The discussion has heated up with the drop of iOS 9 and its ability to run apps that block ads. That was just the spark for the conversation, as ad blocking isn’t a new thing. Desktop browsers have had extensions that can block ads for a long time. There are ad blockers that work for Android. Not a new concept, just new to iOS.
Let’s round up some news and opinion.
- A nicer looking web.
- A faster loading web.
- A safer web.
- A more private web.
Advertising is always pushing the limits of how atrocious and overwhelming it can be. Mobile has been especially bad. I think this screenshot by JD Graffam is hilarious and sums it up well.
But advertising is part of the circle of life on the web. I’ve written about this before:
There are lots of business on the web. One type of those is a website that sells products or services. Those websites employ people who work on the site, incur server costs, material costs, etc. The products and services they provide are useful to people, and they pay for them. Business. Cool.
Those websites need customers. They need people to come to those sites. There are all sorts of ways to do that. Word of mouth. SEO. Wear a costume and wave a sign at traffic. Some more effective than others. The most effective, generally is to do marketing and, as a subset of that, do advertising. Web advertising, in particular, as potential customers are just a click away.
Where do you do that advertising? Enter another type of business on the web: the publication.
Publications have very similar costs as product and service websites. They employ people who work on the site, incur server costs, material costs, etc. They just typically don’t sell anything directly to the people visiting the site. They give away what they produce for free. Thus they tend to have higher traffic and a larger audience. Their customers aren’t the visitors themselves. Their customers are the product and service websites. Their product is audience.
Seth Godin explains in another way (emphasis mine):
Ad blockers undermine a fundamental principle of media, one that goes back a hundred years: Free content in exchange for attention. The thing is, the FCC kept the ad part in check with TV, and paper costs did the same thing for magazines and newspapers. But on the web, more and more people have come to believe that the deal doesn’t work, and so they’re unilaterally abrogating it.
Completely stopping all advertising would be a problem for this circle of life. Not only do some publishers lose their primary income stream, some companies lose their primary lead stream.
Life finds a way.
As Kyle Neath put it.
So the conversation about all this can be things like:
- How much do ad blockers really hurt a publication? Does anyone have good numbers?
- Isn’t this pushback also part of the circle of life on the web?
- What is the pushback from advertisers going to look like? Like this?
- Is it too much to ask a business to adapt? Isn’t that the point of business?
Anil Dash has a tweetstorm that is really worth reading through. Including:
Most media and publishing companies can barely hold together a basic CMS. They aren’t gonna be able to invent all-new ad tech. Impossible.
Probably true. Especially because:
But most sites that you really _love_ reading don’t build their ad technologies. They’re good at making stories or videos, not ad platforms.
So what you’re really asking is that they divert resources from making the _stuff you like_ to making the stuff you already don’t like. Hmm.
This sure is a complicated issue. So complicated that Marco Arment created an iOS ad blocker called Peace, then pulled it down days later saying that it just didn’t feel good to be potentially hurting people with his app and that the solution is perhaps a more nuanced approach to blocking. I feel him – it’s much more fun and rewarding to work on things that simply help everyone.
Peace worked by bluntly using the entire Ghostery blocklist, which seems a bit weird since Ghostery on desktop asks you to disable scripts one-by-one as you encounter them. Curious that the mobile version didn’t take the same approach (perhaps too difficult of UX to pull off well).
Speaking of blunt, sledgehammer-style blocking, that does affect us CSS people a bit. I think we’ll need to be more careful with things like font stacks and layout. Of course we should have been doing things like this all along, but we get comfortable. For instance, Ghostery offers to block Typekit for you. How does your site look with custom fonts blocked? What about when a block that contains an ad is removed? Does your layout hold up?
Ghostery also offers to block Google Analytics, and other blockers may do so automatically. Uh oh. How, then, can we make smart decisions then based on visitor data? Drew McLellan thinks maybe old-school server logs, but even that might be sketchy:
… by the time each request goes through Nginx to Varnish to (then maybe) Apache, I’m not sure if those logs would be of any use for anything.
I’m unclear as to the solution, but I suspect it’s server-side rather than client-side, and I suspect we’re going to need it in 2016. So we’d best get thinking.
I use and like Ghostery personally. I like how I opt-out of stuff as I desire. I don’t personally like ad blockers where I need to opt back in to things. Those seem to be more popular, and are a lot more heavy handed. For instance, a common support request on CodePen is “Where is the share button? I don’t see it anywhere.” to which we have to tell them “Disable your ad blocker for our site to work properly.”
