FAQ – Optimal BLOCK (iOS)


Frequently-Asked Questions

How does Optimal BLOCK work?
Optimal BLOCK is a simple app that points your device to alternative DNS (Domain Name Service) servers. Here’s HowStuffWorks explaining how DNS works. This means that we block requests for advertisements or tracking before they even reach your device. You’ll need to give BLOCK a VPN permission in the app in order for it to be able to change your DNS servers. We take privacy very seriously and will never use, share or sell any individual-level data, even in the case we sell our company. In the Optimal BLOCK app you can very quickly turn the service on or off, if the site you’re using doesn’t work properly (rare, but it happens!) and you want to stop blocking advertisements and prevent computers/systems from tracking your identity or exchanging information about you with other companies.
How can you offer this service for free? How do you make money?
There are lots of free ad-blocking products. This happens to be a uniquely excellent one, built especially for mobile devices, and we could probably charge for it. We have also, however, built a separate way for you to “tip” websites small amounts of money, and we take a cut of that. It’s optional and not connected at all to the Optimal BLOCK product. We hope some portion of people find it (see the link at the top right of this page) and try it as a way to reward great journalism!
I understand blocking ads, but why should I care about tracking?
The FTC has this resource which explains online tracking in more detail. Our founder has written about how hard it is to opt-out of being tracked – and until this problem is solved for consumers – we recommend blocking tracking by using a blocker on your mobile device, like Optimal BLOCK. Unfortunately, the proposed “do not track” standard has not been widely adopted, and so opting-out of tracking is still cumbersome for people. Also, when you opt-out of tracking for a particular ad network or site using a link they provide, usually that means they are still tracking you, just that they promise not to use that information (and if you clear your cookies, they will forget that you opted out).
Are there other ways to block ads on my iOS device?
Yes there are, but we think each one has its drawbacks. We built a Safari content blocking app called FewerAds, which works great if all you use is the Safari browser, but in reality most people are looking at mobile web content inside of other browsers like the ones that open links by default in your Facebook or Twitter app, or in Chrome, or in other apps. You can buy a VPN application app; ‘buy’ because they are usually not free because these services are more expensive to run (and they potentially know a lot more about you and your traffic). We chose DNS and made sure we put privacy safeguards in place, such as never using or giving out any individual-level data (including if we were to ever sell the company). Our privacy policy is here (see DNS Service section).
What are the Advanced Settings?
You can also select other DNS providers instead of the default you’re using at home (probably your ISP) or on the move (usually your mobile carrier), including OpenDNS (owned by Cisco Systems) or Google’s DNS service. Sometimes when you’re connecting to a hotel or in-flight wifi system, you should turn it off initially until you’ve signed up/established the connection. Then test and see if it continues to work with the service turned on (often it does, but depending on the hotel wifi setup it may also not work, so you might have to temporarily endure ads…).
Why do some Google search results not click through?
This is a known issue, usually because many of the ads use a tracking URL googleadservices.com for the clickthrough. You can sometimes just look at the ad and find the correct URL to click on, or alternatively you can temporarily disable the blocker and click the search link thereafter. The ad usually will tell you what the destination URL is:
What if I have more questions?
Please click here to send us your questions or feedback. Thanks!