A new beta version of the Opera Web browser released today (Mar. 10) makes ad-blocking easier by baking the feature right into the application itself. The team behind Opera claims this change is meant to speed up Web surfing, and that removing ads cuts load times down by 43 percent on average.
Editor's Note: Publications like this one rely at least in part on advertising dollars to pay for the content they publish, so ad-blocking can undermine our ability to bring you helpful reviews, tips and analysis.
In a blog post published today (Mar. 10), Opera Senior VP Krystian Kolondra claimed that its ad-blocking will provide faster page loading than what users experience using blocking extensions such as AdBlock Plus. Kolondra explained that "extensions spend a lot of time checking whether URLs or page elements occur in their block lists" and that "Opera checks the block list using native code and fast algorithms, making the slowdown from checking negligible."
Users looking to test this new feature out will need to download the Developer release of Opera, which is available for free for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Opera may prompt you to enable ad blocking once it's up and running, and users can manually enable the setting by opening Settings and checking the box next to Block ads.
In order to filter out ads, Opera is utilizing the same EasyList database designed for the AdBlock Plus extension. The browser will also prevent advertisers from serving you targeted ads based on your history.
Interestingly, Opera comes with a pre-loaded whitelist of sites where ads can load, even with blocking enabled. This list is a confusing grab-bag that includes online retailers like BestBuy.com and eBay.com, and publications like TheDailyMail.co.uk and NYTimes.com.
When we used Opera's built-in tools on The NY Times homepage, we discovered its ads aren't as fast-loading as their whitelist placement would suggest. The Opera ad-blocker speed test compared how fast NYTimes.com opened with and without the 62 ads it found running on the site, and the page opened 24 percent faster without ads.
Earlier today in the comments section for the announcement post, Opera Product Manager Zhenis Beisekov denied allegations of pay-for-display ads, stating "We don't plan to introduce the extortion business model." Beisekov implied that websites made it to the whitelist because those ads loaded quickly and were not disruptive by explaining "The white-list is a reflection of our statement: - we are not against ads, we are against slow and annoying ads."
Of course, since ad blocking is not included in Opera's stable build, the company has a chance to further tweak the settings, as Beisekov noted, stating "The feature is under development, so the final shape will be changed."