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Apple's privacy feature costs ad companies millions (theguardian.com)
365 points by oneeyedpigeon 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 383 comments

> “We also want to work across the industry (ideally including Apple) longer-term to address more robust, cross-device advertising targeting and measurement capabilities that are also consumer friendly.”

Just to be clear: you want that. Whatever lies you tell yourself to get to sleep at night, no one outside your parasitic industry wants this. I, for one, absolutely 100% do not want you to target and measure me robustly across devices.

Relevant: "privacy is the right to be human" https://media.ccc.de/v/34c3-8797-social_cooling_-_big_data_s...

What an amazing talk. There are some audio problems in the beginning, but the quality of the content makes easily up for that.

The talk is about an aspect of the change that technology and digitalization bring to our society, and how we deal with that. Language is a key factor in change, and the talk is focussed on that.

I highly recommend watching it.

I was at that talk and it was amazing, but I remember it as: “privacy is the right to be imperfect”. Not a big difference and I might remember it incorrectly, but worth a note me thinks.

No, the phrase is the exact direct quote: "Privacy is the right to be human" (look around 31min in the talk)

Ha, I guess we're both right. At 24.55 it's "imperfect", at the final slide it's "human".

> Just to be clear: you want that.

Well yeah, they said 'we ... want'. How much clearer do you think they could have stated that? They never said you or anyone else wanted it.

I believe the goal was to identify the disconnect between what they envision and what the targeted users actually want. I’m in agreement that this is not something that I would want and am glad that the difficulties exist to being with.

Close to nothing the ad industry unilaterally “wants” or has ever wanted is “consumer friendly”. Most of the purpose of advertising is to trick consumers into doing things they otherwise don’t want to do or buying things they otherwise don’t want to buy. That goes doubly for building pervasive spy systems compiling a detailed dossier about every person on the internet, with absolutely zero transparency or public accountability and no liability for selling that information or having it hacked.

Yep every once in a while I see someone talks about "acceptable ads like static images". But those days are long gone.

You can't have ads without tracking.

Can't speak for GP, but what I took from the quote and GP's response was that the advertising industry is kind of in a monopoly position of being able to screw all consumers over with nobody to reign them in, and now that someone is finally standing up to them and making it every so slightly more inconvenient for them, they're throwing a hissy fit, and that their statement kind of shows that they're well aware of all this and are pretty fine with it actually, and not even really trying to hide it.

"Criteo, which took advantage of that loophole"

You see, even when they get presented with rules, they try to work around them.

This is not constructive. The meaning of emphasizing 'you' and then providing a contrasting viewpoint is not lost on anybody.

But there's an attack there. 'Just to be clear'. They were crystal clear. The GP's attack is unfair.

It's pretentious for them to assert that the industry they're speaking for includes Apple.

They imply that consumers also want it by saying "consumer friendly".

It's like a robber saying: We want to develop victim-friendly ways to steal you.

I'm pretty sure you just described a kidnapper, not a robber.

Criteo is the only good employer in France when it comes to work conditions and salary.

It's easier to sleep at night knowing there is a roof over your head.

> Criteo is the only good employer in France […]

I feel like this needs some additional specification/limitation to make it a believable statement. The only good employer in the ads/data selling business?

The only good employer in tech for highly skilled developers.

Remember that the GAFA only have offices in a very few locations worldwide. Can't work for them if they are not here.

That's simply not true.

I left Criteo a handful of years ago and I can easily admit the work conditions were really nice, and the skill level among the team quite high.

I can also say there are other companies with comparable perks and technology level (or maybe the code level of Criteo has very considerably increased, but looking at what's open sourced, like cuttle, it doesn't seem like it), like some founded by former criteo employees (or c level dudes, since JB Rudelle is creating a new tech company with Romain Niccoli)

Your answer sounds to me like a false dichotomy argument.

What other good employers do you have in mind?

So you want to pay for all internet content?

It's not mutually exclusive: 100% paid content vs instrusive and obnoxious tracking. However Content publishers are desperately trying to increase revenue and these ad-tech companies provide a means to do so.

Most internet content was anyway free before the ads craze started.

Creating is a natural activity that we enjoy doing.

I use blendle but a lot of the articles I would like to read are not available there.

If they where I'd be happy to pay.

I don't think it's that simple.

Nobody wants their privacy invaded, but they do want cheaper products. In theory better targeted ads allow a company to spend it's advertising budget more effectively. Selling more products for the same amount of ad cost should allow for cheaper products.

I'm sure some companies will not pass on the savings, but I believe economic theory says the market as a whole should.

If the savings are enough, some people may be willing to give up some of their privacy in the name of cheaper products.

How much more do companies make? Is all this invasive tracking really necessary in order to keep websites like Google and Facebook free? Is it worth saving 10% (or whatever) on some product?

Unfortunately the decision is forced upon everyone by advertisers with little thought to allowing for an informed choice (or any choice really).

Yeah but can you quantify exactly how much savings you get for giving up your privacy? If targeted ads lowered the cost of an 8 dollar widget by 10 cents, I think most people would take their privacy.

But we don't know how much online advertising lowers prices. Would be interesting for an economist to study.

For all we know, online ads could have no effect. And what about ads intended to generate demand instead of address current demand? Maybe online ads are tricking us to by more of what we don't want (Yay, another subscription box).

Agreed. It's not currently an informed choice, nor clear it's even necessary. To steal from another of my replies: "You can have still have ads without invasive tracking, they just might not be as effective.

If the difference in effectiveness is enough to make Google, etc unprofitable than maybe there is an argument to be made that it is necessary.

If it means they make 10% less profit, people would probably prefer privacy."

> For all we know, online ads could have no effect.

Possibly in aggregate, but they almost certainly have an effect for individual advertisers. No company is going to cut their advertising if their competitors aren't going to make the same cuts.

But it would be very cool.

Imagine if all browsers suddenly shipped perfect ad blockers[1]. Many sites would die off; but I suspect a number of micropayment platforms would quickly spring up in their place. The result might not be as diverse, but it would be interesting.

[1] A perfect ad blocker would have to do the impossible, i.e. identify sponsor segments of YouTube clips, slice out native advertising, and somehow kill off all promotional consideration. I.e. absolutely impossible and probably not desirable.

> In theory better targeted ads allow a company to spend it's advertising budget more effectively.

I still don't see why customers want this. I would rather a company struggle to spend its ad budget effectively, and then conclude that it could better spend its resources investing in making a better product (or its employees, or its infrastructure, ..).

I don't have an econ background, so feel free to clear up what's wrong here.

Should the company spend any money at all telling potential customers about their product? If so, should they use the incremental dollar to reach a random person, or a person who seems likely to be interested in the product?

There's lots of ways to target without being personally invasive. You can simply put your message in places where the target audience tends to be, like has always been done.

If the goal on the social level is to get valuable information to potential customers, then it would follow we should get rid of most tracking and most advertising. Most of it is disinformation and deception that buries lower-budget information in the stream of messages from those with the biggest pockets.

A company should spend a minimum amount on advertising, and to incentivize that, advertising should be expensive. If effective advertising is cheep, then there is less incentive to compete on product, and instead pressure to pour your resources into marketing, structured around a quick buyout and exit.

Advertising needs to be expensive enough that it is always dominated by quality of product and reputation spread by word-of-mouth, as this puts the power in the hands of consumers. This is critical for the healthy functioning of markets, because advertising distorts the natural expression of demand.

The current hype-fueled cryptocurrency craze is the apotheosis of advertising dominating product.

Should the company spend any money at all telling potential customers about their product?

Ah, but this is not what the discussion is all about, is it? "Telling potential customers about their product" can be done with a static hypertext page, it does not require infesting the entire Internet with tracking parasites to profile every individual. And your "incremental dollar" can be spent on SEO to improve the visibility of your page.

I don't think there's a future in telling customers about the product via direct advertisement. It's too easy to filter out or ignore. The most reliable conversions are by word-of-mouth and friend recommendation, and those are nearly impossible to buy.

I'd prefer this too, and I'd buy from companies like this every time if I actually knew they were there.

Lower costs do not straightforwardly translate into lower consumer prices, unless we're dealing with commodities in a perfectly competitive market.

Moreover, in this scenario where the entire market is now able to spend their advertising budget "more effectively", there are many possible outcomes besides more products being sold for the same ad cost. The market-wide increase in "ad effectiveness" may effectively cancel itself out. Ad spend may remain the same, but with more budget allocated to speculative ad strategies. Or the savings may be funneled back into product to further differentiate it from competitors.

