uBlock Origin: The Ultimate Review and Guide

The main goal of uBlock Origin is to provide people with protection against the ever-increasing invasion of online privacy. It is a free and open source content filtering and ad blocking add-on for some web browsers.

The developers call it a “broad spectrum content blocker” rather than simply an ad blocker, and for a good reason. uBlock Origin is one of the most advanced and flexible options for enhancing online privacy with minimal cost to your CPU or memory usage.

What is uBlock origin?

Developed by Raymond Hill (gorhill on GitHub.com), uBlock Origin (uBO) is an industry leading cross-platform browser extension for filtering online content. Unlike similar plugins, uBO filters content, including ads, trackers, pop-ups, malware, coin miners, and JavaScript elements.

uBO is open source with contributions from various developers on GitHub. All in all, the open source uBO is more transparent and reliable than some of its competitors’ closed source applications that often sell user data to third-party companies for a profit.

There are three modes available with uBO: easy mode, medium mode and hard mode.

In easy mode, the settings are left to default with several options available to enable some additional privacy and security settings through the control panel.

Medium mode is intended for advanced users and requires in-depth knowledge of add-ons, allowing users to manually decide what content is filtered and what is allowed. This is the recommended mode for privacy-savvy users.

Hard mode is like medium mode on steroids and has the potential to cause more site errors for the last small gain in terms of security.

uBO is available on Google Chrome online store, on Chromium, Microsoft Edge, Operaand like a Mozilla Firefox add-ons (including Android and iOS versions). Unfortunately, it’s no longer available for Apple’s Safari.

Note: When installing uBO, make sure that the add-on uBlock Origin. There are several add-ons that pretend to be uBO, including ublock.org and uBlock (without Origin). These rogue versions steal user data for profit.

Easy mode: Filter cosmetics

uBO provides two powerful tools to allow users to perform “cosmetic filtering”. These tools are Elemental Zapper and Element selector. Both tools allow you to pick and select web page elements to remove from the site, but the Selector is temporary while the Selector is permanent.

To use Zapper, click uBO icon.

Then choose lightning.

Specific elements will now highlight when you hover over them. Simply click on the element to remove it.

To use the Element Selector, click uBO icon and click color dropper.

Click on the element you want to remove, then click Create.

To view these filters, open the uBO control panel by selecting cog gear icon.

Next, choose My Filters navigation.

Here you can easily remove your added filters by removing the line and selecting Apply changes.

If uBO breaks a website you need to visit, you can selectively allow content on individual sites or web pages. Do like that:

  1. Choose uBO icon at the top right of the window.
  1. Click blue power button to disable uBO on a web page or shift + click blue power button to disable it for an individual page.

This allows you to whitelist specific pages that you don’t need uBO to work with.

Easy mode: Use static filter rule

uBO comes with several built-in and third-party filter lists. They can be turned on or off at will increase your privacy online.

The uBO developers recommend enabling:

  • All uBlock Origin filters
  • EasyList
  • List of Ad Servers by Peter Lowe
  • EasyPrivacy
  • Online Malicious URL Block List

To make sure these are enabled, open uBO control panel and choose Filter list navigation.

Custom filters can be added, but keep in mind that some of these may be of low quality and cause more site problems for the small sake of privacy.

uBlock Origin Advanced Options

uBO has some advanced settings that any user can enable. These settings can increase the efficiency or range of functionality of the uBO. However, it’s essential to fully understand advanced user features before changing them, as it’s easy to break add-ons, and setting it up wrong can result in less protection than you would otherwise. with default settings.

To enable advanced settings:

  1. Open uBO control panel.
  1. Under Setting tab, check the box next to where it says I am an advanced user.

Dynamic filtering: Medium mode and above

uBO uses two types of filtering – static filtering and dynamic filtering. Static filtering is the default and filters the website content based on the filter list mentioned above.

Dynamic filtering allows users to add rules that override static filtering, providing increased control over the type of content you can block or allow. This can be toggled by clicking uBO icon and choose Less than and Than knot.

With dynamic filtering enabled, click uBO icon now looks like this:

In the first column we have the type of request made in plain text and bold text the web pages making those requests. You will notice that each hostname has a colored bar next to it.

Green means everything is allowed from that hostname, yellow means some things are blocked, some things are allowed, and red means everything is blocked. By default, there are no dynamic filtering rules.

The second column represents Global Rule. These are the rules that affect all websites. By default, each box will be light gray. This means that no rules apply.

The third column represents local the rules will only apply to the site it was added to. For example, if you block the youtube.com hostname globally, it will never load on your browser. However, if you only block locally (for example on a blog), it will load on every other page except that one.

More icon means some content is being allowed, while minus icon means the content is being blocked. There may be a combination depending on the automatically applied filter list.

If you hover over the second and third columns, you’ll notice a gray and red box. The red box sets the blocking rule, meaning the content will be blocked. The gray box sets the “noop” rule, which allows you to override general blocking rules for content types and URLs.

How to save and revert filter rules

Implementing content blocks will help you achieve maximum privacy but can also cause many websites to break. With this in mind, uBO has made it easy to experiment. You can delete all the rules and start over by clicking eraser.

You can also lock your rule set when you find a combination that works well by clicking lock.

How to use dynamic filtering

Dynamic filtering is uBO’s advanced content filtering mode that allows users to manually enter rules to control what content web pages can load and display.

Here are two ways you can use dynamic filtering:

1. Block third-party scripts and frameworks

Normally you should block all third party frameworks and scripts globally. They are like “sites within a website” and are often a weak link in web pages that malicious actors will target with malware (plus, they are nasty).

You can block all third-party scripts/frameworks by clicking the red box in the general column next to these.

However, let’s say you want to be able to watch embedded YouTube videos on a particular website. First, you need to scroll down URL youtube.com and click gray box in the local column. Now, only YouTube’s third-party frameworks will load on that site.

Furthermore, you may find that blocking all frames and scripts causes a website to break. If that’s the case, it’s a matter of trial and error using the “noop” local override button (grey box in the local column) for each domain until the site is back up.

2. Block Social Media Trackers

There’s no reason for social media sites or search engines to be able to track your activity outside of their platforms. To block their permission, open uBO control panel and click red box in the global column for each social network URL (e.g. Facebook.com). The only problem is that this will also block them when you try to load the site directly.

To get around this, create a “noop” for each site by clicking gray box in the local column for each site. Now, websites will only load when you visit them directly, instead of tracking you from other websites you visit.

Is UBlock Origin worth using?

uBlock Origin is one of the most reliable and secure content filtering add-ons available. It is open source and transparent, but better yet, developer Raymond Hill refuses to accept donations and states that he has no intention of monetizing uBO.

uBO also refuses to accept money from companies to whitelist certain “accepted ads” for profit, unlike other ad blockers, including Adblock Plus (ABP). Furthermore, uBO has best performance among other ad blockersincluding AdBlock, Adguard and Ghostery.

All in all, uBO might be the best choice, whether you just need an ad blocker or a powerful content filtering add-on to protect your personal information.

Stay safe online

Due to the increasing number of scams, malware and data mining online, many people turn to content filtering utilities when browsing the web. uBlock Origin is one of the best ad blocker plugins and has a lot of extra features that can help protect your privacy, especially when combined with a VPN.

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