If you follow me on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn), you’ll have noticed a few links to articles about ad blockers. These rather remarkable programs don’t just hide ads on the web pages that you visit, they prevent them from loading altogether. And when the ads don’t load, nether do the tracking cookies and beacons used by ad servers to track your activities around the web. The result is a faster and much more pleasant online experience.
There’s a downside though and it of course involves money. The ad-based revenue model that pays for many websites won’t work if no one is looking at the ads. Is it irresponsible of the viewer to block ads on a site that they enjoy for free? The companies buying ads and the agencies selling them are grappling with this problem and some of them realize that it is largely of their own making. With ads that are so intrusive and often irrelevant, is it any wonder that we don’t care to see them? Here are a couple of the more thoughtful articles that I’ve come across recently and a look at the ad blocker that I use myself.
Adblockers Are Not Pirates
by David Weinberger
Is turning a page in a magazine without reading the ad piracy? Is going to pee during a commercial piracy? Is keeping your eyes on the road instead of looking at the billboards piracy? Is it piracy when a TV show blurs the name of a product on the tee shirt of a passerby?
There’s only one difference between those acts of non-piracy and what happens when you run an ad blocker such as AdBlock Plus in your browser. When you turn the page on a magazine ad or fix yourself a big bowl of Soylent during a TV commercial, the magazine publishers and the TV station don’t know about it. That’s the only relevant difference. Whether the provider of the ad knows about it or not is not relevant to whether it’s piracy.
A Way to Peace in the Adblock War
by Doc Searls
The baby in the adblock bathwater is old-fashioned Madison Avenue advertising, which has paid for nearly all of periodical publishing and commercial broadcasting since their beginnings, and which we have tolerated all that time, and even liked and appreciated in many cases.
Here are other likable things about Madison Avenue advertising:
- It isn’t personal.
- It isn’t based on tracking you.
- You know where it comes from.
The simplest solution to the adblock war is for non-tracking-based ads — the harmless Madison Avenue kind — to carry a marker that ad blockers can whitelist.
If you want to experience the web without ads, I recommend uBlock Origin, which is available for Chrome and Firefox. It is free, open source and accepts no donations (kind of the Consumer Reports of ad blockers). It is highly customisable but works well with its default settings. Others have reported that it uses fewer computer resources than its competitors.
I’d be interested to know your experience with seeing and blocking ads on the web. Let me know in the comments.