The market-wide increase in "ad effectiveness" may effectively cancel itself out.

This. At least in the US, consumers are pretty much spent out. In that situation, advertising does not increase economic activity. It just moves it around. This is an argument for not allowing advertising and marketing as a deductible business expense, an idea that's been floated in Congress a few times.

Historically, advertising was a small part of product cost. Today, in many industries from movies to drugs, it dominates. This runs up prices for everyone. There's an economic argument for limiting advertising spend.

>Historically, advertising was a small part of product cost. Today, in many industries from movies to drugs, it dominates. This runs up prices for everyone. There's an economic argument for limiting advertising spend.

Advertising spend as a share of GDP hasn't changed much at all on average over the last century: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-03/advertisi...

And some say it has even declined in recent years: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/273094/us-adv...

The strange thing is that it doesn't feel like that at all. Advertising has become obnoxious to such a degree that it renders many sites entirely unresponsive on some devices (like my aging iPad). I have stopped visiting some sites or reduced the number of visits dramatically.

The advertising industry and indeed the publishing sector itself is clearly on a suicide mission. Someone needs to save them from themselves.

The prevalence of Alexa and other “assistance” devices shows that people willingly allow their privacy to be invaded for the perceived benefit gained from it. Advertising is one of those things where they want to analyze every action, effort, and thought, without any regard for the impact it has on the affected users’ privacy and there will be lines of potential customers waiting to signup after being enticed by the carrot. I think the blame is shared between both sides and I do believe the pendulum will continue to shift as long as technology continues to be embedded in our everyday lives.

I think it’s more likely most people outside the HackerNewsosphere don’t understand what it is, let alone the value of the “it” they are trading away.

If it doesn't cost them any actual ongoing money then I think most people simply don't care. Same reason people find advertising annoying, but don't really care on any deeper level, it doesn't cost them anything tangibly.


Although there's some portion of apathy, the vast majority of people are ignorant or even misinformed. You can't conclude from the actions of an ignorant person that they don't care about the thing they don't know about / don't understand.

Well, I use supermarket loyalty cards as the primary example, they've existed for years, lots and lots of people carry them, if you point out that companies are using them to track your spending habits (across multiple different industries and product categories) people don't care. They receive a tangible benefit from it (discounts) and don't perceptibly pay anything for it.

I don't think that's a fair example. The vast majority of the people have never thought about all the ramifications. It's not a case of well-informed people who understand the issues deciding that they don't care. It's a case (like most) where people don't sense that the issue is important enough to make even understanding it be a priority in their busy lives.

Most people do understand that the loyalty-cards are not necessarily the only way to get discounts or even that they are actually discounted (in the absence of those cards, prices would be set differently overall).

There are certainly stores we may legitimately feel more trusting of than others.

Anyway, lots of people really appreciate a store like Trader Joe's that just has reasonable prices across the board, never does any sort of discount promotions and never tracks anyone — even if the customers never explicitly thought through that aspect of the experience, they still experience it and feel differently than they do with the other tracking-focused stores.

On a side note: I learned recently that sales and such at most grocers are actually driven by the brands themselves. The reason Trader Joe's is free of all that is because they sell relatively little that is of the big-marketing-budget style branded products…

With Alexa, there's a clear value proposition. In exchange for this device listening, you can perform various tasks by voice control that would previously be done at a computer or manually.

With advertising, it's a lose-lose proposition. In exchange for being tracked everywhere, we get shown pictures of things we don't want. Who would opt into that?

If you gave people the offer of "you have to let companies search through your financial details, but you'll get more free mobile games", how many people do you think would take you up on it? I'm sure some would, but it'd hardly be popular.

Stuff like this comes about organically. No one held a big meeting and decided the internet would be funded by privacy invading ads. The ad ecosystem just shifted that way over time due to competition.

This is not the choice the users get. The profit from tracking goes disproportionally to Google/Facebook, not creators of mobile games. So more tracking like financial information will make that disbalance even worse making it rather pointless for mobile game industry.

There are a lot of dollars taken besides Google and Facebook.

Before there was internet, companies already spent all their marketing dollars on stupid TV and radio ads.

Exactly. I hope at some point we are going to have to ask how much is too much because left to it's own devices the market answer seems to be "enough to not be obviously creepy".

I do not want lingerie ads showing up on every page I view just because I browsed /r/tallgonewild for an hour last night.

If viewing lingerie ads meant I could get my alcohol half price, I might start accepting them.

Advertising is already a competitive arms-race. More effective advertising means that more of a firm's spending will shift to advertising because it will have a bigger effect than more engineering or QA or anything else.

(If we could make advertising less effective, we could have better products ... maybe because spending more on advertising wouldn't work as well as spending more on engineering or QA. But overall spending/cost is a bit orthogonal.)

> Selling more products for the same amount of ad cost should allow for cheaper products.

If the ad companies are making less money; it doesn't suggest that the ad cost is going up

Trickle-down advertiser-to-consumer economics, ladies and gentlemen!

Best of luck paying 1 cent for every search result you do.

And ofcourse you don't even realize but ads is one of the best ways for underprivileged to get on to internet.

You can have still have ads without invasive tracking, they just might not be as effective. If the difference in effectiveness is enough to make Google, etc unprofitable than maybe there is an argument to be made that it is necessary. If it means they make 10% less profit, people would probably prefer privacy.

Google does not create content yet receives over 70% of money from advertisement. Tracking is one of the reasons for that. Surely it is effective for Google, but does it effective for creators and users?

Possibly. Part of Google's advertising revenue comes from AdWords and YouTube ads. This revenue is split with content creators, enabling them to invest in more and better content to the benefit of their users.

More search ad revenue allows Google to invest more in search. Better search could benefit content creators by giving them more and better targeted users. Users benefit from better search because they are able to find the content they are looking for faster.

I'm skeptical that Google divides its revenue and investment up in this way and that more search ad revenue allows Google to invest more in search.

I'm sure that Google is already investing the amount they need to in search to make it as profitable as possible.

It seems that more search ad revenue allows Google to bank roll the rest of the Google/Alphabet behemoth on projects unrelated to search, but within its mission to "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" ie. to know everything about everything, which I'm sure tracking plays a role in.

> This revenue is split with content creators, enabling them to invest in more and better content to the benefit of their users.

and that's become an abusive relationship where they are being de facto censored by google because of advertisers being skittish. You have more sponsored content showing up because it's a lot easier than relying on google and their amazing algorithms to not screw you over.

That's the 90s. I don't think people were happy with that. I wasn't on internet then, so not 100% sure. In general, I see money as a representative of how effective certain company/technology/etc. is and there were no multi billion dollar companies in 90s (though the internet was young at that point).

I am pretty sure there are tons of things Google/Facebook/Amazon/etc. can improve but not having any data about user isn't definitely one of those approaches.

There were no multi billion dollar companies in the 90s? Seriously? Microsoft had a market cap of hundreds of billions of dollars by the time 2000 rolled around. You folks who came around after the 90s are pretty late to this party ;-).

Somewhere in a dark corner at this party, HP is crying to himself.

HP, Dell and Lenovo are not doing that bad.

IBM and Sun might be crying though.

HP is doing horribly compared to the 80's and 90's.

SUN sadly has kicked the bucket and his picture is on the table with the punchbowl.

The difference was in the 90s you had companies that got those valuations by actually selling technology, instead of privacy hating ad companies.

I think it's a matter of degree, not absolute. You can do targeted advertising without being invasive.

If Facebook wants to target ads on their site based on information I have entered in my pubic profile I am okay with that. If Google wants to target ads based on keywords related to what I am searching for at the time I am okay with that. It's when you start tracking across time and across sites and inferring things I may not to have public that I think it gets invasive.

Google and Facebook know they are being invasive. They specifically don't allow advertising on things that might trigger people and make them realize how invasive they are being. For example, you can't start retargeting people who searched for information on erectile disfunction with ads for Viagra. People would rightfully get upset about that level invasiveness. Instead of not being invasive, they just don't allow the things that would trigger people. If people in general were made to realize how creepy all the tracking is, laws would require advertisers to change.

Given the option I would prefer that not being invasive be the default. If that makes things slightly more expensive, so be it.

While companies weren't as huge as some of the ones today, there were plenty of billon dollar companies back in the 90s. Some you probably know, like Microsoft and Apple.

