Bluhell Firewall – Lightweight ad-blocker for Firefox

firefox-add-onsMost ardent Firefox users would have been frustrated at one time or another by the popular browser’s excessive RAM usage, but did you know that a bare bones Firefox actually compares very favorably with competitor browsers and it’s the add-ons which are actually consuming the additional resources?

It’s a catch-22 situation; one of Firefox’s main attractions is the multitude and variety of available add-ons, yet these very same add-ons are also largely responsible for one of the most common complaints. And ironically, it’s some of the most popular add-ons  – privacy and security related add-ons such as Adblock Plus, NoScript, DoNotTrackMe, Ghostery, etc – which tend to use the most resources. Mozilla recently analyzed Firefox’s performance with and without Adblock Plus installed and the difference in memory usage is significant. <source>

Mozilla’s report prompted me to take a look at Bluhell Firewall, a relatively new, lightweight ad-blocking extension which is quickly gaining a following:

bluhell - banner

All we know the availability of popular AdBlockers lying around… but frankly, these are too bloated with several features and options which most of us don’t use beyond the defaults. So, this extension was made for those of us who don’t care about all that stuff but does about just getting rid of all the nasty resources being loaded by websites.

This is a lightweight extension (ie, 30KB compared to ~700KB of other popular adblockers), which was made with performance in mind. No configurable options, subscriptions, additional features, etc It just blocks.

Sounds good? Well, hang on a minute there and we’ll delve into the nitty gritty.

Bluhell Firewall – Does it work?

After a short period of testing it’s apparent that Bluhell Firewall blocks the majority of ads including the most annoying types. The “Tracking/Privacy Protector” element also appears to work well, effectively blocking Facebook linking on several sites visited.

Shortly after installing Bluhell Firewall I was taken completely by surprise when I clicked on a link embedded in an email from one of my frequently visited online shopping sites and received the following message:

bluhell - site blocked

Pleasantly surprised I might add. Of course, the site is perfectly safe and I knew what I was doing, still it is a nice little additional security feature.

Is it as effective at blocking ads as Adblock Plus? No, but it would be effective enough for many, including myself. I guess it comes down to individual priorities and a slight trade-off between efficacy and resource usage. The fact that Bluhell Firewall incorporates both ad-blocking and no-tracking elements into one lightweight add-on is certainly a bonus. I actually rate Bluhell Firewall higher than Adblock Plus in several regards.

Bluhell Firewall – The big stumbling block!

That said, here is the fly in the ointment – Bluhell Firewall does not include any whitelisting options, no way to disable ad blocking for specific sites, only the ability to turn ad-blocking on or off universally. I am not a fan of global ad-blocking, as attested in an earlier article (Ad Blockers: A Blessing or a Curse?), so, the absence of this feature makes Bluhell Firewall a non-starter, at least for me.

It’s a shame. I see user submitted comments on the official add-on page tend to agree:

One thing this addon needs is the ability to whitelist sites, like ABP has. I don’t like using adblock on sites like webcomics or imgur, who rely at least partially on ads for support

I also noticed that BluHell Firewall occasionally disrupts page rendering, with text overlapping text. It doesn’t obfuscate information on the page or detract too much from the experience so, as far as I am concerned, it’s only a minor consideration.

I sincerely hope developer Diego Casorran is listening to user feedback and integrates a whitelisting system into his very good add-on sooner than later. Hopefully that will not have any significant impact on Bluhell Firewall’s lightweight appeal and it will definitely transform Bluhell Firewall from non-starter to no-brainer.


1 thought on “Bluhell Firewall – Lightweight ad-blocker for Firefox”

  1. Gianni Catania

    I get a warning of “Blocked site” for most emails received from “Causes” ( which seems a safe site. I don’t know what to do. Is this site harmless and just a bug of bluhell or there is danger?
    I am not a site-safety expert.
    I hope Diego Casoran will read this post.

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