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Does Adblock Violate A Social Contract? 1043

almondjoy writes "Newsforge is currently running a story on Firefox extensions where the author states the following regarding use of the AdBlock extension: 'If you use this tool ... there are those who would assert you are not holding up your end of a 'social contract' between yourself and the Web site that you are browsing' Would you be volating a social contract hitting the 30sec skip button on Tivo? Or putting a strip of paper across the bottom of our TV screen to block out those super annoying scrolling banners? I have found that using the combination of AdBlock and FlashBlock extensions in Firefox has greatly enhanced my browsing experience. Has acceptance of web sites crammed with advertising content become part of my social contract with society?"
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Does Adblock Violate A Social Contract?

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  • the answer is.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BYC(VCU.EDU) ( 831956 ) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:48PM (#12247167) Homepage
    Doesn't SPAM violate the same contract.
    • SPAM= meat in a can
      spam= junk email

      Don't give SPAM a bad name (not like it had a terribly good one to begin with, but still).
    • by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:42PM (#12248077) Homepage
      No signature, no verbal promise, no handshake, no nothing.

      Frankly, I hate the idea of "free" websites with ads. You want to espouse your views? Pay to do so. You can share a server with a bunch of folks for a pittance a month. Blogging can be had ad-free cheaply.

      I wanted more than that, and I know what I'm doing, so I bought a used server and pay for rack space, and so far there are no ads. There probably will be at some point, but they'll be low key, and they won't pop up, pop under, grab, track, or anything else. They'll just sit there (like google ads do). That'll be to help cover costs on the public service site. Or I may just do a PayPal donation thing like some sites do; I have had folks send me money and gear in appreciation.

      But my personal stuff? I pay for that. Why should someone else have to pay for my "right" to express myself? That's INSANE.

      I pay for my internet connection. I pay for my server. I have *zero* obligation to allow myself to be annoyed by anyone else's choices.
    • Re:the answer is.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Acts of Attrition ( 635948 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:45PM (#12248116)
      This "social contract" has been violeted by both online and offline companies all the time. What do I owe them?
      They put commercials on cable television that I already pay for.
      They put commercials on DVDs that I already purchased.
      They put commercials before movies that I already paid to go see
      They put commercials in my email inbox.
      They sell my personal information without even telling me (unless it's in super super fine print)
      They try to throw away all my consumer rights just by opening their package (EULAs)

      • Re:the answer is.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rworne ( 538610 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:16PM (#12248595) Homepage
        You are right on track.

        The social contract is not between "an" end-user and "a" website, it's between all the end-users and all the websites.

        I didn't care about the ad banners or Google's ads on webpages. I do care about alternate red-blue-green blinking animated GIFs, Java and Flash crap dancing around the screen, deliberately trying to block text, popups and popunders, and endless Automatic Installer windows asking to install Gator or some other crap. This doesn't even touch those who try to install stuff without permission.

        No, the contract has been violated by the marketers and the webmasters who use them. I'm now just defending myself with a squid proxy and adzap. Collateral damage like Slashdot's ads getting blocked is the result.

    • Re:the answer is.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by SdnSeraphim ( 679039 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:36PM (#12248864)
      The answer is that with information I can obtain, I can manipulate that information in any way I want. I just can't pass my manipulated information off as though it was the original.

      I a site provides information, I have the right to receive that information and do whatever I want with it (with the above proscribed limitation). If I want to remove every 5th word, I can. There is no lgocial reason I should not be allowed to do this. If I want to record something off of the TV and skip every other 5 seconds of information, why should I not be allowed to do this?

      An ad is just a piece of information. Just like any other piece of information. I am not changing the original information, just my version of it. To filter information comes very naturally. I don't have to watch TV commercials, I change the channel or go do something else, or skip ahead. If I'm reading the newspaper, I do not have to look at every add in the paper, I just look at the information in which I am interested. For the newspaper, my only obligation to obtain the information was the 50 cents I put into the machine.

      If a website requires money from readers in order to survive, then they need to figure out the best way to obtain said money. If they think advertising is going to work, that's fine, but they have to figure the percentage of readership that will actually see the ad. Just like over-the-air television. TV stations/networks can't make you watch the very thing that is paying their way. All they can do is tell advertisers approximately how many people watch, and use statistical modelling to determine how many of those watch the commercials.

      If a website wants to charge users for access, that is fine, and would be along the lines of HBO charging for access to their information.

      Just like in over-the-air television, I cannot steal (or break a social contract) if the information is offered free in the first place.

      As for newspapers, am I breaking a social contract by leaving the newspaper I read at lunch for someone else to read? Or what about libraries? Are they breaking a social contract by letting multiple people read the same copy of a book?

