After being kicked out of Google Play in 2013, Adblock Plus has figured out a way to return. Instead of offering an app that blocks ads in your mobile browser, ABP is building its own browser based on Firefox for Android with ad-blocking tech built-in.
ABP announced the new effort on Wednesday with an open beta that anyone can join. Unfortunately it’s not exactly a hassle-free process, and at this writing the browser was still awaiting approval from Google before appearing in the Play Store.
When it does show up, you can get in on the beta by joining the ABP Browser Google+ community and then click the (at this writing, non-existent) Beta Opt-in button under the About section. The button will appear once Google approves the browser for Play.
In the meantime, ABP is allowing you to download the browser directly from its site via a QR code posted to Google+. Your Android device will have to allow third-party app installs (found in Android's security settings) before you can get the non-Play version of the browser to work.
ABP says it decided to build its own browser to solve two fundamental problems with the previous approach to Android. First, since the original app was thrown out of the app store ABP says it was “practically invisible to the vast majority of mobile users.”
The second problem was that the Adblock Plus for Android app can only block ads delivered over unencrypted HTTP connections. That meant it was useless over an HTTPS encrypted connection, which is becoming more popular thanks to the efforts of Google and others.
Why this matters: Adblock Plus is easily the most popular tool for blocking annoying ads on the desktop, but it hasn’t had much success in the mobile arena. There’s no way ABP’s previous approach would pass muster with Apple on iOS, and Google wasn’t much of a fan of it either. A browser with built-in anti-ad tech from the “name brand” ad blocker should be better received. In fact, there’s a good chance ABP’s browser will make it to iOS one day as Apple already allows ad-blocking browsers in the App Store.
More than just an end to ads
Beyond just getting annoying ads out of your face, ABP says its new browser will have other positive effects. Without ads, webpages should load faster, your device should save some battery life, and you’ll be safer from any malware posing as an ad, according to ABP.
By default, the new browser displays ads from ABP’s whitelisted providers—a good thing considering most of the sites you visit (including this one) depend on ads for income. But if you really hate ads you can still block them all.
Basic ad blocking is just the first step for the new Firefox-based browser. ABP says it has “big plans for the future” including a more customized UI, more flexible and easier ad blocking configuration, and syncing between the ABP mobile browser and your desktop browser.