> I see money as a representative of how effective certain company/technology/etc. is and there were no multi billion dollar companies in 90s

In 99, Yahoo bought GeoCities for three billion dollars. Some of it was the dotcom bubble, but there were plenty of massive companies, and this was when most people did not have an internet connection.

Off the top of my head: IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Intel ... I'm sure I'm missing a lot of them

You'd better tell DuckDuckGo that their non-tracking, non-intrusive adverts aren't going to make them money then!

DuckDuckGo isn't public right? So, this question doesn't apply to them.

Why not? They are a competitor in the search space... Public, private, doesn't matter.

Well.. are they profitable?

Yes, quite profitable since 2014. Turns out it doesn't take many engineers to make a search engine that doesn't track you: https://www.quora.com/Will-DuckDuckGo-get-profitable-anytime...

According to the founder, they have been profitable since 2014.

Anecdotally, I've been seeing more and more success getting friends to switch over to DDG. This feels like early mass-adoption. It's rather exciting.

Well, except for chrome using their near monopoly on search to shove a browser in your face that further cements their place in search. and bundling it with the OS on mobile.

That's not a stable situation. The EU forced Microsoft / IE to unbundle - Google's day of reckoning approaches.

It's demonstrating a viable business model. Their corporate structure doesn't affect the demonstration.

Question is whether there's all that much content worth searching for, when the incentive is to put clickbait left and right, and everybody knows search is heavily gamed and manipulated anyway. Check your recent browsing habits: do you actually visit many sites, and sites you recently discovered via search? Or would searching Wikipedia and stackexchange, say, serve you well enough with some search improvements?

90% of the time I just use a search engine to find the page I’m looking for on Stack Overflow or Wikipedia. Without the search engine it’d just take a bit longer

At least for me Google search is quite helpful. I get into new hobbies every once in a while, travel to new third-world countries. There doesn't exist one or ten places to get this info. I also couldn't imagine living without Google as a college student when the internet was way way younger and immature.

I don't have to imagine it, we managed fine.

This is perhaps the most insidious thing that Google et al have achieved: making so many believe that they and the online ads they peddle are essential for anything. The world will continue to exist without both.

They can show me ads based on what I just searched for then.

This debate isn't about whether ads exist, it's about whether or not they should be allowed to hoard massive amounts of data and track every online action in order to ads that might sometimes be slightly more relevant.

It's ridiculous.

Designing your company so that you share your customer's incentives is a major source of Apple's success. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft don't seem to even grasp the concept.

More and more I'm reminded of the scene from the movie The Big Short: "I'll do the deal, but I need one thing from you: tell me how you're going to fuck me." I just plain dumped FB, but every time I have an interaction with Google, Microsoft, and many others, that scene comes to mind. Only unlike the movie, I'm never going to get that answer; it's up to me to just guess, and my guesses are not flattering to the company.

Whereas when I spend money with Apple, AFAICT it's a simple, "give us some money, and we'll give you software, a service, or a physical object that we and you hope will solve a problem for you. Then we're done." Sure, Apple costs extra, but I'm willing to pay extra as long as our transactions stay the way they are.

Microsoft has always wanted to sell you software licenses (Windows, Office, et al) and now software subscriptions/leases (Office 365 and Azure), their business model maybe boring and old school but it's certainly not a mystery[1].

[1] Bing's also ran version of search advertising being a minor blip of an exception.

Yet by default Windows 10 opts you into a system-wide advertising ID, a ‘smartscreen filter’ that sends the urls of websites you visit to Microsoft (to check against a database of ‘malicious websites’), sending whatever you type to Microsoft (to improve autocompletion), inserts a cloud-based Cortana into many things you do etc., etc.

I agree that their main business model is probably ‘just’ software licenses, which is good I'd say, but they don't clearly align their incentives with their users. They dabble in other markets to see what they can get, and for me that muddies the waters a bit.

(giving insight, not speaking for Microsoft here)

Internally we take privacy policy seriously. If you agreed to the policy, we're only using the data the way the policy says. (GDPR "keeps us honest", but there's actually internal drive for this. Microsoft Runs On Trust.) So autocomplete? seriously only used for autocomplete. same with inking and typing, it is only used for improvements to the inking and typing systems.

smartscreen does exactly what it says on the tin. That data's not used for anything but malicious website detection. It's first line of defense against phishing in a lot of orgs.

(systemwide Ad ID mirrors the feature on Apple and Android products. check the windows API for exactly what you get out of this. It's probably less than you think)

cortana is... a bit of a misbranding, to be honest. It's MS's answer to IBM's "watson", in that pretty much every consumer-facing AI product gets Cortana branding whether it makes sense or not. Note the privacy policy here, we can use the Cortana data more freely. Don't agree unless you agree.

Cloud-based is getting inserted into everything because users don't upgrade. We had to push an Office 2007 patch recently. 2007. It'd have its first crush by now.

Disregarding the ability for the above to be stolen (and that'd be impressive, MSIT is top-tier), your personal data is being used for exactly the purpose we say it's being used for. While your personal incentives may not align, our business incentives are "get you on the cloud, get your software working well, get easy data transfer between MS products, make sure you're patched and updated, take your money for this". It's not a secret. It's not a conspiracy. It's time-limited software licensing and cloud services.

I believe what you wrote, and that you wrote it in good faith, but it's still not enough to make me feel confident about using Windows. I'm a longtime Mac user but I recently bought a Windows machine, and the ads and telemetry make my skin crawl.

There's a huge chasm between "we don't collect your data, period" and "we collect your data but have internal controls in place to prevent using it in certain ways for now."

Apple's Spotlight Suggestions and Ad ID are real things, and IMO are mistakes. (Ad ID is not yet not yet on the Mac, thank goodness!)

> a ‘smartscreen filter’ that sends the urls of websites you visit to Microsoft (to check against a database of ‘malicious websites’)

You can't really compare at least this to Apple, as Safari does exactly the same thing.

> cloud-based Cortana

As opposed to cloud-based Siri?

> as Safari does exactly the same thing

Source? I thought Safari downloaded the Google Safe Browsing database (using the "Update API" described at https://developers.google.com/safe-browsing/v4/#update-api-v...) to do client-side checks.

I believe it does, though I have not been able to find a definitive source as to whether it is used in online or offline modes.

Safari does the same for an unrelated feature: iCloud tabs

iCloud data is e2e encrypted. Apple can't tell what tabs you have open.

Not all iCloud Data is E2E encrypted, most iCloud services actually work on the web if you go to icloud.com. In fact E2E encrypted services are still the exception, not the rule: https://support.apple.com/de-de/HT202303

It's frustrating that Apple does not let users disable iCloud tabs without also disabling bookmarks and the reading list (which I am fine with being synced on US servers).

Workaround: Toggle mobile Safari into private browsing mode and use apps for everything that needs a login, use private browsing mode most of the time on macOS :/

> most iCloud services actually work on the web if you go to icloud.com

This is not evidence of a lack of E2E. Your browser can be an "end", with a key derived from your login.

Much of the details of iCloud's security is not a secret, and can be found in the iOS Security PDF:


Point taken, it could be E2E on the web. It seem it's just a "classic" web app though.

From both the PDF and the KB article, I don't see any indication that iCloud tabs are E2E encrypted? I'd love to be wrong :)

(Oops, I've linked to the German version; English overview here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202303)

Last I checked, Siri's privacy policy was very clear about the fact that Siri data is used only to improve Siri. I was pretty surprised to find that; maybe I read it wrong.

their business model completely changed for the worse with Windows 10

sadly now Windows is an ad platform with a mediocre OS attached to it

Purposely slowing down your Apple devices so that you need to buy a newest one every season doesn't strike you as a way apple is screwing you?

And now we have to risk our phones crashing when the batteries get older, because the phone managing it’s power consumption to avoid that has been demonised by a bunch of whiney asshats that didn’t bother understands the real issue. Thanks.

Sounds like a false dichotomy. Another way could be to let the user turn on low-power mode, or accept the diminished battery capacity. I know that doing what Apple thinks is best is Apple's way, but maybe in this case it's the wrong way, especially if done in a way that seems surreptitious.

Why should Apple provide an option to pick a worse experience to people, 99.9% of whom aren't going to be able to understand the difference, even if it is explained?