      Like I said above, modifying Firefox or creating software that retrieves available information in a manner I desire is up to the me, as long as I don't pass off that modified information as the original source. What would be a problem is if the ISP that provided the website the hardware and IP connection, choose to modify the information before being sent out, simply because this would then have the ISP transmitting modified information as the original source. (I am not talking about mail or http headers. The headers should be considered public access, but rather the actual content as created.)
  • by A Boy and His Blob ( 772370 ) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:48PM (#12247169)
    The thing advertisers don't seem to get is that you don't sell products by annoying the hell out of people. Pop-ups, pop-unders, floating ads, the all singing all dancing flash ads, anything that blinks or wants you to answer a trivia question, ad infested web pages that have half a page of text and require you to hit the next button to continue to the next page. These are all ANNOYING, that is why people are blocking or otherwise avoiding them.

    You don't see people going to extreme lengths to block Google text ads. Why? Because they are fairly unobtrusive, yet still visible enough for people to see them.

    If advertisers don't want me using Adblock they should use small, unobtrusive, static images and I will happily turn it off. But until then, they can whine and complain all they want. Just my two cents...
    • The thing advertisers don't seem to get is that you don't sell products by annoying the hell out of people.

      Unfortunately, this is not true. Rest assured that if it wasn't profitable, advertisers wouldn't spend the money on creating annoying and intrusive popups etc.

      • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:05PM (#12247467) Homepage Journal
        Well, it's just like TV. The more they annoy me, the more effort I will make to remove the annoyance. If they don't annoy me, I won't bother, and... get this... I'm likely to actually view the ad. I do not, however, like to trade annoyance for content. Plus, it's not like annoying ads are making sales to me anyway. If anything, I will make it a point to avoid the product.

        In summary: "Social contract" my ass.

        I reserve the right to block ads. If they don't like it, they can charge me for the site. If it's worth it to me, I'll pay. If it's not, it's their loss.

        Maybe they can follow my social contract: Don't make ads that cause epileptic seizures and bleeding ears and I won't be inclined to block them. How's that for a social contract?

        • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:17PM (#12247669) Homepage Journal
          So the question is this: are there more people who will buy their product because they're NOT annoying than there are who will buy their product even though they ARE annoying? I think you'll find that there are more sheep than you think in this equation.

          In some cases, not being annoying should not be the advertisers's choice, and I think the Web is one of them. Google demonstrates quite clearly that inobtrusive ads MAKE YOUR SITE MORE POPULAR! This is a hugely important point, and one which advertisers are going to really hate having to face. It's not that they get to make a financial call on the return on investment, it's that the sites with all the users will soon be the sites with the least annoying ads. THEN polite wins.
        • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:55PM (#12248270) Homepage
          I will offer my experience here. using my family as guinea pigs...

          I use provoxy at home on the network, we use firefox only on all pc's, I have an asterisk server that directs all telephone calls that are from outside my local dialing to voicemail and we have replay tv units at eact Television.

          After 9 months of this, my daughter went to a friends house for a weekend. she came back horrified.. she said their internet was unuseable because of all the ad's and she could not stand watching television without having a 30 second skip, and she could not believe how many times they get interrupted with sales phonecalls.

          she said and I do qoute... "having to deal with all those advertisments made me feel dirty."

          and that really is what happens when you give yourself control over advertising in your home. you end up getting rid of the numbness of getting ablated with it constantly to the point that you actually notice it and become annoyed by it.

          They can cry and throw hissy-fits all they want. There never EVER was a "social contract" to accept advertising, espically the crap-tasticular advertising they use today.
        • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:03PM (#12248397)
          In summary: "Social contract" my ass.

          Amen. Does it mean that I am violating a social contract if I run a website and don't put advertising on it?

          Advertisers made their own bed. I remember a few years ago, there was a website up that hosted clips of funny TV commercials. They had a rating system in place, and it was really cool. Then they were shut down, for rights infringement of some kind.

          So let me get this straight - advertisers create commercials for their products, and they do so in such a way to get people to watch them. But then they shut down a website that was giving them FREE advertising of their products. It makes absolutely no sense to me, and speaks to the general lunacy of advertising in general.

        • by cje ( 33931 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @05:28PM (#12249577) Homepage
          Plus, it's not like annoying ads are making sales to me anyway. If anything, I will make it a point to avoid the product.

          As an expansion of this line of thinking, I wonder how many Adblock users would be rampantly clicking on flashing ads if they weren't running Adblock? I could be wrong on this, but it seems to me that the typical Adblock user is not going to be the soccer mom type who downloaded Firefox because she heard about it on the news or saw the ad in the New York Times. The way some people complain about this, you'd think that they were under the impression that Adblock users would be buying thousands of dollars worth of merchandise each day if they would only allow the ads to be shown.

