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The Morality of Web Advertisement Blocking 974

Posted by Zonk
from the can't-see-a-problem dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There has been some recent coverage of the over-hyped boycott of Firefox, in response to the rising popularity of the Adblock Plus Firefox extension. A recent editorial on CNET looks into the issue, and explores the moral and legal issues involved in client-side web advertisement blocking. Whereas TiVo users freeload on the relatively fixed broadcasting costs paid by TV networks, users of web ad-blocking technology are actively denying website owners revenue that would otherwise go to pay for the bandwidth costs of serving up those web pages. If the website designer has to pay for bits each time you view their website without viewing their banner ads, are you engaged in theft? Is this right? "
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The Morality of Web Advertisement Blocking

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  • Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trigun (685027) <evil.evilempire@ath@cx> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:25PM (#20555449)
    If things weren't so horribly intrusive and capable of tracking a user's entire internet experience, for the sole purpose of selling you stuff, people wouldn't bitch.
    • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ivanmarsh (634711) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:31PM (#20555611)
      Agreed... web advertisers talking about morality and ethics is a joke.

      When you site warns me that it's going to resize my browser, install software and watch everything I do I'll stop blocking it.
      • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KU_Fletch (678324) <bthomas1 AT ku DOT edu> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:44PM (#20556039)
        Exactly. I don't sift through every page and Adblock everything. One, it would be a waste of my time, and two, I actually do click on a few ads every once and a while. I use Adblock to get rid of "annoying" ads, like the ones screaming into my speakers that I won a free iPod Nano, or the ones who make huge flash overlays over half the page so I can't read the damn article. It's not immoral, it's pushback.
        • adblock subscription (Score:4, Informative)

          by SethJohnson (112166) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:36PM (#20557289) Homepage Journal


          I don't sift through every page and Adblock everything.

          Check into AdBlock Plus subscriptions [mozilla.org]. You won't have to sift through any pages. The ads will be blocked automagically. That's what this discussion is mostly about.

          Seth
        • I block all pop-ups. There is never any excuse for those, so bye-bye. I block all annoying flash ads, and any ads that force me to wait while they load, and not only do I block that ad, but I block the entire domain that they come from.

          Like all matters of ethics, there is a certain amount of trust between the two parties. On one side, there are the people who block ads, and on the other side there are the people who produce ads.

          Most people don't block informative and tasteful ads that don't hamper their bro
      • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mgblst (80109) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:58PM (#20556379) Homepage
        Why are these people so intent on advertising to people who are clearly not interested in it. Are they of the belief that those of use who go out of the way to avoid these adverts, will somehow fall under their magic when we see their latest animations?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gfxguy (98788)
          It's not really the advertisers, it's the website owners who lose the revenue. Even if you don't buy the product, they make money on views. Eliminate the view, eliminate the money.

          On the other hand, I agree with you completely... if they need a click to generate revenue, they aren't going to get it from me anyway.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by aldousd666 (640240)
            Essentially though if the advertisers are paying sites to display their content, they are expecting a return. If the site displays ads that are not properly targeted anyway, and/or the required browser capabilities to view the site's ads aren't present (lynx et al) then, these may be features about the audience they're trying to reach, and thus serve as valid market feedback by not being displayed. If they don't belong on page X because the visitors aren't susceptible to web adverts like that for whatever
      • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:25PM (#20557061)
        When you site warns me that it's going to resize my browser, install software and watch everything I do I'll stop blocking it.

        Actually that is when I block the entire site, not just the advertisements.

        It is when the advertisements covered up the site so you could not access the content (X-10 cams?) is when I got serious about blocking advertisements. Yahoo news was almost unreadable due to all the junk floating over the page. It was as welcome as reading a used newspaper after someone used it to mop up a spilled bottle of catchup. The flash floaties were so bad, I went to the extreme to fully remove flash from my machine so I could read the articles. Later other tools came out to deal with the problem, the best being flashblock. That gave me the best of both worlds. I could view flash content and control the ugly spills on the articles.

        It was obtrusive advertising that started this mess.

        Once flashblock was working it was a small step to find discussions regarding the problem and solutions. The solutions would not have had a market if there were not a serious problem to deal with. The advertising hasn't improved, except Google came along and showed the world that a page full of banner advertisements isn't required to have effective advertising. Search engines have for the most part have cleaned up their act, but most news sites haven't caught on and are playing games with flash advertising for those who haven't blocked it yet, article keyword advertisements, and the old standby banner advertisements.

