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Brave: Brendan Eich's clean-ads browser startup (brave.com)
667 points by Seldaek on Jan 20, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 549 comments

I will repeat this one more time, because Eich seems to be missing the point.[1]

I don't adblock for privacy, security, or speed. Those are just nice-side effects. I adblock because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need.

I wonder what would happen if, as a society, we said, "enough, no more ads". Would it really be the capitalist apocalypse that the ad industry is trying to make us believe it would be?


[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10244964

I get your point, and it is a good one. We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.

Other users than you will be able to mix and match, too: better and more private ads on sites they don't support, with a revenue share to these users that they can spend on sites they do.

We aren't saying "only ads". We do see ads as a necessary funding model for much of the web today. I would love to see micropayments replace ads. Let's see what can be done.

I fall into the camp of blocking all ads because frankly I don't like them. They are visual pollution. I also doubt I would pay for written content (maybe on a very rare occasion I might) if given a micro-payments solution because it doesn't seem worth paying for. I write blog posts from time to time and I do it for pleasure because I enjoy writing about things that interest me and sharing it with others. Honestly I don't feel any compulsion to fund any of the media whose links bombard my social media daily. Even some of the good stuff on this site I wouldn't feel compelled to pay for because truly it isn't transformative and I would probably be better off not reading it and doing something productive instead.

Stuff I do pay for: educational content (books, courses etc), Spotify, Netflix.

You're obviously much more deeply invested in this and have done the maths. I am curious, what percentage of web users do you calculate will use the micro-payments, if it was a seamless perfectly executed experience? How much revenue do you think it will generate and will it be enough to disrupt web-ads?

> I write blog posts from time to time and I do it for pleasure because I enjoy writing about things that interest me and sharing it with others.

I do the same thing, but I realized a while back there is a flaw in this model. It means the available creative works—which in turn effectively means the engine of culture—is determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.

I don't have "free" time. I paid for that time by buying a more expensive house close to where I work, spending less time shopping by not chasing the best deal, paying others to do home and car repairs, etc. etc. etc.

People who aren't as financially lucky as me don't have that opportunity. I'm not crazy about the idea of living in a world where those people don't get to participate in determining culture.

>It means the available creative works—which in turn effectively means the engine of culture—is determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.

From where I sit, that's the problem ad-supported media has, not the other way around.

Look at TV before Netflix/iTunes/etc. came along. It was pretty much a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming that was created based on who sold the most ads. It left out large sections of the population (minorities, women, LGBT, etc.) for the most part, relegating them to stereotypes, if they were mentioned at all. It also limited content that discussed topics that were unpleasant to the media gateways. (I've heard it said that NBC News wasn't allowed to discuss nuclear power at all because GE, which owns NBC, was in that business and didn't want any bad press from their own company.)

Now a television show on Netflix/HBO/etc. can discuss topics that it wants without having to worry about whether a sponsor might drop out, or they might offend someone, or because they didn't appeal enough to the mainstream.

Removing ads has freed media. The current system isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than 3 major networks pumping out sitcoms about white fat guys married to beautiful women.

You're missing the point that people are paying for Netflix/HBO as a premium/luxury service while many in this thread claim they won't even pay for content they like and will instead just ad block.

You can bitch all you want about the poor state of journalism, but the institutions that are trying to maintain it in a market where no one wants to pay for it are struggling. People won't pay subscriptions (the majority), don't want ads, but still want all that content.

The startup/software development equivalent is open source but that only works for largely one group of people: well off white males.

I'm not totally convinced that people actually "want" all that ad-supported content, if in this case we're talking about Internet articles and television programs. We consume it when it's there and easy to obtain, but that's a pretty low bar in terms of wanting something. Who's to say that we wouldn't find better uses for our time if all of that content disappeared? Maybe something we actually cared about enough to pay for?

Find a better use of your time and, for you at least, the content will disappear. Voila.

It happens even faster if you consume it and block all ads embedded. And sometimes there are even hidden gems between crap content!

> Look at TV before Netflix/iTunes/etc. came along.

I think that undermines your point: Netflix and iTunes are paid content channels. TV used to be freely broadcast over the airwaves (still is, but used to be too) and needed to earn money exclusively from advertising.

Netflix and iTunes were not the beginning of that trend. It started when cable TV came along, and began selling subscription access to content like HBO, Showtime, etc. which have no ads. The differentiator with Netflix and iTunes was the ability to stream TV over the Internet, and consequently pay for it without bundling it into cable, and paying for individual shows/movies a la carte.

It's also taken a while for Netflix and Amazon to begin offering their own premium content. HBO has been in operation since the 1970s, though to be fair its critical mass really began in 1999 with The Sopranos. Netflix introduced streaming TV in 2007 and received its first real primetime Emmy nominations for its own content in 2013 (House of Cards)

In 2015, HBO received 126 Primetime Emmy nominations (Game of Thrones), the most of any network, a spot HBO has held for 15 years in a row according to NYT. That year, Netflix received 34 nominations and the nascent Amazon Studios garnered 12 (Transparent).

> It was pretty much a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming

You're describing the vast majority of the content on Netflix today.

the vast majority of Netflix's content is a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming

Would you agree that there doesn't exist a similar or better way to obtain the highest quality programming? Netflix has a library (and interface) that many people have found sufficiently entertaining and edifying to the point that they'll drop all traditional content delivery platforms for it. It also doesn't have any ads beyond its contents' meta data like cover art, top casting, ui / categorization choices, etc.

In able to access the opposite of crap-fest content, let's call it quality content, how is a person to reasonably find it and then consume it? Affordably and conveniently with a minimum amount of time searching? Especially with the never-ending flood of content, much of it inspired by the need to sell or be famous? There's just not enough time in the day to hunt for quality content for many, many people.

It seems like Netflix is a better thing in comparison to what came before it, and ads are notably absent. What is the best version of content provision to the 7bil+, and why is it taking so long / so hard to implement?

Personally, seems like a clear win to me towards that system is to automate away the middleman. :)

Would you agree that there doesn't exist a similar or better way to obtain the highest quality programming?

No, cable or satllite both provide a greater breadth of highest quality programming. The cost and licensing terms are rough but it's a hell of a content offering

It describes the vast majority of everything. The key point to realize is that it's a different vast majority for everybody.

Careful about letting "perfect" be the enemy of "good enough". Culture has always been determined by people who are well off enough to spend time on it. Even the people who are commissioned creators (Dickens was paid by the word, Mozart had aristocratic sponsors) spent thousands of hours working for free to get to the point where anyone would pay them.

Further, it's not like ads have been some democratizing element for cultural creation. They pay a pittance for everyone but the large traffic generators. No one is quitting their job at Denny's to become a full time blogger paid by google adwords. The independent instagram/youtube/blogger "celebrities" all still keep full time jobs until they get enough sponsorship to pay the bills.

> spent thousands of hours working for free to get to the point where anyone would pay them.

That's still true. Writing for the web is generally a low-paying job. It would be even lower if the media properties went out of business.

> determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.

The word “amateur” used to be a positive thing, meaning that an amateur really had the time to get to know their field and weren’t distracted by the business side of things.

I still consider it this way because it means someone loves, cares about what he is doing, and generally does not have much delay pressure, which allows him to take time to refine his word. And I use the word "professional" in a depreciative way.

"Oh, look at this hedge, it was trimmed by professionals, they damaged every single branch."

"Hey, look at how they painted the door, there's paint over the hinges and even the lock is stuck with it. That's professional work."

"Oh, my basic tool that [big software editor] forces me to use leaks 1Gb memory per hour. That's professional software (developed by the nephew of the trainee)."

So basically, for me, "professional" refers to a work that was done with great efficiency, but time and money spent were the only metric of this efficiency. Quality, attention, precision, thought about the consequences, the future were not part of the parameters.

Which significant cultural works have been ad-funded?

Imagine if instead of libraries we made literature accessible to everyone by inserting ads, including "native ads" and product placements in the stories! Egads!

Excellent point. Libraries are public services. They're funded by private groups and governments. But it's not just about charity. There's an expectation of social benefit, which indirectly benefits even private funders.

Good question. The jury might still be out on this one though. You could argue one way or another, as it depends on what is your definition if advertising. Advertising is not art but the industry used to have its share of regretful artists. Some artists in the 20th century, like Andy Warhol, made publicity the whole point of their art. It is common for film directors to raise money trying their hand at advertising before shooting features.

Despite the poor reputation of advertising in "art" circles, quite a few visual artists blurred the frontiers between the two. For craftsmen, it doesn't matter as long as they can use their skills to make something—and they need the money, too. I understand the bad rap advertising gets, especially online, and wonder why it is still seen as the dominant revenue model on the web. Still, I'd love to read cases of significant artists who used advertising to fund their art.

It's not as fuzzy a question as you make out. People like Warhol and Koons may have satirised consumer culture, but this is completely different to the assumption that quality content can/must be funded by an advertising business model for some reason - there aren't even any examples of this (beyond Michael Jackson Pepsi videos and similar).

I never said I like ad-funding, nor that I dislike it.

It's interesting that almost every reply to my comment assumes a binary viewpoint. I responded to a single sentence of the parent comment. I never claimed to be on the "opposing team" of the comment's author.

But, to answer your question, the reporting of the Watergate scandal comes to mind.

Do you think no TV shows were significant cultural works before the creation of cable TV?

While a good point, "good" (as in critically acclaimed) television is disproportionately from networks like HBO, BBC and Netflix that are supported by other means.

> People who aren't as financially lucky as me don't have that opportunity. I'm not crazy about the idea of living in a world where those people don't get to participate in determining culture.

I can't see why those users couldn't publish through a network that charges for access but guarantees a high bar of quality (both content and browsing experience). Think of something like Medium, with opt-in micropayments... possibly even mix in a social element, so friends of the creator get free access.

Because the current market value of that content appears (for reasons that I personally find pretty bullshit, but I'm not the decision-maker here) to be a pittance.

We have, culturally, decided that art is worth very little, and this is the (inevitable? I don't know) result.

Some art costs a lot. The vast majority of art is total garbage by any subjective or objective standard, to the extent that you would have to pay people to take it (negative value). The worth of art is on something like a power law distribution.

You make a very valid point. I think there are other solutions to this problem.... strangely I had already just decided to make it the topic of my next post before reading your comment.

Also imho micro-payments won't solve that problem. It is a much deeper structural problem.

> I do the same thing, but I realized a while back there is a flaw in this model. It means the available creative works—which in turn effectively means the engine of culture—is determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.

I'm not about to claim that it's in any way an ideal or better, but isn't this how 90% of the literature, and maybe more often art, that we know hold as sacred parts of history, were created?

Isn't it interesting the level of monetary value we put on most written content on the web (nothing) vs the time we spend reading said valueless content? Is it truly so valueless, or is it only valueless because similar content isn't worth anything? I click on the links I click on because I think they'll have more value to me than the rest of them, but I'm still not to the threshold of reaching any monetary value, only my attention.

I wonder how well a system like reddit gold would work for webpages - if an article was particularly fascinating or insightful or entertaining I could hit a button to give them a dollar or something else (maybe I set a budget of $20 at each month so I don't over or under-pay what I "think" I value media at). If enough people did this, wouldn't this start driving quality back up? Wouldn't it suddenly be transparent the value people see in an article in dollar terms? Who would make the first Million Dollar article?

What you are describing is called Flattr. It was launched in 2010 and never went anywhere, like every other micropayment service.

Flattr is still running and is used by more than a few major webcomics (presumably other sites as well, I've only really looked at it for webcomics).

Granted it never took off like it wanted to, but Patreon operates on a similar model and is absolutely booming right now. Several comic artists I'm aware of have been able to quit their jobs and go full-time on the strength of Patreon alone--A Ghost Story, for example. So it's definitely not true that micropayment services always fail.

Yup,a huge amount to of my artist friends are on it. Honestly it sounds like the best option - you take the "whales" who are hyper engaged with your content and have them fund it. If the new york times had a system where you could get benefits, no ads, and some exclusive access or perhaps editorial votes for a relatively high monthly fee I'll bet they'd get a LOT of takers.