          Adblock is simple to install, but its care and feeding (i.e., maintaining an up-to-date set of filters) takes a bit more savvy. Your typical Adblock user is more likely to be an experienced, technically-oriented Internet user, and as near as I can tell, these people are not in the habit of clicking on banner ads to begin with. I've bought plenty of things online, but I've never done so (to the best of my recollection) because I saw an obtrusive advertisement jump out at me when I was reading one of my favorite Web sites.

          Adblock can almost be viewed as sort of a Do Not Call list for obnoxious Web site advertising. The analogy isn't perfect, I admit, but what's the big deal? People who sign up for the DNC list are not going to buy things from telemarketers anyway, so why bother calling them? People who use Adblock are not going to be playing your silly "punch the monkey" game anyway, so why waste the resources to send it to them? Hell, if anything, advertisers should be sending me money for all the bandwidth I'm saving them.

          Yeah, that's the ticket.
      • It probably doesn't work on people running AdBlock with Firefox.

        The real danger would be if default FireFox came with AdBlock + a blacklist. Then there would be a problem.

      • by enjo13 ( 444114 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:13PM (#12247588) Homepage
        I've worked on the technology side of the advertising industry (advergaming in particular), and I beleieve that this statement is actually incorrect.

        Most of the advertising agencies I've worked with beleive that banner ads and intrusive advertising simply do not work. The craze over exposure (how many eyeballs can I get in front of, regardless of the experience) has been replaced with an emphasis on targetted and uesful advertising.

        However, it is the companies doing the advertising themselves that are really keeping these ads going. I've heard multiple stories of product managers demanding obtrusive ads. A rather common quote is something along the lines of "If I'm paying for it, I expect people to see it". There is still a strong belief by non-experts (and a very natural one if you think about it) that advertising is all about volume (how many 'views') as opposed to the quality of the ad itself.

        It's fascinating stuff really.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:05PM (#12248433)
          No offense man, but you're full of it.

          I work at a fairly major web-based social software company (posting anonymously, but you've seen our ads) and pop-unders outproduced all other ad channels by so much we stopped using anything else. It was a smack-down.

          Now, did it help our brand doing this? No. Did it drive new paid signups? Vastly. Which is more important depends on what industry you're in, and what your planning horizon is. But man, do pop-unders work.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#12247282)
      The thing advertisers don't seem to get is that you don't sell products by annoying the hell out of people.

      I would take it a step further. The thing advertisers don't get is that if someone is taking steps to ensure they don't see your ad then the chances of them actually buying anything from you had they seen your ad are absolutely miniscule.
    • by LiENUS ( 207736 ) <slashdot@vetma n a g e . com> on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#12247396) Homepage
      You don't see people going to extreme lengths to block Google text ads. Why? Because they are fairly unobtrusive, yet still visible enough for people to see them.

      Actually, most of the prepackaged adblock rules such as the one at [] do block Google text ads.
    • by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:13PM (#12247580)
      I agree. I don't there is any social contract violated there. They can only know that the ad, banner or pop-up reached you machine along with thier web content. From there it is only an assumption that you will view the ad. You could of course just close your eyes everytime you see a pop-up and press the 'x' on the window to dismiss it. The ad blocker just makes it easier for you and takes less of your time, so you can say it is a time saver tool ,i.e. you could be doing it by hand or just do it faster with this tool.

      But of course the advertisers target the averages, so indeed, while you may take the time and download and install the blocker the average visitor will not do that. The big question then is "what is the chance that the average user/consumer will be able to block the ad?" I think it is called something like "reachability" in marketing.

      Imagine that Microsoft will issue an autoamtic upgrade to its its next browser with the ad-blocking options and all turned "on". That would be a huge problem because now you have the average consumer that is not reachable anymore by traditional web marketing channel. Then MS can expect a large law suit filed by all the adevertisers since it made its target audience un-reachable. Then Microsoft will agree to get paid by the advertisers to disable their company from the list of "banned" ad sites, or it might argue that it was a user request and if the users pay for the product they should get what they want. So, the corollary is that ... lawers make a lot of money.

    • The thing advertisers don't seem to get is that you don't sell products by annoying the hell out of people.

      And why is frequently difficult for them to "get it"? Could it be because they see little or no decline in viewership of their content when the introduce these obnoxious adds due to many of their visitors using blocking technologies that allow them be spared the advertising? If more people recognized the social contract and stopped using the content, it would serve as the natural brake it should on
    • by jeblucas ( 560748 ) <jeblucas&gmail,com> on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:15PM (#12247634) Homepage Journal
      You hit the nail right on the head. I am very particular with my AdBlock usage. I remember seeing the screenshots [] at the extension website with filters like */ad/*. I thought, "That's a little draconian. I don't mind seeing an ad that's not a huge pain in the ass." Sure enough, some ads take up tons of screen real estate, some creep across the screen, some blink and twitch and scare my Mom--those have to go, but I usually try to narrow down the filter to who's actually annoying me (, are you listening!?)