As ever, this will be interesting to see shake out. Some people think it’s going to be rather apocalyptic (Google helps drive the web forward with the money from ads, ads are drying up, thus web slows down). Some people think it makes for a better web and happier web users and may grow the web.
Time will tell.
UNLESS PEOPLE INSTALL SOME KIND OF TIME-BLOCKER ON THE WEB, CRIPES.
Honestly, sponsored posts irk me more than ads. Not that I don’t understand the appeal, or think it’s untrustworthy (I know about the whole clearly labling it thing, and the “I don’t sponsor it unless I trust/use it myself” thing.), but I’d rather a block saying “Do a thing!” than a whole article full of “This is a thing! You should do it and this is why. Also, this takes up my content for the week! (If it’s a weekly publication, et Al) Ha-hyuck!”
The biggest problem is that sponsored content can be more corrupt than advertisements. I know the YouTube Let’s Play in particular is rife with trust issues, from EA paying people to give good reviews to an undisclosed party offering to play the game and talk good about it for an episode for 200k.
That’s funny. Sponsored posts are about the only type of advertising I do like. I like a small article saying, “I, as an expert, think this is good. Plus it’s a good deal, especially now.” It hasn’t worked for me on this site – I may be the wrong demographic as non-senior developer without power over the sysadmins. But just about the only advertising that has made me buy stuff is the Kinja Deals section.
I agree that it shouldn’t be something that takes up a producer’s content for the week. Think of (very) old TV shows, where they had to do everything live, like the George Burns show. They had short commercial breaks in the show where the cast did the commercials.
They also had product placement, but that’s more debatable. Especially when it can lead to a product taking over a week’s content.
Ad blocking is really just a response to a bigger problem: people hate ads. More importantly, I don’t think they truly despise ads—for example, people who normally fast forward through TV ads but watch Super Bowl as an example—but they hate irrelevant ads.
I agree with Ken. You can also easily choose to ignore a sponsored post. It’s kind of the best case scenario for an advertiser because if someone is choosing to view the post, they’re at least remotely interested in it. That’s opt-in.
I personally like Chris’ sponsored posts. Even if the product or service in question doesn’t fit in with I’m doing, it’s usually related to what I do, which makes it valuable. (The Mack Weldon one was a little off the beaten path though, I’d prefer to keep it web related but I understand that’s not always possible.)
Advertising, by default, is more or less opt-out with using things like ad-block. Traditionally we measured things like impressions over clicks to get your click through rate. Now with ad blockers, impressions are going to be a lot less.
Overall, I think we’re going to see less and less “general” websites and more and more niche content. Advertisers can no longer trust the “strength in numbers” style of print advertising where they’d hope to get their message out. Advertising I feel is becoming more nuanced, more like PR and word of mouth.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with bigger sites but I think this is going to be good news for smaller sites in general.
I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already, but it seems like the ad networks could do two things to get around all ad blockers right now:
1) Have sites create CNAME records to the ad network image serving delivery networks. Now the ads are coming from cdn.theverge.com instead of adwords.doubleclick.net. So the ads themselves can’t be blocked without blocking all other assets on The Verge. Ad networks can (and probably will) be able to upcharge for this.
2) Create server-side proxies for the tracking scripts. Rather than serving ga.js from Google’s servers you serve a similar script from your own server. Rather than sending the analytics back to Google directly via the JS you send them to your own servers. The data that comes in then gets sent to GA via API calls. Tracking services, or third parties that make this software, will DEFINITELY upcharge for it, making them even more money. (Someone building this software right now and letting the big publishers know about it while they’re most frightened is probably going to make a TON of money.)
So it seems like the web we all know and hate could be back in six months or less if the ad networks and tracking services took these steps. And there’ll be no blocking them this time.
As a web developer this solutions seems pretty obvious to me…am I missing something? How come I’m not hearing this theory more often?
Thank you, but your countermeasures were not widely rolled out with desktop browser or (non-ios) mobile browser ad blocking, so why start now?
Not sure your cname idea would work — cname would map to adwords.doubleclick.net, so you would simply blacklist cdn.theverge.com – you’d have to serve “real” verge assets from assets.theverge.com, unless you want to turn the ad networks themselves into cdns, which is pretty complicated, and will slow the verge down even more :-)
The fact is most people won’t bother installing adblocking software. It’s too complicated for the average user. I have not installed an ios9 adblocker yet because I just don’t want to deal with it right now. I definitely will in a few weeks though. I block all ads I can with adblock plus and ghostery, no exceptions, even on google.com.
What’s going to happen is fewer ads through browsers (I suspect but cannot prove a large number of browser-based views are fraud anyway), and more ads in apps, which are impossible to mitigate. Think youtube prerolls.
