I dont really understand all this technical speak

No. https://www.reddit.com/r/uBlockOrigin/comments/hdz0bo/will_ublock_origin_back_to_macos_big_sur/fvoc7wk/

Use uBo in firefox or chrome, or use adguard in safari.

@ghost
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@ghost ghost commented Aug 11, 2020

FYI, it seems that Wipr no longer supports blocking YouTube ads: https://www.reddit.com/r/MacOS/comments/hs16jl/what_is_going_on_with_wipr/

@chaithanya008
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@chaithanya008 chaithanya008 commented Aug 15, 2020

Just FIY I would not recommend buying 1Blocker. I paid both for the initial version and the "1Blocker X" one on IOS but I had the constant feeling the filter lists weren't being updated and I wasn't sure of their origin (I'm assuming they use EasyList for the ads, but which one do they use for privacy & annoyances?).

AdGuard for Safari is free, open-source and is compatible with uBlock-style filter lists (it has code that does its best to convert them to Safari content blocking lists). You can choose to use EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Fanboy's lists or any of the regional lists so I would recommend it over 1Blocker.

Mac preferences> safari extensions - says permission to read sensitive data including passwords and logins! is that ok?

@chaithanya008
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@chaithanya008 chaithanya008 commented Aug 15, 2020

So.. is ubo coming to new safari and big sur? I dont really understand all this technical speak

No. https://www.reddit.com/r/uBlockOrigin/comments/hdz0bo/will_ublock_origin_back_to_macos_big_sur/fvoc7wk/

Use uBo in firefox or chrome, or use adguard in safari.

safari extension preferences say - permission to read sensitive information including passwords and logins. Do they store these information?

@alvarnell
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@alvarnell alvarnell commented Aug 15, 2020

Mac preferences> safari extensions - says permission to read sensitive data including passwords and logins! is that ok?

Only if you want it to work, otherwise it won't.

permission to read sensitive information including passwords and logins. Do they store these information?

Only locally and only what is necessary for its use.

@jorge-d
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@jorge-d jorge-d commented Sep 1, 2020

Hi,
I decided to switch back to Safari as my main browser for battery reason and discovered that uBlock Origin is not compatible anymore. After reading most of the possible solutions I think I came up with a pretty acceptable outcome: using NextDNS.

Nextdns is a (free for basic usage) DNS resolver, when you create an account you can select blocklists, which does include for example Easylist:
Screenshot 2020-09-01 at 14 21 09

The only downside is that there is no menu action on webpage to say "whitelist this website", it has to be done on the configuration page of nextdns.

Cheers,

ps: I'm not affiliated with NextDNS in anyway, just a happy user

@freediverx
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@freediverx freediverx commented Sep 1, 2020

@KDederichs
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@KDederichs KDederichs commented Sep 1, 2020

Also should be mentioned that with services like NextDNS you basically reroute all of your net activity through their service which is... let's say not ideal in a privacy kind of sense. (Even if they claim to do nothing with that data)

@translit
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@translit translit commented Sep 1, 2020

ability to hide unwanted annoyances on specific web pages as desired

Yes, this is key.

@gorhill
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@gorhill gorhill commented Sep 1, 2020

they lack the ability to manually select and block annoying screen elements on the fly

Solutions like NextDNS are also not able to filter network requests through URL pattern-based matching. Large swathes of EasyList and other such lists are URL pattern-based filters. What I explained here also applies to DNS-based blocking.

@jorge-d
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@jorge-d jorge-d commented Sep 1, 2020

I'm not denying all those point, which are completely valid. I'm just saying that for a completely simple remove-ads scenario this is probably the easiest solution, the killer point for me being that those same filters can be applied to mobile trafic.

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@alvarnell
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@alvarnell alvarnell commented Sep 5, 2020

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