      Right now my filter has entries like:


      I've never actually visited those sites--I don't see why I have to receive images from them, especially if they are offensive. (That's offensive []as in "Of, relating to, or designed for attack." I still see Google Ads, I still see the ads on Penny Arcade []. They aren't presented in a manner that obtrudes. That's what matters.

    • by rainman_bc ( 735332 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:20PM (#12247718)
      True that. X10 would still be in business if that marketing plan was successful.
    • by MSZ ( 26307 )
      It's exactly like with spam. Web ads have more legitimacy, but for me and many other people, not much more.

      It's not a fault or evilness on the side of ablock author (or authors of many other ad filtering products). It's the fault of some marketers who could not, and still don't, understand that above certain level advertising becomes too much of a distraction. People are not surfing to see ads. If ads distract to much from the content, things happen. Things like ad blocking, ad server blocklists, etc...

    • Spot on (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skeezix ( 14602 )
      I think the web ads do sell products and services, otherwise no one would bother. However, by using an extension like adblock, I am simply removing annoying advertisements that I will never click on to purchase an item. As a general principle I do not click on these ads and would never consider making a purchase based on a banner ad or popup that I saw. If a company wants my business they better find more creative ways of marketing. And some companies get it. Offer competitive prices, great customer se
    • by chmilar ( 211243 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:21PM (#12248658)
      I recall a news story, years ago, about a study of television ads. They compared the effectiveness of gratingly annoying ads ("we have the lowest price, or your mattress is FREE!") to clever, entertaining ads that people enjoyed watching (and probably even won awards).

      In the long run, the brand names and products from the annoying ads "stuck" in people's minds long after they had forgotten the ad. The names had been detached from the sensation of anger and annoyance.

      When standing in the supermarket aisle, looking at all of the laundry detergent choices, you will pick the one from the company that bombarded you with annoying ads, without realizing why.

      You might remember the entertaining ad, but not the associated product.
  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:49PM (#12247178) Homepage
    Social Contract, per definition, is between people. Therefore, the closest adblock could come is to being a "social contract infringement tool". However, it doesn't really capitalize on this (ie, there's no centralized adblock-blacklist server), and it's fairly obtuse to use (ie, my wife doesn't grok it completely)... so I doubt you could say that it intentionally infringes.

    What gets me is that arguably, social cotract was first violated by offending websites and ad-server ppl in general, with things like popups, glaringly bad animation (ie, flashing colors, etc). Not to mention the EVIL doubleclick and their "we will track your ass... try and avoid us, punk" attitude. Which is what I believe the adblock authors were trying to control/avoid/defeat.

    I won't adblock a server/ad that's generally nice or doesn't get in the way of my browsing... think google or other text-based adverts, or even non-animated, "non-epilepsy inducing" image ads. THATs a real social contract... because google/etc know that their revenue relies on their good behavior. I respect that.

    Finally, on a dialup (like at my parents place), adblock SIGNIFICANTLY improves performance. I think removal of bloat is impressively important for non-broadband folks, and that's another case of advertisers "messing with social contract". I especially hated it when the page would load fast, but the ad at the top woudl sit there and hold up the entire page from rendering. WTF.

    • Finally, on a dialup (like at my parents place), adblock SIGNIFICANTLY improves performance.

      Thank you!

      I'm still on dial-up (free from university), and I often use Adblock in this way. Many pages I frequent have some images that simply waste bandwidth. For instance, I have blocked a lot of the images on my on-line banking website so that the response time is better. Getting rid of those images cuts down how long I'm dialed in.
    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:05PM (#12247470)
      A point that is missed by lots of people, and even myself when I don't actively think about it, is that since we're using web browsers that aren't subject to hijacking or spyware, we don't see the other reason to get mad at web site owners and advertisers.

      As far as I'm concerned, they've violated any form of 'social contract' en masse by hijacking peoples' PCs for new ways of delivering ads. I believe that installing software through bugs in the web browser is tantamount to breaking into someones' computer. Companies that design and implement such software, and other companies that contract for their ads to be delivered should be prosecuted and their owners/directors jailed for their abuses.

      I also have an opinion about software companies leaving their products vulnerable for years like this, but that's for another debate.
    • Norton Internet Security does actually download DATs for adblocking, and the 2003 release had this fully functional long before Adblock came along. Are people outraged by a free tool but not a commercial one?
    • by Omega ( 1602 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:13PM (#12247577) Homepage
      I agree, this isn't a "social contract" type of relationship. It's more of an arms race -- and there are lunatics on both sides.

