Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Filterset.G - I call "bullshit" · 2007-02-13 15:01 by Wladimir Palant

I stumbled upon the Filterset.G article in Wikipedia and noticed that G recently edited it adding some “facts”. The most ridiculous one is: “There are approximately 1.5 million users of Filterset.G”. And these statistics are supposed to back it up. From the look of it G simply took the absolutely meaningless number of sites per month.

But now that we can take a look at the stats we can get the real facts. Let’s take for granted that users updating Filterset.G manually are a tiny minority, most of them use the Filterset.G Updater extension. Looking at the URL hits in January, there were roughly 5 million downloads of the filtersetg directory listing. This directory is downloaded by Filterset.G Updater on each update and the request always goes to pierceive.com — the actual filter list is downloaded from Coral CDN most of the time so we don’t have good stats on that. This extension will attempt an update every 2 days, lets say that successful updates are on average 3 days apart. That’s 10 downloads per month for each user giving us an estimate of 500.000 Filterset.G users (and this is likely to be an overestimate).

For comparison: Webalizer stats for EasyList show almost 4.5 million downloads in January. Given EasyList’s suggested update interval of 5 days this translates into over 700.000 users (actually more like 800.000 towards the end of the month). G, thanks for letting us know the real proportions.

Now lets go to G’s response to criticism (most of which originated here):

Some features specific to Adblock Plus that cannot be disabled create inconsistencies in behavior between Adblock and Adblock Plus with the same filters.

And he links to a discussion he had with me long time ago about whether Adblock Plus should be able to block stylesheets. I wonder what the “cannot be disabled” part refers to since last I checked Filterset.G was still disabling this feature with the “@@$stylesheet” exception rule. My point still stands: Adblock Plus should be able to block all requests and that includes stylesheets, without this feature it would be incomplete. It is especially very useful in Thunderbird — there I want to block everything by default to prevent spammers from using web bugs (that can be stylesheets as well as anything else) to track me. And the filter /about.com/\d/(?!.*\.js)/ is still scary and is bound to have false positives. So the real problem is that Filterset.G is full of filters like this one.

Whitelist rules that inadvertently prevent ads from being blocked should be reported on the Filterset.G Forums, however the Adblock Filterset.G Updater keeps deleted filters from being downloaded on subsequent updates, so users can “fix” problems without waiting for an update to Filterset.G.

Great to know that Filterset.G Updater lets users “fix” the issue themselves (judging by the reports I get most of them didn’t discover this feature yet) but Adblock Plus has this functionality built-in. Which doesn’t solve the problem — in order to “fix” the issue users first need to understand what the issue is. And in most cases they simply say: “Adblock Plus is broken, it cannot block this banner”. So the real solution would be to cut down whitelisting rules to an absolute minimum and try to be as specific as possible with those. A false positive with a whitelisting rule is very bad. And Filterset.G is simply asking for them with rules like “@@;ad;” or “@@player;”. Ok, so any ad serving script that happens to have “;ad;” in its address is automatically whitelisted — how crazy is that?

The downtime issues documented above have necessitated the use of a separate Add-On in order to prevent (and rapidly respond to) further server problems.

How that? If G means that he can change the address in the extension — the “rapidity” of this response will be very limited. My experience shows that it takes at least 2 months until a new extension version reaches an acceptable level of adoption (maybe 90%). And I don’t see any code in the Filterset.G Updater to allow changing download URLs dynamically without updating the extension (this feature is planned for the next Adblock Plus release — and yes, it is long overdue, sorry).

On the other hand, Filterset.G not being served at a fixed location actually created the server problems cited above. EasyList’s 4.5 million downloads resulted in less than 5 million hits for the whole domain. Filterset.G’s 5 million downloads on the other hand became 17.8 million hits because every download requires 4 server requests where there should be only one (with Adblock supporting whitelisting there is no more excuse for keeping blacklist and whitelist separated). That’s what killed the server in the end.

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Comment [13]

  1. Josh · 2007-02-20 10:59 · #

    What’s your problem with G? He’s only trying to help people out, the same thing that you’re doing. Don’t be jealous, just appreciate that someone else cares too.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I am not jealous and I do appreciate it if someone cares. What I don’t appreciate is people blaming Adblock Plus for something it isn’t responsible for: http://adblockplus.org/en/faq_project#filterset.g. It isn’t like these issues are new or cannot be fixed. But unfortunately G ignores all suggestions so that Filterset.G is the least recommendable filter list around.

