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Benefits of using a domain or ad blocker

March 29, 2016

We all know how annoying ads and tracking services are and we certainly do not want to visit domains with any malicious software, or exploits on it. In this article we are demonstrating the benefits of using a domain blocker like Barriqade during your everyday internet browsing. By automatically browsing the Alexa Top 500 websites with and without Barriqade, we can determine the benefits with regards to total required processing time and network use. Our results show that using Barriqade as your domain blocker results in significant benefits compared to unprotected browsing without any form of domain blocking.

Lab setup

Our lab system used in the following tests is a cleanly installed Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (version 10.0.10586) system with the latest version of Mozilla Firefox (version 45.0.1) installed. The system is connected directly (wired) to a cable internet connection with maximum speeds of 120 Mbits/s down and 12 Mbits/s up.

In order to properly simulate actual browsing behavior, we created a custom automatic browsing tool in C# that instructs Firefox to open a new tab and browse to a specific URL every 25 seconds. The tool can be provided with a list of websites to visit, after which it automatically visits each of these websites in sequence. After every 25 seconds, it instructs Firefox to visit the next website.

To avoid running out of memory, the tool closes and restarts Firefox after every 15 visits, so whenever it has opened 15 new tabs in Firefox. Firefox is configured not to restore the tabs of the previous session. When Firefox has reached 15 open tabs again, it is closed and restarted again.

The custom tool also keeps track of the total processing time and network traffic generated by Firefox it has needed to load and parse the visited websites. After all websites have been visited, the tool provides us with the totals.

The remaining question is which list of websites would give a proper representation of an average user browsing the internet. We have chosen to use the Alexa Top 500. This list encompasses the top 500 most frequently visited websites, like www.google.com, www.youtube.com, www.facebook.com and so on. These 500 websites are entered into our custom automatic browsing tool.


The test

We start by running our automatic browsing tool without any domain blockers installed. After 3.5 hours we have visited all 500 websites with a 25 seconds interval. Next, we clear all caching and history on our test system and – just to be sure – we cleanly install Firefox. Then, we install Barriqade 2016 Professional and enable all block lists:

  • Advertisement, marketing and tracking domains (removing ads and blocking online tracking services)
  • Malicious domains (avoids us accidentally visiting a domain with malicious software or exploits)
  • Windows 10 user tracking domains (domains contacted by the OS in order to submit telemetry and possibly other sensitive data)


Besides these three lists, we also enable the Dynamic blocking of malicious domains (whats this?) feature of Barriqade. And, to improve the browsing experience even more, we also enable the intelligent local caching of domain lookup results and set it to its default value of 500 entries. The system is now ready for a repeat of the test, but now with Barriqade as domain blocker installed.


After another 3.5 hours we receive the results from our automatic browsing tool. The results are shown below.


Results

No domain blocking

Without Barriqade installed

With domain blocking

With Barriqade 2016 Professional installed

Domains actually contacted

Unique domains actually contacted while browsing 500 websites.

Fewer is better

34,989 31,969 (9% fewer)

Domains blocked

Domain contact attempts blocked by domain blocker

Higher is better

0 2,872

Network bytes transferred

Amount of network traffic generated by browser to completely load all visited websites.

Fewer is better

1,041 MByte 883 MByte (15% fewer)

Browser processing time (sec.)

Amount of processing time the browser required to load, parse and animate all visited websites

Fewer is better

13,836 seconds 8,889 seconds (36% fewer)
  • Using Barriqade Professional resulted in 9% fewer domains being visited by our browser. This is possible, because nearly all websites refer to resources on other domains and servers. This is particularly the case for advertisements and online tracking services located on other domains than the actually visited website. So, blocking those domains avoided our browser from actually contacting (let alone download content from) those blocked domains. By not contacting those domains, the browser was not able to download ads and/or send tracking information to online tracking services which attempt to track your browsing behavior.
  • By not contacting blocked domains, we saved 15% of the network traffic.
  • Most significant is the fact that not loading, parsing and animating content from blocked domains, like ads, we saved 36% of the processing time required to load and animate all visited websites.
  • This reduction in processing time, translates to a reduction of processor power used, which actually saved electricity as well. So, using Barriqade is even a green choice.

In conclusion, Barriqade Professional reduces the amount of domains being visited by blocking unwanted/bad domains, and by doing so it saves you network bandwidth, processing time and even electricity!


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