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AdBlockPlus: That time I thought my website was hacked

Posted in Stuff

AdBlockPlus, one if not the most popular adblocker at the moment. Let me tell you how I lost my morning to it and ended up writing this post just because. Please note that this is not sponsored content, not sure whether that matters to you. Also, I didn’t really know where to put this so now there is a new “Stuff” category, but if you want you can still go back to read some future-proof stuff.

Broken website

This morning I was researching for a personal venture I’ll tell you more about later when I randomly checked my landing page. What I did not know is that I was about to spend a couple of hours debugging my website because some social links went missing off it. There is normally the Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn image links appearing but instead I only had the StackOverflow one:

I mainly use Microsoft Edge so I go on to check Chrome, then Firefox but same result. This is the moment I start thinking that I may have deleted these by mistake during my last update without realising. I am usually pretty thorough with everything that is part of my personal brand but shit happens. Thus, I have a look at the code and still don’t find anything wrong. My links should appear with the embedded images, but still nothing. At that point I have still no idea of what’s happening so I open the Edge debugger pressing “F12” and notice that all the social link images embedded in links have the following inline style:

display: none !important;

Where in fucktopia does that come from? I thought. That is not in my css nor javascript files. Is my website now containing some malicious code which the ultimate goal is to hide my LinkedIn, my Twitter and my Instagram links? What kind of person does it take to waste time doing that on my website? Why leave the StackOverflow link alone? I barely get my honest thousand of visitors each month (blog and landing page) so it does not make any remote sense to me.


There, I download the whole thing locally and surprise, everything appears correctly. I then proceeded to add some css on the website to override that inline-style and keep my images displayed but nothing. To be safe, I open the website link in private mode in case there is some random caching issue. Unsurprisingly, everything appears perfectly. However, the image links still do not appear on regular mode even after clearing everything.

Then I had a hunch, what if I disable AdBlockPlus? It might be crazy but at that point nothing makes sense anyways. Finally, everything appears correctly. Also it turns out AdBlockPlus is disabled in private mode which explains why I could see my links then. The mysterious hacker with too much free time? Myself. I did this the moment I installed that ad blocker.

AdBlockPlus and other ad blockers will live on

Most of us install ad blockers, mostly to avoid the noise from websites that put money above user experience. We want to enjoy an article without having to suffer through that new cloud service ad taking the whole screen and ruining it. I understand that some companies/news agencies/blogs fund themselves through advertisement but they may want to revisit what it costs them. I would not mind a couple discrete ads here and there that would not obstruct the content nor feel too distracting. But this not what we find in most news-ish websites. We find stuff that makes us install ad blockers to kill the noise because there is too much of it.

Still I would love to live in a world where we don’t need these and so would Google apparently. But until content creators/corporations learn what is good for their users, we’ll have to use ad blockers. Even though it forced me to update my website code to fit in this ad blocker filled world. Even if I among other content creators or just people who want some online presence have to use a less attractive interface, it’s worth it. Even if it means that I have to go from this:

To have something like that instead:

It’s all worth it.

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