That is not correct. Blendle in the Netherlands is growing in leaps and bounds and has 250000 users who PAY to read good content. https://launch.blendle.com/

Interesting but not surprising that it existed. Reddit gold works because they have hundreds of millions of users and it probably barely pays the bills. Many smarter people have tried tackling the problem, but I don't think drastic online economic changes can grow organically without some sort of catalyst. Maybe if a browser like the one linked in the OP could get enough of a userbase that it becomes a force.

Flattr was a product of the Pirate Bay crew; they had an audience, it just didn't work out.

A lot of value comes from being written our of passion or a desire to share and not a desire to have me click on ads.

they've already got your time in an attention economy

Isn't it interesting the level of monetary value we put on most written content on the web (nothing) vs the time we spend reading said valueless content?

Welcome to feminism. Women have done untold amounts of uncompensated labour throughout history. What is the value of all that?

Capitalism favours those whose labour has a high monetary value assigned to it. It leaves everybody else out in the cold. I find it extremely frustrating that those who have been shunted from column A into column B have resorted to crab mentality[0] instead of becoming critics of capitalism.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality

Quality technical content is written by people who enjoy it for free. This is not generally true for other quality content.

Quality content that requires you to go to Afghanistan to actually understand and report the situation on the ground is not written by people who write as a hobby. In depth political analysis generally isn't either. That's because going to Afghanistan, or understanding the internal structure of politics are full time jobs.

Unless we find a way to pay people to do these jobs, we'll be eating the writings of people hired by those with money and vested interests. The PR agencies hired to sell us war, or political talking points.

Generally all 'in-depth' political analysis is terrible propaganda. The best Afghanistan content I've seen has been documentaries such as Armadillo. I'll pay to watch that (through Netflix for example).

"Unless we find a way to pay people to do these jobs, we'll be eating the writings of people hired by those with money and vested interests."

I suspect it may have been the point of your comment but that's exactly what we are already doing.

I have another example. The Irish Times (one of Ireland's leading broadsheet newspapers) bought myhome.ie for €50m euros in 2007. The Irish Times had a huge daily property section at the time and was profiting greatly, riding on the crest of the wave of the property bubble. They also received uncountable millions from the banks to advertise the ridiculous 110% mortgages etc within the pages of their daily paper. I'll let you guess how much content that was critical of the property boom was published within their pages and how long it took for them to do any investigative journalism into the fraudulent behaviour of the banks whose ad budgets were sustaining them.

Capitalism and the truth are not compatible. Too many vested interests everywhere. War journalists can't be critical because they will lose access. Everyone is tip-toeing about scared to set a foot wrong incase it dries up their income supply (or at least removes the circumstances which allows them to earn a living). We've hit saturation point and all this disruption through internet and automation is a godsend in the long run but will cause much suffering in the short term.

Even some of the good stuff on this site I wouldn't feel compelled to pay for because truly it isn't transformative and I would probably be better off not reading it and doing something productive instead. [..] Stuff I do pay for: [..] Spotify, Netflix.

OK, so blog posts are of almost no value to you. But a bit of music and some TV shows, that's where the really productive, transformative stuff happens whose creators deserve a few bucks..

Media got worse as the revenue streams dried up; if you pay for writing, you can expect much better writing.

I generally find that I'm better off spending an hour researching books to purchase on a non-programming subject than I am spending that hour Googling for free content on that subject.

Sure, I buy books all the time. That is very different to the bubblegum content I read online which would fall under the micro-payments model though.

Bubblegum content appeared in direct response to the death of the traditional revenue streams.

I disagree. Newspapers were always terrible and full of heavily biased content. Same for most magazines.

I have payed nothing for PGs essays or slate star codex epically detailed tear-downs of published studies. They are among the best writing I have read.

I have payed nothing to the people on youtube who shown me how to fold a shirt, do my hair, make pasta easily, chop food like a chef or whatever else I needed help with; granted those aren't writing per-say, but a decade ago I would have found that information in a blog.

I won't pay for writing, I will pay for a fact-checker, but so far that only seems necessary on highly-technical books.

It's a shame folks have downvoted this. It's a very useful and good point. Much of the free content is vastly better than paid content, and most of the free content also does not contain ads. There are remarkably few sources of paid content that justify their cost, even when that cost is as low as simply paying some of my attention to an ad.

Same here but I've purchased pg'a book and most books of writers I like follow on the web.

Your quality bar is extraordinarily, painfully low.

If ads on the web are to be considered "payment" for all the "content" we're consuming on the web, like everybody seems to keep repeating--yes, I disagree--have a look all this "content" that it's supposedly buying us.

Where are most of these ads? What "content" is making all that money?

You've seen it. 95% (or more) is nearly spam. Or actual spam in some way or another. It's all those listicles ("The 10 best X"), or these photo image traps (there was a name for them, the "You won't believe bla this celebrity something embarrassing mistake").

I didn't consent to buying that. And I most definitely will not spend my precious currency of attention on it.

Do we all recall the bad old days of blackhat SEO, linkfarms and all that crap? It's still going on but I call it the bad old days because it used to be you couldn't research stuff on the Internet without bumping into those things all the time.

Do we remember how a lot of these things worked? I've always had a morbid fascination for those things, some were such weird places. Initially it just started with endless algorithmically generated pages linking to pages in ways that exploited Google's classic PageRank algorithms. Google got wise to that, so the blackhat SEOs sprinkled in some content. Google got wiser, and at some point (this was still when About.com was a serious "competitor" to Wikipedia) there were actual humans churning out tiny "content" articles, 300 words, really about almost anything, just a few paragraphs, puke a few words on any topic you could possibly imagine and people would get a tiny pay for writing it and into another SEO-machine they went, extracted keywords linked to all the things and back to spam.

That's not the type of content industry we want to support, right? But THIS is what happened. Of course Google Ads got wise-ish to that as well, and over time this content-farming industry kept incrementing the content quality of their spam just enough until the listicles that nobody ever asked for are just barely good enough that the public will actually swallow it.

And that is what we have today, and there is no real economic incentive to get any better. Maybe a tiny bit better, but remember this trash grew organically from the economic incentives of spam. It's never going to grow into the awesome well-researched high quality articles everybody is furiously imagining when they talk about an ad-supported content web or micropayments or whatever.

It's a mistake.

Ads never really significantly supported high quality content publishers, most of the really great content on the Internet has always been on free websites. If you don't believe me it's because the ad-networks never linked you there or you never thought to look. The vast majority of these ad-networks, all what they ever gave us was spam and economic incentives for more spam. And micropayments are not going to be any different.

You're imagining growth the wrong way. The only thing that will grow is the spam, and it'll get a bit "better quality" if it makes more money maybe but there's no reason for it to grow until it reaches the actually good quality. You get a pretty mushroom growing from the fungus.

All of the higher quality content websites with nice chewy articles, that figured out a way to be financially supported by their audience, none of them do it with ads. It doesn't make them nearly enough money to account for the readers put off by it. And that's not an "oh eww! this otherwise-quality-article has an ad on it, I'll just go read something else", no that's of course silly. It's the image of the thing. Having a big, ugly, ad-network operated ad right next (or inside) your otherwise-quality-article diminishes the value of it. Having to cut up that article into multiple pages for no reason other than boosting pageviews, diminishes the value.

Write a great article, inject it with ads, becomes a mediocre article. If you don't believe me, imagine you found a cool programming tutorial on some topic you find interesting. The tutorial is split into multiple small pages, content making up less than 33% of the screen, and browsing back and forth between pages is slow because of all the 3rd party components and ubiquitous JS frameworks. Then imagine the same tutorial on one page, written in markdown, on github pages or whatever, and that's it. Value? To me it's an order of magnitude difference. So much difference that I've occasionally taken that content, copypasted and reformatted into a nice quiet format, strictly for personal use, as alternative to bookmarking. The value of the time it cost me to do that is actually worth several orders of magnitude more than what I would ever pay for an article.

Maybe the publisher doesn't even care, ultimately the writers do. Sure, from a rational economical financial free-marketable point of view it just makes business sense to trash high-quality articles with ads until the costs and benefits line up sufficiently that any more trashing would just be done out of sadistic glee. But writing is a creative process. It's not all about money. And if you keep that up, you're gonna kill the creativity regardless, because all you end up with is regurgitated contentfarm poop, the worst of both worlds, no actual quality content and a world of ads. I'm a creative person, I create content just for the heck of it. I never needed to rationalize why I hate ads. I know why they are bad and what happens when I let them near my creative processes.

Sorry this post got a bit long :-)

Long but spot on!

> I would love to see micropayments replace ads.

I don't know much about the technical reality of it, but I've thought that an effective micropayments system could be revolutionary, one of thhe most important innovations in tech:

1) It could be a way of financing an incredible amount of essential work that current funding models fail, because the payments are one-off and not worth the high trasaction costs (in fees and user time). Think of art (how do you pay for an amazing digital image) to music (pay for one song) to journalism (how do you pay for one article) to games to FOSS code to expert Q&A to much more. Financing these endeavors could lead to much more and much better.

2) It can solve much of the privacy problem, assuming the micropayments are cash-like and not tracked. I hope anonymity, which you mention in your comment, and all aspects of confidentiality are being designed and built in as core functions.

3) It could enable automated rights clearinghouses in many fields. Do you want to use part of that code/song/etc. in your work? No need to contact the rights holder and negotiate a contract, an impossibly high transaction cost for most, just use the micropayment system. Much of art in the digital age is, or should be, collage. As they say, 'good artists borrow, great artists steal'.

In my mind, it could be the most important IT innovation for culture, code, and many other aspects of society.

Micropayments already exists for journalism in the form of Blendle and others. It isn't as effective as you might hope:


(key takeaway from that article: people are moving away from micropayments where they already exist (e.g. music) to subscription models. It doesn't work)

Blendle is NOT micropayments. I looked at Blendle the other day when someone posted about it. Blendle wants you to pay 25 cents for an article and then, after reading about it, think and decide if it was worth the money or if you want a refund.

First, micropayments are less than a penny (the "micro" part). Anything 25 cents is just a payment.

Second, 25 cents means I can quickly bump into my monthly/yearly maximums and have to start cutting back on my reading each month and year end. I don't want to go each October-December without being able to read the web just because I overspent on marginal articles earlier in the year.

The model that will work (for me anyway) is one like Netflix. I pay essentially a yearly fee and can consume as much as I want. Bingeing, if you will, when I desire. But only if, again like Netflix, a significant portion of the web is included. If I have to pay for five or six subscriptions it's a no-go because it gets too expensive.

Right. The micropayment needs to be about the same as the ad income would have been. And it needs to be virtually automatic. Just a pop-up saying that reading would cost $0.013 and asking for confirmation. There'd be a browser plugin that handled payments. And payments, of course, would need to be anonymous and not trackable.

I'm sorry, I have to disagree about micropayments. For most people (including people in finance), micropayments are anything less than 1 dollar. $0.25 is most definitely a micropayment. The reason is simple: with any payment processor, your per-transaction fee is something like $0.30 + 3% of the transaction. So a $0.30 sale nets you zero, because it's all taken up by the fee, and anything less than that will cost you money. For transactions under a few dollars, these fees are absolutely prohibitive.

So even for things worth a quarter, a real micropayment system would be a boon.

Now, the problem with things like Blendle, the iTunes store, etc., is that even with my definition of micropayments, they're not that useful, because they lock you into that vendor: you have to have an account with them, and you basically have a "tab" with them (much like going to a bar) that you build up, and eventually get billed for and pay all at once, so that they don't get socked with giant fees. This, obviously, only favors large players: Apple can afford to sell you $1 movies and songs this way, because it keeps you coming back to their store, but this doesn't help sellers who want to sell stuff on their own, outside of some giant player like that (who of course takes a gigantic cut of the proceeds for selling on their store).

