Actually, I wanted to share some short statements why I have choosed Blokada over some other alternatives but at the end it got longer than intended. Sorry for this longer story of my personal travel through Ad- and Tracker blocking alternatives
In the past I had many different solutions that blocks Ads and Tracker. I played with PiHole on a Raspberry Pi, Adguard Pro and the couple of weeks with eBlocker.org.
All of them did a great job. However, I had issues with all of them the let me think about a perfect solution for my needs.
What’s wrong with PiHole or eBlocker? Well, nothing if you have the time for the maintenance or trying to get things run. Both of them work perfect nearly out of the box (eBlocker is great in this case) when you just want to block Ads and Tracker in your local Network. As soon as you want to be able to use them on your (mobile) devices outside your home network, you need some more configuration.
You have three options here which all comes with some drawbacks:
Make them available from outside and use as DNS on your Device. For me, that was not an option. That means, that you have to open / redirect the port from your router to gain access to the Raspberry. I found that myself a bit too risky. I have some experiences with linux but I wouldn’t say that I am good enough to understand how to secure the the machine and network good enough.
Use VPN to your Network have the same disadvantage. You need to maintenance it and make it secure. eBlocker has a build in VPN for mobile access but i did not get it work for me.
AdGuard Pro was a good solution running on my iPhone and Mac and was able to block System wide. However, I stopped using it because I recognized major battery drain with its local VPN solution. iPhones are no battery beasts and when you are off road a lot, battery usage plays a big role. In addition to that, i missed the blocking of other devices like my TV or weather station.
I used my experiences to get clear myself about my requirements. They are:
- System wide blocking on all my devices in my home network
- Easy to use without server maintenance effort
- all functionality must be available outside my local network
- Possibility to configure what is blocked and definition of white and black lists.
- No or nearly no impact to the battery
- Good and responsive support
- Trustworthy Provider
After some research I ended up with the following three alternatives:
All of the block ads and tracker based on DNS, that means that you have to change your DNS on your devices and / or your internet router.
Some people may say, trust a foreign DNS Service which will be able to „see“ all requests is not a good choice to gain more privacy. It could store your requests without your knowledge, sell them or may be able to manipulate the response for phishing.
Yes, sure. That is a risk. But have open ports to your home network or not well enough secured own server have risks too. You need to trust the provider in the same way you trust any other internet service you use. You need to trust your Internet Provider, your eMail Provider, your Web Host provider, your Mobile Access Provider, the shops you use. You can try to be as much anonymous as possible, but it is not possible in any cases. You just need to find the right balance, select your providers wisely and trust them. Or stop using the internet (just my humble opinion).
But back to topic now. For me, all of the three services seemed to be trustworthy enough for me and fulfilled my requirements.
NextDNS is really feature rich. It has a very polished UI, clear setting instructions, AI powered blocking, is highly customizable, supports profiles which allows you to use different settings per device, and many other. For $20 per year (or 20 EUR) you get a very solid DNS Service.
ControlD also looks good with a dark UI design. It does not offer the flexibility like NextDNS or Blocka to select specific lists but has own curated lists put together behind topics like Advertisement, Tracking, Adult, Phishing, and more. You can also create black and white lists and organize them in folders which also can be act as rules. Together with profiles, you can create very complex rule settings for different devices and it can be very powerful. However, you can also keep things simple by just using the predefined filters. A outstanding feature is, that you can add some kind of VPN features without using a VPN. It can tunnel your requests through a proxy to different countries, so that it looks like that either a call of a specific url or all traffic come from that, However, this feature is little bit more pricy ($20 per year for the DNS feature, $40 for DNS + Proxy)
Blokada is the clear looser when it comes to feature comparison. You can switch it on or off on iOS and configure the blocking behavior from a very well amount of known list. I am sure anyone will find his/her favorite lists there. But you have no profiles, no AI bases blocking, not any fancy feature like the other candidates. The Web UI could be more polished and the statistics, if you want them, are kept very simple. It Support DNS over HTTPS and DNS over TLS (like the others) but it was difficult to find out that DoT is supported. The documentation could be better and more clear.
Wait, but why did I took Blokada then when the other options seemed to be better in many aspects?
There are five reasons:
In its core functionality and regarding my requirements, Blokada does the same good job as the others. There is no clear winner. If you want “Set up and forget” (and only tweak with white and black lists in rare cases) it does not really matter which of the three options you select.\
Blokada’s DNS is as fast as the others. Also, no winner here.
Blokada’s support is very responsive. I did never wait long for a response in the support forum. All my questions were answered individually. I had to contact ControlD for support too and the response was also quite fast (about 24 hours) but not as fast as Blokada. I have no experience with NextDNS support but read that it is slow.
Blokada is Open Source. While the other alternatives are commercial and closed source, Blokada was and is Open Source that allows to check the code. I personally believe in Open Source and use it whenever it is possible and my requirements are fulfilled. And after about two weeks of using Blokada now I can say, that I am very satisfied
Comparing only the DNS features of all Services (NextDNS only have this, all of them have nearly the same price tag (~ 20 EUR / Year)
Blokada does a very good job. The DNS Service is fast and reliable, blocking works as expected. The UI of the Web Frontend is good, but I miss some features or some things could make better. The same for the iOS App. I will make an extra post for this. Overall you get a very solid service which is Open Source on top of this. The price is fair because it costs money to rent and maintain servers.
Additionally, you can add a VPN functionality to Blokada to secure your connection in open / foreign networks. That’s a plus that costs some extra fee. It was not part of my requirements and I am not sure if I really need this. However I subscribed to it in order to support the project with some EUR on top :).
If you read this, you are at the end of the story. Thank you for reading (if you not just scrolled down )