What You Need to Know About Blocking Ads

Thaya Kareeson from Omninoggin recently pointed me in the direction of a site called AdBlock.org, a site that seems to have a similar view of of ad blockers as my own.

Adblocking software is a response to abusive activity by advertisers.

It’s the continuation of what amounts to an arms race between advertisers and adblock software developers. If the cycle of ad blocking and more agressive advertising continues, ultimately we all lose in a classic “tragedy of the commons” scenario, where overuse of a common resource can cause it’s ruin.

At adblock.org, we’re interested in discussing the issues, and pushing for all parties to stop the battle and work toward cleaning up the advertising mess that’s been created on the Internet.

They hit the nail on the head. Ad blocking software came into existence because of bad advertising practices. Badly designed ads, once that were intrusive and useless to the reader, drove people to a method of escape: Block the ads.

But not all ads are bad. The ads most people think of are the ones from major banner ad networks, and the Pay Per Click ads from providers such as AdSense. Those are the ones most people have a problem with, because they all too often provide little value to the end user, and lessen their experience on the website.

What of the other ads? Not every ad is as bad as the rest. What of the unobtrusive ads sold directly to advertisers, without a middleman ad network, ones carefully approved for lack of annoyance. What of the ads from the new breed of smaller, caring ad networks, such as Buy Sell Ads?

Not all ads are created equal, which is something people don’t seem to understand. Yet it is vitally important. Websites are supported by the advertisements that they run. Without the ads, many sites would cease to exist, and they certainly would if ad blocking went fully mainstream.

I have no quarrel with people who block ads that fly across their screens or shout through their speakers. I have a problem with people who block every single ad on the internet as they surf, and selfishly expect an ad-free experience. That is simply trying to get something for nothing, freeloading.

In the 1990s, there was a major outbreak of a heinous form of advertising that came to be known as “pop-up advertising.” Few ads can get your attention as well as a new window opening up in your face, and the ad networks knew that. That particular form of advertising became very widely used, and universally despised by computer users everywhere, yet it continued despite the protests of the users. It took the development of special tools designed to stop the ads to restore the internet to a tolerable state. Pop-up blockers are now so commonly used people forget they are there. The major browsers all include them now.

Now tell me, why did pop-up blockers come into existence? Because irresponsible advertisers, ad networks, and website owners didn’t give a thought to how the ads would affect user experience, or if they did, they did nothing about it. Pop-up blockers didn’t appear because people thought they should be able to get free content and not see the ads, they were developed because of abusive advertising.

A very large percentage of the free content you get online is payed for by advertisements. If you cheat the system and block the ads, you hurt the advertisers, and then the websites as a result. The “I don’t click them anyway” argument is not valid, as many ads are not Pay Per Click, but billed by pageview or by the week.

I am perfectly fine with people blocking ads that, like pop-up ads, are simply unreasonable. I do that myself. I selectively block ads myself, some entire networks. However, I am against the blocking of ads simply because they are ads. Think about it, it hurts the people producing free content for your consumption. You could be costing people their income by blanket-blocking ads, directly if they are self-employed web authors, or indirectly by contributing to the cause of layoffs at a larger company they work for.

  • Robert

    I block all ads not because I want an “ad-free experience.” but I am tired of: those new javascript ads, adds that have an exit button that opens a new window anyway, porn/gay adds (even facebook seems to think I would benefit from some man-on-man advice), damn talking adds. Most of my time on the web is spent reading webcomics which have donate buttons anyway, while I have yet to donate I am seriously considering a generous donation to all my favorite webcomics. In anycase I would NOT mind having the option on ad-block to let some sites through. But until the day when computers tell if a site has obnoxious ads ad-block works just fine.

  • Matt

    Robert: AdBlock Plus (a firefox extension) *does* have an option to NOT block ads on websites of your choosing. =)

  • http://www.computer-realm.net Luq

    for the most part, most reputed blogs and such only have harmless contextual ads like adsense which aren't really annoying and i think for providing frequently updated quality free content for everyone they atleast deserve the ads to show up and make a little something out of it. i think only ad networks that allow annoying and illegal or adult ads should be blocked using ad blockers.

  • bob

    Coming from a country where you are charged per MB, I see no reason why I should fork out additional money downloading large image (and JavaScript) files.

    Add to that the fact that ad companies have included (unintentionally) malware and other nasties in the adverts served by 3rd parties before (see http://www.google.co.za/search.....ad+malware) and you’ll see why I play it safe and block all ads from my viewing experience.

    An idea of how much our bandwidth costs: It’s cheaper for us to fly to Taiwan and download 500GB of data than to do it in my own country.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      You're downloading the pages, and the ads are part of the package. Besides, AdBlock doesn't necessarily block the download of the JavaScript or image file, much of the time it simply applies a CSS rule to hide it. It depends on the filter rule that's being triggered.

  • Nicolaine

    I don't think its entirely correct to say that one is getting free content without the ads. In my case, what let me over here is (1) I have a 5G limit on my mobile broadband after that I am charged .20 per mb so as long as I'm paying for internet service and have a cap on my monthly service, I have an incentive to worry about what ads are being downloaded when I surf
    (2) while I was trying to send out an important e-mail which took me quite a while to draft, firefox ran into problems downloading an add from a company called "blue lithium" This caused my e-mail to get hanged while I was downloading the attachment. Now the ENTIRE email is gone and I have to start from scratch, including re-attaching all the names for the distribution list. There's not even any point in giving vent to my outrage and fury. The email is GONE and that's that.

    And really, what am I, a woman or a lab rat? Did I need to see an ad on my inbox page, an ad on my compose e-mail page, an add on my include recipients page and an add in my attach a document page? Condescending and offensive behavior! I'm calling this my "ha ha" moment. From this point forward, the advertisers and I are at war.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      1. The old "I pay for internet" argument is just like saying "I pay for the postal service (in taxes) so I shouldn't get ads in my yellow pages. They weigh it down and cause more fuel and money to be wasted to deliver it to me."

      2. Yes, the advertisers do need to rethink some of their habits. Some of them are less reputable than others, but that doesn't mean you should get rid of those that make an effort.

      3. It sounds like the ad was badly made, and probably a Flash ad (which I can't say I like) at that.

      4. Are you paying for the email service? If not, you can't complain about the ads. It costs money to run the service, and they have to pay for it all somehow.

  • Mike

    I am sick of all you people who claim that because I block ads it makes me a freeloader. If you a website I use wants me to see an ad all that is needed is a plain text ad. No ad blocker I know of blocks plain text. All these websites need to do is check for java, flash, and all the other insane technologies they use and where these options are not available then deliver a plain text ad. If they can do this (and many sites do) to keep you off the site for refusing ads they can also provide a plain text alternative. The Internet is and will always be a text based media. All the sights and sounds in the world will not change that fact. So website owners If you want me to see an ad deliver it in the native format of the Internet “plain text”

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      "No ad blocker I know of blocks plain text."

      Actually, AdBlock's EasyList filters do that in some cases, I believe. And if you look at this site, there are no annoying Flash or Java ads. Just some unobtrusive 125×125 banners in the sidebar mainly. I don't care for Flash ads myself, but it seems making an effort to not annoy your readers with bad ads doesn't make any difference. AdBlock zaps them all the same, and the EasyList folks are dead-set on determining that it continues to do so, leading to a constant cat-and-mouse game.