Both of these are blockable. I can’t vouch for iOS, but AdBlock on Android takes care of most in-app ads and there are tons of xposed modules to remove things like YouTube ads. They’re not something that casual users would come across, but they do exist (and work pretty well!).
I agree that in-browser ads are probably dying off a bit, but I think we’ll see more sponsored content and ways for the ads to be intertwined in the content itself. I mean, for the paranoid, there’s /r/hailcorporate any time a popular image or post makes the front page of reddit and has a corporate logo peeking out somewhere. “Making things viral” (or trying to) is another way for the ad to become the content.
I believe Chris addressed those types of points in the article where he quotes Anil Dash:
As I see it, you’re asking them to divert resources to stuff they’re not good at doing, thus causing a new problem.
Basically one of the ways ad blockers work now is before the resource is requested, it looks for a known hostname and/or IP address. If it matches, they hit the brakes. (They could also look to see what html is being spit out and where it links since it needs to track clicks but that’s something else.)
So if you used something like cdn.whatver.com for serving ads, anyone can do a reverse lookup to see where the A or CNAME really resolves. This also means that all requests—like images, fonts, etc—would go to the ad network instead of the CDN first.
So unless the ad network wants to resolve every single resource currently on the CDN and then do some url rewriting back to the “real” CDN (which would be a different hostname), you’d be dead in the water. And you’d lose any benefit a real CDN had in the first place because you’d always be hitting the “slower” ad network first anyway.
A better solution would be to devise some server side workarounds on the publisher site to proxy in ads somehow. Some sites serve their own ads already and are probably unaffected by adblockers. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of this down the pipe.
Ultimately ad block has always been a game of cat and mouse.
@stephy — thanks, I will try some of those blockers you mentioned, to see if they really work. Seems like it would be “easy” to make prerolls “unblockable” (even if they are blockable now), but hopefully I’m mistaken!
It would be great if the browser-based web became ad-free, and all the ad crap was pushed onto the apps (path of least resistance). We’ll see how things go.
This discussion about ads is going to seem quaint to us within a decade (and probably much sooner). If we remember it at all (remember how netflix used to be a company that mailed you dvd’s? Seems like a century ago now)
The next battle is already being fought fiercely by google, facebook, apple and others hiring all the machine learning talent they can find.
When the platform you use knows you intimately enough that it can show you what pants you’d probably want to buy based on years of analysing your tastes (and waist size) in microscopic detail, the value of marketing will be greatly diminished.
You’ll be browsing your stream on facebook one day, and at exactly the right time, when you could use a pair of pants and have the money to buy them, you’ll see “Hey, these guys make great pants that would be perfect for you.” You’ll buy them right there in your fb stream, and fb will take a cut.
Fb (google, apple, whoever) won’t wait for advertisers to come to them, their ai agents who know you intimately from years of observation will scour the web looking for stuff to sell you (from merchants who agree to give them a cut. and all of them will), because they’ll make FAR more money that way.
Then we’ll have different problems, of course. But there won’t be advertising cruft, because nobody will do that anymore.
Interestingly, I just read this about the YouTube ad-blocking xposed module:
From the ProGuard site:
This reminds me a bit of Rob’s first idea, changing where things are stored and not having a nicely-blockable doubleclick/etc. delivery network. But, I also think this goes to show that people who are dedicated to blocking assets (or tinkering with things) will find a way, even if there are obstacles. If it’s possible to identify a pattern in the way that content is inserted, someone can find a way to block it.
@Stephy Miehle I’d like to pop in here and mention: the only iPhone I ever owned was a 3GS running iOS5 jailbroken (until I was forced to upgrade to 6), but the ad blocker there blocked in-app ads as well. Plus iOS devs probably aren’t as wary of it since its not on the official app store.
So yes, in-app ads are also blocked by adblockers, on smartphone, browser, or even desktop apps. (Lots of people block Skype’s ad service with their hosts file.)
That’s just an arms race to make ad requests as similar to other resource requests as possible against ad blockers to distinguish between them.
You’ll have to make them styled as articles too, because everything else will be a feature to distinguish your ads even after they are loaded to hide them. That will decrease your ad revenue, as many networks will ask you to run obnoxious ads for them.
Your approach is just burning resources, only to be thwarted on the next update of the filter list. It’s better to have your users put your site on the Whitelist and only serve ads that don’t numb their nerves.
You can’t load adds via same domain (like verge.com/scripts/ga.js) without losing cookies.
Cookies are tied to domain name, so there would be impossible (without hacks like evercookie) to track user globaly. I mean now – google sees you as one person visiting hundreds of websites, and thus creating your detailed profile. Without cookies google would see hundred of different users visiting separate websites.