        A hint for advertisers is to be there in the search results. Provide lots of great sponsored content. When I need soething, I'll come looking for you. That is the best kind of consumer, ones that want your product. As an example I was looking for information on a failing lamp in my laptop. Do I replace the laptop? Can I replace the lamp? Is it expensive? Is it hard to replace?

        A Google search gave me the answers and a vendor with reasonable prices. The vendor didn't need to buy a bunch of banner or flash advertisements to get my business. They just needed to provide the info I needed and a good catalog of the proper parts.

        Here is the tutorial that got me to the vendor's site;
        http://www.ccfldirect.com/lcdtutorial.html [ccfldirect.com]

        Here is the table that told me what lamp I needed;
        http://www.ccfldirect.com/lcdrepair.html [ccfldirect.com]

        And from the table, here is the lamp I need and the price;
        http://www.ccfldirect.com/2x29fuspccla.html [ccfldirect.com]

        I found my bulk inkjet supplier and fuser supplier for my old laserjet the same way. I looked into how to refill cartridges, how to reset the ink level indicator, and such. The supplier with the info got my order. I found them from a Google search. I did not respond to a flash or banner advertisement. Those advertisements simply don't contain the info needed. Most click-through advertisements simply put you into a data mine site. They gather information on the hot new lead instead of providing the information you seek. Bad move. I'm not signing up to everyone's email list just to get questions answered. Visit the above example for the laptop lamps. Notice the total lack of data mining. They don't ask your age, income, e-mail, profession, etc. They simply provide an open door. From there I placed my order and supplied the information needed for the order. Notice who got the sale and who didn't.

        Ad blocking isn't evil. It's just an efficient way to toss the electronic 3rd class mail in bulk that you never open or respond to anyway. The free samples of catchup not spilled on your web page is a bonus. You shouldn't let advertisers spill gooey messy stuff all over your pretty web page.

      • by Shoeler (180797) * on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:27PM (#20557111)
        I ran two websited that used contextual ads (from the likes of vibrant media and kontera) as well as banner-based stuff (google, yahoo, etc) and I can tell you that the worst person to piss off is the one that doesn't want to see the ad. They were never going to click on it anyway, so why should you care? Most of our deals were cost-per-click revenue anyway so I didn't care to serve an ad to a person who wasn't going to click it and have to deal with pissing them off. A few months before I sold both sites (and am glad to be out of that business, though I miss the revenue), I made it so that folks could disable contextual ads through a profile setting, and added the ability for them to pay a paltry sum ($10 per year) to remove all ads site-wide. Folks were thrilled to pay a cheap price, I made some good cash, and everyone was happy.

        I knew of folks using ad blocking software (hell, I use adblock plus myself!) and would never have done anything to that group for the sole reason that I wasn't going to make money on them anyway and might as well make em happy instead of mad.

        Oh - and I determined that most of my ad-clicks were unregistered folks who visited my site for the first time - one of those dirty little industry secrets.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Buran (150348)
        On top of that, my computer is my computer and no one else's. I can do whatever I wish with my own property, and that includes changing how it displays sites I wish to view, or what software I run on it, or whether or not I install optional components to software, whether through bundled optional addons at install or addons added later.

        You may run your Web site however you wish, but you cross a line when you complain about how I use my own property. Who are you, as a webmaster, to dictate what I can and can
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Working for a company who does exactly this, I have to agree with you. The worst thing is the new-ish wave of "rich media" ads - videos that load and waste your bandwidth (perfect for mobile connections), banners and skyscrapers that pop out to occupy the page when you roll over, horrific flash things that float in the middle of the page and just won't go away. To be honest the tracking aspect doesn't bother me that much, but then maybe that's because I've seen what these companies actually store about you
      • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

        by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:09PM (#20556677)
        I would, however, have to agree that if I put up a website and I depended on advertising revenue, I'd be a bit pissed off if all of my visitors started using adblock, especially if I chose non-intrusive adverts like google ads.

        Well, that's the real rub. I have adblock, but I've got a bunch of sites actually whitelisted because I don't mind their ads and I don't want to have a bunch of empty space all over the place (which, without the whitelist, I'm never sure would be ads or something else I'm missing). And I wouldn't even have adblock at all if it weren't for a few really bad apples that forced me into it.

        Adblock is not something that everybody just has, and that's as simple to use as flicking a switch. Remember that most people - and I don't mean most people here, I mean most people in the world - have no clue what a "Firefox Extension" even is or how to install one. You need to make an actual effort to find out about this, to download it, to install it, to configure it so that it blocks what you want it to block. Even people who have the technical ability to figure this out are not going to do it unless pushed. It's not like everybody who hits the web for the first time immediately says "ok! I'm ready to start surfing! But first, how do I block the ads?"