A real micropayment system would let buyers and sellers exchange pennies at a time, with extremely low fees. PayPal got us a little closer to this by letting small sellers easily establish an account and get money from buyers (using their credit cards), without having to pay huge fees for a traditional merchant account. But PayPal gets socked with the same fees from Visa/MC as everyone and passes them on, so you still have to pay the same $0.30+3% per transaction. A micropayment system would have to bypass Visa/MC altogether. We'll never have micropayments, or lower fees of any kind, as long as we're stuck with the Visa/MC cartel.

Good points.. One part of the solution is even to get rid of all bank involvement in the micro transaction itself. A prepay approach helps you doing so. The second part of the solution is to still not drop essential aspects such as security to still maintain the claim of being a payment system. This is what we have done at milliPay in Switzerland. If you are interested in having a chat, let me know. Best, Gerrit

Subscription models and micropayments are not mutually exclusive, as in Spotify - you pay a subscription fee to listen to unlimited music. In practice that is the same as paying a fraction of a cent to the artist each time you listen to a song.

I would be willing to pay for a service that tracked each site I visited and billed me at the end of the month at a price-per-pageview comparable to CPM prices today.

EDIT: This is very distinct from asking me to pay 20 cents each time I want to open a particular page. The time I would spend considering whether to open a particular page or not isn't worth 20 cents, without regard to the fact that 20 cents/view is easily 100 times over the going rate for a page view.

This service already exists (in the form of Google Contributor).

or Flattr.

...though publishing subscription paywalls are now disappearing

Micropayments have been the holy grail online for which everybody from the core web protocols working groups, to IBM to Ted Nelson's project Xanadu have been searching. It's a tricky one to solve, but with the emergence of cryptocurrency tech, there seems to be new hope.

I'm currently involved with a project called SatoshiPay (https://satoshipay.io/), which tries to solve just this headache by enabling micropayments (down to fractions of cents) from a Bitcoin wallet that's created automatically straight in the browser. Still early days, but I believe this could be a user-friendly solution to the micropayment problem.

Just to add the opposing viewpoint: after watching browsers get incredibly sluggish over the past year on up-to-date hardware (desktop and mobile), I absolutely care about speed and bandwidth consumption[1]. So Brave's 'manifesto' absolutely resonates.

Very happy to see the principal agent problem on the web stated so clearly. I've been calling it the tragedy of the commons in comments here and elsewhere. Thanks!

[1] And security and privacy, they're the basic minimum the world needs, right? Grandparent seems too quick to dismiss them.

>tragedy of the commons

I suspect it's also due to developers getting and using the latest hardware (i.e. top range Mac Book Pros) and as long as it works on their machine, with all bells and whistles, they don't care about any of their users with slower machines. Same with phones - older phones are out of date because the updated apps get bloated and bloated for them but are not bloated for the developers.

Yeah. It almost makes me hanker for the bad old days when we had to support IE6. The pendulum's swung too far in the other direction when my phone has trouble when it's less than 2 years old.

Is it the browsers that are getting slower, or the websites that you visit?

Both, I think. The rash of huge background videos is a prime culprit. Here's a bug I filed, for example: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1197460

The Firefox Media Playback team will be tackling issues around multiple videos and background videos in Q1. For example, pausing videos until the user has viewed the tab (bug 1187778). Infinite-scrolling of Facebook's timeline page with multiple videos is another problem.


I hope we can push the Graphics team to enable hardware acceleration on Linux eventually, too. :)

Try this webapps, you get both privacy and fast browsing. Just whitelist what you need https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tobykurien... The code is opensource in github.

With ads every visitor/reader contributes regardless of their agreement with the content, while micropayments are more like "likes", and you'd mostly pay those who you agree with. This could lead to karma-whoring but this time for real money.

I mean, authors would have to kiss the asses of the readers and try to be as friendly to their preconceptions as possible and make them feel like they are buddies.

Most donations are done based on emotions. So now we'd have distorted content, catering to the online hivemind even more than today.

It looks like current ad-blockers are sufficient for most people. Privacy also does not seem to be a large problem for the vast majority of web users.

> We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.

That's in my opinion the interesting part. I would not maintain a browser for that reason, especially not for the .5% geeks that value that stuff. Directly supporting your favourite content creators would be an awesome thing. There already are micropayments providers like flattr or google contribute but they have different goals (flattr) or different approaches (google).

I'm just not sure if a for-profit organisation would be the right way to do this in web-land.

I hope you don't really mean "replace" ads.

The ad-supported Internet is one of the few places where wealthy people and poor people are on equal footing, where children can still explore without parental permission, and adults can explore without constantly asking themselves "is this worth it?".

I imagine micropayments will be exactly the sort of problem people decry in Facebook's Free Basics, where large companies can afford to give access to their sites for free, while small website operators are forced to live in their walled garden or charge micropayments (and fade into obscurity).

I also think it's kind of weird how many people like the idea of micropayments for websites when we've seen firsthand what it did to gaming, and especially mobile gaming.

I too am hopeful for a better system that can replace advertising, but I don't think micropayments are that system.

That's a good point. When I get into hating on ads, it's easy to forget about people for whom "micropayments" would not be so "micro". So the system would need a free option. Maybe just with ads. But how could ads be worth anything if only poor people viewed them? Maybe something like a distributed library system. Non-poor freeloaders might be problematic, however. Maybe add a delay for free access. Or reduce bandwidth to slow loading.

I'd rather you skip the micropayments, if you can, and don't get distracted by zealots. Anti-advertising is anti-business IMO. What you're doing is extremely valuable. The free-for-all of tracking on the web is bad and it should be fixed directly. It doesn't need to be conflated with a niche cause.

This is my highest rated comment ever currently at +180. I don't know if anti-advertising is anti-business. It remains to be seen if the limited anti-ad experiments like in Brazil are really killing business. What seems certain is that anti-advertising is not a niche position, just not one that I explicitly see expressed online except in terms of privacy, security, and speed.

Hey Brendan,

Just wanted to throw my $0.02 out there. A browser company will obviously be the next google. Advertising makes no sense as a monetization strategy in any capacity. World wide web is an RSS feed and browsers currently only a feedparser not reader.

What new browser will solve


* crawlers are being banned and info is mich more protected.

* ads are being blocked more aggressively.

* corpus of sites too massive to provide relevent help as singular units.

* discovery biggest problem on internet again, sites like HN and reddit proof.

How browser makes money


Companies have websites that provide data, browser provides digested and concatenated info to user.

User pays search engine browser for data & processing which is paid to websites.

As good content and info become more fragmented this will be valuable.

* provides data directly (skips results returns info)

* privacy by design, user pays for their own crawl index (basically AWS for data.

* parse and rank data like pandora



1. User can get their own corpus and filter it (subset of master)

2. Websites and aggregators sell data to platform (indexed data sets, indexing tools, or a sub corpus)

3. Users can buy or subscribe to these on platform market.

4. User information, parse heuristics, corpus ranking, etc are sent to private db setup for user. Data is requested from browser ==> user processing ==> main corpus (if not cached/get balance of non cached items) <== fetched raw data returned then processed and indexed according to users needs/algorithims then data returned to user.

Entire ecosystem product. You could build this.

Please do.

your english isnt the greatest but the points are reasonably sound.

in particular discovery is terrible - its worst - much worse than the altavista days. People don't seem to realize that 99.9% of the people see 0.0..1% of the content, always the same content, for all.

a browser that block all ads, trackers, etc can indeed provide the user data for a fee, since the browser always has access to all the data. not sure how it would access its own crawl index though, ie where does the index comes from? Right now, its google...

There are open crawl sets available. English is poor because I am on mobile (which is why i am not going to provide the links) one is called, i think, open crawl index.

However, like googlebot, the browser will of course be the actual crawler. Page requests are cached at the databank level, then at the users partition.

The problem is that the web is an rss feed but sites (with valuable info) are blocking crawlers, except google. This creates informational asymmetry.

Since almost all search engines try to emulate page rank, we dont have diversified results, however all our search info is aggregated.

The browser wont "block" adds because it won't ever return websites. It will literally only return (how I imagine v1) to return html snippets and they can be iterated over rapidly.

Tracking won't matter. I haven't worked out exactly how to do it, but i think that you will own a piece of a corpus (essentially there is one corpus, but you have it sort of mirrored to your silo) you can make requests to the corpus to fetch data or to go out into the internet and get raw data. It is returned to your cache (and the global one) then your processing is done locally.

* browser is the feedreader, network and platform

* users sell bots and crawlers to users

* users sell sorted data sets to users

* users sell algorithims to users

* browser is a market maker

Storage so cheap processing power is so good a 20gb cache of data can sit locally. And you can fetch newer data or swap it out for other stuff. You also can store post-processed analytical data in the cloud

The micropayments sound good, but I don't understand how those can work in practice:

Site owners have to opt-in to the system obviously, if for no other reason than that they have to receive the payments somehow.

So what will you do if I selected ad-free browsing and am willing to pay but the site doesn't support your system? Refuse to load the page? Do not block ads and override my decision? Block all ads and override the site owners decision?

Press stories cover how what we are building can scale without site owners having to opt in. It'll be in the roadmap too. I went light in the blog post to avoid to;dr.

For the record, I (and I think many others like me) are totally fine with old-school display ads. You can show me all the ads you can get advertisers to pay for, and I might even click on them if they're presented in a relevant context (an ad for a game on a review of a similar game).

What I object to are invasive ad networks that try to track me all over the internet and build a comprehensive profile of my identity and online activities. As far as I'm concerned THAT is the problem browser companies need to be addressing.

I don't understand why Firefox/Apple/Microsoft haven't been pushing this angle. They could strike a blow against their rival Google, and for their users, in the same stroke.

I would also love to see micropayments replace ads. I block nonessential scripts, ads and trackers for privacy, security and speed. I also block ads to avoid mental pollution.

To use micropayments, I'd need to fund via Bitcoin or another anonymous method. Even cash in the mail, I suppose. Also, I'd want to buy per article, but I wouldn't want to substantively interrupt the flow of browsing, or think very much about the amount. Ideally, I'd like to be quoted payment amounts that just won against bids by advertisers.

Since your point is privacy, do you know that Bitcoin is the opposite of private and anonymous? The entire ledger is recorded publicly. Granted if you obtain some via cash and are careful not to link your real identify with purchasing the coins, a btc purchase, attaining your goods, etc.; you can get away with using it to an extent, but good luck with modern ad profiling... one mis-step and your profiles are linked.

That's an excellent point. I should have specified "thoroughly anonymized Bitcoin". I used to buy Bitcoin with cash. Usually cash by mail. But now I earn as much as I need, anonymously. So there's no linkage to my real identity. Also, I use multiple project-specific personas. Each one has its own Whonix instances, and I transfer Bitcoin among them via various mixing services. Anyway, there's no possibility of profiles getting linked.

How will you provide better ads? Facebook knows everything about me and I unblock ads on their site for the laugh at how bad they are (Two examples: I don't want to go back to college to get my degree a second time at the place I already got it once, thank you very much. Also I don't want to supply my house with natural gas 200 miles from where I live). You will know very little about me, how will you come up with better ads? Remember better = more relevant to things I might want.

I think your question is premised on a false assumption:

> better = more relevant to the things I might want.

In my mind advertising serves 3 roles:

1. informational - this product exists and costs X

2. branding - X is really good at design, Y cares about the environment

3. generate new market/demand - cigarettes are cool, diamonds are about love, you smell bad so you should use deodorant

Targeting is only really suited for #1. 2 & 3 are about social signaling and crafting a narrative about a product. For example, seeing an ad for the Economist would have stronger signaling ("this is for important people") if you saw it on your boss' screen - not your own. There's an article[1] that goes into much more detail about this idea - but in my mind non-targeted advertising would be valuable if it was about brand-association and location (as in traditional media).

Edit: as an interesting side-note, click through rates are utterly meaningless for #2 and possibly #3. What matters is what the audience thinks and feels about the ad and the product/brand, not whether they buy it on the spot. Here, intrusive advertising destroys value by associating a brand with a negative experience (popups, rollovers, etc.)