The engineering behind the problem is insanely complex, even for tech-inclined people to grasp, and the engineering solution that was used was brilliant, and now is going in the garbage to suit the complaints of 0.1% of engineers who agreed with it but thought Apple should've been more up front about it, and legions of tech commentators who don't even remotely understand any of the actual solution but just ran clickbait headlines about "Apple slowing your phone INTENTIONALLY!" totally omitting the fact that it was beneficial to the user experience and to the long term viability of the device, and not only that, but REVERSED ITSELF if you had the battery replaced, even if it was by a third party dealer.

Sorry to rant, this just makes me so angry.

LET THE DOWNVOTES RAIN IN! I'm not going to apologize for it, this whole thing was blown massively out of proportion, by possibly well meaning but ignorant people who do not have a GLINT of understanding of the tech involved, many of whom shouldn't be allowed to program a DVR, let alone design smartphones.

Another way is to do whatever other manufacturers like Samsung are doing. No slowdown based on battery capacity and no sudden shutdown either.

Samsung has similar issues.

Battery are physical object with physical limitations. They will have diminished peak capacity and peak voltage over time.

No they don't. Those issues are very rare and indicative of faulty batteries. When you sell hundred million devices a few hundred can be defective. Not a big deal. Generally, Samsung phones (or any other manufacturer tbf) do not start shutting down randomly after 2 years. They also do not slow down the CPU. So they must be doing something which Apple hasn't discovered yet or (more likely) hasn't implemented because this way they can force users to buy $1000 every year.

No you don't. You could group together and demand Apple supply you with a battery that has proper specs for it's usage. But instead you'd apparently rather insult people who are trying to help you understand how you are getting screwed.

Are you sitting on next-generation battery tech the rest of us don't know about?

Nope, I'm just using a normal phone that isn't underprovisioned. They are easy to find if you look. If you cant find one, let me know

What's this "normal" phone that comes with batteries immune to the effects of low temperature and lots of discharge cycles?

I dont know of any, nor did I say I did. But thats not what we're talking about. We're talking about a phone battery that lasts >5 years without degrdading to the point that it's causing random shutdowns even when the battery has a lot of juice left.

These batteries are in pretty much any other smartphone.

But they aren’t. There have been plenty of articles where journalists have checked this with battery experts and this is a known property of batteries. John Panzarino at TechCrunch has been all over this. It doesn’t happen to every battery, in fact it’s a minority of them, but then Apple only enables the management when they detect it. It’s just that the other manufacturers never did anything about it.

Yeah, it's a known property that batteries degrade. But it's still a problem when you underprovision the battery. If you build it to last, it will last. Just because Apple spun it as good for the user doesn't make it true.

They aren't. Random shutdowns are a fact of life for all smartphones that don't reduce voltage when the battery degrades.

I never said otherwise. But they don't randomly shut down when you have a ton of battery left.

No more so than I think that the strawman in my garden is going to kill me in my sleep.

With Android we don't even know why the phone slows down. Do we?

Apple has since apologized for it and you can be reasonably sure it won't happen again. Even so, the damage done to you is known and contained, where as with others, only God knows.

Apple has apologized for failing to communicate the slowdown clearly in device UX and in KB articles.

Apple has not apologized for the solution itself, and will continue to slow devices if necessary to protect them from unsafe battery operations on dying batteries.

This is excellent IMO, because it combines technical competence (device at 15% battery must operate until 0%, no matter what the cost to performance) with communication competence (should have posted KB article, added phone UX, we’re sorry, here’s a $50 apology discount). I wish more companies would follow this approach.

Sure we do, google updated play services.

Big part of the reason I switched to iPhone.

You aren't the customer at Facebook or Google.


No need for that. Use the "upvote" button if you want to express a "+1".


Is it really as simple as that though? Apple is distinct in that they are a hardware company first.

Apple is great at hardware, software, and hardware-software integration but the software is what actually sets them apart.

The proof is that the iPhone is barely differentiated from other smartphone hardware now, and it's still a far superior device.

Pop the champagne bottle on this news. The ad industry has been consistently sucking money out of smaller content producers and consolidated behemoths like FB and Google. Apple being the only browser player who can afford to do such a move, how is this not good news?


Waiting for Microsoft to move next

Microsoft started doing ads in Windows 10 and, more importantly, they have bought LinkedIn. One of the most obvious ways to monetize it, other than paid services of course, is to deliver highly targeted ads. They know your age, your occupation and can guess your income more or less precisely.

I won't hold my breath.

Linkedin has companies and recruiters pay a huge premium to reach you. They shouldn't need stupid advertising.

The features in Safari only harms the smaller companies who's domain is not in the visited sites list. the behemoths like Google who always have a first party cookie dont have a problem with the feature and therefore get even more control over online advertising.

This attitude is exactly what makes the ad networks money. You really think thise small sites will continue without a sustainable source of real, verifiable revenue?

People who make content worth something to me should get that money honestly, not baiting me onto the site to get ad revenue and subtly lowering my quality of living and happiness.

Nobody deserves ad revenue.

The consolidation of online advertising is a real problem, but I don't think Apple should be making product decisions to preserve competition in the ad market. Preserving competition is literally the job of antitrust regulators and that is the avenue to address concentration in markets. Fortunately they seem to be waking up to this.

I agree that it harms smaller companies (though some are not that small), but I see this as a big step in the right direction. I think the big players can only be stopped by legal means anyway.

I agree this is definitely a step in the right direction. At very least it (hopefully) makes the public at large aware of the issue.

Not if people install a content blocker in Safari. Especially since the same blockers also work in the newer WKWebView that's embedded into apps.

Nitpick: The blockers work in SFSafariBrowserViewController, but they're not installed in WKWebView (you can of course install your own blockers into your WKWebView, but you don't get the ones from the app store; this makes sense because otherwise there's too much potential for screwing with webviews that show content curated by the containing app).

Highly recommend installing Firefox focus. It will integrate its blockers into safari.

What do you think is holding Firefox back from doing the same?

Good question... I often wonder why Mozilla talks so much about privacy and user-rights, but then in reality does so little in Firefox to implement them by technical means. Why isn't their tracking-blocking the best among major browsers? Why is Firefox still so easily fingerprintable, as confirmed by EFF's Panopticlick?

But then again when you know the recent stories like Firefox+Cliqz... it doesn't really leave questions open...

Well, they are transparent about it: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/privacy/firefox-cliqz/

I agree that setting default options that respect privacy is good, but I also feel Mozilla has struck the balance between "best customer experience and a revenue stream", plus "informing the customer so they can make decisions".

> but I also feel Mozilla has struck the balance between [...]

My impression is that those who don't care about privacy have already switched to Chrome long ago, and see little reason to go back. And from those who do care, an increasing number (including me) is considering leaving FireFox due decreased trust in Mozilla's self-proclaimed privacy standing. I do wonder which target audience will be left to use FireFox after all then.

I'm not sure what's left after Chrome and FF. Safari if you are on a Mac and IE on Windows (though IE seems imperfect). I suppose you can use a FF derivative like Ice Weasel. For my money, Mozilla is still the best option and with so many free options out there, it's hard to keep up unless you play the game somewhat. Mozilla's most important role is a seat at the web standards table and if they wither on the vine because users jump to Chrome because it "just works", they will lose that seat.

The number of people who care about their privacy in the general population is quite small. We in our tech bubble believe that everybody cares, or should care, but most are satisfied if they find a searched page by entering it “into the Google”.

Those with FF installed it 10y ago when it was sexy, and stuck with it because they are resistant to change.

>What do you think is holding Firefox back from doing the same?

Probably the fact that Google pays them billions of dollars.

> Probably the fact that Google pays them billions of dollars.

Isn't that over? Their default search engine is Yahoo now, IIRC.

No, they made a new deal with google and ended theirs with Yahoo late last year.


Google is now the default search provider in U.S. and Canada.

That’s a good question. I’d assume they have to little of a market share and is too fragile to piss off anybody. But this is just a guess so looking forward to other opinions on this.

Firefox has "Tracking Protection"* setting under "Privacy & Security".

* https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection

Firefox is doing it but as a separate browser for iOS. Wonder why not on desktop yet. https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/focus


Though, Google getting hit and Google making internet specs, I don't have any doubt they'll add something there to track.

I think you have to keep in mind that this isn't particularly benevolence, but ecosystem pruning.

Apple would prefer that everything be conducted in apps on mobile where they can take a 30% cut of initial sale and IAP revenue and not on the open web where most of these ads take place.