        Look at Google's model (at least to this point). They're making plenty of money on ads, and so are all the sites that rely on them. And I guarantee you they're not having any problem with adblock. Their revenue numbers certainly don't seem to show any. Why? Because their ads are not intrusive, in fact they occasionally even border on useful. I have clicked Google ads a few times myself.

        It's both funny and strange to me that people still think the way you make money on ads is to be as annoying as possible, when the biggest company on the net became as successful as they are by doing exactly the opposite. Don't people ever learn anything?

        If you ask me, any site whose model is to present you with the most annoying ads possible deserves to have a user set that relies on adblock. If you've got a problem with adblock, it's because you as a webmaster brought it on yourself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SCHecklerX (229973)
        If the ads had never been intrusive to begin with, then people would not have used things to block them. That your 'nice' ads are collateral damage is not our problem. Advertisers shouldn't have been such morons about their business method, and maybe then they wouldn't be having problems now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster (516420)
        I would, however, have to agree that if I put up a website and I depended on advertising revenue, I'd be a bit pissed off if all of my visitors started using adblock, especially if I chose non-intrusive adverts like google ads.

        So charge for access to the site and find how much your content is *really* worth. The best content sites are the ones that have quality original content and can charge for subscriptions (Wall Street Journal comes to mind). Failing that you might try to convince your readers that
    • Re:Oh boo hoo (Score:5, Interesting)

      by funaho (42567) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:02PM (#20556493) Homepage
      I wouldn't be blocking ads if:

      1. The ad servers didn't overload all the time and slow the page load to a crawl. I can't count the number of times I've had to block an ad server just to get a page to LOAD.

      2. The ads weren't so obnoxious. Sound is an absolute no-no. Animation is almost as bad, but at least doesn't startle you half to death at 3am when you aren't expecting it. It does however tend to slow the page down, especially if there are multiple animated ads all dancing around and asking you to punch the monkey.

      If they toned down the ads a couple of notches, and made sure their infrastructure could handle the number of ads they are serving I think a lot of people would be more than happy to put up with the ads in exchange for the free content. But it seems like no matter how much you say this the advertisers don't want to listen. They're stuck in the old TV mentality where they try to push as much dazzling crap at you as they can. The problem is Internet users aren't TV viewers; we don't want things shoved in our faces constantly. If we did, we'd watch TV. Instead of getting "mind share" they're just pissing everyone off.

      (and speaking of TV will someone please bitchslap the people who compress the audio of TV commercials to make it sound obnoxiously loud?)
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:29PM (#20557159)
        Especially when you combine it with the 3rd big problem of irrelevance. Web ads are very, very often for things you just don't give a shit about. TV ads are actually quite targeted, they get demographic information on shows and pick what ads to run based off of who is likely to be watching. However many web advertisers simply smear their banners over and and every site. Not to mention that many are borderline fraudulent.

        I've found that when you have ads that don't have this problem, not only do I not mind, I can even be happy with them. Google ads are an example. They hold the record as the only online ads I've ever bought something from. More, I've done it several times. I don't mind them at all. The servers seem to be fully capable of handling the load, so they aren't slow, the ads are very unobtrusive and on Google itself blend right in, and they are very relevant to what I'm doing.

        For example I'll search for something I'm interested in purchasing and rather than looking at the normal search results, I look at the ads. Here is a list of people willing to sell me what I want. The ad usually takes me right to the relevant page. Now that's useful.

        However that's not how most advertisers want to do it. For some reason everything they know about advertising seems to fall out of their brain when it comes ot the web, and they believe that the answer is invariably make it more obtrusive and it'll work.
    • by mcmonkey (96054) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:34PM (#20557241) Homepage

      If things weren't so horribly intrusive and capable of tracking a user's entire internet experience, for the sole purpose of selling you stuff, people wouldn't bitch.

      I'm sure there's some fancy latin term for this fallacy, but I'll just call it the War Games defense. (The only winning move is not to play.)

      The parent poster is saying if an ad is static text or image--no flash--and doesn't track you past the single page displaying the ad, then it is immoral to block the ad. Interesting.

      I say, my stand on blocking ads has nothing to do with the ads. My argument doesn't depend on ads being obtrusive or anything else. I simply say, I control what I download. I choose not to download from certain sources.

      You see, I don't get into a debate on types of ads. I don't even really address the issue of ads at all. I just say, I download what I want to download. If I think I'll never have any reason to request data from a domain, I might use a HOSTS file to direct requests for that domain to 0.0.0.0 just to protect myself from any inadvertent requests I may make.

