On the Merits of Cookieless/Ad Blocked Browsing

Another random thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is the concept of cookieless browsing for general content consumption.

As I’m working through what various devices are for, I’ve started using my iPad more for general “reading content on the web” - it works quite well for general reading (and is roughly all I use it for - reading web pages, PDFs, and sectional charts). I’ve also discovered that, as long as you don’t care to be logged into any particular sites, running a browser without cookies works surprisingly well. Some sites complain/fail to load, but the vast majority work quite well.

Throw in some ad/annoyance blocking (I use 1Blocker at the moment), and the web becomes both surprisingly sane and at least somewhat harder to track all the things on. I’m a bit surprised that my browser fingerprint is “Unique,” but a random iPad with cookies blocked is about as generic as I can come up with.


The downside to this is that you simply can’t log into most sites. Or is that an upside? :wink:

While I leave cookies generally off on my phone as well, I try to keep the tab count down to basically zero. Disabling cookies on iOS clears your open tabs, so I can enable cookies if needed to log in, do what I need, then disable them again.

Also, if anyone is looking for a VPN server, I’m willing to provide public access to one of my VPN endpoints, which I promise is just a normal Outline server running on DigitalOcean. Please behave, I’ll disable this key if it’s a problem.

You’re invited to connect to my Outline server. Use it to access the open internet, no matter where you are. Follow the instructions on your invitation link below to download the Outline App and get connected.

Outline VPN - Making it safer to break the news

Having trouble accessing the invitation link?

  1. Copy your access key: ss://Y2hhY2hhMjAtaWV0Zi1wb2x5MTMwNTpPcU05R3F2bmlaNUs=@
  2. Follow our invitation instructions on GitHub: outline-client/invitation-instructions.md at master · Jigsaw-Code/outline-client · GitHub

This is a really good topic. Dovetailing with the idea of a low-bandwidth post-internet, once of the things we’ve identified over there as an important concern is the idea of the “semi-offline experience” - which, of course, obviates cookies as anything useful. I’ll comment more over there on some of the “online services” implications, but the relevant point here is that if the Internet started to utilize some of the low-bandwidth technologies again (such as static sites whenever possible, avoidance of advertising as a core business model, etc) then cookies would suddenly become much less imporant and far less useful, and thus the web could be reclaimed from the JS-heavy cookie-demanding tens-of-megabytes-for-a-single-page nightmare it is today.

I’m interested, though: which websites of general interest ARE useful without cookies?

Honestly, most of them work fine. You’ll get the European Cookie Whiners unless you block them, but the ebook site I mentioned that blew up without cookies was really the exception.

Try it out - clear out your open tabs on your phone or iPad, turn off cookies, buy OneBlocker (one of few purchases I’ve made, entirely worth it), block the world, and… the internet still works, on a fraction the bandwidth and annoyance you’re used to.

You can still view basically anything, because almost nobody actually bothers to check for cookie support - they just assume you have it.

I love ublock origin, though it’s more advanced modes could be hard to use if you don’t know what the scripting is doing in the background.

My general settings are first parties only, generic uD rules and privacybadger cookie rules, and if a site is particularly stupid I’ll fire up some custom rules.

Of course, be careful which adblockers you run. Someone might get bored, sell the extension, and the new owners go rogue.

I really should look at a Pihole for my network.

I’ve been running a PiHole on a Pi-Zero (non-W) using a USB ethernet dongle for a few months now. It now handles my DHCP too. I’m using a local recursive resolver too, but you might be ok sending cloudflare or google your entire query history…

That’s… yeah, I suppose that does involve routing requests through them. Do you happen to know if Pihole is doing DNSSEC validation? I’m not sure how compatible that is with blackhole results, but if the Pi validates, then chooses not to respond, that’s valid enough (“validated to the resolver, which decides not to return results”).

PiHole can do it two ways: the recursive resolver can check, and PiHole will just respect the result, or PiHole can check independently. You just want to be sure you don’t have them both checking. I believe I have the resolver just resolving and PiHole doing the checking, but I might have the roles swapped.

Seems straightforward enough! I’ve got a Pi Zero laying around, just need to find an OTG to Ethernet adapter.

I have a PiHole on a Pi Zero W over wireless at my parents house and it’s totally fine. Don’t hold out until you get a wired setup, give it a try!

Welcome, @dinomite!

The main problem is that I don’t have a Zero W laying around. :slight_smile: I do have a non-W Zero sitting on a shelf somewhere. It looks like you can also install in a x86 VM or something, which might work. I need to consider redoing my network infrastructure anyway.

I also have a bunch of “Full Pis” laying around, they seem to breed out here for reasons I haven’t been able to understand and optimize. But I had 5 or 6 of the things at one point, I keep giving them away and they keep showing up again.

Thanks for the welcome, I’ve enjoyed your blog for a while.

That’s actually how I started at my parents house—I got so used to having a Pi at home when I visited them I’d run PiHole in a VM on my computer and that, too worked fine.