Opened 13 months ago

Closed 13 months ago

Last modified 13 months ago

#25959 closed enhancement (duplicate)

Add uBlock Origin to Tor Browser Bundle

Reported by: tremvonk Owned by: tbb-team
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Applications/Tor Browser Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords: ublock origin, ads
Cc: Actual Points:
Parent ID: Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor:

Description

Read before closing as wontfix: I am familiar with the Tor Browser design philosophy of not relying on filters for security. This request, unlike ticket:15279, has nothing to do with possible security benefits of uBlock Origin.

I think that Tor browser bundle would benefit from including uBlock Origin as an adblocker by default. Consider the benefits:

  1. Ads waste bandwidth. To see just how much I ran tests using Tor Browser at medium security level on two major news organizations' sites: the Economist and the New York Times. The results were striking: without uBlock Origin, the Economist's website loaded 12.6 MB with 135 requests and the New York Times' website loaded 7.6 MB with 235 requests. With uBlock Origin, the Economist's website loaded 5.8 MB with 443 requests and the New York Times' website loaded 5.0 MB with 85 requests. uBlock Origin reduced the page size by 54% for The Economist and 34% for the New York Times. Granted, newspapers are particularly bad offenders when it comes to bloating the page with ads, but, however we slice it, we still stand to save considerable amounts of bandwidth.
  1. It makes TBB more usable. Blocking that many MB of ads can only make the webpage load faster and gives an overall nicer user experience (does anybody really want to see those ads?) which, in turn, helps encourage more people use TBB.
  1. It makes TBB and TAILS browser fingerprint look more alike.

Now, I did see the section of the Tor Browser design philosophy that opposed adblockers in TBB. However, consider the objections

  1. Damages TBB's reputation to provide non-filter-based security. I think this is no longer true - TBB has been around for long enough and its reputation well-established enough that I doubt users will be confused - especially that the truth is readily findable by anyone who cares to look. Moreover, TAILS browser has been shipping with uBlock Origin for quite a while now and it caters to an even-more security-conscious crowd than just TBB.
  1. Makes ad-supported websites dislike TBB. Currently, over 1/4 of internet users use an adblocker (see here). If websites dislike adblockers, they have a lot more problems than just TBB. In any case, the fraction of sites that will dislike TBB for using an adblocker will be small compared to the fraction of sites that dislike TBB just for using Tor.

Therefore, Tor browser bundle should follow TAILS' example and add uBlock Origin to the browser by default.

Child Tickets

Change History (3)

comment:1 in reply to:  description ; Changed 13 months ago by sysrqb

Replying to tremvonk:

I think that Tor browser bundle would benefit from including uBlock Origin as an adblocker by default. Consider the benefits:

  1. Ads waste bandwidth. To see just how much I ran tests using Tor Browser at medium security level on two major news organizations' sites: the Economist and the New York Times.

But, remember, this is their business model. If you want to visit their website and view their content, then they can serve advertisements. We may not like it, but it is the price of the content.

The results were striking: without uBlock Origin, the Economist's website loaded 12.6 MB with 135 requests and the New York Times' website loaded 7.6 MB with 235 requests. With uBlock Origin, the Economist's website loaded 5.8 MB with 443 requests and the New York Times' website loaded 5.0 MB with 85 requests.

Do you know why there were 4x as many requests when viewing the Economist's website on "safer" security-setting? That's possibly worse than the amount of total data transferred (depending on what those requests were for).

uBlock Origin reduced the page size by 54% for The Economist and 34% for the New York Times. Granted, newspapers are particularly bad offenders when it comes to bloating the page with ads, but, however we slice it, we still stand to save considerable amounts of bandwidth.

  1. It makes TBB more usable. Blocking that many MB of ads can only make the webpage load faster and gives an overall nicer user experience (does anybody really want to see those ads?) which, in turn, helps encourage more people use TBB.

In general, encouraging more people use the "safer" security setting seems more useful than including another addon.

  1. It makes TBB and TAILS browser fingerprint look more alike.

That was a decision made by the Tails developers, and maybe that was a reasonable decision for their use case.

Now, I did see the section of the Tor Browser design philosophy that opposed adblockers in TBB. However, consider the objections

  1. Damages TBB's reputation to provide non-filter-based security. I think this is no longer true - TBB has been around for long enough and its reputation well-established enough that I doubt users will be confused - especially that the truth is readily findable by anyone who cares to look. Moreover, TAILS browser has been shipping with uBlock Origin for quite a while now and it caters to an even-more security-conscious crowd than just TBB.
  1. Makes ad-supported websites dislike TBB. Currently, over 1/4 of internet users use an adblocker (see here). If websites dislike adblockers, they have a lot more problems than just TBB. In any case, the fraction of sites that will dislike TBB for using an adblocker will be small compared to the fraction of sites that dislike TBB just for using Tor.

75% of users is a large set. If Tor Browser blocks ads then we give website operators one more reason for why they block connections from the Tor network. We're already fighting this fight for other reasons.

comment:2 in reply to:  description Changed 13 months ago by cypherpunks

Resolution: duplicate
Status: newclosed

Duplicate of #17569

comment:3 in reply to:  1 Changed 13 months ago by cypherpunks

Replying to sysrqb:

Replying to tremvonk:

I think that Tor browser bundle would benefit from including uBlock Origin as an adblocker by default. Consider the benefits:

  1. Ads waste bandwidth. To see just how much I ran tests using Tor Browser at medium security level on two major news organizations' sites: the Economist and the New York Times.

But, remember, this is their business model. If you want to visit their website and view their content, then they can serve advertisements. We may not like it, but it is the price of the content.

True, but TB users are a tiny statistically insignificant portion of the overall number of browsers users (think Chrome, Firefox, ...etc) so it doesn't matter if you break or don't break their ads. Also the OP should've said "trackers, ads, junk, rubbish, stupid-JS-Crypto-miners" instead of just "ads".

  1. It makes TBB more usable. Blocking that many MB of ads can only make the webpage load faster and gives an overall nicer user experience (does anybody really want to see those ads?) which, in turn, helps encourage more people use TBB.

In general, encouraging more people use the "safer" security setting seems more useful than including another addon.

Do you mean "safest"? Since with "safer" it's actually worse since JIT is disabled, although it's effective against the audio/video annoyance.

75% of users is a large set. If Tor Browser blocks ads then we give website operators one more reason for why they block connections from the Tor network. We're already fighting this fight for other reasons.

That's true unfortunately :'( (By the way the 75% number is wrong since Chrome blocks some ads in some websites by default)


Overall I agree that some form of blacklist should be employed in the Tor Browser against the various forms of junk (trackers, JS crypto miners, ...etc) that lurk on many websites to save bandwidth and for performance and security. I don't think the addon approach to such a blacklist can be accepted by the fine TB folks (from a fingerprinting approach uBlock is a disaster, what if someone has filter lists from a few months ago? What if someone tempers with the default filter lists and enables other ones?), however enabling the default Firefox' Tracking Protection list is a good approach and a good starting point and doesn't have the same problems as with uBlock. Also Mozilla announced that they'll take a more offensive approach to ads, "in 2018, Firefox will get more opinionated. People on the web deserve a browser that represents people first, a browser that isn't neutral when it comes to advertising, tracking and other dark patterns on the web".

However, there's another bandwidth saving solution that I think doesn't conflict with the design document and can be accepted by the fine TB team which is the Decentraleyes addon which blocks requests to popular JS libraries from CDNs (jQuery, Modernizr, ...) and serves them locally, there's a ticket for it here: #22089. Your input(s) to that is welcome.

Note: See TracTickets for help on using tickets.