[1] http://zgp.org/targeted-advertising-considered-harmful/

One of my friends was looking to 'trade up' his car, and kept getting facebook ads for his own car. I guess it was exactly the kind of car a person like him would own...

I'll probably use your browser so that I can read the Sydney Morning Herald. That's one crappy, crappy website - and only because of the ridiculous level of tracking.

Case in point - I connected to smh.com.au and since I have connected to it yesterday (only two times!) it has accessed 91 third party sites. 91! It's ridiculous.

Try white listing only the "content delivering server from smh". You will browse blazing fast! https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tobykurien...

https://github.com/tobykurien/WebApps PS: I am not the author, I like the idea, so I have a complete white list of sites in the webview.

I'll give that a try! Thanks.

Micropayments have been busted down many times, though I find Nick Szabo's arguments the most convincing:


Clay Shirky's got some good additions.

http://www.shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2000/12/19/micropayments.ht...

The solution I'm leaning strongly toward is a large-scale, preferably universal, content syndication / payment system. The big problem seems to be the getting there from here part (as usual), and some sort of super-aggregator (possibly Google, Amazon, Apple, or Facebook) might lead the way. Though I'm heartened that other minds superior to my own seem to find the same solution attractive: Phil Hunt (Pirate Party UK) and Richard M. Stallman (FSF/GNU).

Hunt: http://cabalamat.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/a-broadband-tax-fo...

Stallman: https://stallman.org/articles/internet-sharing-license.en.ht...

My own, with some background:



Why information goods and markets are a poor match https://www.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/2vm2da/why_inf...

Does your browser block JavaScript? Because your claims of protecting users from tracking are baseless without that.

> We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.

This is an amazing option.

I would love if it was more viable to choose between ads and payment. I don't know how much my current Web habits would end up costing. But if it was a lot, I could stand to cut down on my Web surfing. There are after all other worthwhile things to do.

If this browser is planning to block obtrusive / non-performant ads, and replace them with others, presumably they will have to work out how to pay the website owners. They could use the same structure to set up a micropayments.

I get it. It's a nice idea. Also, thanks for JavaScript.

I don't adblock for privacy, security, or speed. Those are just nice-side effects. I adblock because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need.

Interesting. I'm the opposite. I've yet to encounter an ad that has a hope in hell of manipulating me at all. I couldn't be more dismissive of them. And if I encounter one too often my dislike of the company starts to grow. "It's show time, and you've been coding like a beast..." really pissed me off. They're throwing garbage at me, they want my money, I want my money, I'm at war with them.

> I've yet to encounter an ad that has a hope in hell of manipulating me at all.

If you know what "just do it", "the happiest place on Earth", "think different", or "the world's most advanced operating system" refer to, you've already been manipulated. A lot of ads are just about making sure you have a particular brand in mind and you're keenly aware of that brand's existence. Then, when time comes around to actually buy something, you'll think back to that brand. There's a lot of sneaky group psychology in the advertising industry.

I agree for the most part, but there is a not insignificant part of the population for which those things don't matter.

I know a good number of people who don't buy Nike products, don't own a Mac, and haven't been to any theme parks. For those people, whether or not they know the slogan doesn't matter: if you only drink water then 100 Coke vs Pepsi ads do nothing; if you run an obscure Linux distro you'll laugh at both the "think different" and "the world's most advanced operating system" ads; if you wear "the cheap black ones I think?" then the $90 Nikes won't get your dollar over the $40 New Balance shoes. I'm not saying that's the best way to live your life, but it certainly is one way to neatly sidestep the modern manipulation of ads.

>...certainly is one way to neatly sidestep the modern manipulation of ads.

Things may be more insidious than that though. You may not drink Coke or Pepsi, but maybe you have friends or family members that do? I've certainly known people who didn't like to go to certain restaurants because they didn't serve Coke. Maybe you've also gone along with this at sometime in the past. Or maybe you've had to buy gifts for friends of your children, and they've had pressure procure name-brand items?

..you realize that could be because Coke and Pepsi taste rather different and someone may like one to the exclusion of the other? What does that have to do with advertising?

Have you ever been to a restaurant where there served both Coke and Pepsi?

This comes down to franchise agreements, not advertising.

That depends on your definition of manipulation. Most people consider manipulation to be unfair or unscrupulous. Knowing a motto or the name of a brand is hardly either.

I also happen to know what "get serious about social" refers to even though I've never seen an ad by them, nor have I ever been in a position which would make me a customer. There's nothing "sneaky" advertising techniques. They are well-known.

I know my argument stands on shakey ground, but brand awareness (what you define as knowing a motto or brand name) is absolutely a form of manipulation. Apple has enough money, to buy enough ads, to be in enough places, that they can get their message to the masses. "Pear computers" (an imaginary computer startup who makes hardware better than apple but has no money) who don't have the power (money) to make that campaign happen absolutely have less manipulation leverage and will probably die unless they can figure out how to build a marketing ground swell (aka manipulate enough people to believe that their product _is_ superior and to use it.) See: Beats headphones.

>but brand awareness (what you define as knowing a motto or brand name) is absolutely a form of manipulation.

You're argument isn't shaky, its incomplete. How is this a bad thing? If my friend tells me "Intel makes good SSDs", I now have a brand and a reason to buy from them. Am I being "manipulated"? By your definition yes, I'm probably not going to buy a Samsung SSD, now knowing Intel is reliable. Is this bad? I don't know, I generally consider having information about a product I wish to purchase a good thing.

Your argument didn't get any less shaky, unless you consider any interaction with an agenda, and therefore every interaction you will ever have, to be manipulation.

If you do I feel a great amount of sympathy for you. You must feel inundated.

Brand awareness is the most important part of apple's product. "Better hardware"? Nobody cares.

You can overcome this by developing some habits of mind. First, never make a purchasing decision at the store or when approached by another person. Always decide that you'll buy something in the comfort of your own home, and try to wait on that decision. If you think you need something, stop, forget about it, and see if you need it next week. Only buy it if you still need it then.

Second, always always comparison-shop for things. Read the reviews, identify which specs are most important to you, seek out competitors, and compare prices. The Internet (and now mobile apps) makes this so easy these days.

I've never bought Nike or IBM, usually prefer local amusement parks or carnivals to Disneyland, and had to Google to realize that your last slogan applies to OS X (I think Xen when I hear "the world's most advanced operating system"). Consistently saved 80% of my income since I started working. I love ad-supported stuff, because it means other people pay for it rather than me.

When I want to buy a card, I go to a shop named Cards Galore. I go there because the name makes me think that they sell cards. I know it exists because I pass it every day, and they have their name in big letters on the outside of their shop.

Do you consider that I've been manipulated? More to the point, do you find anything unethical in this?

Manipulation, yes. Unethical, maybe? (when you look at its effect in aggregate)

Honestly I just want all the advertising (be it physical (signage, billboards, smells, etc) or digital) to get out of my environment. It's almost always noise and it's ugly. There's no reason we couldn't build a hyper-connected system where if I'm looking for something, I can find it.

I want socks? Ok, how many sock stores are local? Ok, what are these made of and who is their supplier, and how does their supplier get their product? (I don't want to support sweat-shop labor or non-sustainability, especially if I'm buying socks.) How have other people found these socks to work?

I should be able to find what I need, which includes being able to understand how that product came to be (transparency). Products shouldn't find me. Ads are noise and we've got enough of that as it is. Would Nike, selling socks, be as successful when all is considered? I'd like to think humans care more for their home and, taking away all the psychological manipulation of ads, could begin to choose how to spend their money more intelligently. A man can dream...

EDIT: To me your question raises the problem we should solve, which advertising kinda solves damn poorly. Get people who need something in touch with the people who can provide that something, and make it transparent for both parties as much as possible.

How is a store front with a sign having the store's name manipulation exactly?

I'm not sure where you live, but your desires are incompatible with free speech. Frankly, they're so extreme, I can't imagine you could be happy as anything other than a hermit. I certainly wouldn't be quiet in your presence just because you don't want to hear me.

Two follow-up questions:

1) Is it free speech to blow an airhorn on a continuous basis?

2) Is it free speech to spraypaint over a billboard?

ok, let's assume such a hyper-connected system exists and ads disappear completely. You decide to buy socks. You find a supplier you like. Socks come in black and orange. You like black, but your wife prefers orange. She convinces you to change your mind with arguments such as "orange is more vibrant". Do you consider that a form of manipulation? is it unethical?

The truth is, we as human being are constantly target of manipulation, always was, always will be. If not in the form of ads, then masqueraded in other more subtle forms. Would you rather know you're explicitly being subject of manipulation?

Great reply, and yes, of course I consider that a form of manipulation. It's not unethical because I MARRIED them. I chose to enter into a partnership with them and I want their input within me. Isn't it nice that such an imagined marketplace would allow us to both satisfy our needs together instead of being manipulated by companies as to what's the "right" choice?

I'd rather avoid the manipulation altogether by people I don't know and they can fuck right off with their attempts to sell me something I don't need or am not interested in (all the while contributing to hidden negative externalities). I want to support (manipulate) and be supported by (manipulated by) people I love and know to share my values.

@oldmanjay in another response says this is contrary to free speech, imagines I must be a unhappy unless I'm a hermit, and doesn't mind that he'd be offending me with his noise if we were in the same room. Well guess what, I wouldn't have entered the room in the first place. That's the problem. You can't walk down the street without getting blasted in the retinas by all this damn noise. The fact that it happens on highways while people need to be focusing on the road is just insane. I live in NA.

A concept that has crossed my mind: an Anti-advertising League. Businesses can opt in to a directory containing information on their products and services (including reviews, etc), with the stipulation that they will never advertise.

You'd expect the directory to be filled with businesses that effectively advertise themselves.

Its ironic that your username is an ad for the addictive, manipulative game.

That works both ways. In the UK, presumably elsewhere too, there are long running themed adverts - they drive me nuts on the occasions that I don't hit the mute button soon enough. Brits will know the mongooses, and the two marathon runners, supposedly humorous - incessant, for years on end. Never, ever will I use those services.

Ugh, I'm right with you. When I renewed my car insurance recently, I avoided using either of the 2 comparison sites for exactly that reason. I wonder if brands ever do market research on the number of people actively repelled by their adverts.

BT. The combination of "bad boy" and overpaid UEFA thugs is enough to stop me buying any of their services.

The people who won't buy after the advert "wouldn't have bought it anyways"

The mongooses? Or the meerkats?

(I can't think of any mongoose adverts.)

Possibly a branding fail, at least for the parent commentator :-)

I actually quite like the Meerkats.

I know what "just do it" means but have only bought one (1) pair of Nike trainers in my life (out of, oh, 40+ pairs).

I'm pretty sure I know where "the happiest place on Earth" is but it'll be a cold day in hell before I visit.

Less manipulated, more just a basic cultural awareness, I'd say.

  > If you know [random thing]... you've already been manipulated.
If this is the proposed legal standard, then parents should be banned first.

"Here are some other great manipulation products you may be interested in..."

But this moves the goal posts from your initial claim, which was "I adblock because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need."

Choosing one brand over another when you want to buy beer is not nearly the same thing as being manipulated into buying beer when you don't actually want to.

Huh, looks like I've underestimated how effective isolating myself from that is. I could only identify the first one of those slogans with any confidence.

Yah, that's not "manipulation".

The only thing that kind of advertising does is make me actively avoid that brand in the future out of sheer spite.

I maybe know one of those ;)

Not all ads manipulate, and not all advertisers are evil people looking to manipulate their target audience.

(Disclosure--I do digital media for a living)

Case in point, I once had a vet clinic as a client. People were seeking out information on Google for certain pet symptoms that owners may not have realized warranted a vet visit, and we ran paid search ads against those terms. People were clicking them and then coming in to get their exam, and often getting in front of what could have been a much worse outcome for their pet.

