Best Firefox Speed Boost In Years


For anyone who uses ad blocking add-ons in Firefox, boy! Have I got great news for you…

AdBlock Plus (ABP) is the go-to ad blocking solution that every Firefox user seems to swear by. The downside of this very good add-on is that it slows down your browsing experience and uses a whole lot of memory in the process. I’ve been a stalwart user of this add-on for many years but I have recently made a change. It is a browsing life-changer.

uBlock-logo-image

µBlock is more than a simple ad blocker. It accomplishes exactly the same thing as ABP with some useful and interesting differences. Here is what the developers have to say:

µBlock is not an ad blocker; it’s a general-purpose blocker. µBlock blocks ads through its support of the Adblock Plus filter syntax. µBlock extends the syntax and is designed to work with custom rules and filters.

As I mentioned, it uses much less memory than ABP. And I can testify that it most certainly made my browsing experience much faster. In fact, I can safely say this is the best Firefox speed boost I have enjoyed in years. Probably, the slower your connection and computer are, the more impressive will be the improvement.


Some Useful Advantages

Here’s a screen-shot of the µBlock Options Page:

uBlock-filters-image

What isn’t shown here is how vast this list actually is. The sheer number of choices is daunting. You’ll also notice, by looking at the tabs, that there are ways to create your own filters and rules. I haven’t ventured into that area yet; the default settings have so far served me perfectly.

uBlock-menu-image

This what you’ll see if you click on the icon in Firefox’s add-ons bar. It is simplicity itself to enable/disable µBlock on an entire site, or a single page. The icon also displays the current number of active “blocks” there are on the page you are viewing. I don’t know how useful that really is to the average “Joe”. All I care about is whether it is working and is it fast.

uBlock-settings-image

I quickly checked out the Advanced User “Required Reading” link and decided against traveling into the dark abyss. I can always easily find myself in trouble once I stray the beaten path.


How To Get It

First let me say that it is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. Download links and installation instructions for the various browsers are here at the µBlock Site.

I only use Firefox so cannot speak for the effect this may have on the others.

An aside

“µ” is the Greek letter Mu. It means mikros, or micron in English. Given the fickle and seemingly ignorant nature of geeky naming conventions, it may be pronounced in various ways. µTorrent, for instance, is pronounced bit-torrent. This makes no sense at all. The point here is that I have no idea how to pronounce µBlock. Is it Micro-block? Bit-block? Mu-block? Them dern aliens ruined my golldarn rubbarb patch with their flyin’ machine, dagnabbit!-block?

Only the developers know for sure and I hope they quickly enlighten me before I run out of ideas.


A Quick Note About Ad Blockers

Many web sites, including our beloved DCT, rely on advertising revenue to keep bringing you quality articles for the price of free. I am no different than most people when visiting a site that has obnoxious, flashing, annoying and downright intrusive ads. I hate them. I visited to read an article or enjoy a video clip. I didn’t go there to be bombarded by the lights of Las Vegas.

So here’s a little rule to follow. If the ads don’t annoy you, and you would like to support a site’s free content delivery, then don’t block the ads. It’s that simple.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to click the ads to generate a small amount of revenue for the site. Merely seeing them is enough. Keep that in mind next time you block ads willy-nilly all across the Internet.

This Is a Winner

I have been using µBlock for three days now and I’ve never been happier with a new add-on.


Be sure to disable ABP before installing µBlock. It doesn’t make sense to run both and there might even be a terrible conflict if you do.

You should really give it a try and if you do, let me know what you think,

Richard

UPDATE: For those of you who would like to see some actual numbers, GitHub has posted an article that offers this information.


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About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

34 Comments

  1. Nice review…great extension

    As far as pronunciation….