  2. Neglacio Ribbens · 2007-02-23 14:00 · #

    G was a pioneer with filterlisting!
    Don’t forget him, but the list he controls now is far far far from good to reasonable!
    He was the first one, but his time’s over.
    We’ll honour G but we don’t need him anymore ;)

    Greetings,
    Neglacio

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    He was a pioneer and he is partly (largely?) responsible for success of Adblock. These are facts, and I honor that. But unfortunately the present looks far from perfect and I don’t like G trying to ignore this.

  3. Hey Neglacio · 2007-02-23 21:14 · #

    typical human.

    no better solution offered, just references to how the “old” isn’t so good anymore.

    I’m more then willing to try something different, so what ya got?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    No better solutions? I don’t remember me ever criticizing anything without offering alternatives. If you don’t want to read the FAQ, have a look at http://adblockplus.org/en/subscriptions – EasyList in particular is very recommendable.

  4. No Just Us for Peace · 2007-03-09 10:16 · #

    wikipedia is FILLED with “bullshit”. It clearly demonstrates the folly of direct democracy!

    No biased statements allowed? riiiight. Good luck with that, wikimafia.

    I wouldn’t worry about whats in that rag. ;)

  5. Anonymous · 2007-03-12 16:49 · #

    Why cant we all just get along? Anyone with a brain stem knows that Adblock Plus (along with the new Adblock Plus: Element Hiding Helper) is the best extension ever made. Adblock Plus along with CustomizeGoogle, Fasterfox, Tabbrowser Preferences, and Mr. Tech Local Install, and your set!

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I just don’t like an inferior solution being recommended everywhere for no good reason and its author self-promoting on a site that is supposed to have neutral reporting (most of his changes to the article have been already removed). Even less so given that my extension is usually blamed for his mistakes.

  6. Just Some Asshole · 2007-03-14 04:04 · #

    Mr. Palant,

    I appreciate your work. Adblock Plus is a beautiful piece of work. I agree with your comments regarding Filterset.G—it is crap that does far more harm than good. I wish it would just go away.

  7. mcm · 2007-03-17 09:03 · #

    Just some clarifications fgupdater updates every 3-7 days and not every 2 days i.e. “Math.round(Math.random()*4)+3” as used in the code. It only checks every 2 days for synchronization of filtersets other than filterset.g.

    In addition to make things more confusing since Filterset.G 3.0.5 the main site only gets checked for updates 1/10 of the time. The rest of the time (including the downloading of the filters) it uses the corel cdn link.

    The prevention of deleted filters being downloaded is only in the development version that I was planning to release in January before Reid stepped in to make some changes he wanted, but I’ll need to talk to him to see how that is going.

    fgupdater use to use a dyndns redirection service so that we could change the url dynamically if we wanted. But we were asked to discontinue use because we were accounting for 40% of the total usage. You could get fgupdater to check on an update request to see what url to use in the future but the most likely time to use it is when the server is down and so the ability to change the url won’t work. The best approach I think is to use a DNS CNAME record which can be made if the server is down and will be a lot less taxing then a redirection service that we previously used.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Michael, you are right, this code is there. However, are you sure that it is working correctly? The number of sites in EasyList stats is almost twice as high as for pierceive.com – that’s also an indication that the number of users is about twice as high which confirms my estimates here. I tried to understand how Filterset.G Updater determines what it downloads and when but it is quite difficult to understand the code, still I think that you must have a bug there.

    As to Corel CDN, it seems that I in fact misinterpreted this code. But if even directory downloads go to Corel, why is /filtersetg/ the most downloaded URL on pierceive.com? The stats from November/December confirm that the numbers I calculated here are about correct, so either something goes very wrong with Corel downloads or the majority of users didn’t upgrade yet. The latter is pretty hard to believe, new Adblock Plus versions seem to reach about 90% of the users in 2 months. You managed to confuse me…

    The approach I want to use in Adblock Plus is supporting 301 Moved Permanently. If the subscription redirects with this code the synchronizer will change the URL and download directly from the new address next time. Alternatively you will be able to leave the filter list there but add a redirect comment (if your server doesn’t allow you to do HTTP redirects). I might also create a fallback – if the server simply goes down and the synchronizer gets an error 30 times in row it should request the fallback address on adblockplus.org that will hopefully contain the new address of the list.