I'm not sure how much of a fan I am of taking an action that is clearly user-beneficial, and implying, sans any evidence, that it is actually malevolent.

Apple has shown, through multiple product releases, that it cares deeply about the privacy of users in a way that other companies have not.

Those releases are a clear counter-point to the notion that Apple is only doing this to drive people towards the App Store.

None of these behaviors are mutually exclusive. They can both care about customer experience and want to drive developers to the app store, where they will both get a cut and possibly provide users a better experience. I think that Volvo and Kia make cars that are safer than they need to be, but that might be as much in their interest as anyone else's.

They aren't mutually exclusive, but there is no evidence for the accusation.

It's just a thing people say is true and people accept as true because … reasons.

Claiming that Apple is acting in its own best interests is not an "accusation". There doesn't have to be an especially negative connotation to Apple acting in their own interest, and I don't think /u/michaelbuckbee was intending to "accuse" Apple. I think they were just reminding us why Apple is behaving the way it is, but not passing the negative moral judgement you implied.

It's very precisely an accusation.

The idea is that Apple's efforts to protect user privacy online are motivated by a selfish business case towards incentivizing people away from the web.

/u/michaelbuckbee wasn't "reminding us why Apple was behaving" this way, as he has absolutely no insight or insider knowledge as to the motivations of the team who developed and deployed this feature.

You are implying causation when all you have is correlation.

In tabletop board games, I often give advice to the other players that genuinely helps them. Sometimes--not always--the advice is tweaked such that it also helps me or hurts one of my opponents. After a while, this can instill "Iocaine Powder" doubt whenever I advise someone to do something they were probably already considering. It's fun to watch when someone does something other than the clearly optimal move, just because I said it was clearly optimal. My sibling has adopted the counter-strategy of doing something gratuitously damaging to me, regardless of the strategic cost, whenever I try the manipulative-helpful gambit, but no one else has adopted that yet.

So I can't fault the strategy here. Clearly, Apple is always on its own side, even when it appears to be doing something great for its customers. Whether it did this or not, it would still be reaping 30% from the Apple App Store, where the "leave me alone" versus "pay me" arms race is markedly less obvious to the median user.

The same rationale Apple uses for patching the Web to be more usable could also be used by a jailbreaker who bypasses in-app purchases or advertisements. It should probably expect advertisers to fight back to protect their business just as fiercely as Apple guards its App Store revenue.

You offered no evidence for the statement "Clearly, Apple is always on its own side".

And that's my point.

This is a thing people say, sans evidence, that is then excepted as a gospel truth because it makes some amount of "evil businesses are always evil" sense.

Apple Q3 2017:

"The Company posted quarterly revenue of $45.4 billion and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.67. These results compare to revenue of $42.4 billion and earnings per diluted share of $1.42 in the year-ago quarter....

"Apple’s board of directors has declared a cash dividend of $0.63 per share of the Company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on August 17, 2017 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on August 14, 2017...."

Apple is on its own side, and it is winning. It occasionally allies itself with users, and they mutually benefit from the arrangement. The users, of course, do not release quarterly reports on how happy they are, and don't break that down by any particular company, so we can't compare to see who benefits more.

But Apple also--more rarely--does something hostile to users. I would cite as an example the removal of TRRS connectors from newer iPhones. Clearly, in that, Apple was squarely on its own side, and users that didn't like the change could use a dongle or sod off.

So far the evidence you've presented is that Apple makes money, and that they abandoned a technology they no longer felt merited inclusion in a product.

That is not evidence of malevolence on Apple's part, nor specifically that the inclusion of anti-tracking technology has malicious business-case intent.

I like how you accurately frame this not as benevolence but just as Apple applying their goals that are different from advertisers.

But I’m happy with this as I think Apple’s goals are more in alignment with my own as a user. I don’t expect Apple to support me altruistically, but currently their model of charging a lot for hardware so user data across the web is not necessary for them is one that allows for high levels of user privacy.

Personally, I think it's best to be amoral here just like the faceless corporations.

If it benefits me (increased privacy), I support it. I reward good behavior.

They want that too [1] they just don't want to compete for it or deal with a "messy" internet. They've currently shut down their iAds product but I think it's likely they'll buy someone else if for no other reason that ads in mobile apps are a huge "hole" allowing revenue to escape their ecosystem.

1 - https://developer.apple.com/app-store/app-analytics/

> But I’m happy with this as I think Apple’s goals are more in alignment with my own as a user.

Except that Apple having a monopoly on the interactions means they would extract monopolistic rents from the value chain, which will be paid, yep, by you.

Apple wants to kill the open web, and charge everyone 30% or topline to access their "users". The best way to do it is to hit the web on the pocket: ad revenues.

Hang on a second, Apple aren’t blocking adds this way, only cross-site user tracking. However in Apps they have been locking down cross-App user tracking by advertisers for many years.

So your argument makes no sense. The only consistent way I can see this is that Apple genuinely dislikes user tracking, and blocked it on the App Store first because that’s where they had the most control and responsibility, and then did it on the web when they had the tech.

> Apple wants to kill the open web

Such a nonsense saying. Apple doesn't want to "kill the open web"—indeed they have large investments in it—they are just unwilling to prioritize it over the better experience of the OS or to forgo privacy.

Enough with this FUD nonsense.

But it also comes down to trust. I would rather "trust" (in a sense that Apple's business model does not explicitly benefits from selling my user data) than any other business. And yes, I would much rather pay for any service than have it for "free".

To me "trust" is an absolute thing; it comes in degrees, but the anchor is absolute, and in you. "rather trust" in contrast is relative and something entirely different. Yeah, sometimes we have to bite bullets or choose poisons, but I'd still set apart from things I really like and want to see prosper in the world.

For me, not collecting data warrants trust, not whatever mental gymnastics involving "collecting data, but". If that data is vital for companies or applications beyond a certain scale, then I don't trust companies or applications beyond a certain scale, and would prefer to see them all pruned by consumers using their brains to vote with their wallets. Some behemoths so desperately want a world in which they're vital, to me that's a world doomed to die in important ways. That's not aimed at Apple, but among tech companies, they don't even make my list of considerations for top N thousand I like or trust. Not to mention companies and organizations in general.

But more importantly it's not like I have to chose whom of a bunch of shady fucks I trust most. If I don't trust any of them, that's fine with me, too.

As for business, I like the people at my local bakery. I trust them with bread, I guess, and I know when they smile they mean it. Those people have stature to me, and the bigger a company is, the more pervasive marketing is in it, the more it resembles a lot of tiny people playing big person. I don't trust that, and I laugh when those then put out marketing to make themselves seem 0.1% as cool as random individual people are to me, to whom the thought of being cool doesn't even occur. True, Apple might be less of a POS than its direct siblings, but that's still a rounding error in the grand scheme of things. I'd say we'll outright settle for one or several of them and the precedents they set at our own peril.

Sorry for the rant, please don't take this as some sort of violent disagreement with you, I was really just ranting. But it does sicken me how far we fell.

The App Store is penuts. The average user spends nowhere near as much on Apps as they do on their phone and accessories and Apple has even better margins on those sales.

Remember, Apple loses out on credit card processing frees from their '30%' and phones are several hundred dollars.

> Remember, Apple loses out on credit card processing frees from their '30%'...

I strongly doubt that. Even in the worst case scenario - all $1 charges and Stripe's "you charge a card every six weeks" 2.9% + $0.30/transaction fee - they'd be just about breaking even... and Apple's certainly big enough to get some volume discounts.

I think you misunderstood, "loses out" as in "needs to pay for" basically 30% is clearly not not profit it's revenue. And the App Store has plenty of real expenses.

>Apple would prefer that everything be conducted in apps on mobile where they can take a 30% cut of initial sale and IAP revenue and not on the open web where most of these ads take place.

There is zero evidence that this is a priority for them or their long term business model. Their focus is on selling you hardware and making sure you're happy enough with their hardware that you're willing to pay a premium for it. Everything else is gravy or in support of that central goal.

No-Tracking and privacy are two of the major value adds they have over their competitors. If they're going to forego things that their competitors get through privacy invasion, it makes perfect sense to turn that weakness into a strength.

With the App Store accounting for approximately 20% of their revenue (as at 4Q 2017), I'm not sure how you describe this as "zero evidence of priority".

I'm fairly certain they don't consider it "strictly optional bonus income".