Was that manipulative or helpful?

Point is, people like to paint with overly broad strokes when speaking about advertising. Make no mistake, the lengths to which publishers have gone over the past couple of years is disgusting. Would you be surprised to learn that many in the industry also hate this kind of crap? I'm not trying to make excuses or anything as there are definitely bad actors (among advertisers, networks and publishers), but there can be very legitimate and helpful uses for ads that also respect privacy and aren't in-your-face. Not all ads are sponsored content or autoplay video units.

The only difference between persuasion and manipulation when it comes to media is the personal biases of the people having the discussion.

Couldn't help but notice you didn't leave other options beyond "persuasion" and "manipulation"...such as "offering an option for someone to self select." There's also another party absent beyond the people in the discussion, which is the end user exposed to this who likely has an opinion as well.

Never try to get in the way of the HN anti-advertising hate train, especially with reasonable counter-examples.

I used to think I am immune to advertising, now, I confess, I never stood a chance. I think most people expect the true enlightened will fall for ads. Its not just you not buying their shit, its just the attention they take away from things you really care.

Of course. You think for yourself. It's only other people that fall for advertising.

It's amazing how many people think this is true.

All the data I have, is consistent with people having different levels of susceptibility to ads. It wouldn't surprise me if there are in fact people who aren't influenced by them.

Do you have data which is inconsistent with this?

I have no data, only the observation that whenever this kind of discussion takes place, there are always people who claim to be unaffected by advertising. I don't think that people are a good judge of their own biases, and that we tend to over-rate ourselves.

If lots of people are susceptible, I have to live in the world with the economy that this situation creates whether or not I'm personally as susceptible as someone else.

Yes, of course. But I think there's a difference between (say) "I play WoW (as opposed to some other MMO) to play with my friends who play WoW because of advertising" and "I play WoW because of advertising".

And I think logingone or joosters were talking about the second, not the first.

I agree with you.

An ad may make me aware of a product of which I had not previously been but it's not going to induce me to buy something in which I had no previous interest.

If I'm thinking of Widget Class X Brand A, an ad might make me aware of Brand B and I may eventually purchase the Brand B but I was going to purchase Widget Class X anyway.

If I had no interest in Widget Class Z, it doesn't matter how many ads I see for it, I'm still not going to buy it.

What if the ad makes you aware of a "problem" that you didn't know you had that they have a product that can address. Think for example an ad reinforces the underlying fear that you are not social enough because you enjoy programming by yourself. It explains that a pill to help "anxiety" is what you need to be healthy or maybe a class to help you become better spoken will change your life for the better.

Many people fail to note that an advertisement often creates or reinforces your fear and sells you the solution to the newly created problem.

Hell, advertisements for candy or drinks. I wasn't aware that I was hungry or thirsty but that sure looks tasty!

That's called psychological manipulation and exploitation.

When you understand and come to terms with the fact that that's what pretty much all ads are doing, it becomes much simpler to view the ads only with disgust and avoid the brands they are peddling in future.

"...in which I had no previous interest"

What piqued your interest to begin with?

You're ignoring subconscious ad effects, which largely are the main effects that advertisers are seeking to use. You scan quickly over some innocuous-seeming ad for Product-X-that-of-course-you'd-never-ever-buy, and now you are psychologically primed -- the shade of blue in the ad was chosen because it tested best for users who also viewed page Y and whose IP addresses place them in your area -- the ad contained a human face with features, expression, grooming, all chosen to resonate with you in a millisecond as your eye saccade glosses over it. Any text or pricing information was chosen carefully to explicitly prime you.

Then, months or years later when you're on the market for something like Product-X, you absolutely do not even ever remember scanning your eyes over the ad, and yet your eyes are just simply drawn to the product, or when it is mentioned by word of mouth, there is some priming memory to be reinforced, and somehow you just happen to choose Product-X to purchase.

I mean you're just taking it to conspiracy levels now. Priming is indeed a thing but those kinds of associations are very short-lived. I don't know of any priming effect that lasts for months and years or at least I haven't read any study that indicates that.

If advertisers really knew what they were doing there wouldn't be so much advertising spam. They are just blasting the speakers as loudly as they can and then tracking every little thing possible because they think they can optimize the pipeline somehow. There is no science behind any of it.

I'm baffled that you feel this way. I actually worked on some of the science behind it when I was in grad school. Here was one of the well-known projects in the field at that time:

< http://ilab.usc.edu/publications/doc/Itti_Baldi06nips.pdf >

There are also many other kinds of psychological manipulation research. For example, this article from Gamasutra talks about techniques for monetization in games, and this is obviously applicable to many ad formats:

< http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RaminShokrizade/20130626/1949... >

The idea of excessive ad repetition is not at all new: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_frequency#Thomas_Smi... >.

Even just a cursory Google search for whatever popular advertising journals there are, then looking at what articles are in their current issues, turned up some pretty quantitative work on allocating to different media formats:

< http://www.journalofadvertisingresearch.com/content/55/4/443 >

Or this article on determining what cognitive factors are related to the avoidance of OTC drug ads:

< http://www.journalofadvertisingresearch.com/content/55/4/401 >

That one, in the introduction, also links to many other studies specifically about psychological factors contributing to negative ad reactions.

I'm really baffled that you think advertisers do not conduct extremely specific threads of research to determine whether they are getting their money's worth from a certain ad or not.

I don't consider any of this to be remotely like a conspiracy theory -- in fact I thought this was commonly understood to be obviously the case, and I'm very surprised to hear that you feel otherwise.

You can be as baffled as you want. My circle of friends is pretty evenly split between people that buy name brand things and those that couldn't care less about any branded products. So either advertisers have figured out how to target those that are susceptible to their kind of priming or they're shooting in the dark.

Reading the abstracts in order:

> The concept of surprise is central to sensory processing, adaptation, learning, and attention. Yet, no widely-accepted mathematical theory currently exists to quantitatively characterize surprise elicited by a stimulus or event, for observers that range from single neurons to complex natural or engineered systems. We describe a formal Bayesian definition of surprise that is the only consistent formulation under minimal axiomatic assumptions. Surprise quantifies how data affects a natural or artificial observer, by measuring the difference between posterior and prior beliefs of the observer. Using this framework we measure the extent to which humans direct their gaze towards surprising items while watching television and video games. We find that subjects are strongly attracted towards surprising locations, with 72% of all human gaze shifts directed towards locations more surprising than the average, a figure which rises to 84% when considering only gaze targets simultaneously selected by all subjects. The resulting theory of surprise is applicable across different spatio-temporal scales, modalities, and levels of abstraction.

Nothing to do with priming. Novelty seeking is not priming and I would expect this result to be true given what I know about people in general and bits and pieces of evolutionary psychology. Do ads try to be novel? Sure. I guess that is one way to grab attention but I don't see any connection between that and long-term manipulation that you talk about.

> A coercive monetization model depends on the ability to “trick” a person into making a purchase with incomplete information, or by hiding that information such that while it is technically available, the brain of the consumer does not access that information. Hiding a purchase can be as simple as disguising the relationship between the action and the cost as I describe in my Systems of Control in F2P paper.

Again, tricking someone is not the same as priming them for the long term. This is the same stuff casinos do so catering to short-term heuristics and tricking a person hardly qualifies as what you laid out in your original comment.

> The current study applied a “mixture-amount modeling” statistical approach—used most often in biology, agriculture, and food science—to measure the impact of advertising effort and allocation across different media. The authors of the current paper believe advertisers can use the mixture-amount model to detect optimal advertising-mix allocation changes as a function of their total advertising effort. The researchers demonstrated the use of the model by analyzing Belgian magazine and television data on 34 advertising campaigns for beauty-care brands. The goal is to help advertisers maximize desirable outcomes for campaign recognition and brand interest.

Sounds interesting but is more about optimizing exposure than anything else. No claims about long term cognitive effects and rightfully so.

Anyway, my bafflement should not be surprising.

I don't feel your reply addresses any of my points. For example, you simply list the Itti/Baldi paper's abstract and say that, basically, because the word 'priming' doesn't appear in the abstract means the research has nothing to do with it. That seems incredibly disingenuous to me. The research is directly about predicting where human eyeballs will involuntarily move when presented with certain visual stimuli. If you can't see the direct connection with drawing attention to priming artifacts in an ad, I think it's probably just not possible for us to even converse about the topic at all.

The rest of the reply is similar. Using ctrl-f to search for the word 'priming' in a source doesn't constitute an effort to see how it could be connected to priming.

The manipulation is subtle, but even if we assume ads don't manipulate you at all, they do manipulate people around you and shared societal consciousness - and that definitely impacts most people.

Maybe "manipulation" is a manipulative way of saying "influence".

It's hard to call the de beers advertising campaign as anything other than manipulation. Maybe the worst example of the set of all advertisements, where the best would be advertisements that only explain what a product is, and where you can get it.

The problem is, Advertisers don't earn their paychecks by being honest.

I agree ads are bad but the current state of the web is disgusting, it's barely recognizable as a conduit for any real information.

People hail the internet as a great way to find information -- if you type anything into the google search bar you're curious about, you either get wikipedia, which is clean and usually pretty great if incomplete, or clickbait ad-filled trash that gives you one sentence of content before you click "next", repeated 10 times downloading megabytes of data, tracking your habits, and grinding your machine to a halt, possibly infecting you with drive-by malware.

This feels to me like much needed incremental progress. Let's not give up on solving anything just because we can't fix everything we don't like all at once.

I clicked the HN link about ISIS fighter's salaries. Constant flash video playing in the other tab, CPU usage at 50%, obnoxious sounds pouring out of it. This should not be allowed to happen, we don't need to tolerate this kind of bad behavior on the part of websites. And even 'respectable' sites like newspapers do it.

Google either lost and surrendered or simply stopped caring about the war against crappy spam sites in search results sometime around '08/'09. Combining with a bunch of other things this led, IMO, to a reversal in what had been a steady increase in the quality of the web[1]. By around '11/'12 most of the web that wasn't crappy spam sites came to strongly resemble crappy spam sites. Anything like real, quality content not on a handful of major sites (e.g. Wikipedia) is either gone or impossible to find via search without knowing precisely what you're looking for.

See also: all sites and news organizations everywhere embracing terrible clickbait titles over traditional, informative ones.

[1] Like a massive jump in Javascript use and page sizes killing performance, and the expansion of Facebook/Twitter and the related death of the "no-one knows you're a dog" web.

> People hail the internet as a great way to find information -- if you type anything into the google search bar you're curious about, you either get wikipedia, which is clean and usually pretty great if incomplete, or clickbait ad-filled trash

A perfect example of this: I got a rash from poison oak exposure, and wanted to find out what the recommended treatment was. Seemingly a perfect use case for the internet. I was greeted with search results that are perfectly described by this sentence.

Oh my god, searching for medical information. It's so bad. I just wanted to find out some stuff about strep throat a few weeks ago, and everything aside from Wikipedia was at best a short bit of information on ~20-30% of the page with navigation and ads taking up the rest. None of it was better than Wikipedia despite being on medicine-related domain names, a couple of which used to be semi-reputable.

An excess of ad money is ruining the Web.

if you type anything into the google search bar [..] you either get wikipedia [..] or clickbait ad-filled trash that gives you one sentence of content before you click "next", repeated 10 times downloading megabytes of data

Hyperbolic to the extreme and rarely true.

Rio stripped street ads because of visual pollution [1]. Quito and some other cities in Ecuador did the same.

It didn't impact the economy negatively. It makes the city way more pleasant to walk around.

This is specially annoying in "newspaper" sites, where content should be king (I mean, guys, you are already ton of money selling your printed version) and you are welcomed with a full page ad that is not related to the content nor my interests.


> I mean, guys, you are already ton of money selling your printed version

Not at all. Printed paper is definitely on the decline - just compare what's easier to do e.g. at a train or while drinking your morning coffee: holding a huge-ass 1 m² newspaper while the train is shaking and the crowd makes it impossible to stretch your arm, or, holding a notebook/tablet/phablet to read.