      Someone who wants to take the position that there is something wrong with not viewing ads on a web page has to play on my field and explain why the ISP connection and the computer I pay for are obligated to accept someone else's data without my request.

  • Oh my. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by croddy (659025) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:25PM (#20555453)

    I'd like to live in a fantasy world where I'm simply entitled by default to ad revenue, and I only have to deal with insidious "users of web ad-blocking technology" who are "actively denying" me my solid gold razor scooter. Fortunately for users, in the real world, a webmaster has to earn ad revenue by finding content that users want and ads they are willing to accept -- not by taking it for granted that they will just gaze longingly into the CRT clicking on everything that swirls.

    For a long time, advertisers were able to support a huge number of frivolous web sites, partly because they could bombard the user with page after page of obnoxious flashing garbage for which no technical countermeasures existed. The collapse of the dot-com bubble eliminated the most unviable popup-pushers, and the rest are beginning to get the message. Popup blockers are normal mainstream software, and Google has had significant success selling all-text advertisements.

    The website owners seem to think that we've pushed back hard enough, and should just deal with the sea of repellant Flash banners they want to drown us in. I guess those website owners are wrong, because clearly there are plenty of people who are not willing to tolerate the barrage of useless ads. We'll find a balance eventually, somewhere in between no ads at all and the websites whose masters believe they are entitled to a tithe every time their server sends a 200 status.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by XenoPhage (242134)
      Personally, I have no aversion to ads at all, provided they're done in a clean, consistent, unobtrusive manner. I realize that many websites exist solely on the revenue from advertising, and I don't think that's a bad thing.

      What drives me absolutely bonkers are sites that insist on using popups, especially those that work to circumvent any popup blocker I have installed. Sites that use CSS/Flash ads that glide over the screen, obscure text, etc. are equally annoying as they detract from the site itself.

      Ot
    • Re:Oh my. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by notasheep (220779) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:43PM (#20556007)
      "Fortunately for users, in the real world, a webmaster has to earn ad revenue by finding content that users want and ads they are willing to accept -- not by taking it for granted that they will just gaze longingly into the CRT clicking on everything that swirls."

      How exactly will a webmaster find ads that users are willing to accept if the ads are blocked and nobody ever sees them? I agree with TFA that ad-blocking software poses an issue for web sites and for the users of the web in general. In the Webs current state the ads are what is supporting the production of most of the content you see. What happens when that support gets pulled out from under the web site owners? (Webmasters could get around the issue by inserting the ads directly in to the content instead of having them served by a third party.)

      On the other hand, I wouldn't equate ad-blocking with theft. Websites are posting content in a public infrastructure where the viewing public has a great deal of control over how they see that content. If they don't like it then they can just charge for access, or engage in an ever escalating (and losing) technology war against the user.
  • next step? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mardin (976086) <mark.mardinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:25PM (#20555467)
    What's next step? Forcing people to actually look at the adds? Or press at it? Or are you a thief if you don't buy a product of an advertiser of a web page you visit?
    • by Erioll (229536) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#20555729)
      What about my bandwidth? They're trying to say I'm OBLIGATED to take everything on their page, not just the parts I'm requesting. I can assure you that I'm requesting their content, not the ads. They're forcing unnecessary bandwidth requirements (and slow load times) upon me by their advertising.

      With a pipe, there ARE two ends to it you know.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xtravar (725372)
        Indeed, I'd like to point out that while surfing the web at work I try to use as little bandwidth as possible. Hence, adblock... let the employees using IE top my bandwidth usage in case the hammer ever starts falling. :)
      • by gfxguy (98788) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:25PM (#20557079)
        Good point. I remember the bad old days, on dialup, waiting for pages of text to load because it was stuck waiting on advertising images. When I added the early versions of ad-blocking (including bogus host entries), it worked wonders.

        So here's the thing; you want to, for example, read an article on CNN. The article will be several thousand characters of data. The images for advertising are typically several times that or more. So when we watch TV, we get like 11 minutes of actual content for 4 minutes of ads. Even that's intrusive, if you ask me, but let's say we accept that. Your bandwidth basically gives you about 3 parts content to 1 part advertising.

        On a website, your bandwidth often gives you 1 part content to 5 or 6 parts adverstising.

        Too bad. The thing is, people used to accept TV ads for the content they got, then Reagan (rightfully, IMO, even though it ended up ruining things) deregulated TV. So now we have MythTV boxes and Tivos and avoid the ads altogether. The day they start sending signals to make it so I can't bypass the commercials is the day I cancel my Tivo subscription. If Myth somehow couldn't do it, I'd be better off not watching anything anyway.