Nothing about what Apple has done has any effect on web sites or services that do not engage in tracking.

> Apple would prefer that everything be conducted in apps on mobile

Or they just want to sell more phones, which makes Apple way more money than any conversion of web traffic to in-app purchases this privacy stance could bring. Or—shocker—their management wants to make a device they themselves enjoy using?

All these suppositions have the same amount of evidence: practically zero.

Q4 2017, iPhone accounts for 54% of revenue. App Store for 16%.

This whole "Apple doesn't care about the App Store revenues" argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Most companies are going to care about a revenue stream of that size that is also very much a non-negligible percentage of company revenue.

Isn’t it 30% of 16%?

No, that number is the revenue they earn from the App Store. Money they act as a middleman for (the 70%) is not company revenue as it was never theirs. (If you give me $100 with the understanding I'm to give $70 to a friend and keep $30 "for my efforts", I can't claim I made or earned $100, only $30).

I think the easier explanation is that Apple's actions cut into Google's bottom line. Strategically Apple gets to be the good guy while making Google look like the bad guy.

Google is the bad guy to me.

Apple is not necessarily good, but 1000 times more trustworthy when it comes to user privacy.

Google is the cult leader of sucking every little details off its users because it genuinely believes it has the right to do so, nay, it has the moral obligation to do so for the good of all humanity.

I think I speak for many when I say: "Cry me a river."

No ad revenue, no free content. Get ready for paywalls everywhere.

I'm fine with advertising; I see it every day on TV, in magazines, as I walk down the street.

What the ad networks want, though, is pervasive, persistent, personally identifiable cross-domain tracking across the entire WWW. Obnoxious and unskippable autoplaying videos. Obnoxious, garish popups. 1/5 of the on screen real estate to be advertising often only loosely related to the content, more often than not totally disinteresting to the reader, and potentially serving up malware via their active content.

No. Apple is doing the right thing, and the networks brought it on themselves. I have ZERO sympathy, and anyone who relies on their parasitic behaviour to exist doesn't really offer any value worth paying for anyway. I bet content becomes meaningful enough to be worth paying for, as the rest will die.

> What the ad networks want...

What advertisers want is a real, credible KPI.

When it's television, and you can show evidence that 2m people watch this program, so sponsoring gets you 2m of your target audience (or whatever you want to argue).

With online, there are few web pages that get 2m people to read them in a day... and surely there's some effect from all those other sites out there. Some of them are even niche, so they might be a hard audience to get...

Ad networks offer "all those other sites", and since you can't verify that the 50 people who went to that web page aren't included in the 20 people who read that other web page without "cross-domain tracking" you can't piggy-back on that argument being made in Television.

Then you've got the second-screen phenomenon: Few people had two televisions in the same room, but almost everyone has at least two screens. Did I get this part of my target audience on their phone or on the desktop. Choices are, buy everyone twice (halving the advertising budget), or be a little more efficient: Ad networks know what they'd prefer, so they want that tracking to personally identify you now. These ad networks are the ones convincing advertisers they need a super mega cookie to track everything.

And so on.

Amazon has been around for 23 years now (Amazon Prime for 12 years). People have been heavily using Amazon daily for online retail and wishlists for over a decade. For most people I know, they've been the go-to place for most Christmas and birthday shopping for years. They're terrible at recommendations--they're the best case scenario. Google and other advertisers are worse. No matter how much information they have, they're just awful.

There's also distrust between ad networks, advertisers, and users. So even if they collect all this deep information, you can't trust the other group to be telling you the truth to the other group.

I would love a scenario where I get personalized matches for my needs even if that means me handing over more info. Podcasts seem to be the only place where they're a) big enough to get direct sponsorship but b) small enough that the sponsors are still relevant...and they're using the same techniques as traditional media like TV/radio.

I work for a software/web development company in the automotive industry. It's unbelievable how much of a website project consists of tracking. For one client, we have four different tracking systems running.

The thing that counts most is knowing who visits their website, what they do and how they do it. The website itself is almost an afterthought.

It's come to the point where basic functions like a contact form simply don't work when you have adblock or Disconnect running.

Fine by me. Those are the sites that don't get my business, and increasingly it's not nerds like me who are using ad- and tracking-blocking tools. They are accessible, reliable, and more frequently being included and enabled by default.

It's not something ad networks can fix. Once active content is blocked on the client, it's game over. Your content simply doesn't work, and we'll to your competitor with the working site for what we need.

I don't necessarily think this is true. Advertisers want to be able to attribute revenue to the types of ads that they show, that way they can spend less money on advertising and focus it on the channels which actually work for them. Cookies are the best way of attributing online ads to online sales.

TL;DR they want effective attribution, not to wreck your browsing experience.

Sure. They want effective attribution, because that leads to more effective ads. But they are also perfectly willing to do any and all of those other things to get "effective ads."

Those other things mean that the next big data hack/leak won't be your SSN & DOB, but your SSN, DOB, and porn preference.

Considering we're in an unprecedented content boom, this would harm me not at all and might even help. The free content might go back to being good stuff from enthusiasts rather than SEO-gaming junk. Signal-to-noise might improve. Interoperable standards for services like messaging might start to matter again.

They can still make money off ad revenue, they'll just have to think of a way to do it without compromising the user's privacy.

Good point, the ads could be content driven rather than user profile driven.

I really really think this is the way to go. When I'm on programming websites I want ads from cloud providers, and when I'm wood working websites I want ads for belt sanders. I feel like it makes more sense to display ads that match up with the content of the web page anyway, it means the viewer might be in a more receptive mood for that type of product. Not to mention it avoids the entire issue of user privacy and the difficulty of tracking users. It's also how all advertising has been done since the beginning of time, and I don't see why the Internet has to be such a special case.

The internet was a special case simply because it made it possible to do a better job of predicting your interests. At that point it became an arms race because you didn't want to spend on ads that were less effective than your competitor's. If we went back to content-based advertising those ad dollars wouldn't disappear, the distribution would just change.

Very good point indeed. And that is how the publishing industry used to do with segmented magazines. Each publication built their own reader's profile and ad agencies would chose a publication over another based on who they would like to target. That is a much more ethical approach, in my opinion.

This still happens with online ads, but supply quality matters. Location of an ad, quality of the domain (ESPN is very good value). But roughly 100 junk auctions come in (no bidder) for every ok auction (single bid reduces to floor) and just a tenth of that represents a good location (bids drive the price above the floor). So yes, people still hit up espn's college football pages with truck ads and the Washington post got targeted for ads by the Bahraini embassy trying to drum up support during their spat with Saudi Arabia.

> They can still make money off ad revenue, they'll just have to think of a way to do it without compromising the user's privacy.

Look, let's not get drastic. Obviously the first step is to whine about it, and behave as if the user's respect for privacy is tantamount to theft. Ooh, maybe try getting some laws passed criminalising ad blocking! (I am not sure whether that is implausibly ridiculous or a simple description of facts.)

Sure, but they would only make a fraction of what they make today, most creators would go out of business and most free services would be shut down.

I'm sitting here thinking about what the world would look like with a much smaller, more expensive, higher quality, less intrusive www, and I'm not sure I'm opposed to that; esp assuming anyone who wants to could still put up any legal content they want to at any time.

This assumes there isn't a flexible solution though. There is more than just the extremes here. If a company isn't innovative or flexible enough to think of a solution then it's their own fault if they go out of business.

Why do you assume that removing ad tracking would cut down on the total amount of money made on ads? Companies will still have ad budgets and they'll have to spend it somehow.

Companies don't have "ad budgets". Those depend on the efficiency of the ads. If your $100M spending on ads only generates $50M in value, you won't spend it.

Advertising has diminishing returns, when you decrease the efficiency of advertising, you decrease the spending.

Another way to think about it: line up every marginal $ you could possibly spend in ads, and sort it by efficiency from max to min. Find the point where efficiency = 100% (spending $1 more generates $0 marginal profit).

As a company, you'd buy all the ads until that point.

When you lower the efficiency of the ads, the intersection moves, lowering the marginal returns, and resulting in lower ad spending.

That would be an acceptable outcome.

Reduced economic activity, increased unemployment and poverty is for you an acceptable outcome so that you personally don't have to see ads?


> Reduced economic activity, increased unemployment and poverty

"Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!!!!"

There are already non-ad-supported funding alternatives for small creators (like Patreon). Maybe the loss of an ad-supported web would finally create sufficient interest in development of micropayment and microfunding services to help the rest.

