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NonAd Block

NonAd Block - Wired scroll

NonAd Block is a Chrome extension that blocks any content that is NOT an ad. It was developed during a hackathon hosted by NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. It was released to the Chrome Web Store with some fanfare and discussion about the state of online advertising.

The Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon has a straightforward directive:

A one-day event where participants conceptualize and create projects that have no value whatsoever.


Given this prompt, Miklos and I identified some key goals to achieve:

Simple concept that can be conveyed by an image or sentence or two
Stupid – has no apparent value or desired output
Subject matter familiar to us
Buildable in a 1-day hackathon

Given that we both worked in ad-tech, we discussed possibilities there. Further ideation brought us to a Chrome Extension for quick development, and talk about a popular type of extension: ad blocker.

When are ad blockers useless/stupid? When they fail to block an ad or block too much so you can’s see the core content of the page. You know what would be really stupid? If it blocked everything. From there we had a solid concept to run with.

A blank page isn’t a very flashy or clear way to communicate the functionality. Similarly, if we block everything but the ads, the ads and a bunch of blank space wouldn’t be clear either. Maybe just blur it out? Like the “‘spoiler” indicated content or adult-explicit material in PG content.

Technical Execution

So technically, we could create a basic extension that:

  • scans the page for known ads (poor man’s ad-blocking/filter list)
  • adds a class to everything else with corresponding CSS to blur it
  • makes sure the parent and ancestors in the DOM are free of the blurring class

The scanning might need to poll in case the ads are delayed in loading. So much application of the blur/grayscale filter and looping through/altering the DOM in JS could cause a bunch of lag.

A less-stupid execution would use the cosmetic filters in the ad-blocking lists to make this more broadly applicable.

Our execution was simple enough to demo on a couple web pages where we hand-crafted specific CSS selectors to identify their ads. We launch the page, you get a brief look at the regular page before the blur is applied, the ads stand out being the only thing in focus and in color, some ads only come in focus after they finish loading (a feeling of them actively taking over the page), and scroll down to see more ads lower on the page. Deploy to the live web store was pretty quick so it was ready for press the next day. A small press kit with movies and GIFs of the blurring effect, along with a short blurb and link to the web store, and we were done.

NonAd Block is a Chrome extension that shows you the Internet the way content creators want you to see it: by blocking any content that is NOT an ad. It helps you focus on the important parts of webpages.

NonAd Block - chrome-plugin


In general, people got a kick out of it and how stupid it was – mission accomplished. There was coverage on Motherboard, Popular Mechanics, Technical.ly, Digital.NYC, and more (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Over time, we learned that people were talking about it: how invasive ads have become, the battle of advertisers and publications against ad blockers, Chrome v3 extension manifests. Various Reddit posts (e.g. 1, 2) garnered 8,000+ upvotes. We even got mentioned in a book.

Miklos Pataky and Carl Jamilkowski wrote NonAd Block, a browser extension that blocks all web content that isn’t an advert. The idea spread rapidly to Europe and to San Francisco.

Piero Scaruffi, “A History of Silicon Valley” (see it on Amazon)


Made by Miklos Pataky and Carl Jamilkowski at the Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon (2/6/2016)

My role: co-programmer, graphics, marketing

NonAd Block - Yahoo scroll