My YouTube channel is now monetized. That means more ads. But there’s no reason for you to see ads. Here’s how to avoid them.
My YouTube channel recently hit 1000 subscribers. That’s the threshold for monetization on YouTube. I can now request that YouTube run ads on my videos and get a cut of the proceeds.
I wouldn’t mind a couple bucks and I’d like to see how this system works, so I monetized most of my videos. Not this video - it pushes the boundaries on the guidelines for monetized content - but most of my other videos.
But when you’re visiting web sites with your web browser on your computer, there’s no reason to be wasting your time with stuff you don’t want to see. And ads are definitely a waste of your time. So here’s two ways to avoid them.
Plan A: Avoid YouTube
YouTube is a big surveillance system. It primarily spies on you to maximize advertising revenue, but once all that infrastructure to track and record and predict your behavior is in place it inevitably gets used for other stuff too.
There’s no reason to get involved in that if you can avoid it.
To help you do that, I publish all my content off of YouTube. I post it to a blog, which publishes an RSS feed. In addition to YouTube, I post my videos to a couple of other video hosting platforms at least one of which doesn’t appear to depend on ads or surveillance to support its business model.
If you subscribe to my RSS feed, then you can see everything I post with no algorithm hiding stuff, no spying, and no ads.
There are a bunch of different options for RSS readers - and I don’t have a good recommendation for one - but an arbitrary choice is NewsBlur.
Plan B: Block Ads
There are several ways to block web ads.
In addition to not wasting your time with ads, this can have the secondary benefit of reducing web traffic that’s used to track you. Obviously, this reduction in tracking doesn’t really work when you’re visiting sites like YouTube, since YouTube itself is one of the largest tracking threats. But it can reduce tracking by third parties on independent sites.
Plan B: Install an Adblocking Browser Extension
There are ad-blocking addons for most modern browsers. The browser that best supports this is still the desktop version of Firefox, and the adblocker I use there is uBlock Origin.
Adblockers are also available for the mobile version of Firefox, various versions of Chromium, and even Google Chrome.
Keep in mind that almost all browsers are themselves privacy concerns. Google Chrome is the worst. Firefox is bad. The best option is Ungoogled Chromium. Unfortunately, ungoogling Chromium breaks the Chrome Web Store, requiring you to install any addons you want manually.
Installing uBlock Origin on Ungoogled Chromium (plan A):
- Download the latest release https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/releases
- Unpack it
- Visit chrome://extensions/
- Enable developer mode
- Load unpacked extension (select the directory containing manifest.json)
- Download the CRX
- Drag to chrome://extensions
- Install ublock through the Chrome web store.
Plan C: Install an Adblocking Proxy
The basic strategy that many adblockers use is to block HTTP requests to the webservers that host the ads.
One way to do this is an HTTP proxy. This is something that most browsers, operating systems, and even devices like game consoles support. You can run it on something like a Raspberry Pi plugged into your local network, and it can enable you to configure most of your devices to block ads.
Here are some relevent links:
Plan D: Use hostfile blocking
Another approach to block webservers hosting ads is to mess with DNS lookups. You could do this with a custom DNS server, but an even simpler way is to put fake entries in your HOSTS file.
This works on desktop, but the place where it’s most interesting is Android devices where many non-browser apps show web-hosted ads.
This requires rooting your Android device to allow you to modify the HOSTS file. Once you’ve done that you can simply install the Adaway App from F-Droid, and it’ll block web ads in all your apps.
I recommend blocking ads. They’re a waste of time and brain space.
I recommend avoiding surveillance. Data collection is like pollution. Each little bit is trivial, but then you die of cancer 40 years later.
I recommend avoiding YouTube as much as possible. Having people’s view of the world be warped by an algorithm designed to maximize ad revenue is sketchy, and the clear evidence that the feed is further biased for political reasons makes it even worse. If you produce videos, it’s worth posting to other sites too. As a viewer, remind the people running the channels you watch that there are alternatives.