    “pronounce you-block as in “you decide what enters your browser” / see the “µ” as a stylish “u”, to emphasize small resource footprint
    sorry for the dubious name, we are coders, not marketers”

    https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock

  2. A good article Richard.
    When I was in the mechanical engineering field and extremely fine tolerances were required, such as chromium coating on a product, the thickness of the coating was described in microns which equals one millionth of a metre, and it was described by all people involved as ‘mu’.
    Microns (mu) are also used in fine-tolerance electronics, and in Unicode, U+00B5.

    • Hi Jon in Oz,

      Thankfully, Mitch cleared up the pronunciation issue. (See a previous comment.)
      He is one of the developers and I must take his word as fact that coders are not necessarily marketers. 🙂

      Glad you liked the post,
      Richard

      • Only submitted bug reports; not a developer.

        Just quoting what was mentioned in the documentation.

        Elsewhere, gorhill, suggested at one point it might have made more sense to use uBlock than µBlock to avoid confusion. But since it was already out there, we are kinda stuck with it.

  3. Greetings,

    By chance, has anyone done a comparison, in terms of resource usage alone, between µBlock and the Bluhell Firewall?

    As always, many thanks for this heads-up!

    • Hi AJ,

      I haven’t run any professional memory usage comparisons, but I can tell you without a doubt that µBlock uses far less memory on my computer than AdBlock Plus does.

      I never heard of Bluhell Firewall before now, so can’t say anything about it one way or the other.

      You’re welcome!
      Richard

  4. Very good call on this add-on. I have been using this for a few months now and everything that is illustrated in the article is 100% right on. Extremely good find for me and well done to DCT for bringing light to it fbo others.

    you-block was my initial understanding as despite the inconsistency with the meaning of the symbol itself, think of the easiest for short when mentioned verbally and the likely universal understanding by the layman…

  5. I subscribe to about 70+ news sources which I scan everyday. I get so frustrated with many of them using so many ads. So when I read your tips this morning and saw this, I immediately installed and tried it out. WOW! WOW! WOW! I am still in disbelief how well it works.

    I did a couple of test on the same webpage with the plugin enabled and disabled, clearing my cookies after each viewing. According to my stop-watch-timing of the difference, I feel safe in saying the webpages easily loaded 4x faster with the ad blocker than without. These guys are good!

  6. You fools think you are so clever using an ad blocker, when you have no idea of the issues you are inevitably creating for yourselves. First of all, webmasters can tell when you visit their site with adblocker. This will inevitably have consequences, and the consequences will make the internet experience much less friendly and much less enjoyable. You are seeking your own short-term gratification while completely oblivious to the long-term consequences of blocking ads and making it so obvious.

    It is my practice is to use HOSTS file blocking, The simplest and easiest way to block nefarious sites and unwanted advertising, which is completely transparent to webmasters and greatly reduces the intrusion and inconvenience of too many ad banners. I choose to allow some ads, particularly first party or self-hosted ads.

    When you block every little ad from every website, you are essentially taking something for nothing. That is selfish, foolish and unsustainable, long term. Websites that offer interesting, entertaining or useful content SHOULD BE supported, to some extend.

    I suggest you give more consideration to the practical implications of using adblockers and what the consequences will be if you all continue to stick it in their face with completely indiscriminate blocking of all online ads.

    At the very least, dump Ad Blocker and the sort and use HOSTS file blocking. It is very effective and far less obvious.

    http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm

    • Hi beachbouy,

      To begin with, it was probably a little over-kill to call us fools.

      The article addresses the common sense approach regarding ad blockers. Here’s an excerpt:

      “So here’s a little rule to follow. If the ads don’t annoy you, and you would like to support a site’s free content delivery, then don’t block the ads. It’s that simple.”

      I can only presume the dire “consequences” you refer to might be that Webmasters all over the world will revolt and begin charging cash to read their respective posts. Heaven forbid.

      I think I speak for a majority of writers “out there” when I say the Blogs are maintained because it brings the authors a certain satisfaction knowing they have helped or enlightened someone. If we can earn a little cash along the way, that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s the ultimate goal.

      Kind and helpful comments have a positive effect on both the writer and the readers alike. Insulting comments serve no one.

