Opera adds a built-in ad blocker to its desktop browser

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There has been a lot of talk about mobile ad blocking lately, but on the desktop, this is an old phenomenon. Until now, however, desktop ad blocking was all about plugins. But Opera is about to change this and the latest developer release of the company’s desktop browser now includes a built-in ad blocker.

Opera argues that blocking ads can speed up load times by as much as 90 percent (though in my own experience, the results aren’t quite as dramatic). By using a built-in ad blocker instead of a third-party plugin, the company is able achieve another speedup on top of this. Opera says it’s seeing sites load an extra 40 percent faster compared to third-party solutions.

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Opera itself owns an online advertising firm, so this move is definitely a bit of a surprise. The company, which is currently in the process of being acquired by a consortium of Chinese firms, argues that it is doing this to improve the web-surfing experience for its users, though.

“Advertising fuels the internet, allowing for many services to be free for users,” Krystian Kolondra, SVP of Engineering and Head of Opera for computers says. “But, as our new research shows, most webpages today are significantly slowed down by bloated ads and heavy tracking. We don’t accept it – we want the web to be a better place for us all, as users.”

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I’ve been testing an early release of Opera with the built-in ad blocker and unsurprisingly, surfing with the feature turned on is faster (and in the release I used, it was turned off by default). I’m not sure the gains compared to a third-party plugin are all that noticeable in daily use, though.

Just like with third-party blockers, Opera lets you set up your own whitelists for sites where you allow ads to appear (TechCrunch is great, so you should definitely whitelist us, for example!).

Opera also added a somewhat unique feature that lets you compare load times with the ad blocker turned on and off. And to show you how well it works, it’ll also show you a running counter of how many ads it has blocked.