No cookies – no more personal ads, retargeting etc…
Most of the discussion surrounding this issue is missing the core problem by a country mile.
I also think Dash is off the mark. This is not a rocket-science level problem. The tech is not the problem. The real issue is that publishers mostly can’t or don’t have their own ad sales teams, and ad buyers don’t or can’t go to a thousand individual sites, figure out which ones are appropriate, and buy ads.
So, there are huge networks with programmatic ad placement. That’s where it gets tricky.
Publishers don’t want to serve you problematic ads. They HATE it as much as you do (they have more to lose than anyone else in the ad ecosystem). But everyone has ceded a great deal of control to the RTB (real time bidding) ad ecosystem, and that is the core of the problem.
The RTB ecosystem is more complex than most of its participants understand. If you’re a publisher using a large network and notice you’re serving an ad that you’d like to get removed… good luck with that.
Even presuming you can get that far, most ads are targeted VERY narrowly. By device, by browser, by location. Bad actors know how to make it difficult for you to track down that they’re serving something subpar in Toronto to Android users browsing with Chrome on Saturday morning. By the time you’ve figured that out, they’ve closed up shop and are on to London on iOS on Saturday night(for example).
Basically, it’s too easy for bad actors to gain entry to the RTB ecosystem, and there are now many bad actors who have a better understanding of how to exploit the system than there are people who understand how to stop them. That’s the core of the problem.
There is a HUGE pot of gold waiting for someone to figure out how to change that. I’m surprised it’s taking this long, but it is.
Sure, there’s truth in that, but that’s how this kind of system works — that’s how the free product or service continues to be free for us.
I think a lot of people complain too much and too irrationally about encountering ads in general, and I doubt all of these same folks are willing to pay for content in exchange for an ad-free experience.
Don’t blame the ads — blame the content makers/providers who badly implements them.
I completely agree with you
The “web” is not free, it’s cheap, but not free, someone has to pay for the time, servers, development, content.
Today, most it pays for through advertising.
I consider using an ad-blocker is somehow an insult to your favorite site, you are taking all content, leaving nothing in return, without even leaving the chance that you might want to click on an ad that really interests you.
On the other hand there is an abuse of advertisers and webmasters, implementing tons of ads in a completely intrusive way. If the advertising was well implemented, should not affect the content, even it should be related to the user.
It’s ok if you don’t want to see ads, but you should pay for the content
There is a problem.people want to see ads but not the ads that block the content or make a web page useless to them.
the ad industry have gone so far that many websites is just ads on top of ads. i think ad blockers is the break on this ad vehicle.
so, ad industry should evolve and provide better, faster, non blocking ads and since google is the big ad guy, i think they will find a way.
Sponsored posts don’t bother me as long as they are relevant and useful; same with some ads.
I’m much, much more likely to disable my ad blocker on sites I visit frequently and trust. But the moment I get those annoying modals or intrusive ads, it’s back to the block list.
I don’t mind ads that are highly-targeted to a site’s demographic, would be useful or interesting to me if I were to discover the content in a non-ad context, aren’t singing/dancing/obnoxious, and don’t obscure content. I’m not comfortable with ads that track my data across the web to “personalize” my experience, and I’m not interested in ads for generic junk like car insurance. But an ad for Treehouse on here, for instance? That’s not so bad. That’s something someone in this audience might find appealing, especially with a free trial.
I’m not sure how big of a problem ad blockers really are. Most people who install ad blockers are not the target demographic and are usually the kind of person who never clicks on those ads anyway, or isn’t usually influenced by them. But I also see the value in ad’s as it’s impossible to have everything for free.
For me it’s simple, if I don’t want to see ad’s I install an ad blocker or I just write my own userscript to hide them. Otherwise I tolerate them and understand that they are needed for me to continue to get free content.
Ads* Apostrophes show ownership. ;)
Oh shush you! lol #typingFail
Safety is the #1 issue for me. Privacy and a less annoying Web are mostly secondary benefits; I actually use AdBlock Plus to sometimes block those stupid sliding video things or live Twitter feeds on the side of a page, because if there’s sliding motion to distract my eye from what I’m actually trying to read, I get pretty POed.
But a great deal comes back to safety. Malvertising has been a huge problem and it’s likely to get worse. This would be very easy to stop if the biggest ad platforms made a commitment to allow only images and videos through, and made that commitment very, very public. Those platforms could then make a pitch to most ad-blockers to at least allow an option to let them through, on the basis that they can be trusted not to screw up the end user’s computer. I’d be quite happy to let ABP let Google ads through on most sites, for instance, if Google enforced that.