Newspapers don't really make money selling their printed versions. That's why the printed version is full of ads in the first place. Advertisers pay for printed newspapers to exist.

I disagree... I find ads an extremely agreeable way for the web to run. I get what I want for free, you get money just simply because someone's ad showed up.


What I don't care for is the idea that one or two megacorps know everything about me. So I selectively use ad-block software to keep the Big Boys from overly tracking me.

I find your version of the future--in which ad networks are gone and content proviers stay around because they provide their services "just for giggles" or require micro+ payments--unpalatable.

In a broad (and rather optimistic) sense, advertising informs you of available opportunities, not just things that you can buy. I guess you can try to separate it into "selling products and services" versus "brand promotion and awareness" versus "public service announcements", but the line can be fuzzy and gray.

I don't have anything against ads on webpages in general, but I really hate anything with sound/animation or focus-stealing like pop-up/interstitual/hiding/whatever. I don't block ads because I'm lazy, and because I think it's an acceptable payment model for content, but I just leave the page if the ads annoy me enough.

FWIW, the only ads I've actually purchased services/products from are when I'm actually searching for them and they come up as sponsored results or sidebar ads.

If this were attempted, I think we'd have a LOT of talk about what truly is an ad and what isn't.

I mean, the web banners and billboards we see every day don't do a lot to actually sell products. But your friend telling you they really love a particular product helps a lot.

But in a society where a movement such as you've described was in motion, would both be equally as bad? Are both not manipulative in their own way?

I'm thinking something like what São Paulo implemented,


Or, perhaps, you only get ads when requested. "I'm in the market for a new refrigerator. Please show me ads for refrigerators."

But still, I have a fundamental problem with how all advertising has a slant, and at least a hint of a lie or manipulation. I do not like being lied to or manipulated, but I don't know what the alternative would be.

The followup article I saw here a few months ago suggested that Sao Paulo hasn't found that entirely successful, and has allowed a significant amount of advertising back.

I tried looking for this, I really did, but I couldn't find it. Can you find this information and put it in Wikipedia? I tried reading both the English and Portuguese articles, and I couldn't find what you are talking about. The only thing I saw in the Portuguese Wikipedia is that 8 years later they're having problems with illegal electoral flyers.



I tried looking too before posting the comment, honest. But all I've got is a vague memory of reading it on HN a few months ago. Sorry.

The alternative is for our culture to have standards and expect more, and to build the technology to support that level of transparency.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could instantly have a high level analysis of every refrigerator available (new or used) in terms of its objective qualities? With scientific units of measurement and everything? How about information on how the parts were sourced and manufactured?

Unfortunately the majority of the world aren't even close to being in a position to have such standards, expect more, and have the education to evaluate the evidence. The power is in all the wrong places.

you should stop browsing the web if you don't want to be manipulated or read content with a slant. 99% of the organic content on the web is trying to manipulate you.

I want to say exactly the same thing. I block ads because I don't want to see ads at all. As long as there is the ad blocker, I don't want to use brave.

If you don't want to see ads at all why not just refrain from visiting the offending sites?

There's no free market on the internet. I can balance dirty facilities, long lines, bad service, and product quality pretty easy on brick and mortar, from Walmart/Kmart at the bottom up to the nicest designer shops. Same thing with food, nobody goes to McDonalds for a top of the line steak dinner.

On the internet all we got is I'm guessing I'd like to see your content but not your ads based on extensive past experience. The internet, believe it or not, is too small and disorganized, no matter how big and indexed and tracked it seems. Sure, we are learning what domains mean useless clickbait, but its not smooth and I don't know its an offending site until I'm already offended.

The next step up from ad blocking is domain blocking. At the browser rendering level, once I've had enough, goodbye to all links pointing to salon, perhaps. That'll result in spam style domain name registration to clickbait from in 2020 vs email spam from in 2000, everything old is new again, sooner or later.

To know that there are ads at all you first need to visit the website.

the apparent answer is because I need the content.

admittedly, ad is a legit monetization method. browsing a site with ads blocked is like pirating a software.

but some sites are doing it too much, for example, I often see ad blocker blocks 40 more ads on a single page. that's insane!

some commercials are super retarded, like those Geico ones!

there was a Geico commercial with a single line: "you can't unwatch this commercial because you have already watched it!" Man, I'd pay super hard to block it.

I'm exactly the opposite. I've never intentionally clicked on a web ad. Most of the time I mentally filter them, and don't really even notice them. I don't feel that ads manipulate me -- but they do slow me down. So I use a hosts file which is IMHO the best result/least effort approach, but I try ad blockers occasionally.

To anyone using the phrase "We, as a society, should do X":

I don't understand what that means, and it makes me think you're babbling nonsense. If you mean a law should be passed, say that. If you mean something else, I honestly can't even guess what it is.

The purpose of advertising is to make you buy more than you need. The economy relies strongly on people buying much more than they need. If you got rid of advertising, it would temporarily destroy the economy, until a new normal is reached, and long term it would save the environment due to heavily reduced consumption. Also, it could bring about the keynesian fantasy where people work only 12 hours a week, because that's all they need to work to produce what is needed.

Then again, maybe it wouldn't make a difference. It would be an interesting experiment nevertheless.

> The purpose of advertising is to make you buy more than you need.

That's an incredibly cynical way of looking at the situation. There is also the purpose of telling you about a product you can buy that might possibly be beneficial to your lifestyle. Through advertising you get to find out about that product faster, something especially important in these days of brisk innovation.

I can't recall ever having learned anything of value from an ad, but YMMV. Still, it's not cynical to say that advertising is meant to make you buy more, because that's why ad space is bought: to boost sales. And it's also not cynical to say that those extra sales would not have occurred without the ad, hence they were for goods people could have done without. Something which can be done without is unneeded, hence, it is not cynical to say ads are meant to make you buy things you don't need. Or rather, they're meant to make you think you need more than you did before. Advertising is the engine of consumerism.

> And it's also not cynical to say that those extra sales would not have occurred without the ad, hence they were for goods people could have done without

Here's the error.

Yes, they were products the target could have done without, but not something they can do without once they have the product.

Consider: The first iPhone. A device that opens possibilities to improve your life that never existed before. You could do without it, but once you have it you can't do without it.

I think you'd have appreciated an ad for the original iPhone if it eventually led to you buying one.

You're confusing need with want. Nobody needs an iPhone, not even after they get one. Plenty of people want an iPhone. To be fair, the statement "advertising makes you want what you don't need" is not a value judgment on whether that is a good or bad thing. It could be that advertising is beneficial to the world. It just seems unlikely.

Exactly! Installing an ad blocker would be an act of revolution, it can disable entire economic systems. Ad blockers should be banned for this very reason - it's terrorism at worst and treason at best.

Like it or not, consumerism and capitalism go hand in hand. It has reduced global poverty and has made many of us in HN very comfortable. Advertising is bound hand and foot with this system. To deny this is to attack the very structure that we rely on.

( the above two paragraphs are possible satire )

There have been some economies that ran on the idea that most people should only have what they need. At best they seem like dystopias.

There's a difference between saying people can't have what they don't need, and saying they should have the right to not constantly be told to want what they don't need.

that money will be in the economy anyway unless everyone decides to take cash and stuff it in a mattress

But this whole little website we're both posting on is essentially content marketing for a for-profit startup incubator. It even has "promoted content" in the form of job ads for YC backed companies.

Why is that OK but display ads are not? If all sites switched to native ads does that make it better?

I'd rather have ads I can block than "sponsored content" which may or may not even be labelled as such.

> because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need

So in 10 years, are you going to not visit any website because all the advertising will go native?

Most people are scared of the devil they know, but few are afraid of the devil they don't.

> I will repeat this one more time, because Eich seems to be missing the point.

Not everything is about you. Some people are fine with seeing tasteful, non-intrusive ads to support content they really like (in my case, mostly smallish blogs and webcomics). By all means continue using the tools that serve your needs, and I'll do the same; but please stop acting like you're the only user who matters.

> I will repeat this one more time, because Eich seems to be missing the point.

Do you get the impression that you, and people whose values are identical to your own, are their only potential customer?

I have no problem with ads, as long as they are not obnoxious and don't slow me down the site a lot. I accept the tradeoff. Some ads I actually like (such as an ad for a movie that seems interesting). It's not that rare for me to see an ad on YouTube that says "Skip Ad" and I watch it through till the end.

I don't even mind some targeting and tracking, I just wish I had more control over it. Amazon does it, to show me things that they think I am interested in based on what I have looked at. It's not bothersome to me when they get it right. Although I was never as big on shopping as some people, I don't tend to mind looking at things I might like to own.

Call it manipulation if you want....ok. I personally enjoy having a web that is mostly free, and don't begrudge people that try to make a living at producing content for me.


Many of the use-cases for ads have been replaced by search engines, marketplaces and aggregator sites. There's troves of information and access out there for a consumer to make informed purchasing choices.

If I need something, I can actively find it.

The use-case for ads is:

1. I don't need the thing 2. I am not aware of my need for thing

Advertisers probably claim (2) when almost certainly it's just (1)

Well people would start to need paying for content instead of entitling themselves to have everything for free.

That's the exact case I just tried to make in a blog[1] yesterday. Ads are a BAD solution to the problem of financing content creation. There are business models out there, not fringe ones, but big examples, where free content with volunteer fan donations WORK. Ads were a quick fix, but if we want content created for consumers, money will have to come from consumers directly.

Yes, these models can't yet support a creator by themselves, but the share has been getting better and there has been a quite noticeable effect on content.

[1] http://thescepticalpirate.eu/adblock-destroying-ads-good/

Ads by themselves don't bother me that much I certainly understand the convictions against them but I don't share them.

It's just much better to browse the web with them blocked. I don't hate ads just what they do to my computer and phone.

From top of my head, I can count 5 things I've purchased only after seeing an ad for it, that have improved my life immensely, solving issues that I'd never thought I had. One example is (be careful, I'm advertising here on someone's behalf) bellroy wallet. They aggressively advertised for a while. I bought one and I've kept it for years. Before that, I was purchasing one every half year and found no pleasure in using any after few weeks.

So, I don't believe that I should buy things only when there is an existing "need". Just as is the case with science and technology.

I do not want to be manipulated into buying stuff I don't need either. Yet advertising is how free websites stay free, they also collect data and sell it.

I don't mind some ads, but some websites go overboard on ads and have more ads than content.

What really annoys me are pop-up ads or ads that launch a new web browser window.

Then there are ads that play some video and has someone talking in it.

Then there are free download sites but some of the download buttons are ads that download adware stuff. Only one download button is the correct one.

I can resist most ads, and I really cannot afford to buy things I see advertising for.

I use UBlock Origin because some sites started to detect Adblock and refuse to show content.

This Brave web browser is just the next in a line of ad blockers it is a web browser with an ad blocker built in.

Advertising has gotten out of control and I pity the person without some sort of ad blocker that doesn't know any better and clicks on ads to get tool bars and other stuff installed.

In order to combat ad blockers some sites have gone behind a paywall and need an account with a subscription to view content. Going back to the newspaper business model of subscribers and away from the free website paid for with ads.

Some advertising like Adsense are not so bad, I don't mind those ads so much because they are not annoying.

I remember Google's unobtrusive text-only ads. Those were often actually helpful to me, letting me know of products or services that I might actually be interested in that I didn't otherwise know about. If all adds were like that plus fast-loading and not invasive of privacy or security, I'd be just fine with them.

"actually helpful" and "not invasive of privacy" are in tension.

I don't like ads at all (99.9% of the time not their target), I do respond a lot to efficiency arguments a lot. I felt delighted to find better adblockers (less lag, less heat, more battery).

The ad problem won't go away, unless you're top tier brand your business rely on it. You may tame it but it's like weed, it comes back.

    >I don't like ads at all (99.9% of the time not their target)
That seems dubious unless you spend all your time browsing sites you have no interest in. If I spent all day browsing ad-supported sites about antique Czechoslovakian sewing thimbles, then yeah, I'll buy your argument (no pun intended), but the sites I view show ads that fit expected areas of interest for my demographic.