      Some advertisers think that the only way to sell to people is to get in their face, and demand their attention like a screaming child. Hence, you get crappy ad formats like Eyeblaster and Pointroll. This is a way to piss people off, more than a way to induce them to buy your product, and I think their high click rates are only due to people trying to find the "Close" button to make the ad go away. Fortunately, not all advertisers are like this. Many are starting to recognize that something big and flashy is only "cool" once and otherwise subtle and contextual is really the only way to endear you to your customers online.

      Meanwhile, some users think that there should be NO ads on the internet. They think that it's their right to access their favorite sites for free and they shouldn't be bothered with the ads that actually pay for the site to exist. Many content publishers work hard to make sure their ads aren't obtrusive, fit well within their site and they fight back against the Bad Advertisers (see above) by refusing their business -- but that doesn't matter to these users. They demand free stuff!

      Fortunately users and advertisers recognize there is a middle ground, and so there's still a lot of harmony in the advertising-supported-website / good-user-experience world.

      But the lunatics on both sides are forcing the issue to a head. They're starting an arms race, between the AdBlock/FlashBlock software, and designing a site around advertising (instead of vice-versa). If these people keep pushing it, soon lots more free sites will be entirely done in flash (or some other proprietary format) where you can't disable the ads; and the ads will become the content itself. Increasing product placements on tv shows are just a natural evolution of advertising supported broadcasters losing money from increasing use of commercial skipping systems. Pay-tv like HBO is one answer but not the answer to everything. There can be a middle ground, but both sides have to work for it.

    • Social Contract, per definition, is between people.

      A social contract is between ALL people, the whole society. It is why we can punish people, even if they disagree with a law.

      I won't adblock a server/ad that's generally nice or doesn't get in the way of my browsing... think google or other text-based adverts

      Are the adblock programs smart enough to know what to block, and what not to block? How do they learn? Do they have some algorithm. It is a big, large web out there.

      Have adblock programs ever b

  • by AstroDrabb ( 534369 ) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:49PM (#12247181)
    What social contract? Since when did "we" have to guarantee poor businesses models based on annoying the crap out of your users with flashing gif and flash ads? Anyone remember the annoying "punch the monkey flash ad"? I block ads on /. and every site I use with adblock and flashblock. If I want to support a site I like, then I will donate a couple bucks to them. For example, if you look at my /. UID I have an asterisks next to it, that means I am a subscriber. I just donated $5 USD to /. and do this about two times a year. To me /. is worth $10 a year. Now imagine if the 100,000+ /. readers all donated $5 - $10 a year. /. wouldn't need stupid ads.

    I also don't feel bad about not watching most commercials on TV or ripping the DVD's I buy and removing al the crap from them. I paid for the product, I don't want to see more ads. I pay about $140 a month to my cable company for Digital cable, Digital Broadband and a Digital phone. The least the cable company can do is get rid of ads for me, though I know that day will never come.

    The only ad content I don't make an effort to block are text based ads like Google uses. I have no problem with those types of ads since they do not distract me. The day most/all web ads are text based and don't flash to "get your attention" is the day that I will stop using adblock and flashblock to block web ads. Oh, and adblock has two modes: "remove images" and "hide images". The "remove images" option doesn't download the images and the "hide images" option downloads but doesn't display them. So if you want to surf a site and still help out the web advertiser, just use "hide images", though I use "remove images" so I can get faster page load times.

    • I block ads on /. and every site I use with adblock and flashblock. If I want to support a site I like, then I will donate a couple bucks to them. For example, if you look at my /. UID I have an asterisks next to it, that means I am a subscriber. I just donated $5 USD to /. and do this about two times a year. To me /. is worth $10 a year. Now imagine if the 100,000+ /. readers all donated $5 - $10 a year. /. wouldn't need stupid ads.

      To play devil's advocate here, why do you need to block ads on slashdot?
    • by dogmatixpsych ( 786818 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#12247387) Journal
      What's kind of funny is that I didn't even realize /. had ads. I don't really ever look at the top of websites anymore because that is where most of them put ads.

      // Here's how you create your own personal adblock (but it only works on things at the top of the screen): Create a lesion (how you do this is your own problem) in the lower bank of the calcarine fissure in both your occipital lobes. This leaves you with a superior quadrandanopsia. (In other words, when you fixates on a point, you cannot see things in the upper visual fields of either eye).

      //Then come see me. *Aspiring to be a clinical neuropsychologist*
    • by Herr_Nightingale ( 556106 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:54PM (#12248245) Homepage
      A social contract is simply the desire of a community to ensure mutual survival, and in most cases this means that everybody acts in an expected manner. It stands to reason that a certain amount of this ad-blocking behaviour is expected, and therefore within the social contract.

