If you enjoyed surfing the internet before 1997, then you remember what online life was like before tweets, blogs, and PayPal. The landscape was relatively barren to be sure. This was the era of the primitive and easily-ignored flashy text banner ad, with no trace of the intrusive, cookie-dropping, click-tracking, cost-per-impression system we know and hate today. As annoying as they are, ads generate the wealth needed to make enjoyable and useful content, which was nearly non-existent or impossible to find on the pre-Google internet.
To death and taxes, add internet advertising to that list of certain things. Still, there are a few options to reduce the clutter in your browser.
1. Use Ad-Blocker Software or Hardware
It's possible to simply filter out ads before they are displayed. Browser extensions are available that use constantly updated filter lists to block ads in the same way parental control software prevents adult content from being displayed.
AdBlock Plus is the most popular example with 200 million downloads. This was developed over privacy concerns, as internet advertising profiles you based on browsing habits. The metadata collected, by cookies and other means, guide in ads for goods and services you would be most likely to buy. The company works with advertisers of course, to show them develop so-called "Acceptable Ads," which are relatively unobtrusive and won't get added to the filter lists.
The boys at AdTrap put up their hardware solution on Kickstarter last year, in the hope that you would like to short-circuit those ads altogether. Would you like to view the internet as it might look had Madison Avenue not adopted it to the extent they have? At $139 a piece, the gadget doesn't come cheap, and there's no guarantee advertisers won't someday find a way to beat it. Maybe the ads aren't so annoying after all, or you might consider some other ideas to dodge those pesky commercials.
2. Get New Hardware and a Faster Connection
When Windows 95 was new, computers and the networks connecting them were slow, like watching paint dry slow. We didn't have time or patience for the screen to fill up with graphic ads. Even waiting for unwanted, flashing text banner ads to load was maddening, and not very conducive to selling much besides porn access.
The bandwidth of the network traffic and CPU tasking devoted to advertisement videos and scripts is always on the rise, so if your computer is more than three years old, it's time to upgrade anyway. Most ads are off to the side, so even if the website is programmed to display them first, you'll be reading or watching what you want in no time at all. The most effective ads are just small, high-tech billboards; you can whiz past them and keep your eyes on the road. No one clicks on them, but it turns out they work great anyway.
3. Go Mobile
Mobile browsing is growing the fastest, so mobile content is king for the moment. As internet dinosaurs like me didn't like to wait for banner ads to cache, kids today don't like to pay for incoming data that assembles into a banner ad they won't go near with an air-brushed fingernail. Switch to a tablet, and enjoy the high-end, uncluttered look content providers are now striving for in this market.
4. Pre-Record Your Content, DVR Style
There are freeware programs available to download most video content for later viewing, including YouTube videos. Some of these apps are even highly rated for being easy to use and free of malware. This is something the AdTrap is capable of doing, so you can flip past the commercial that plays before the video you like the most. I looked up my current favorite, and you know it's good, but they had not put a commercial in front of it anyway.
5. Browse Incognito
We've all had this happen: A fraternity brother is surfing the web on the shared PC when suddenly ads for products to treat genital warts start appearing in the sidebar. The IT-savvy CompSci major opens up the cookie folder to find the cause for the targeted ads to appear — a bunch of URLs that you were researching the night before. No, that's never happened to you? Anyone? Hey, a friend was asking about it, I was just helping her out. Who? My friend, OK? Leave me alone!
While the NSA might be keeping an IP address record of every American's medical search keywords and forum comments, at least be anonymous to online marketers and others by disabling the browser's tracking abilities.