Just because you don't ever act on ads doesn't mean you aren't still a target.

Then enjoy your doubting. Even on the geekiest websites I don't click on ads, I barely even see them; except when they slow down loading and rendering, Then I go mean in and pass it through printfriendly.com. And for other products well meh, I'm not a "consumer", and few ads will ever make me believe any product is really that valuable to me. I have soap and water thank you.

I wasn't implying that I was dubious that you aren't interested in whatever is being advertised (though I see how it reads that way now). I was dubious that you aren't still a target no matter how futile the effort. If I throw a water balloon at you but don't hit you it doesn't mean you aren't the target.

Aight, I thought target meant clicking regularly or at least thinking about the product or brand shown.

This startup might not be for you. That's ok and doesn't mean the author is doing something wrong.

> I wonder what would happen if, as a society, we said, "enough, no more ads". Would it really be the capitalist apocalypse that the ad industry is trying to make us believe it would be?

I'm not sure I agree all ads are associated with capitalism. Propaganda is one example. There are also ads for awareness and for non-profits.

Also I have noticed that the best content that I like is typically ad free or at least doesn't have the buy-product-ads (e.g. PBS TV and NPR). This is the case with most media with the only exception being the Internet.

The only time I have issues with ads is when I'm ironically either trying to buy something or I have decided to go low brow and click on some sleazy news.. (its like the South Park episode on ads.. they trick me..).

> Would it really be the capitalist apocalypse that the ad industry is trying to make us believe it would be?

It kind of would. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. are all funded by selling ads. There's a few experiments with buying out ads, but when the current price is "free," any increase in price of these services to users is a huge increase in price with an expected equivalent decrease in users.

As a fellow AdBlock user, we have a huge problem to reconcile: the sites we use by and large don't exist without someone clicking on ads. The Categorical Imperative Adblock would block not only the ads, but the website delivering them as well.

> I don't adblock for privacy, security, or speed. Those are just nice-side effects. I adblock because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need.

Surely, though, "this project does not fit my use case" is not the same as "this is a bad project and you should feel bad"? There are people who adblock just for those reasons, and who would (or claim that they would) allow through ads, to support content creators, if those concerns were obviated.

So I think I largely understand your point. But I am genuinely curious to know how you would then get information about products.

Would it be on-demand research only? Would you browse lists of new products [eg the Wirecutter's "Realist guide to CES"]?

I do both of these already, and I do have js disabled on most sites, and I think ads mis-align the incentives of publishers...

But I think that there are demographics that benefit from ad-supported [ie free] stuff more than I do.

The point of ads isn't actually to get you to go out and buy their goods. It's to get you to remember their name, so when you are buying goods and looking at that product range you're more likely to buy their goods. Because you know the name that some how that makes you more likely to buy it. So ads are all about getting you to know the name.

I genuinely enjoy very well targeted advertising. It has actually made my life more enjoyable.

It's happened to me on Facebook a couple times where there has been an advertisement for something that scratched an exact itch I didn't know there was a solution for.

Honestly, I think if you're against ads, you just aren't getting good ones.

"Those are just nice-side effects."

For me, not being baited into buying stuff is a nice side effect.

I block ads because it's fun to see how badly Google, Apple, Microsoft, apps and websites want data about computer users. It's a game (I would guess that's how they see it); one that forces the user to be vigilant about networking.

If you don't want to see ads, don't use ad-supported content. Simple as that.

Unless you have another way to subsidize content or are willing to pay directly (= micropayments, subscriptions, donations, taxes, purchases), then yes, it would be a massive problem for universally accessible internet content.

Then ads would slip into the "independent" news articles you read every day. All information disemination is advertising, it's part of our nature.

Tin foil hats are not going to save you, but a good judgement will.

I block ads because I can.

They're all valuable, but IMO everybody assigns different weight to that suite of reasons, and even improving the privacy/security/speed aspects would be a net win.

I want to browse content provided by companies that won't go out of business. I don't mind ads as long as they don't slow down the browser.

"Enough, no more ads" == "Enough, no free speech"

So no ads for Greenpeace? Your favorite political party? Your favorite union? Your favorite website?

So you're willing to pay out of your own pocket for all these things you enjoy, right?



Right. Sell premium movie ticket prices that do not have ads (although I like previews, those can stay). Sell me a subscription to duckduckgo, payable in bitcoins or similar. Paywall every newspaper website. These are far more honest approaches in my view.

> Paywall every newspaper website.

Nearly every newspaper website is already paywalled, and every time someone posts a story from those sites to HN all the comments are people complaining about the paywalls.

HN even added a special little link to let people skip around them, because why would we want to encourage people to pay for quality work they appreciate?

No, do it for real. Paywall completely. Keep the Googlebot out too. If people want to read a newspaper, they'll have to hear from their friends how great it is.

I agree, and you know what? I think online newspapers could be so much better.

Imagine an online paper where, instead of just mimicking a real newspaper with story after story, a site that collects facts, history as it happens, and weaves them together to form a cohesive stream that a reader can explore in all kinds of innovative ways.

You can still have he said / she said news. Still make it dramatic, but allow the user to follow the protagonist, step back in time to see what else they have said, what brought them to this point in time. Or folly the ripples outwards, how did what was said affect others, how did it interact with other stories.

I want to do an online news startup one day. It will be one where everybody thinks I'm crazy when I start it.

> Imagine an online paper where, instead of just mimicking a real newspaper with story after story, a site that collects facts, history as it happens, and weaves them together to form a cohesive stream that a reader can explore in all kinds of innovative ways.

This is very much what I've been thinking about. I also feel that news misses a lot of metadata and context most of the time and if parts of it are there it often feels ad hoc and is not easily computer readable. With the right tools professional journalists could become more like data curators, linking different sources of data together as they become available.

And funnily enough they are finding that model doesn't work and removing the paywalls as of course there is no scarcity of material in an attention economy, just scarcity of attention. As strange as it may sound, ultimately publishers need to compete for and pay the viewers - and they do that with quality content. This is why youtube own the video space.

newspapers are un-needed intermediaries. For whatever weird reasons AP and Reuters and the like don't want the hassle of 6 billion individual subscribers, so they contract out to an intermediary who pays them a vaguely fixed amount per month based on viewer numbers and then the intermediary stuffs the pages with ads and clickbait headlines to profit more than their 1000 competitors trying to do the same thing, which is unsustainable.

But they aren't "really" needed, as mere intermediaries.

Someone should startup a "newspaper" that doesn't bother with filler or ads or clickbait and just aggregates and handles subscription costs that funnel back to Reuters (or AP, or ...). I'd pay a little more for "The Intercept" and "Linux weekly news" in addition to the standard Reuters feed. Basically a pay version of the google reader / newsblur / rss ecological system.

I'm not seeing the newspapers as valuable intermediaries. They, and their clickbait headlines and ads, can just go away and nothing of value will be lost. We'll still have the sources of raw news.

AP is a member-owned organization (owned by national/regional papers), that's why they can't really go direct to consumers. NPR is the same way. NPR's board is owned by member stations, which is why you only hear Morning Addition and All Things Considered either on terrestrial radio or co-branded with the stations on NPR One. You won't see NPR distributing a full podcast of either shows. The governance model is tied to the old method of local distribution and at odds with the way the Web works.

Because without those "un-needed intermediaries" paying the bill for AP content, the AP couldn't afford to run. And I'm guessing this then makes it OK for there to be only 1 source of news by your claims then as well. No chance for bias there eh?

> although I like previews, those can stay

Why is an advert for a film that you don't need to see, better than an advert for a product that you don't need to own?

It seems like the verisimilitude of the advertising medium to the product makes for the most innocuous marketing. So trailers are a "friendly" way to advertise films, like chapter extracts are friendly ways to advertise fiction books, or a tasting is a friendly way to advertise wine.

...especially when film trailers are highly edited and engineered for the maximum response to manipulate the viewer into wanting to see the film exactly in the way that the OP decries as undesireable!

Well, yes. But there are so few sites that even have the option. I'm paying via Patreon et al. for a few sites that don't have ads, and I pay Ars Technica not to show me ads. I even paid for the NY Times for a while although I hardly ever use the site. Payments integration is pretty easy so I don't understand why more sites don't make it an option.

There is no price difference if I pick a flight that has a TV on each seat (with advertisement showing) or flight with an older plane that doesn't have that.

Cinema prices has not changed since they introduced several minutes of advertisement for each movie.

Buss prices in my country has not gone down when they introduced advertisement on the inside. They are currently also considering to stop having advertisement (after a political party wanted to advertise a very controversial message), but there has not been any mention of an related increase in ticket price.

Sometimes, the market price is just the price that the market is willing to pay, rather than an exact balance between costs and revenue.

No, this stuff is free, it's just bits. Advertisers are just inserting themselves as a middle man into the naturally free-flowing information that was created by evolution.

Then you wouldn't know the best places to get food, water, or shelter.

I block ads after years of holding out because they have become too intrusive. I don't do it for privacy because I think there is none, but the speed is just a nice benefit. But I consider a site being slow because of ads as an intrusive effect.

I can't emphasize this enough.

Every time someone rattles out a list of "annoyances" regarding ads, I wish that I could plead with them to consider that there's even bigger reasons.

Plenty of people try to sell the idea that ads let us have content "for free", and that all we have to tolerate is "a little annoyance".

It's insane. If companies are buying ad-space, it's because they expect to get more business in return. This means that someone out there is being influenced by said ads, so that if the content cost X to put up online (hosting, funding its creation), someone is paying X+(ad company overhead) for it.

If these costs are being borne evenly, then it's complete societal waste. We could pay X for the content, and not incur the overhead. If these costs are not borne evenly, and some people are paying for the consumption of more disciplined people, it's probably contributing to terrible cycles of poverty (ie: some kid spending money on fancy new shoes he doesn't need and can't afford is paying for a well-paid tech-users YouTube habits, because it preys on their lack of education). Either way it's terrible.

Advertising isn't free. Insofar it works, for some people, it's basically coercive via psychology and simulated peer pressure.

It's not insane. I want to buy things, I'm going to continue to buy things, and advertisements sometimes make me aware of things I want to buy. If you think that's insane, I'm confused about why you're participating on a site that's fundamentally about promoting a culture of entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, which requires making people aware of new products and services.

> I'm confused about why you're participating on a site that's fundamentally about promoting a culture of entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, which requires making people aware of new products and services.

Because said site got popular, and diluted, would be my cynical guess. Your observation is spot on, though.

> sometimes

By your own admission, advertising has a poor signal-to-noise ratio. The mental cost of advertising (not to mention the economic cost) is very high[1]. Why should we stick to a system with such a poor efficiency?

> I want to buy

There are other ways to do that. For example, the internet should make it very cheap to make information available to anybody that wants to buy something. Services like google shopping are very primitive attempts.

> making people aware

It's the "making" part that many of us find extremely unethical. Like everything else, consent is opt-in.

[1] If you don't believe there is a high cost, isolate yourself from ads for a month or two. Humans are very good at adapting, so it's easy become blind to how much energy and mental capacity are necessary to filter ads.

The main issue with ads is message saturation. Like how my wife decided to buy me (for xmas) Star Wars tix so we could both go see it.

Yes, I thought it was ok, but she had to hire a babysitter and in the end, if I'd been asked prior, I would've said no, or asked for a better movie (like The Martian).

I have the feeling ads almost always sell you something you'd have been better off not buying anyway.

So you're saying The Martian's ad campaign wasn't as good as Star Wars's?

There are people with needs and people with solutions. I understand where you are coming from, but advertising a solution to people that may have that need is not always evil.

There are many times where I am glad I saw advertising: my favorite band is coming to town, a new product that will save me hours a day just got released, the shoes I have been looking for are being sold at 30% off.

I don't want to give up all of my privacy, but sometimes I don't mind finding a solution to something in my peripheral focus.