Edit: and maybe we can finally rid the web of clickbait and Taboola-style garbage content.

It wouldn't work.

Ads work because you're trading something that is worth more to the publisher than to you.

Let's imagine a utility currency called bananas.

A piece of your attention is worth 0 bananas to you. But it is worth 10 bananas to a publisher.

The cost of creating and serving you a piece of content is 5 bananas to the publisher, and the value of it to you is 2 bananas.

If there were no ads, you'd be willing to pay 2 bananas to the publisher, which would not cover the cost. Therefore, the publisher and content creators would go out of business. You wouldn't be willing to pay the full cost (5 bananas), because the content isn't worth that much to you.


You: 0 bananas

Publisher: 0 bananas

By seeing the ad, you generate 10 bananas of value to the publisher and content creator, while you get 2 bananas of value by receiving the content.


You: 2 bananas

Publisher: 10 bananas

Direct funding will never fully replace ad revenue.

The publisher just needs to deliver something that has 6 bananas of value to me to make this example work. That's exactly congruent with a web where high-value content is rewarded and clickbait and spam is not. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Consider all of the modern content industries that aren't primarily ad supported - movies, music, AAA video games, books. In this context the ad-supported nature of web content looks like an aberration, not an ideal to strive for.

> Sounds like a win-win to me.

Might be for you, but for those people who are out of jobs, and those who will lose access to content might think differently.

I would be happy to support welfare payments and free education for those unemployed advertisers and "content creators" to learn to do something productive with their lives. No one is entitled to a permanent career in any particular field.

Despite the "reduced economic activity", people seem fine with rules against lots of things -- e.g. spam and assassination markets. Besides, the money saved on web advertising doesn't get put under a mattress, the company can do something else like ... buy more TV ads or put it in an index fund. Haha, jk it's another raise for the CEO.

Are you comparing assassination with ads?


Free content, sure. But also ads for penile enhancements and dialog boxes that go "Congratulations! You've won $100,000 in Amazon gift cards! Click here quick [obvious phishing link] to claim your prize!". Scams, pure and simple. Not claiming that tracking prevention is going to solve these problems, but any move that at least attempts to reign in the worst excesses of a scummy industry is a step in the right direction IMHO.

Anil Dash had a good thread about this recently, and he puts it much better than I:


I pay for Netflix, Hulu's ad free tier, and CBS's ad free tier. I would pay for content on the web I find compelling.

But these days I get most of my content from podcasts. Their ads are more relevant, less intrusive and I can press a button on my headphones or in my car to do a 30 second skip. But usually I'll listen to an ad read by a new sponsor.

It's a win-win. The cpm's for podcast are much better than for the web or even YouTube.

Quite aside from other arguments, there was plenty of free content before advertisers caught onto the www, and there's still quite a bit to be found.

Have you not experienced the internet in the 90s? There were little to no ads, content was free. Signal-to-noise ratio was through the roof.

Ah, for the days when "internet celebrities" had day jobs... These days, sadly, they mostly just "productize content and brand engagement for maximum revenue stream conversion."

Fine by me, the guy at the newspaper stand doesn't give me the magazines and books for free.

Twenty years of nearly ad-free internet prove this sentiment utterly inaccurate.

No free content, no buzzfeed / huffington post / breitbart garbage. Sounds good to me!

If your content is so shitty that nobody would pay to view it, then it's worthless.

I rather pay for quality and then get free shit.

To hell with "free" content if the price to pay is erosion of privacy or outright mass surveillance, concentration in the hands of very few, manipulative click- and flamebait and addictive consumption of digital media to the detriment of quality journalists/authors and other creatives.

>No ad revenue, no free content. Get ready for paywalls everywhere.

I'm fine with that. Let the media get its money by providing content that I like and want to pay for instead of by trying to game social media clicks.

Most of the "content" online is the reading equivalent of junk-food anyway.

Besides, there is a version of an ad supported economy that is actually respectful towards your users. You just do sponsored posts and unobtrusive banners. That's fine for small time outfits.

The big barrier with paying for content isn't that I can't part with the change to read an article that piques my interest. It's that I don't want to hand over payment information to any random website. Both for security reasons and because it's a giant hassle. Fix that problem and you're good.

You're on a free website that has no (explicit) ads right now.

Rather than pay someone else to rent their user-tracking advertising system, YC built a platform where their target audience comes to them--sometimes compulsively. The influencers and evangelists among us can then multiply awareness to different audiences on their own platforms.

Whenever they want to advertise a YC business, they can just pin a story to the front page for a few hours. It's smart, subtle, seamlessly non-intrusive, and one of the better advertising experiences (relative to other ad-delivery systems), in my opinion.

If you haven't noticed, you need to tune your detector a bit closer to the noise floor.

Who suggested anything about "no ad revenue"?

Currently invasive advertising is better payed. However, there is no reason to believe that prices will stay the same if all advertisers are forced to satisfy some reasonable privacy standards. That is what is being suggested, not abolishing all forms of advertisement.

Fine by me. I pay for various subscriptions ranging from Spotify, to creators on Patreon, to streamers on Twitch.

I don't need to get ready; most content on the WWW is trash, anyway.

I much rather pay (I already do) for quality, non-bullshit, level headed content than consume lots of meaningless articles that server as click bait.

I would rather have content creators competing for my money and my satisfaction rather than JUST my initial interest and attention.

I would be happy to deal with more paywalls. Anytime there is an ad free version of an app I'll buy it. I've even started paying for most of the newspapers I regular. I think we could see a huge improvement in online content quality if people started paying for stuff they like with real money, rather than paying by being distracted by ads.

Exactly. There is a huge jump in quality of content when you are trying to get users to pay for your work rather than just trying to just get enough people to click on it. It requires you to actually deliver on your promise.

Sustained interaction and user satisfaction require more thought process than just slapping a clickbait title on something. In reality, clickbait titles work all too well.

Will we lose some good businesses and content creators? Most definitely, but the good (and lucky) ones will adapt and it sets a MUCH better model for future creators.

> No ad revenue, no free content. Get ready for paywalls everywhere.

Well, paywalls lots of places. There'll be less incentive for clickfarming sites, and some-to-many-to-all of the big sites will probably go for-pay, but lots of smaller sites will still provide content because people like to communicate with the world.

It doesn't sound like a bad thing to me—especially if we're being told that the trade-off is paying for content, versus giving up rights to our privacy.

Will paywalls assure privacy? Will paying for content guarantee no tracking JavaScript (I’m looking at you Google Analytics).

How many would be willing to pay for a simple non-js HTML that’s just plain content?

With a paywall, the news site gets you to log in, which gives them a first party cookie and a way to track you cross-device that breaks ITP — if you pay for news, you likely read it every day.

They're not going to overlook that additional source of income just because you pay them, just like print newspapers didn't keep ads out of subscribers' newspapers.

It's a shame their revenue only got cut by 1/5 and not 1/1.

Yeah, that would be great, almost all free content and most free services on the web would disappear!

Talk about a lose-lose situation.

Free content will continue to survive, some people simply enjoy creating and helping others and quite a lot of content is in the public domain. There are also many services which are supported by paying customers and also offer a free tier. If not, there's always open source.

All in all, I don't think much will be lost. We have such an abundance of content, from stories to music, graphics and movies, that we would need lifetimes to enjoy it.

The advertising industry is not the benefactor that you're trying to paint them as, just a bunch of people trying to make a buck by exploiting others in a legal way. And soon, some of those ways will not be legal any more.

> Free content will continue to survive

Most "free content" is paid by ads. Most hosting is paid by ads. Most online services are paid by ads. Do you ever use WhatsApp? Gone. Google Maps? Gone. Oh, that Guardian article we're discussing right now? Gone.

> The advertising industry is not the benefactor that you're trying to paint them as

Who talked about benefactors? They're just a business like any other. I hate ads, but I know that they fund a lot of the content and services I use.

Ads are never going anywhere. We had ads for decades that did not need to track your every move. They work fine and can work fine online.

I fail to see why internet ads being more like TV, radio, and print ads means that free services would go away. Rough geographic and interest-based targeting would still be possible, just like it is in those media.

With radio and TV, it costs the same to produce and broadcast a show from a radio or TV station regardless of how many people actually listen to or watch it [1].

With a web site, the more people that visit it, the more it costs for hosting and bandwidth.