        So if websites keep getting more and more intrusive, and if they somehow manage to force these horrible, overbearing ads on me, I'd be better off not surfing at all. As far as I'm concerned, they have every right... but will be surprised to learn the only thing it earns them is disdain. The things that are REALLY important; the intranet at work, banking and investing, shopping... these are the only things I really want anyway, everything else (like slashdot) is just time wasting fluff.
    • Re:next step? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by klenwell (960296) <klenwell@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:20PM (#20556973) Homepage Journal
      Really. If they need my click so bad, why don't they just click the ad for me? If they don't think my personal preferences regarding the viewing of their ads are particularly germane, why is my personal inclination to click or not click on an ad any more sacred? Just click it for me already and cut me, the gratuitous middle man, out of the equation all together.

      Like a lot of others here, I didn't bother with adblock until the ads started actively interfering with my browsing.

      That said, I think this whole issue is just a troll for the purpose of, naturally, driving more traffic to another fluffy ad-laden website.

  • Is it theft? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:26PM (#20555487)
    If the website designer has to pay for bits each time you view their website without viewing their banner ads, are you engaged in theft?

    No more theft than it would be if you were viewing web content with a browser that couldn't physically render the content. What if everyone used Lynx, [browser.org] for example?
    • Exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:31PM (#20555649)
      From TFA:

      In the end, a few things are clear: Users of advertisement skipping technology are essentially engaged in theft of resources.

      No. If you do not get the reaction you expected from me, then you have simply lost that portion of your investment. I have not stolen anything from you.

      Next up on Slashdot, if she won't blow you after you buy her a drink, is she guilty of "theft of resources"?
  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:26PM (#20555491)
    But is there a moral difference between not downloading the ad vs. not seeing the ad? For example, I use my userContent.css file to not display advertisements in older versions of Mozilla (I like the full suite of apps darn it!). *My* bandwidth is still used to get the file, *their* webserver still logs a request for /advert.php?foo.... but I never see the ad. As long as the request for the advert is made and it is sent, does it matter if someone sees it? Of course, if they don't see it they can't click it, but still...
  • Shift the example (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gentimjs (930934) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:27PM (#20555499) Journal
    Those poor innocent spammers need to pay (somewhere, at some level, be it money for bandwidth or time to write the virus..) to send you those viagra ads .. if we block those messages, and never see them, is it theft of some kind from the spammers or the viagra company?
  • A non-issue ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Woldry (928749) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:27PM (#20555505) Journal
    I fail to see how using Firefox to ignore the ad banners and such is morally any different than throwing out the advertising supplements to the newspaper without glancing at the ads therein.
    • by truesaer (135079) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:35PM (#20555765) Homepage
      I fail to see how using Firefox to ignore the ad banners and such is morally any different than throwing out the advertising supplements to the newspaper without glancing at the ads therein.


      You didn't even read the slashdot summary, much less the article obviously. The newspaper gets paid for including the ad, not for you viewing it. Websites often get paid by impressions, so if the ads aren't received by the customers then the revenue isn't received by the site. Totally different from the newspaper, who gets an "impression" with every paper sold guaranteed.


      Still not necessarily wrong given how parasitic a lot of ads are now, hogging resources and making annoying sounds. But lets focus on the actual argument raised in TFA.

      • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:49PM (#20556161) Journal

        I fail to see how using Firefox to ignore the ad banners and such is morally any different than throwing out the advertising supplements to the newspaper without glancing at the ads therein.
        You didn't even read the slashdot summary, much less the article obviously. The newspaper gets paid for including the ad, not for you viewing it. Websites often get paid by impressions, so if the ads aren't received by the customers then the revenue isn't received by the site. Totally different from the newspaper, who gets an "impression" with every paper sold guaranteed.

        Still not necessarily wrong given how parasitic a lot of ads are now, hogging resources and making annoying sounds. But lets focus on the actual argument raised in TFA.
        In other words it would be like acquiring newspaper gnomes that take the ads out of your paper before you get it, and the newspaper being paid less by advertisers for every newspaper gnome known to be on the loose.

        I hope that clears things up.
  • by shbazjinkens (776313) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:27PM (#20555509)
    If the website owner feels it is necessary to use ads to support the cost of being on the internet, then the least they can do is avoid the flash "Bonk the _____ and get a ______" ads. If they aren't willing to do that then whether they like it or not I'm blocking their ads.

    I go to websites primarily for content, and if thats disrupted by advertisement then I'm not getting what I went there for.
    • by ericlondaits (32714) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:40PM (#20555889) Homepage
      Yeah, but when we use AdBlock we block ALL ads, whether they're obnoxious or not.

