@Guard sets up barrier against advertisements on Web pages

Pros and cons:
+        Speeds Web browsing
+        Guards against unwanted cookies
–        Misses a few ads


Real-life requirements:
Windows 9x or NT 4.0; Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer


Banner advertising has been around as long as the Web, but many users dislike the way
it holds up their site searches.


Couple the growing presence of online ads with the fact that most webmasters program
the advertising to load first, and you have a lot of Web users itching for a way to sweep
away the commercial clutter.


WRQ Inc. of Seattle has come up with just such a tool: the $30, downloadable @Guard.
Once installed, it stands guard, looking for ads to block. It works like parental blocking
software and can stop ads when told where they are. But it also is fairly intuitive at
finding and stopping ads on its own.


When activated, @Guard scans a site’s Hypertext Markup Language code for the
strings of known advertising servers. If you keep seeing an ad from one particular source,
you can tell @Guard never to display a banner or box that refers to that site. It will
remove the uniform resource locator string from a page before your Web browser displays
the information, as if the ad had never existed. Depending on how the site is programmed,
a blank space might appear.


Even if the site changes the ad’s appearance, it won’t load on your screen as
long as it still points to the same server location.


Most of the time, there’s no need to assign @Guard manually to block sites. The
program looks for any banner or box that refers to a different location, preventing your
browser from requesting it. The graphics never load.


The @Guard package
blocked an ad from its own publisher, WRQ Inc., on GCN’s Web site.


On one news site, ads appear right in the middle of stories under the headline,
“Advertising on MSNBC.” When @Guard is loaded, the headline remains but the ads
vanish.


Anyone who has traveled to a Web page hosted by Geocities.com has seen ads that open
new browser windows. A disadvantage for users, this makes the browser run even more slowly
than while waiting for banner ads to load. @Guard eliminates such ads. It blocks outgoing
view requests, so the browser never receives instructions to open the new window.


The result is faster Web browsing. As a bonus, the software detects and stops
cookies—data tidbits about your system requested by some Web sites—from
transmitting without your permission.


I found that @Guard cannot catch every ad right off the bat. Sometimes one will still
load, especially if the ad does not refer to another server. You can stop this permanently
by selecting and dragging the ad into @Guard’s trash can, but it takes longer than
simply waiting for the ad to load.


Even so, eliminating 80 percent of ads on advertising-heavy pages is a big help when
you’re in a hurry to find something important on a site.  

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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