  8. dave shmave · 2007-03-29 02:59 · #

    Why are u always looking to have a go at filterset.G?
    all your strenuous efforts just make you look pathetic and ABP look worse.
    why do competing programmers (i realise these phrases aren’t entirely accurate, but u get the point) always fight against each other like little girls, instead of working together.
    quit wasting your time moaning about someone else and their actions and get on with maintaining your (pretty good) project.

    And, even more, why are you bashing Wikipedia??
    i never get it when people are always bitching about it saying how its full of inaccuracies.
    IF ITS WRONG— FIX IT!!, instead of whining about it here

    if you “call bullshit” clearly on the talk page; and your verifiably right— then other people will make sure that the page stays that way.
    in fact, the burden of proof lies with him, and if theres no source then you are completely within your right to delete or correct (if your info is verifiable) the information.
    as the creator of filterset.g he shouldn’t even really be contributing to that page anyway.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    1. I am not touching any Adblock-related articles on Wikipedia. Never. The incorrect statements have been already removed, so I guess the system is working. Mind explaining where I “bitched” about Wikipedia?
    2. Using Wikipedia for self-promoting and selling speculations as facts puts me off. That’s what this post is about.
    3. There is no competition between me and Filterset.G. But I do think that Graham Pierce isn’t doing what is best for the users and I already explained why I think so: http://adblockplus.org/en/faq_project#filterset.g. It is especially annoying that everybody blames Adblock and Adblock Plus for the mistakes that Graham Pierce makes. In fact, I waste quite some time here verifying that bug reports are actually problems with Filterset.G – and then these issues don’t even get fixed.

  9. Aserone · 2007-05-29 17:54 · #

    Calling filterset.g a programmer for making a reg-exp list? lol

    It’s funny seeing some people, I guess without understanding the “problem”, defending G on a your jealous basis when his PROGRAMMING “skillz” is piggybacking/100% dependent upon Wladimir Palant’s(and contributors) work.

    Anyway I’ve used it in the past but it’s obsolete now, and have the potential to really do more harm then good.

    Finally he isn’t keeping up-to-date with ongoing development and even releases his list as “Closed Source”, trying to cache in. LAME in my opinion. [/rant]

    My suggestion would be some warning when installing the “Updater” or blocking it from interaction with Adblock-Plus or both.

    Putting an end to people blaming ABP for his numerous mistakes once and for all, so Wladimir wouldn’t have to call “bullshit” and get flamed ever again, then maybe G gets with the “program” and adds it as a subscription for the benefit of his user base(as if).

  10. fox · 2007-06-02 15:25 · #

    Yes, this is truly “Yet Another Boring Blog”.

  11. Andrew · 2007-07-02 12:41 · #

    Hmmm…. I had just installed this G updater plugin, but am removing it after reading all of this.

    Thanks for the good work with Adblock though. :thumbup:

  12. Amy Rose · 2007-07-07 17:17 · #

    Well, I wish I could use EasyList on Konqueror and Opera, but when I’m in the mood for Firefox, I’m an EasyList user. Rick752 is a very nice guy, and if you ask nicely in the EasyList forum, he’ll do his best to give you an answer, and he’ll never make you feel inferior. Some experience on G’s forum showes that he’s not as friendly as rick752. And even if you do use other browsers, you’re still welcome there—they enjoy the company. :D

    As a Linux user, I’m used to interacting with the people who wrote the stuff I use, mostly on forums and IRC. People who spend their time helping and befriending the users tend to make better products, plain and simple. :D

    My point being that I think Filterset.G would be a lot better if G would lighten up and be nicer to the users of his filterset. I think rick752’s friendliness is why EasyList is so much better these days.

  13. Horace Steinmetz · 2010-07-10 15:46 · #

    Tis a no-brainer. Just go to Search, find ‘em, and mass deleted them. DUH!

    It don’t take no nerdy asshole to charge you $300 an hour to do it.

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