      Likewise it is expected that if you repeatedly poke any person in the face with a stick s/he will seek to end the stick-poking behaviour.
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:49PM (#12247182) Journal

    If a commercial website can't support itself via its audience, that website should die. If the users of the website are sufficiently motivated to pay for content, they will, and it will survive. Here's a hint: if you need to be paid, then be up-front and honest about it (eg: LWN []). If your worth preserving, you'll be fine.

    There is no such thing as an implied or "social" contract - by their very nature, contracts are not implications! The whole terminology is a marketing exercise designed to appeal to the "guilt" that just because someone is giving you something, you ought to pay for it.

    Sheesh! Social contracts! What next ? Breathing contracts ?


    • by Tlosk ( 761023 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:06PM (#12247486)
      If you don't believe in social contracts, are you seriously suggesting that everytime we interact with other people where there are expectations for how we will each interact, we need to draw up legal documents and involve lawyers?

      Cooperation and trust are used for all those thousands of little "transactions" we perform every day with the people around us and for the sake of efficiency and because the stakes are rarely high we almost never break out formal contracts.

      You don't have to be a cooperative or trustworthy person, but society runs a lot smoother when the majority of people exhibit these characteristics.
  • by Matt the Hat ( 860759 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:49PM (#12247185) Homepage
    could get you sued, then. I guess.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elid ( 672471 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dopi.ile.> on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:50PM (#12247194)
    And what about a simple pop-up blocker, especially now that Microsoft includes one with IE? Does this violate a "social contract?" How is blocking any other type of ads different than blocking pop-up ads?
  • popup blockers? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by justforaday ( 560408 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:50PM (#12247198)
    It's no more a violation of a social contract than having a popup blocker built into the browser...
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:50PM (#12247200) Homepage Journal
    Stated that websites weren't allowed to pop-up advertisements. When they started to do so, a renegotiation of the contract became necessary, and the new contract states that while web sites may attempt to pop up windows, I am free to disallow that on my system.

    If web sites have a problem with this, they need to learn to read the fine print before they sign.
  • Eh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eric(b0mb)Dennis ( 629047 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:50PM (#12247205)
    It doesn't matter.

    Until websites trying to enforce ad-views, it won't matter.

    Any website who tries to aggressively force ad-views will be left alone in the dust, so I don't think it's much of a problem
  • by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:50PM (#12247207) Homepage
    If I could violate the social contracts of every advertiser out there, I would be a happy man. I just hope that someone somewhere is angry that I've blocked their crappy flash/gif advertisement.

  • by bmw ( 115903 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:51PM (#12247216)
    Social contract or not it is really my choice whether or not I want something displayed on my screen. If the revenue generated from ads on a particular website is suffering to the point of not being profitable then perhaps it is time to look at new ways of making money. You can't try to enforce some form of draconian control over everyone's computers. This is my machine and I will decide what is downloaded, displayed, and run on it.
  • by jhill ( 446614 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:51PM (#12247217) Homepage
    I would have to say that the social contract that's being broken are by the people advertising. I've been browsing the web since it's inception with HTML and the like. The things that's been invaded is my space, not the other way around with me blocking it.

    Adblock, flash block, block images from this server will always win out with me.
  • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:51PM (#12247220)
    There's an old saying that seems appropriate here:

    Free speech is the right to say whatever you want; it's not the right to make people listen.
  • by sellin'papes ( 875203 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:52PM (#12247228) Homepage
    There is no social contract with advertisers in the real world. When you walk down the street, if you are looking at the ground, you are not violating a social contract you have with the advertisers to keep your head up and keep an eye out for new products.

    Why should this be different on the internet?

  • Pure BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <> on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:52PM (#12247234) Homepage
    This "social contract" BS is something marketers dreamed up to make it "bad" to block their ads. The TV people say the same thing about how you're "breaking contract" by muting commercials, getting up off your duff for a drink, or skipping past them on a recording you made.

    I didn't sign any contract. I didn't agree to any ToS. I don't want to see your commercials, so poo on you.
  • by ksvh ( 875006 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:54PM (#12247252)
    The idea of a "social contract" is just a scam some people use to con other people into thinking they have obligations that they never actually agreed to. Any real contract is written down and signed by the parties agreeing to it.
  • by The Hobo ( 783784 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:54PM (#12247266)
    Now I use userContent.css found at here [] and flashblock. It doesn't block EVERY ad but damn near everything, and no updating the blacklist, though if you want even more you can use the userContent.css + adblock + flashblock + firefox popup blocker for the ultimate protection
  • Of course not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#12247278)
    Advertising exploits a coincidence. It is not an obligation on the viewer. I don't enter into any agreement, implied or otherwise, with /. when I come here looking for content. That I happen to look at the ad on the top of the page as a consequence is a side effect that slashdot and other web sites choose to capitalize on them. Good for them. If and when most or all users start blocking ads, they'll have to find another means to survive, or just close up shop.