Indeed ABP is already allowing acceptable ads. Like you said, safety and privacy are huge issues with ads and one of the main reasons to block them, together with tracking social buttons.
Social buttons shall be only links to share content, there was also a link about this issue on CSS tricks. Weird that Chris doesn’t use such safe approach on CodePen then. :-D
Anyways there is also bandwidth to take into account. If I’m surfing via the cellular network, where traffic is capped, are those nasty ad networks going to pay for my data? I bet they aren’t. Moreover, it’s my decision to state what sites my client (the phone or PC) is allowed to open. This includes domain names and single assets such as js and pictures. No website owner can force me to look at specific objects linked into their website.
Let’s be honest. Servers and the people to run a Web service are rarely for free. Someone has to foot the bill. That someone is the user.
For the sake of convenience, the user usually does that indirectly through receiving ads.
The problem with ads, though, is that they aren’t created for the user or the page – they are created for the sponsor. At a time in early online advertising, one sponsor became greedy for user’s attention. Sponsor after sponsor followed in an arms race for user attention.
Ugly weapons were deployed in that race, pop unders, interstitials, pre-rolls, privacy-invading targeting – all to the disadvantage of the user.
At this moment, the Internet was already broken. Ad Blockers were a fix for a problem that should never have existed in the first place.
However, they bring back the question how to pay those servers and people to run them. There has to be a better way.
The problem with ad blockers is they will soon lead to all publications having ads within content. So if you are reading a blog post, there’s a higher chance that the ads are built into the post – which I think is not the best way.
I like sponsored articles, which are clearly ads but un-intrusive and more importantly, not mixed within my content. The alternative is similar to having product placements within movies. I would much rather have a dedicated 15 minutes before or after the movie where I know it’s an ad and I can play a game on my phone or refuse to watch. I would hate watching a movie with ads that are distastefully placed within the movie just to support the filmmaking.
Good article, Chris.
With the entire discussion on ad-blockers raging on the web and publishers at risk, there is a very simple rule to keep in mind: If you do use an ad-blocker, please support your fav publishers by purchasing their products. Good content is expensive to produce; good publishers always pay their contributors; and the work of editors and proofreaders has to be respected and thus paid as well. No magazine can survive without a stable stream of income to pay the bills.
At SmashingMag, we embrace the fact that readers use ad-blockers. That’s perfectly fine, but we do expect some level of support of the magazine in some other way. That’s why we put our heart and soul into producing quality products in the first place — eBooks, printed books, conferences, workshops. By purchasing them, you support the magazine, and for that we are eternally grateful. Thank you.
As a (mostly) non-techie, what seems largely missing from the conversation (in general – not so much here)is a sense of moderation. Most people realize ads are necessary. Most don’t mind seeing ads. But when ads actively interfere with what you want to do, then they have gone too far.
For example, I’m usually listening to music or podcasts when online. When an ad starts playing at twice the volume my music is, I’m annoyed, and would happily block it. Even though it’s a nuisance to scroll past a video ad that waits to be clicked on, it is a minor pain. When I’m waiting endlessly for a site to load, and my browser is telling me it is just ad after ad, I am annoyed. If a site loads enough content for me to look at (even if the downloads prevent scrolling), at least it doesn’t seem a complete waste of time.
The point is — most people wouldn’t block most ads. It is primarily the intrusive, annoying ads that have created these problems.
If there were user-friendly ad blockers that relied on blacklists rather than whitelists advertisers would soon learn when they’ve gone too far and publishers would be able to learn what networks to avoid.
Even the author of the Peace blocker said his main issue was the black-and-white nature of his creation. Surely someone can create a way to let end-users know when they’ve had enough, short of abandoning sites?
How do you convince someone? By yelling? Making as much noise as possible? I don’t think so.
Yet the ad industry tries to sell things by doing so. Overlays, modals and blinking ads are a pain in the neck. I hate this stuff and I will never ever click on any of those. Instead I will leave the site and probably never come back.
I’m fine with ads as long as they don’t torture me with blinking (btw this is a severe accessibilty issue) or hiding the content I am reading. And I don’t want to be tracked without my consent. (No, I dont need another fridge).
I’m using ad blockers on sites that yell at me. Just as well I would walk away from a loud-voiced sales person
Yet I don’t feel that anybody loses anything. In fact, there are at least two parties who win: The site owner will keep me as a visitor and I feel comfortable.
This is really a question about control of the internet. Who should have control? People with the most $$? People with the most skills?