      What this might cause, eventually, is for ads to be served through the same server and directories as content (to avoid URL pattern matching), for content to be served through the ads (like a flash file that provides both the ad and text content) or that ads sneak inside content (which they already do, in the form of sponsored articles, sponsored tv shows, on-screen banners during shows, etc.)

      It'd probably be in the best interest of consumers to find a good middle ground.
  • And (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vexorian (959249) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:27PM (#20555519)
    Going to the bathroom during TV commercials is theft!
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cerelib (903469) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:28PM (#20555527)
    No, it is not theft. I ask a server for a page and it gives it to me. I control which parts of the page will load and which parts won't. If websites don't like it, then they need to find a better business model.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rabbit994 (686936) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:45PM (#20556069)
      And as the server, I can control who I talk to. I don't see all the bitching, this is a two way street. If the server doesn't like a clients behavior, server can stop talking to client. Same thing in real life, if I no longer wish to have a conversation with someone, I walk away thereby ending the conversation. If these sites are sick of the "freeloading" Adblock users, don't "talk" to them anymore. Issue a 403 Forbidden, say your server will not talk to Adblock users and call it a day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Trigun (685027)
        Wow, a logical and technically sound argument? Holy crap, Slashdot's going to implode.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)
        How are you going to test if people are using Adblock?
  • Ads? (Score:5, Funny)

    by reaktor (949798) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:28PM (#20555531)
    What ads?
  • by Guspaz (556486) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:28PM (#20555533)
    I'm using their bits, eh? Well, they're using my CPU with all their annoying flash ads.

    As soon as people learn that annoying (and often intrusive) Flash ads aren't appreciated, then there won't be a major reason for adblock.
  • by kerohazel (913211) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:29PM (#20555565) Homepage
    "Our revenue model is broken, and exploiting said brokenness should be illegal."
  • by J'raxis (248192) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:30PM (#20555581) Homepage

    As far as I understand it, the pay-per-view advertising model has gone the way of the dodo, and they're all pay-per-click now. Telling me I have to let the ads through on a site, when I have zero intention of ever clicking on them, is pointless. In fact, since I'm never going to click on them, by not displaying them, I'm saving the advertiser bandwidth.

    • by glpierce (731733) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @02:01PM (#20557913) Homepage
      The parent post ties in rather nicely with a short piece I wrote about two years ago (but never published) in defense of my work on Filterset.G. It may be a bit outdated, but I think it's finally appropriate.

      The Economics of Blocking Ads

      Preface:
      I have nothing against advertisers or advertising. I have no interest in eliminating advertisements from the internet as a whole. Filterset.G is a tool, and is not tied to an ideology; there is no ulterior motive. Many people believe that Adblock, Filterset.G, and similar projects will be "the death of the free internet", and attack people developing tools to block ads (including myself). I have no desire to "destroy" the internet or advertising.

      Reducing Costs to Suppliers and Consumers
      Advertisements are unwanted distractions to many people (i.e. those who don't buy from ads), and ad-blockers provide an easy way to remove them. Transferring advertisements to people who ignore or don't buy from them is costly to both advertiser and advertisee. Bandwidth isn't free, and the bits often travel thousands of miles through dozens of machines to reach consumers. For those who have no intention of buying advertised products in response to ads, it is a waste, and can become very expensive. The host of the ad pays to transfer it, and many ISPs charge users by the amount of data transferred, so they pay to see it. Advertisers rarely pay sites for ads based on impressions (views, not clicks/sales) anymore, due to the difficulty in gauging its success, so passive ad-viewers (who look, but don't click), needn't be considered.

      Increasing Profit Margins
      People who don't buy from ads are negative in the expense/profit ratio for advertisers. Eliminating the cost of advertising to non-purchasers increases profits given a constant userbase. The risk, of course, is that people who buy occasionally might also block ads and thereby decrease profits. For this reason, I strongly urge people not to install ad-blocking software on other people's computers unless they express a desire for it. The greatest threat from ad-blocking is from people pushing it on those who do buy from ads.

      Demand Keeps Suppliers in Business
      Let's hypothetically say that all internet advertising was eliminated overnight (which is not going to happen). That would cut a major source of funding for web sites, which would force many to close, decreasing supply. Demand, however, would still exist. As supply decreases, demand would bring capital to the "best" remaining suppliers. Subscriptions, donations, grants, and sales keep many ad-free sites alive today, and can easily continue to do so in the future. Hosting a small web site is fairly cheap, and the increasing userbase that drives up costs also increases the number of potential donors, subscribers, and purchasers. A worst-case scenario would be a drastic reduction of economically unsustainable sites, which definitionally provide too little benefit to users to warrant their covering the costs of operating it. Many people would call this a "best-case" scenario, separating the wheat from the chaff, though I take no stance.