    It isn't your customers obligation to fund your business. It's your obligation to satisfy your customers sufficiently well that they fund your business. Not many companies seem to remember that.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#12247290) Homepage
    The main problem is that the Advertisers have ABUSED the crap out of the consumers. Pop ups, pop unders, etc. etc. Ads then when you close them, they open new ads. etc. etc. etc.

    Adverisers took the social contract, ripped it into fifty billion pieces, then get upset when we don't abide by our side of the contract?

    Look, I am perfectly willing to see reasonable, well placed ads. I am seeing a Vonage banner ad above Slashdot write now. I am NOT forced to see intrusive, obnoxious crap that intereferes with the reason why I use the service. Anything that requires me to "click" on it to send it away qualifies as abusive intereference, and should be outlawed.

    Morons think "If I can get them involved, they will pay more attention to my ad" Instead most consumers get ANGRY at both the site that is abusing them and the moron company that thinks "bad pr is better than no pr".

  • by Caped Cod ( 633799 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#12247301)
    "Yes, your honor, I was honoring my social contract by carefully reading all the roadside billboards and advertising when I accidentally drove my car into that Denny's."
  • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @02:56PM (#12247304) Homepage Journal
    The Social Contract cuts both ways, and I don't see advertisers holding up their end of the bargain with truthful ads. Are the boobs in True's advertising blitz actually using the service? Methinks not. Does clicking here actually get a free iPod? Methinks not. Does whatever those damn strobing ads ... nevermind, no.

    When media sites start carrying advertising that's not disrespectful of their audience's intelligence, then I'll worry about bypassing it disturbing a social contract, but while its not adhering to the social contract itself then they can bite my shiney metal ass.
  • by WOSSquee ( 722543 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:01PM (#12247392)
    I don't think it's about a social contract, what it comes down to is that I will NEVER buy something simply because I saw it in an ad. I don't buy things based on ads, I buy things when someone cool says it's cool (Penny Arcade is a good example.) I can't remember ever buying something because of an advertisment. Even a TV commercial. (The exception, I think, is the Saturday/Sunday newspaper ads from CompUSA and Best Buy and Circuit City, but that's only because I'm already looking for something and they just happen to have it on sale) Since I'm NEVER going to buy something based on an online advertisment... aren't I saving the advertisers bandwidth from not downloading their ad? More to the point, aren't Adblock users as a whole saving advertisers a quantifiable amount of bandwidth (money) by not downloading ads for things they aren't going to buy?
  • by BobGregg ( 89162 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:02PM (#12247407) Homepage
    Social or not, a contract represents an *agreement* among people or groups. To have a valid contract, first there must be a common agreement that the terms of that contract are actually valid. Our at-large social contract works because, on the whole, people agree that there are certain rules we must live by in order for society to work.

    However, there has NEVER, implicitly or otherwise, been any sort of common agreement that society *must* endure advertising, regardless of degree of intrusion or method of delivery. When TV and radio were first brought on the air, the idea that commercial advertising would allow them to survive was not a given. The fact that it *did* allow them to survive happened to come to pass, but then again, there were no technological means for the public to manipulate the medium for their own benefit - for a while. However, there was no obligation for society to absorb content broadcast to them, and indeed when options became available, they were used.

    When the first tape players became available, there *were* arguments and court cases regarding recording off the air, whether it was "legal" to listen while skipping recordings, etc. These arguments have all been had before. And consistently, it has been recognized that people hvae no inherent "obligation" to absorb content in any way other than however they see fit.

    I have no obligation to read the ads in a magazine. I have no obligation not to turn down the dial on the radio when commercials come on. I have no obligation to sit by idly while pop-up windows dance across my desktop. THERE IS NO SUCH CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT, social or otherwise. If my actions, and the actions of millions of others, somehow cause those broadcasting content discomfort or loss, that's their problem, not mine.

    I have no obligation to support *any* business model for anyone else. Indeed, if there were such an obligation, then society could never evolve or adapt to change, could it?

    In short - that's just plain old horse manure.
  • by dsanfte ( 443781 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:03PM (#12247436) Journal
    Ignoring expicit ads on web pages will drive the adoption of ads embedded in the content, which you will be impossible to block.

    Be careful.
  • by DroopyStonx ( 683090 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:19PM (#12247697)
    Sorry, but I signed no "social contract". I am not obligated to look any ads.