In the end, people with the skills win. because they invented the internet in the first place. The internet wasnt invented for the pub/sub revenue model. The internet wasnt invented to give advertisers entry into your personal lives. But thats where the internet is these days, the “most successful” startups are the ones who sell your personal information the highest bidder in the quickest most efficent way possible. To offset it, these companies try and create “communities”, under the guise of “giving back”, to make them “for the people”. Sure the individuals behind these might have good intentions, but there investor overloads do not.
Why shouldnt my identity be worth something to me? Why does my identity have to change hands before it is worth something? Why cant i make money off the comments i make? Why is only github, stackexchange etc etc the designated ones who can turn my thoughts into cash, giving me “reps” when they get $$’s?
This conversation is very similiar to the one of movie copyright. Without us consumers, the “stars” are nothing…
It seems like those who can afford to get their message (Story, product…) out will.
Those who cant afford not to run ads will fall by the way side.
The effect these things have always seems to affect more of the smaller players first before getting to the bigger fish.
And so really, nothing changes.
I don’t mind ads as such so much, but I mind the tracking of my activities and habits that come with them – unasked and hidden from me.
I have no problem with ad-blockers. It’s my computer and it should be well within my rights to choose how it’s used. The HTTP dialog looks a little something like
The internet was doing just fine before adverts came and made a mess of it. They had a chance, they abused it, they lost the chance. If businesses fail for a lack of business-model creativity, others will gladly clamber for the opportunity to supplant them. The web will go on.
I’m having flashbacks of Napster. Just as we had a growing # of people claiming rights to music – for free, we have growing # of content consumers who feel they should block ads – which is essentially accessing the content – again for free.
Someone earlier mentioned moderation, which I think is one of the key issues here. Ads – on mobile – have become obtrusive, and added that load times are also affected, they have also corroded the user experience.
One of the other major issues: people are cheap, and aren’t willing to pay for much – or – will do almost anything for a deal. I love reading app reviews and hearing users lambaste a free app (or very cheap one), whist dumping a 1/2 finished cup of $4 drink from Starbucks.
I know that Louis Lazaris does this, as do A List Apart – but when a publisher I like provides an eBook w/ past blog posts, assembled in one doc, and charges for it – I buy in. Not only is it great reference, but it provides that financial support I know they need and respect.
Imagine this dev world w/o CSS Tricks or Smashing Mag? Possibly not likely to happen any time soon, but think of the small bands/music start ups who vanished during the download era? The behaviour is in fact now set in: people won’t pay for music from individual bands. Is this the road ahead for our beloved online content?
Must ads improve? yes.
Are ads needed? I believe yes.
Might this be the inflection point in mobile/dev history? Possibly. Let’s see if publishers are listening.
Your napster comparison is probably more apt than people realize. Though I will say… which I think most people don’t get… is that this is largely outside the publisher’s control (unless you are Buzzfeed, etc). They’ve ceded control of ad delivery to the ad networks (google, etc).
But back to napster: How was that situation resolved? Someone took complete control of the platform, got people to buy music digitally (when everyone in the world during the height of the napster era presumed getting people to pay was a lost cause), and took themselves from near-death to the largest company in the world in the process (hint: it’s apple!)
This too is another shot in the platform wars. Impossible to see how it’s going to play out yet, but I think it’s very likely that ads in their current form are not long for this world.
Your comparison with Napster is completely off track. Napster was about illegally downloading files distributed by random third parties. You were downloading contents which you shouldn’t have had access to.
Ad blockers work the opposite way. You prevent the download of resources which are served via an authorized party while you don’t block the download of an article’s text, which is still providing a legit content.
Ad blockers users are not criminals.
“How does your site look with custom fonts blocked? What about when a block that contains an ad is removed? Does your layout hold up?”
Putting on a publisher’s hat…who cares if it holds up, the user has blocked ads, and thereby is of no value. Making a site so robust that it works fine for users with blockers, would actually only encourage the further use of blockers.
Either way, I don’t think ads in itself are the issue, rather it is very unbalanced and harmful ways in which they are served. I think deep down many web users understand the need for ads. They don’t understand, however, that it slows down a page up to a factor 4, blocks basic interaction with the content, tracks you without consent, and even installs malware. The ad industry simply has gone too far in destroying the user experience.
Exactly, I don’t have a problem with advertisments per se – just with most of them and especially the way they are implemented (security and privacy compromises as well as cpu hogs).
But NoScript et al. takes care of most of this, no need for “ad blockers” here. And if a site gets it right (in part), it gets whitelisted – e.g. css-tricks.com: There used to be an animated Wufoo ad that drove my machine crazy, so I had to “block” css-tricks – but the current ads are fine for me, so JS allowed again (not bysellads, though). If you need external advertisements, pull them in through your CMS (not client side) and display them locally – thus taking full responsibility for the contents of those ads.