Information like "products X, Y, and Z from these manufacturers now solve these problems" or "band Q is visiting your city soon" can be presented in a non-manipulative manner, but current ads go beyond information into manipulation using emotion, repetition, ear worms, and social pressure.

If information by itself worked, I can guarantee you nobody would waste time using all these other techniques.

> If information by itself worked

There are two lessons we can learn form "information by itself doesn't sell $WIDGET". One is that properly informed people don't actually want that product, and the product should be changed or replaced to meet their actual needs.

The alternative lesson - which is unfortunately very popular - is that if people that are properly informed won't buy the product, then they should be kept ignorant and scammed into buying it.

Or the reality, which is neither of those: people don't become properly informed when you present them with unprompted information. They ignore your pitch and move on with their life. You never reach the state where there are "properly informed" people deciding not to buy your product.

> unprompted

That's the problem.

> They ignore your pitch

Of course they do. An unprompted pitch is at best an annoyance and at worst some kind of scam. Why would you expect it to be well received after you wasted their time and energy?

> You never reach the state where there are "properly informed" people deciding not to buy your product.

Sure you do. It's why people pay for things like Consumer Reports - so they can get the information they need to decide if they should buy something. This isn't true in all cases, of course, but most people make informed purchasing decisions regularly.

Just note that they may disagree with you, even when you have the same facts. Situations and opinions are highly variable.

And Consumer Reports reaches about 7 million US households. Out of over 110 million. That's quite the definition of "most" you've got there.

    > things like Consumer Reports
If it wasn't clear, that was only one example. Every reviewer, search engine, friend-who-already-bought-one, and so on is a resource available to get information.

This is, however, straying from my point, which was: just because people aren't informed about your particular product doesn't give make it ok to try to trick them into buying your product with manipulative advertising, and throwing your pitch at someone unsolicited is still (at best) rude.

If it wasn't clear, that was only one example. People in general do not pay for things like Consumer Reports.

That could easily change if there were no more advertisements and "things like Consumer Reports" were the way to buy things. It would be like a Costco or Amazon Prime membership.

There's definitely a grey area. I just think we're so far deep in the black it's almost not worth bringing up.

Once could imagine some software app installed on your machine, that tracks you and gives you interesting offers , without loss of privacy.

If these costs are not borne evenly, and some people are paying for the consumption of more disciplined people, it's probably contributing to terrible cycles of poverty (ie: some kid spending money on fancy new shoes he doesn't need and can't afford is paying for a well-paid tech-users YouTube habits, because it preys on their lack of education).

Isn't it usually the opposite, though? The poor kid can access the sites for free, because the rich old guy is clicking on the ads and subsidizing the whole site. If there was a paywalled subscription, on the other hand, the kid would be SOL. I don't like web ads, but if anything they seem to be a progressive redistribution system to me.

>We could pay X for the content, and not incur the overhead.

Sure we could, but it's extremely clear that only hyper-specialized niches are willing to do that when someone else is providing similar content at no monetary cost to the end user. Like it or not, the market has spoken; they want content in exchange for ads, and are not willing to pay the content provider directly.

>Advertising isn't free. Insofar it works, for some people, it's basically coercive via psychology and simulated peer pressure.

I've bought ads before. I just wanted people to find out about my product. Short of a guerilla spam campaign, it's the only way to get exposure. I've since learned that so many people tune out ads that guerilla spam campaigns (formal spam campaigns are known as "PR") are really the only way to beat competitors.

There are certainly disgusting and slimy ads out there, but, to cite a recent example, if I am sent a 10% off coupon and I happen to want to buy a major appliance, am I wrong for choosing that store to buy it at over the others? Did they wrong me by giving out a discount?

You can say that they 'manipulated' me into going to their store, but that's only because it was in my own interest to do so in the first place.

If we put the bar for 'manipulation' low enough, it would seem that one shouldn't talk to anyone or get any information from anywhere, lest it change your mind in some way and thus manipulate you.

Since you agree with me that there exist "disgusting and slimy ads out there", and I agree with you that there's some that merely facilitate information, perhaps the more interesting question is "what's the ratio?"

I firmly believe that the vast majority of ads out there are unarguably manipulative: feigning time-sensitivity to pressure people into purchasing, availing themselves of psychological tricks with color and attraction to retain eyeballs, purchasing praise and endorsements and passing it off as sincerity, etc.

The ratio is probably at whatever gets the most money from the advertiser, or as close to they know how to be.

So perhaps the real question should be what incentives we can create to tilt that ratio towards useful information and away from slimy things?

In my country coupon (or whatever else) in 1-15% range probably means that original price was raised and afterwards discount applied to simulate "sale". This is also heavily influenced by the fact that most of products are imported and bought by dollars/euro and currency is fluctuating every day by several percents. Discount higher than 15% probably means that the product itself is not what I think - it is either refurbished or damaged or without warranty or expired or the market is lying to me somewhere or it is another product altogether.

Any rare cases of honest discounts are statistically below threshold and can be safely dismissed - just threat all sales as a lie and you'll be almost safe, that's what marketers taught me.

That's be fine if I just went to a site and searched for coupons, when I needed an appliance. Same result, cheaper and nicer for everybody. Its the pervasive ad noise that's at issue.

The yellow pages (remember that old book?) is advertising. Is that coercive?

Yes when you open it to look for a plumber and see an ad for a pressure-washing service. You were happy with your driveway but now feels it needs something else.

At least with the yellow pages, we were able to close the book once done. With the web, it's anywhere, all the time and with machine learning to make it adjust in real time to your preferences.

> I adblock because I do not want to be manipulated into buying things I do not need.

I don't understand this argument.

How are ads "manipulating" you? They're just ads. They're not an argumentative authority figure with a gun.

The only reason to block ads is because of speed of user experience. The "manipulation" argument is the weakest reason to block ads.

In any case, you manipulate other people for your own personal benefit. Everyone does.

Just talking to people is "manipulation".

I am affected by my environment. Aren't you? A page full of ads for things that tend to make me feel slightly less optimal is, well, suboptimal.

Are you that impressionable that you run out to buy every little thing that is shown to you? How do you propose that journalism, creative works, and other medias that are heavily supported by ads exist?

Pretty much everyone in this thread says they won't do payment, will block ads, and seemingly has a problem with people earning a living who aren't software developers or startup owners.

Oh but the livelihood of software developers and startup owners also depends on advertising, or even worse gasp... SALES (direct manipulation!!). They just can't admit it.

In the absence of ads-that-are-obviously-ads don't you think that clever marketers would just migrate to native ads disguised as content? There's something to be said for a clear line of separation between ads and content. It seems naive to think that the concept of ''advertising'' would ever be eliminated full stop, given how human nature works.

You might enjoy this read, which an MD friend of mine sent to me the other day:


Fair enough, but speak for yourself. If ads were tiny, insignificant things that didn't chew up CPU and RAM resources (like with Javascript), didn't massively bloat the total size of a web page and use up my bandwidth, and didn't try to invade my privacy with tracking, then I simply wouldn't bother blocking them. If they were small, unobtrusive text-based ads like Google use to be really good at, then why would I care? Maybe you just can't stand advertising, but I don't think most people care as much as you do.

I adblock precisely because of privacy, security, and speed.

And without ads of any kind, it probably would be a capitalist apocalypse. How would Apple sell the iPhone or Samsung sell the Galaxy phones without advertising? Word of mouth? That's a pretty slow way to get the word out. Relying on the press? That might work for really big players (and how is that different from advertising anyway?), but it won't work for smaller firms selling more niche products. What if you're shopping on Amazon and you buy product X, but product Y would go really well with it? Right now, Amazon will frequently show you "other customers who bought this product also bought product Y". But without advertising, you wouldn't see that, so you'd be stuck only buying the exact thing you're looking for, and never getting any suggestions. I actually like getting those suggestions; I do buy things like that from time to time, things I wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

Yes! No surrender to the manipulative ad-men. I said that to my son the other day "it's a stupid advert because I don't need anything".

Most adverts are trying to make you feel bad and that consuming their product will fill the hole they just made. Enough of these disgusting people.

In the end, I get to decide what the browser on my machine renders and displays to me. It's a piece of software under my control, and I am configuring it to avoid annoyances and manipulations.

If advertisers don't like that then I'm not sure what I can say to assuage their concerns.

Tough shit?

In the next 3 years websites will increasingly block users with adblock. So the future is less tough shit and more total war.

FuckFuckAdblock basically highlights that there are ways to avoid adblock detectors.

lol are you that easily maninupulated?

Eich isn't missing the point; he is being practical and not catering to your freeloading and obscure politics.

Freeloading? You're missing the point; we're not catering to your sense of entitlement.

You are freeloading.

You're taking advantage of content that was paid for with the attention of people besides yourself. This is no different than grazing on a green you don't maintain.

If you're so opposed to ads, don't read content. Don't pretend that anybody is forcing you to visit ad supported content.

This directive would be just if it were possible for me to know, in advance of clicking on a given link, if the destination I'm clicking on embraces advertising revenue. Instead, I'm just supposed to Figure It Out, wasting bandwith and processing power for ads I don't want to see? Your business model sucks. Sorry.

If there were an ad blocker which blocked the entire page if ads were present, would you use it?

At the very least, you should know by now that most major websites depend on advertising revenue. So I assume you won't click on any of them. I also assume you never use Google or Facebook.

I add websites to my host file if they express desire for me to turn off my Adblocker. 99% of the time I can find a rehash of their content elsewhere. Since popular stories will get printed by 20 other publications with slight wording tweaks.

Google makes no such statement towards me. I don't use Facebook. Though that has nothing to do with my thoughts on ads more-so than my dislike of Facebook.

If nobody visits a site because nobody wants to see the ads and the site is in the red, they'll still be going out of business if they do not switch business models. Given I don't care if they go out of business sooner or later - they can enjoy their time of declining consumer base before eventually shuttering their doors because they refused to find a sustainable business model. I'll do them the courtesy of not bleeding them out more quickly. Much like how I do not abuse "no questions asked, money back guarantees".

I would absolutely use that ad blocker. In fact, I think umatrix or ublock origin could be configured to do so. It's a good idea, and I'll look into it.

I do not indeed ever use Google or Facebook. As I said, I do not approve of their business model, nor do I wish to participate in it.

So where is your magical solution that puts food on the table of the content creators but doesn't rely on selling user data or displaying ads?

I'm not responsible for putting food on their tables. Perhaps if their content is worth money, they can charge for it.

If they can't get people to pay for their content, maybe they should consider a line of work they can monetize without subjecting every single transaction to third-party skimming and engendering massive surveillance projects.

The problem with that approach is that you put everything behind a wall. Only the "rich" will have access to information. I wouldn't call that a free (as in freedom) and open web.

I disagree. Libraries existed before the internet, and if the internet were healthy, it would contain an analog.

Do you really believe sites like stackoverflow should be locked behind a paywall? This will put poor people and especially children who don't have access to their parents credit at a massive disadvantage. I don't think you have realised it but I'm not talking about news sites that optimize their profits with click bait, this is about the entire internet.

Where is the magical solution that puts food on my table for the art I create?

I'm entitled to survive off the art I'm creating after all. Everyone should be paying me for making art. Regardless if it is of good or poor quality. I made it - thus people should be paying me!

Does that argument sound absurd to you? It should.

If people aren't willing to pay you for your art (or "journalism" as is often the case) then guess what? You aren't entitled to their money. Stop making art/journalism and find a better career. If people really value your journalism (or simply "journalism at all") they'll pay for it to be around.

If nobody is paying - nobody gives a shit. Content creators don't get some free pass to do as they want and expect to get paid for it. If they aren't producing work worth paying for - guess what? That's their problem not anyone else's problem.


Figurative third person use of "your" and "you", for clarification of the usage.

We don't owe struggling creatives a living.

If your business model fails without ads, I'd suggest you have no business model at all.

I'm not sure replacing a site's ads with your own is beating "freeloading".

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