History of Internet browser advertising filter systems

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Adblocking on the Internet dates to the early 2000s, when the commercialization of the Internet had gotten underway. Adblocking technologies however somewhat predated this, as there were advertising censorship addons for some online services in the late 1990s.

The technology has gone thru several generations of improvements, and in the current era has Open Source filter sets and Open Sourced codebases.

Some advertising filtering systems also exist (and have existed in some form since at least the 2010s) at the ISP (or mobile Carrier) level or the local router level.


Early Internet[edit]

The history of blocking web advertising is very poorly documented in the Internet, with email spam blocking being the best documented. Email spam blocking has long been related to subscribable IP block lists at the ISP router level. These IP block lists have always had to be documented (as it is a communal Denial of Service action) -- thus the history of this kind of filtering is better preserved.

As online web advertisers have always had to operate from the beginning within the global banking system and Interpol (and ITU) constraints -- the trade was at least modestly limited on the amount of non-socially acceptable content it could (in some sense) broadcast or transmit.

As much as web advertising could be said to have social or economic utility the lack of actual regulation made possible by the borderless properties of the Internet economy has always limited the positive functionalities of web advertising. The lack of enough intergovernmental constraints eventually and inevitably led to web advertising completely alienating the varied Internet user bases at a global level.

Adblockers either as browser addons or as modular updatable internet router rulesets did not exist at all as a technology in the early years of the Internet. The early years of the modern Internet when people were using Mosaic and Netscape -- were simply devoid of web advertising.

2000s[edit]

The early 2000s saw the rise of web advertising companies (and email spam entities) as large scale industrial ventures. Their company back end technology was mostly closed source or only purchasable as a service.

"Industrial" or "Professional" Standards for advertising Banner Ads did not coalesce until the mid-2000s. Yet even after standardization (as much to reduce advertiser bandwidth as end user bandwidth) -- these graphical (mostly GIF format) adverts were fully taxing many 56kbs web connections by the late 2000s.

Some web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer (as competitive measures against each other) started to offer the capability for Adons by the mid-2000s. It was only a matter of time until the technology for blocking web advertising would get going.

The early business model for browser addons was to pay for the addon as a service, and the filter company would update the proprietary filters at least monthly. Most browser addons were not well written and slowed down the browser experience substantially.

2010s[edit]

By the mid to late-2010s the proprietary filter business was failing. Its closed source corporate model was of no real help to most internet users. This was coupled with the coming of 3rd and 4th Generation browsers that allowed for addon scripts (aka addons) to modify web pages based on a privileges granting system that the user controlled.

The Open Source movement finally took over the filtering of advertising on most web browsers by not only open sourcing the Source Code of the addons -- but the advertising filtering lists.

However, this Open Source takeover was slow process as it took nearly 5 years (early 2010s to 2018s) to become the defacto technical mean to achieve the ends necessary. Most decade long internet users took a long time to develop a knee-jerk reaction of adding web advertising addons until the late 2010s.

In spite of the Open Source nature of modern adblocking systems, several of the most commonly used ad blocking systems like AdBlock are owned by private entities. The subscribable filtering lists are firmly Open Source in nature, as many are found on GitHub.

Not all internet users in the late 2010s are using web advertising filter addons -- and not all browsers in common use support adding on web advertising filter programs.

Mobiles 2000s to 2020s[edit]

With some exceptions, like the Apple iPhone -- mobile phones running the Android or iOS do not have access to (or necessarily have installed) web advertising filter systems. This has been a long running problem for mobile users, as web ads deplete the web data allocation for G2 and G3 GSM etc mobiles.

Unknown to most mobile users, Android and iOS have a base browser that applications can be built on. Many so called Android or iOS apps are merely running on top of browser codebase or application.

  • Since Android 5.0 Lollipop, the WebView browser that apps can use to display web content without leaving the app has been separated from the rest of the Android firmware in order to facilitate separate security updates by Google.

References[edit]

Adguard's historical view