I don’t have any specific issue with advertisements, but I have a simple rule: don’t interrupt the UX. As soon as a site start serving ads that degrade my experience, I either block those ads or avoid the site.
Clearly obtrusive advertising does work at some level (or it wouldn’t exist), but there’s got to be a tipping point where blocking ads becomes easy enough for the lay person that it stops paying off. Also I wonder about the long-term implications of the trust lost; if a site employs obtrusive ads which then trigger a significant blocking of their ad content, if they then switched to more harmonious ads how long would it take to “recover?”
Agreed – but the ad blockers currently throw the baby out with the bath water. Site owners who have always been careful to avoid alienating people with garbage ads, are getting hosed by the Ad blocker’s all or nothing approach.
It’s a complete myth that ad blockers allow self-hosted ads to go through. Ad Block Plus – for example – blocks anything with “ad” in the URL of the image. It also blocks any CSS divs with the name “ad” in it. Or the word “banner” as well. There are many more examples. ABP also blocks any images that are “standard ad size,” i.e. 300×250, and so on.
So … can you change your names, URL paths, div names, image sizes and so on? Yes. But then you get reported on their message boards for trying to “trick” them, and your new path is added to their database.
The Napster comparison is apt – because you’re getting something for free (the site’s content) without the implied “contract” that you will view the site’s ads in exchange. Is it legally exactly the same? No. Is it ethical – no.
And as others have alluded to, I find the criticism of ad networks to be at least partially misguided. I understand the page weight/load speed argument. But the tracking is done so as to serve people more relevant ads. Of course, I’d prefer the ad networks just stick to serving an ad based upon the content of the page, as opposed to tracking, which is how they started out.
ABP blocks whatever the user tells it to block via the Filters List that is enabled. It’s like a firewall: nothing is blocked unless you activate some rule. Moreover, by default ABP allows acceptable ads (e.g. those textual ads that don’t blink and don’t heavily track users).
There is no such thing as an “implied contract”. Not to mention the fact that you would be “agreeing” to opening a webpage of which you don’t know the content in exchange of viewing ads that you don’t know about.
So, using this reasoning, surfing the web without using Adobe Flash Player (maybe because you prefer to err on the security side, or you don’t want to use proprietary software, or you are using an ARM processor or whatever) is not ethical because you are blocking SWF ads?
Is surfing with images turned off also not ethical? What about using a text-based browser? Is RSS not ethical? And using
curlin a Bash script?
I find your concept of “ethic” a bit hard to understand, but probably it’s my fault.
OK, do what you want – then don’t be surprised when a number of your favorite sites disappear, and the web is ruled by 5 corporations.
And the definition of ABP’s “acceptable ads” is pretty narrow. I explained to you the situation in my case, for example, and what ABP blocks by default, and how.
I run different websites myself, none of those are ad supported (ok technically now one is but the profit goes to WP.com and that’s why I am about to migrate to my own VPS). Not every website is online to make the owner rich. There are people who are actually passionate about what they do and write on their websites to share their passion.
Most useful web apps have a free and a paid version. The free tier is limited and paid for by those who need more and opt for the pro version.
Moreover, only those websites that rely on nasty, Flash-based, blinking advertising will disappear (and it will be positive). The good quality websites will serve acceptable, user-respecting ads that nobody will bother to block.
I honestly would like to know your view about people who don’t want to install Adobe plugins or those who use RSS, but unfortunately you didn’t care about answering.
RSS generally brings people to your site, it’s not a replacement.
Once again, you say that only sites that rely on “blinking advertising” will go away … when I’m telling you that ABP blocks everything. And I’m not talking about text ads. I’m talking about homemade, home-sold, ads with a simple IMG tag. If you’re suggesting that any visual ad is bad, then I guess we really have nothing to talk about. Furthermore, most small companies with 1 or 2 “employees” can’t afford to have a sales force. But the Internet afforded these people an opportunity to make a living at what they’re passionate about. Sure, people will still make sites that they are passionate about without the need to make a living — but something seems pretty wrong to me about telling people like that they are essentially not allowed to try to make a living at it because everyone is blocking their ads.
It’s a red herring to suggest everyone is trying to “get rich.” I hardly call $30k/year getting rich. It’s absurd to suggest that it is. But it is a nice thing to have for a publisher to be able to make it their job and work for themselves, or at least to have the ability to strive for that.
It’s also offensive to suggest that anyone trying to make any money on their time/effort is therefore not passionate about what they’re doing. It’s not an either/or.