      Making Ads Less Obtrusive
      If public perception of ads becomes increasingly negative, they will become decreasingly effective. Advertising strategies will necessarily shift to less offensive and distracting forms. Many users vocally support the replacement of banners and other obtrusive advertising methods by text ads in areas distinct from page content. Unobtrusive, low-bandwidth ads may not be as eye-catching, but they are well tolerated by all but the most aggressive anti-ad folks.

      Forcing Ads
      Many advertisers and site owners are researching methods of bypassing ad-blocking software. If ad-blocking is only done by those who do not buy from ads, the outcome will become increasingly negative as their efforts increase. Many people are becoming more and more fed-up with in-your-face ads, and are starting to boycott co
  • No. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wavicle (181176) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:31PM (#20555621)
    If the website designer has to pay for bits each time you view their website without viewing their banner ads, are you engaged in theft?

    In order for me to view their banner ads, my browser must actively request the data for that banner in a separate transaction from the one used to get the rest of the contents of the page. I see no reason for me, as the computer's owner and operator, not to forbid the browser from doing so.

    As a good citizen of the internet, I think it a good thing that I don't clog the tubes with advertising bandwidth which I do not care to see.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:32PM (#20555671) Homepage Journal
    If you want me to view your advertisement it better not.

    1. Have sound. If it does your so forever block from my browser and wallet its not even funny

    2. Overlay what I am reading. Having to click your ad away from the article text means I know exactly who I am never buying from.

    3. Pop a window, over or under, its the same, your gone.

    4. Any ad which causes my HD to spin up to load the damn support required for it, aka Flash and JAVA. If it pauses my experience it ends your chances.

    5. Heaven forbid you dare ask me to download something.

    You want might business. Then target those pages with simple and to the point banners and block ads. Do not animate my webpage. Put in bold letters why I should even pay attention to you. If you animate, make noise, or otherwise disturb my surfing you are intruding into my life and don't have that right
  • Theft? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#20555689) Homepage Journal
    Bah, that's as bad as calling copyright infringement theft.

    Are we going to start getting take down notices from ad agencies now too due to this twisted logic?
  • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#20555699)
    There is no such thing as a guaranteed business model. Just because it would be convenient for the world to work a certain way, or because it has worked that way in the past, does not mean that it will continue to work that way.

    These businesses (and many others) have been built on the assumption that in return for content, consumers are willing to be exposed to advertising. If that assumption proves to be false, then they are going to either have to find a new business model, or else convince the consumers that they should watch the adds. If the business is build on people looking at advertisements, and the consumers are refusing to look at advertisements, there is a basic disconnect there that does not bode well.

    The other side is that if consumers as a whole refuse to support add supported business, we are going to have to pay in some other way. Figuring out the balance of this struggle isn't just important for websites. It is the same disconnect that we are seeing right now in television.
  • by ciscoguy01 (635963) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#20555701)
    Yes, it's exactly right to block ads if you like.
    No one has to read someone else's ads.

    It's obvious that some television ads are being made much more interesting and clever to combat the tivos. They have to MAKE you WANT TO WATCH THE ADS.
    They have been succesfull. I watch more ads now than I did 2 years ago.
    Largely gone are the brief playlets and illustrated lectures on the purchase of consumer goods.

    If web ads were more interesting and less obnoxious perhaps they would be more successful.

    The worst:
    Intellitext popup ads.
    Catch the monkey animated ads
    Those ridiculous floating ads that sit in front of the site and scroll with you.
    I put those in adblock right away!

  • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#20555715)


    You know, before TiVo people used to skip ads by (1) going to the bathroom, (2) getting a snack, (3) changing the channel, or (4) talking. Does that make OTA tv-watchers freeloaders too?

    This attitude is irritating. Over the air content is provided for free. There is nothing that says "to watch this TV show you must watch the commercials." Same with radio. Radio content is provided for free. There is no implied contract that I must listen to advertisements to enjoy the content.

    It is my choice whether to watch/listen to the ads or not. This isn't a question of morality at all. It's also my choice whether I buy a product or not. Does not buying mean I'm being immoral?

    If a car dealer says "If you don't buy this car, I'll starve and you'll kill my family," would you still buy the car?
  • Many analogies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J-1000 (869558) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:40PM (#20555899)
    A casino has a cheap buffet because they *hope* you are going to gamble before/after you eat. You, being a clever person, attend the buffet and leave without spending a dime on the slot machines.

