The first thing you will notice when you set up 1Blocker X on an iOS device is its 7 toggles in Safari’s Content Blocker section of the Settings app. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher at first until you realize that this is what allows 1Blocker X to expand beyond the confines of its predecessor.
You see, iOS limits the number of blocking rules that can be implemented by an app to 50,000. That’s a lot of rules, but sadly not enough given the amount of junk on the Internet these days. As a result, it’s a limit that 1Blocker began to run into not long after it launched in 2015.
Finding a way around that hard limit required a rewrite of 1Blocker from the ground up. The result is 1Blocker X, an app with around three times as many blocking rules, room to grow, and enhanced flexibility for applying those rules.
To get started, you need to enable 1Blocker’s content blockers by visiting the Settings app. In Safari’s settings, there’s a Content Blockers section where you can turn on 1Blocker X’s 7 blockers. Once enabled in Settings, you can turn each of the 7 sets of rules or individual rules on and off from within 1Blocker X. If you try to turn on a rule that hasn’t been activated in Settings yet, 1Blocker X will let you know and offer to walk you through the process, which is a nice touch.
The blockers you choose to activate are synced to all your iOS devices using iCloud. This worked quickly and seamlessly when I tested it, with one exception. I had a handful of whitelisted sites that I set up at some point in the past on my iPad that didn’t sync with my iPhone. New whitelisted sites appeared in both places with no problem, but five sites stubbornly refused to sync.
1Blocker X includes roughly 120,000 rules at launch organized in the following categories:
- Block Ads
- Block Adult Sites
- Block Annoyances
- Block Comments
- Block Trackers
- Custom Rules
- International Rules
That’s more than twice the number of rules as the app’s predecessor with room to grow to 350,000 rules in the future.
The longest of the lists is ‘Block Ads,’ which includes over 47,000 rules that should block most website ads. The ‘Block Adult Sites’ and ‘Block Comments’ lists are self-explanatory. ‘Block Annoyances’ includes a wide variety of website elements that aren’t strictly ads, but are still distracting, like cookie notices, social media badges, widgets, and share bars; ‘Block Trackers’ blocks sites from tracking you across the web.
1Blocker X also introduces regionalized blockers, which the legacy version of the app didn’t have. These are rules designed to block content targeted at sites in a particular country. The list is currently limited to Russia and Germany, but the 1Blocker team says more countries are coming in the future. I wasn’t able to test because I’m in the US, but I like the concept because it tailors the user experience in those countries without adding rules for users who don’t need them. However, until more countries are available, regionalized blockers aren't a feature that will make a difference to most users of the app.
The third section of 1Blocker X available from the main view is ‘Custom,’ which are user-defined rules that can be set on a site-by-site basis to whitelist sites, block sites, block cookies, hide page elements, and force sites to load using https only. With 1Blocker X’s new architecture, users can define up to 50,000 custom rules, which should keep even the most diehard users happy for a long time.
Although I wouldn't suggest purchasing an app based on the promise of future features, it's also worth noting that the 1Blocker X team says partial site whitelisting is coming soon. When implemented, the feature will allow you to do things like unblock comments and ads for a site, but leave trackers and other content blocked adding further flexibility to the app.
As someone who writes on the web for a living, I understand why many websites don’t like content blockers. At the same time, readers’ attention, like their trust, is something to be earned. Putting popup ads and auto-play videos in front of content and then complaining to those same readers with a splash screen when a content blocker is detected strikes me as misguided. Still, I do worry about sites that respect their readers getting caught up in content blocking when applied as a blunt instrument across all sites, which is why I’m glad to see the level of flexibility built into 1Blocker X. It lets users be thoughtful about how they block content with minimal effort.
The other aspect that often gets lost in the discussion of content blockers is that they aren’t just about ads. Distracting page elements and comments are just a couple of additional reasons to block content as are mobile data limits and performance. In tests run on a series of notoriously heavyweight sites, 1Blocker X’s developers report that enabling the app caused the sites to load an average of 45% faster and reduced the number of downloaded resources by an average of 57%, saving substantial time and data. I replicated the test run by the 1Blocker team using some of the same sites as well as others and saw similar results.
1Blocker X is a new paid-up-front app. The old version will continue to be available under the name 1Blocker Legacy and, according to its developers, its rules will continue to be updated. I expect some people will be upset by the fact that 1Blocker X is a new paid app. Others would probably be upset if it switched to a subscription model. Having used 1Blocker for over two years for a one-time In-App Purchase in 2015, purchasing 1Blocker X to ensure its continued development and get new features doesn't bother me. Still, I'm glad the old version will continue to receive updates to its blocking rules for users who feel differently and hope the 1Blocker team continues that support for the foreseeable future.
I’ve been a fan of 1Blocker since it launched in 2015 and have used it on both iOS and the Mac. Over the subsequent years, the developers of the app have continued to refine and improve it with an attention to detail and focus on users that I admire. 1Blocker X is a ground-up re-imagination of the original app with the same user-focused approach built on a foundation that provides room to expand in the future and a thoughtful approach to how content blockers are applied, which makes it easy to recommend.