    I hate this mentality that companies have in that "consumers" are expected to devote their lives to VIEWING ADS. Companies are just pissed that they can no longer make sheep out of those who acknowledge the problem and use wonderful tools like AdBlock.

    Besides, if someone uses AdBlock, it means they don't WANT to view your ads, and if someone doesn't want to view your ads, guess what the chances are of them buying something from it? Oh, pretty slim to NONE.
  • Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @03:23PM (#12247780)
    After some consideration, I'm going to say "No, it does not violate the social contract."

    Here's why:

    1. There is no such thing as a social contract, as the word contract suggests that there is a fixed and unalterably correct way of doing things. What we have are social conventions, which are flexible and ever-changing, and generally vary by region and by circumstance.

    2. If one person (or corporation) decides that a certain behavior is the "appropriate" or "right" thing to do, that doesn't mean the rest of society agrees. In fact, the "right" or "appropriate" thing to do can be defined directly by whatever the majority of people are doing. By that definition, the day the majority of people skip or otherwise avoid/reduce exposure to advertising is the day that doing so is considered socially acceptable. I believe we've already reached that day.

    2b. However, the link between majority behavior and socially conventional behavior is even more tenuous than that, because the behavior in question doesn't have to actually occur within a majority -- it simply has to be considered acceptable by the majority.

    In the case of blocking ads on web sites, here's how this all pans out: the person presenting the web site, and paying for it with ads, would prefer that people do not block the ads so as to increase revenue. But they have no more claim to the moral high ground than someone who presents a web site and pays for it by selling personal information, and would prefer that people do not withhold their personal information so as to increase revenue.

    Does that mean that lots of web sites may shut down if they can't gain enough revenue from web ads? Absolutely. But that's because the business model is flawed, not because a theoretical "social contract" has been broken.

    All this seems to be is an attempt to make people feel guilty, so that they will behave the way the web site owner(s) want them to. But that's nothing more than peer pressure, except that for most people the web site owners are not considered peers, and thus their attempts to pressure will have little or no impact.

    Mind you, peer pressure can be powerful, and is certainly one of the mechanisms that determines social acceptability of a certain behavior...but advertisers and content providers are not and will never be "peers" of consumers in that sense.
  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:29PM (#12248768) Journal
    My computer is MY computer. I assert the right to retain control over it. Your server is YOUR server, you have the right to assert control over it. The problem is, there is no way for me to know ahead of time, often times, if a website will have annoying popups or popunders. Or flash adds that do annoying things and can't be 'paused' in their animation, or easily muted without muting my whole computer.

    This is where Adblock type technologies fulfill the other end of the "Social Contract" - letting me control my computer. If you don't want me viewing your content unless I view the ad also, fine, then give me a way to decline both. Come up with a way to deny the content if I don't view the advert, and instead just return a generic page stating, "This site uses {insert ad-type here}. In order to view the content, you must allow this type of advertising."

    Then I can choose whether to accept the popup, or browse on to someone else.

    The problem with this "social contract" theory is, I never *agreed* to this social contract. One can argue that by viewing the content, I am implicitly agreeing to it. But the problem is, until I actually go to a site, and either get a popup, or block it, I don't know what the 'terms' of this social contract are.

    It's like saying you have to accept the terms of any contract, without even knowing those terms ahead of time.

    I REFUSE to give up control over my computer to any site on the internet just because I followed a link to them.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @04:32PM (#12248810)
    You know, I don't think there is any social contract between a web site maker and me. If there is information that I need on that site, I would rather read it without all kinds of annoying things jumping out all over the place, taking forever to download, sticking spyware all over my computer, and otherwise screwing things up. I have much better things to do with my day, and I don't usually click on ads anyway, or buy products that are advertised in this way.

    What I do click on are those text ads that Google places on the side of its page. This is actually a convenience for web browsing. First of all, it stays out of the way, doesn't take any time to download, provides useful information, and leads folks to products and services that might actually be useful.

    Therefore, I am saying that I have no problem with web site owners making money off their creation, but please do it in a way that is comfortable for the readers, too.

  • by Castar ( 67188 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:54PM (#12251074)
    No one has agreed to the trade-off between content and ads, not even implicitly. It's a gamble on the part of the business owners, like many other things. Many stores and restaurants give out free samples, in the _hopes_ that people who were lured in will buy their product. If you don't buy anything, you're not breaking a "contract", it's just that their gamble didn't pay off.

    If a business decides that they can lower the price of their product by including ads, that's a business decision that carries some risk. It's not a requirement that consumers must follow. If a business came up with the idea that they'd give a free car to everyone who came into their ice-cream store, they'd go broke. That's not "breaking a social contract", that's bad planning.

    "Your failed business model is NOT MY PROBLEM."

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