Sorry, my bad. English is not my native language… I was talking about true RSS, i.e. feeds that work as they were intendend, allowing you to read the whole story. Not “cut-off” RSS (I hope what I’m writing makes some sense in English).
Nowadays we have to use tools such as FeedEx and WizardRSS more and more. The fact that Yahoo Pipes will be shut down at the end of the month is driving me crazy. :( But originally RSS were working quite well.
It’s extremely hard to make a visual ad that is not distracting/annoying and that doesn’t waste a lot of bandwidth. Not all of visual ads are bad. Most visual ads are bad. On this regard, I’m pretty much in agreement with the policy of acceptable ads of ABP. It says «Preferably text only, no attention-grabbing images».
Again, if ads don’t destroy a user experience, there is little reason in spending time to block them.
Let’s be clear: trying is always allowed! But demanding that users must accept any content in their browsers, calling them out and saying “not ethical!” is quite offensive.
It depends on where you live. I suppose you live in the USA and I don’t know too much about that country. In my country it would be a quite high salary, something that most people will never see. But that was not the point.
Yeah, if only we could get people to swap from ad blockers to script blockers – everybody I care about would win. Of course, there may be a slightly steeper learning curve to configure NoScript correctly. Content-driven ads seem to make a lot of sense to me.
Let’s just call the ads we want to block junk-ads or ad-spam.
Nobody complains that every user of e-mail blocks unsolicited ads sent to them. Without spam-filters e-mail would be unusable.
Why should the web have to accept ads that are terrible for both performance and user experience?
But then we hit the problem of taking a sledgehammer to a problem that can be solved with a shovel. How many sites have you visited, signed up for, etc, that tell you to “check your spam folder for the email [they] sent”? Blocking the worst of the ads can be done with a script blocking service. Chrome in particular allows you to set Flash to only play when requested, and Firefox has had an add-on to do this for years. But AdBlockers take the swathing, whitelist approach, which even blocks ad providers, like Project Wonderful and another service that was mentioned here before but I can’t seem to find it anymore, that make promises to provide such unobtrusive ads.
It also has a whitelist that makes sure “acceptable ads” are actually not blocked.
I checked a website with such ads. I’m not 100% sure, but since their code was blocked by Disconnect, I assume it uses some intrusive tracking technology.
My suggestion is to focus the discussion at the heart of the issue: the commercial publishing industry. Those websites where their content costs money to produce and is their main product.
I believe sometimes the discussion becomes too wide, publishers saying the web is dying a slow death. That’s not the case at all. It is their portion of the web, the publishing part, that is hurt the most, not the web as a whole.
We should not compare hobby sites, web services (like gmail), blogs and commercial content sites as the same thing in relation to ads.
Whilst I agree that the ad model has created this situation for themselves through sheer abuse, I also agree that ad blockers are too aggressive, hurting sites that don’t deserve it in the process.
I am going to assume that most users of ad blockers, in particular on mobile, are not going to bother much in tuning their settings, which means the defaults apply in many cases. And sometimes those defaults are quite aggressive. uBlocks comes to mind here.
Also, I find it far from “ethical” for Adblock to take money to get companies on the white list. They are positioning themselves as a middle man between the consumer and producer, extracting cash in the process. It’s hijacking, in essence.
As for ads, they should never be intrusive in the sense that they install malware. Nor should they have an extreme performance penalty. Visually though, they can and should be somewhat intrusive. Text ads in the sidebar simply don’t work, users have developed an ad-blindness for those.
I don’t like “me too-ism” – but I just had to say – this is very well said. Hit all the points nicely.
People will always develop a blindness for ads as it is not something they intended to find. They were searching for something and got ads thrown at their faces. Thats why ads do not work and never will.
From the other side buyers of products have to pay more for them, because the manufacturer thinks he has to spend some money for ads. You as a customer pay for other things, but you can not influence what for your money is spent.
Advertisement is completely rubbish. Those who pay for it do not want it (the customers). Those who see it don’t want it. So it’s just some business in between, one company which pays others to show their ads. I claim websites placing ads are lacking a serious business model. If they die, better for the rest who have serious business models.
I’ve been add blocking for 15 years. The Web is still here. Lots of awful sites that cram bad ads down people’s throats though.
Why ad-blocking is not taken as a form of piracy?
Because it’s not, as explained (also) in the comments above.
Why advertisement is not taken as a form of harassment or coercion?
Because, IMO strictly, the comparison is absolutely silly on many levels.
I think small blog sites like mine will hurt the most, because web is already a competitive platform, and on top of that traffic is declining every month due to shark sites like stackoverflow and content thief.. I am sure that day will come when we might have to find day job in order to support ourselves.