      When it comes to the Windows Hosts file, you are right– it can be used to redirect specific ads to the hinterland and beyond. However, not everyone is inclined to spend a lot of time editing this file when it is so much simpler to use a browser add-on.

      Any ad blocker worth its salt will let you pick and choose which sites, pages and specific ads to block, or not. The choice is yours and can be changed with a few mouse clicks. That’s much easier than editing the Hosts file.

      It is pretty clear in the above article that µBlock allows for creating personalized filter lists. You don’t even have to leave the browser environment to do so, and unlike changes made to the Hosts file, the effects are immediate.

      I personally feel that using the Hosts file is an out-dated and clunky method.

      Richard

    • beachbouy, not everyone is a tech geek like you. Many just want to block something which annoys them. Calling people “fools” lessens your credibility but increases peoples ability to disregard whatever truths you might want to share, Mindblower!

  7. After installing the FireFox version of uBlock, on my next boot I got a warning from Avast! that uBlock has a “poor reputation” and suggested removing it. What’s that all about?!?

    • Hi dan,

      I am shocked by that result considering that I have vetted this add-on to the best of my ability. I am truly sorry if you had problems.

      I have personally experienced zero troubles with this add-on; to the contrary, it has proven to be a well-done and perfectly safe product,

      I would never knowingly proffer a single bit of software to DCT readers about which I had even a modicum of skepticism,
      Richard

      PS I was so upset by this, I’m not sure I spoke English. Did I? …

    • Dan, Avast’s reputation based cloud scanner reports anything which is not widely installed as having a ‘poor reputation’. It is definitely erring on the side of caution and should, in my opinion, be regarded as a false positive.

      uBlock is not flagged by Avira on my system.

  8. Dan,

    I am not against adds in general. Just STUPID adds or adds that get in your face (intrusive). I do not block the adds for this site and many others I visit regularly. Adds are an important source of revenue needed to keep the website active. But many allow unscrupulous advertisers to use their site for nefarious adds that will trap the unsuspecting or are selling crap. So, in general, those who are alive learn to HATE adds. Websites do it to themselves, even so called “good” sites.

    I have used AdBlock Plus for a long time now. Generally, I was quite happy with it. Quite quickly I was able to disable their option to allow some ABP approved adds.

    What intrigued me was the thought of speeding up my Internet experience. I am currently STUCK with a poor ISP and any improvement is a help.

    I have been trying µBlock for a week or so and have found it fighting my natural flow. By default it not only blocks adds, but it blocks valid components of web pages like videos, some graphics, some images, etc. In some cases I only know this because I am very familiar with the page where the blocking is taken place. In one case it blocks a portion of a website I created for a local camera club that I know has NO adds.

    Right now, my only solution is to “disable µBlock” for the site in question to get back the legitimate content and then individually select any offensive add I find.

    I have experienced a “slight” improvement in page rendering time with µBlock. I have not decided whether to keep it or not. I will give it another 10 days or so to decide.

  9. I certainly didn’t mean to cause an uproar since I’ve always trusted DCT to do their homework. So I’ll accept this as a false positive as well. Just curious if anyone else using Avast! received this warning message?

    Thanks to Tom , Jim & Richard for their reassurance.

    Dan

  10. When I went to the uBlock add-on page for Firefox, I noticed this message: “This add-on has not been reviewed by Mozilla. Learn more” Under “Learn more,” there was this sentence: “We recommend that you only install reviewed add-ons.” The statement gives me pause, but you and others have been not mentioned having any issues with it. I also realize that the Firefox folks might simply not have had time to do their review. I’d appreciate your thoughts about this. Thanks.

    • Larry, as you rightly suggest, this message merely means that Mozilla has not yet had time to completely vet uBlock, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything amiss.

      Common sense dictates that, because so many people have already successfully installed and utilized uBlock, it would be a pretty safe bet that the add-on is quite okay. If it weren’t, we’d have undoubtedly heard about it by now.