    Arby's has a "five for five" deal where you buy five items for five bucks because they *hope* you will spend five dollars instead of, say, two dollars. You, being a clever person, realize you only want two of the five items, so you spend $2.50 on two items and leave.

    Circuit City sells printers for only $30 because they *hope* you are going to pay $20 for a high-margin Monster Cable. You, being a clever person, buy the cheap printer and purchase a generic cable for $2 from Fry's.

    CNN.com offers their content for free because they *hope* you will click on their ads (or at least glance at them) while you visit. You, being a clever person, ignore the ads or disable them outright.

    The point is, any free or below-cost business model is a risk that the provider has accepted, and they are inherently providing these extra "benefits" at *no obligation* to the consumer. If the provider isn't willing to run the risk of people not following their suggestions, then it is time to turn that suggestion into an obligation (pay websites, or otherwise restricted-access websites). This is not a morality issue for the consumer, it is a business issue for the provider.
  • by Forthan Red (820542) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:41PM (#20555921)
    Who will be the first to write a Firefox extension to block the Firefox blocking? Gentlemen, start your coding!
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @12:46PM (#20556101) Homepage Journal
    As a publisher of a variety of blogs and a hoster of dozens of forums, javascript-based advertising accounts for nearly 30% of our income. Another 30% is based on direct advertising or link-sales along with paid-for-articles (which we fully disclose), and the rest is made up by subscriptions.

    We openly advertise that our ads are blockable, and that users who are not interested in ads SHOULD block them. For us, users who are not interested in the advertisers products should block the ads so that our click-through rate is actually higher. When one of our users blocks ads they won't click, our CTR goes up. When our CTR goes up, our direct customers pay MORE for the outreach than if we forced ads on everyone, even those who don't want ads.

    We've been slowly updating our sites to actively disable ads for anyone who logs in and sets their ads to "none" (even if they aren't subscribers). Again, this is no concern to us.

    The clicks we do provide to our advertisers are generally good clicks, with users interested in the site or product. This makes our site even more valuable, as we have had more than a few dozen advertisers submit bids for our sites specifically, rather than just random appearances because of the site being "on topic" for the ads. Directly bid ads get us a LOT more CPC or CPM (sometimes in the $1-$2+ range), so again it is good that non-interested readers would disable ads, making our click-through even higher for those direct ads.

    Considering that we're making a decent 5 figures annually, more than 1/2 of that from direct advertisers rather than random AdSense ads, I think it's a win-win situation. Users who like what we write will either pay, or accept ads. Users who don't want ads don't display them, but they still give us a profit by being responsive to things written via e-mail or combox responses. I'd rather get 5 minutes of a person's time to respond than $0.15 for some random ad click.

    When you run an ad-sponsored site, you have two choices: get a lot of crappy traffic and get low CPM (barely covering your hosting cost), or get GOOD limited traffic and get a high CPM from those accepting ads (or getting a profit through a subscription or an intellectual profit from a reply or an e-mail).
  • by Jerry (6400) on Tuesday September 11, 2007 @01:09PM (#20556675)
    For the last 100 years it never occurred to advertisers on radio stations that users who turn down the sound during commercials were "stealing" from them. They knew better. They were given a license to use a portion of the PUBLIC'S electromagnetic spectrum as long as they operated in the public good. The public still has the opportunity to visit radio stations and read their license stipulations and leave comments about the radio station's performance.

    Then, corporate greed took over when TV stations (licensed to use other portions of the PUBLIC's electromagnetic spectrum) started claiming it was THEIR medium and that if you didn't watch the commercials but only the content they were broadcasting YOU were a THIEF. Absurd. They can transmit content and commercials but no one, absolutely NO ONE, has to watch every photon they transmit during any particular time period. That's the risk they take, especially if their ad content is so trivial or dishonest or begins consuming too large a segment of the time period.

    There was a time when commercials took only about 6 to 10 minutes of every hour. Now they take 20 minutes or more, and in the case of Infomercials the full 60 minutes. It's NOT uncommon now for 6 or more commercials to run during every commercial break, with some breaks exceeding 10 minutes in length with only 2 or 3 minutes of show in between.

    Infomercials should be outlawed. The cable companies are double dipping. They charge the advertiser for channel, and they bill the cable customer for "offering" the infomercial channel as part of the cable lineup. Are we stealing if we don't watch the Infomercial?

    To make matters worse, the TV shows deliberately focus cameras on brand name advertisements and include product hype within the script of the show itself. And they not stealing time from us?

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