Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Removing Do-Not-Track support from Adblock Plus · 2012-10-27 01:10 by Wladimir Palant

I still believe that the Do-Not-Track proposal is the most promising idea to let users opt out of tracking, it offers some value even to the people using Adblock Plus with the EasyPrivacy filter list. The proposal gained a lot of traction already and will continue to gain speed. Adblock Plus was one of the first implementors, and yet I decided that this feature is no longer worth keeping.

Somewhat more than a year ago I listed three compelling reasons to have Do-Not-Track implemented in Adblock Plus:

  • Only the desktop Firefox had support for Do-Not-Track at that moment. This changed now and all the important platforms that Adblock Plus runs on (meaning Firefox, Firefox Mobile, SeaMonkey and Chrome) can now be configured to send the Do-Not-Track header.
  • Adblock Plus can exclude some servers from Do-Not-Track, e.g. to avoid compatibility issues. These issues didn’t manifest however so it doesn’t look like this kind of flexibility is required.
  • Adblock Plus users already made a privacy choice by adding EasyPrivacy or comparable filter list, they shouldn’t be required to dig up this option in the browser preferences. This is the only remaining reason that could justify this feature.

The specification evolved quite a bit since my initial implementation and merely sending the header is no longer sufficient — client-side detection is required as well, something that Adblock Plus cannot implement properly. Also, the Do-Not-Track implementation has generally grown more complex than initially anticipated, in Chrome it probably had some performance impact as well. So leaving this to browser developers seems to be the right decision.

Adblock Plus 1.3 for Chrome released yesterday no longer sends the Do-Not-Track header. This functionality will soon be removed from Adblock Plus for Firefox as well.


Comment [9]

  1. Arpit · 2012-10-27 01:43 · #

    can you please explain (or at least give any link) this: “merely sending the header is no longer sufficient — client-side detection is required as well”.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I mean the navigator.doNotTrack property that needs to be set ( With the browser already defining that property overriding it on some occasions would require some very inventive approaches.

  2. Alex · 2012-10-27 12:20 · #

    Could someone please explain to me how to disable the “Adblock Plus has been updated” notice? Mine’s been updated and I keep getting this notice and it’s getting annoying!!

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Sounds like your Chrome settings are not being saved…

  3. Anonymous · 2012-10-27 16:40 · #

    Would you consider preserving the functionality of enabling the browser’s Do Not Track option for users who subscribe to EasyPrivacy?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I considered this but it isn’t really that simple – having both the Firefox UI and Adblock Plus change the same setting will get pretty ugly.

  4. biopsis · 2012-10-27 22:31 · #

    Anyone else noticed that since going “monetary”, ABP dev is literally dead. Only add-blocking functionality is removed.
    Looks more like a CPU eating vaporware than anything it was years ago. Long live the money, right !

  5. Drugoy · 2012-10-28 11:20 · #

    Why do you think that the Do-Not-Track proposal is the most promising idea to let users opt out of tracking?

    Why would sites stop tracking users that send DNT headers?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    For two reasons: to show their users that they aren’t “evil” and (because the former doesn’t always work) because of legislation that prohibits them from doing otherwise. Governments all around the world are looking for ways to protect their citizens on the web and so far I don’t know about any other proposals that they could realistically support and that would be beneficial.

  6. Drugoy · 2012-10-29 00:57 · #

    This makes not much sense, since a company can run their servers in another country, thus, the can avoid obeying laws of the country they actually are in.
    And of course, first you’ll have to prove, that a company gathers info about, which is something nearly impossible even if it is obvious to you that the company actually does it.

  7. herudae · 2012-10-29 17:13 · #

    Hello I like your extension very much, I like your new feature about acceptable ads, but I’m a little upset because every time I open my browser it displays the freaking page telling me about this new feature, how do I remove it?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Yes, some people are experiencing that issue, it’s most likely being caused by a Chrome bug. Please help greiner figure out what’s causing it:

  8. vera · 2012-11-02 10:21 · #

    вместо блокировки-помогли бы решить мою проблему с открытостью компьютера(((заходят все(((

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Боюсь, что с настройкой компьютера мы здесь помочь не можем – можно обратиться к специалисту.

  9. Surely Halt · 2012-11-21 06:18 · #

    Could another reason be DNT might conflict with your notion of “acceptable” ads?

    Can you recommend a maintained provoxy filterset where Do Not Track is properly implemented?

    exactly. How will a business which relies on invasive tracking continue to profit without tracking?

    No one thinks such companies are evil. Their business activities are predominantly evil: injuring users as profit. That is an important distinction.

    Will you consider a browser-external project akin to loop back filter in the same vein as privoxy (intercepting proxy) or more upstream filtration preferably platform agnostic- or cross platform?

    As supplemental consider employing:

    TrackMeNot [ ]

    It’s an implementation close to one proffered on a blog I follow.

    TMN is not ‘not track’; it’s a ‘hope you like my monkey wrenches’ approach ;)


    Will there be an ADP variation of page modification [saves] which relies on CSS or js like (but better than) HackTheWeb or Platypus?
    “Platypus is in search of a new developer. The position pays nothing but generates lots of grateful emails :-). If you’d like to take over, please contact”

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    A proxy cannot possibly implement DNT “properly”, it will be hitting the same issues as Adblock Plus. Please read my blog posts, not only the comments – all the important browsers already have DNT implemented, you only need to enable it. And if you are using Internet Explorer then you should seriously consider switching.

Commenting is closed for this article.