Websites having a higher marginal cost for each new audience member compared to TV and radio might have an affect on how effective ads have to be to pay for the content. I could see web ads needing to be more effective than radio or TV ads because of that marginal cost.

[1] well, sort of. If a show is popular, actors on the show might be able to negotiate higher pay, for example.

> I fail to see why internet ads being more like TV, radio, and print ads means that free services would go away.

Internet ads have drawn much of the money (disproportionately to their audience draw) from those other sources because they are more valuable because of better targeting and tracking. Reducing that reduces the value of internet ads, which reduces the level ofmserviced they will support; ones that are currently marginal will fail, and ones that are currently more solid will become marginal.

> Do you ever use WhatsApp? Gone. Google Maps? Gone. Oh, that Guardian article we're discussing right now? Gone

Fine! iMessage and Telegram doesn’t show any adds to me so they go nowhere. If telegram tomorrow says to me - 10$ a year or ads, I gladly pay. Google Maps? Screw this burp of evil anyway, Apple Maps and Here We Go maps are go nowhere any time soon. Guardian? Well, I have adblocker enabled anyway and donate 10$ when I happen to read something well written.

I had an experience recently. One of podcasters that I’m listening to created website and started to treat his podcast more seriously. Also he created a Patreon account with clearly defined goals. I went and had my Patreon account created as soon as I had seen his and now I’m doing a monthly contribution. That guy went to 4K$ in two days.

Why I’m saying this? Well, because all other subscriptions that I have doesn’t provide _that_ value for me so if they all are gone tomorrow, I won’t even notice that.

So, if being free is the only reason people use something to kill time that means that th thing has no value for them ang can and should go away. I have never disabled my Adblock at Forbes and never payed for anything paywalled. I simply didn’t read those articles and I don’t feel like I’ve lost much.

I think it actually for the best if many of tools/services/publishers will go away and people will have more incentive to actually pay for things if they consider th m valuable. And if people are not ready to give a way a cup of coffee for monthly subscription then well.... nobody needs that service then.

I was really happy about WhatsApp at first, that it is a payed service - 30$ a year or something and then Facebook bought it...

What about the people who aren't as rich as you and can't pay $10 for Telegram?

Some people can pay cash for products, others can't and will happily exchange their attention for the service.

You proposal boils down to "rich people like me will be fine, screw the rest".

This is not an argument really. Why then not to ask for free data packages and free smartphones? People can afford an iPhone/Android smartphone which are required t use those services but not the service itself?

That sounds strange for me, it like buying a Bentley and complaining that insurance is too expensive.

My mom's pension is $400 / month (Eastern Europe). She browses the Internet on an old hand-me-down Thinkpad. I suppose she should just get off the Internet if she cannot afford to buy website subscriptions. Anything to make the online experience of wealthy IT professionals better.

Nah, that's not what OP's talking about. OP's talking about services we use on smartphones mostly - WhatsApp, Google Maps.

On that Thinkpad thing, I have multiple questions, just because you're trying to induce emotional response here: does your mom uses Adblock? Did you install it for her? Why can't you buy a subscription for her if you care so much? Do you really want you mom trade her and probably other relatives personal data for access to some shady newspaper with dubious quality of journalism?

> Nah, that's not what OP's talking about. OP's talking about services we use on smartphones mostly - WhatsApp, Google Maps.

No, I'm talking about the entire ad-funded internet. Including, for example, the very Guardian article we're discussing.

So yep, you're suggesting that tszyn's mom should not access content she can't pay for directly.

You forget that most people isn't as rich as you or most HN readers.

>So yep, you're suggesting that tszyn's mom should not access content she can't pay for directly.

You vastly underestimate how much content is created for free. Have you heard of Wikipedia? Do you realize how many people do not choose to monetize their creations?

>You forget that most people isn't as rich as you or most HN readers.

This problem was solved before the internet with libraries. If you can't afford a newspaper article you get it from the library. The same could be accomplished with an online library with daily limited access or subsidized unlimited access for the poor.

Poor people are not good for showing ads to anyway. As ad networks get more and more invasive they will be able to discriminate and refuse to pay the guardian for a view from your mom because there is no expected value there.

> You vastly underestimate how much content is created for free. Have you heard of Wikipedia?

Oh, yes, been an editor there for the past 10 years.

Now what % of the content on the internet do you think is created and delivered in a completely ad-free paywall-free way?

She probably should, with all the viruses, spyware and tracking. The internet is nowadays very user-hostile, in part because of the toxic behavior of the ads industry.

Still, there continue to exist gratis, ad-free services. If you want to avoid that your mom is taken advantage of, point her to those. I would also recommend installing an ad-blocker, but let's be honest, she already has one, doesn't she?

WhatsApp was at one point charging for its service a very small sum (like 1 EUR) and was ad free. Then they were bought for 14 billion...

Signal is gratis and ad-free and so is Telegram AFAIK.

Your line of argumentation that the advertising industry is a blessing for the poor is simply embarrassing. They're taking advantage of the ignorance of the majority.

You also keep repeating that people are exchanging their attention for products when that's clearly false. They are exchanging potentially damaging personal information which is stored forever and that can be given away to anyone. That's a very crappy deal, but most people are clueless about what's happening.

Any financial interests related to the ad industry that you'd like to disclose? For someone that hates ads you seem to be their biggest defender.

> Do you ever use WhatsApp?

Nope, I use LINE, which is monetized by sticker packs

> Google Maps?

Nope, I use a local mapping service, which while it has a monthly fee is far better

> Oh, that Guardian article we're discussing right now?

I'd be happy to pay for a Spotify/Netflix-style subscription to journalistic content, but the newspapers are still busy fighting each other rather than their own obsolescence so I don't see that happening.

You can have advertising without tracking. TV and radio ads work just fine.

And those are far less efficient, therefore reducing ad spending, and reducing revenue to content creators and publishers.

This is admittedly dated now (2011), but according to it, print subscribers to the New York Times were each worth $385 annually in advertising alone (more from subscription fees, of course) while monthly online readers were worth $3.85 annually in ad revenue, two orders of magnitude less:


That resembles what I remember reading for a decade+ about the print-to-digital newspaper transition: online ads command lower rates than print ads. Which is really mysterious, if online ads backed with persistent tracking and targeting are truly more effective.

Citation? What you fail to realize is that lower efficiency can induce more spending.

Do you think someone who trades their compact car in for a truck will spend less on gasoline because it's not as efficient?

Advertising was massive before the Internet, it's massive now, and it will be massive even if we prevent them from inferring life threatening secrets like sexual preferences for better targeted ads.

> Citation? What you fail to realize is that lower efficiency can induce more spending.

Please explain to me how a $1 ad which generated $0.01 in marginal profit, but now generates -$0.01 in marginal profit will continue to be funded. I'd love to know.

Free content & free services existed on the web before the online advertising economy did. Plus, it's stupidly cheap to host stuff now compared to back then.

I don't like advertising economy same as the next person, but... Would it still be stupidly cheap to host stuff now, without advertising economy? Because many people want to do a buck on advertising economy, there are lots and lots of pages and services that would not be there so economics of scale would operate on smaller scale.

It costs a couple of 2017 dollars per month to host a basic site. If you get hammered by many GB of bandwidth you could get into tens of dollars (around $0.10/GB on a few sites I checked for non-bulk tiers, and it only gets cheaper from there).

That's stupidly cheap, and much more easily available than trying to get your content online in the 90s without being at a university or corporation that could act as a patron of your online activity.

But continuing on from the patronage angle, Amazon etc are already doing massive things even without external compute customers, so their economies of scale for providing servers & bandwidth are already in place.

Oh, yeah, I remember how much free video was available on the internet before YT.

Great times!

Because all this free video is just so great right? A world full of nobodies blathering on about themselves?


There was a lots of video on the web before YT. Video was better before YT, you actually had to put some effort into it. Now YT is cheap, shitty, my-first-VFX projects as far as the eye can see.

Pre-monetized YT was even noticeably better. The my-first-VFX videos aren't even the problem, it's the mountain of outright clickbait burying everything else, and rampant padding of what ought to be 20-30s videos to several minutes for what I assume are monetization reasons, usually starting with a minute of updates about the person's other videos and how much they loved the comments on their last video and blah blah blah, then some recap of stuff you definitely already know if you've sought out this video, and so on.

My wife sometimes watches a video then leaves the "next video" running in the background while she does other stuff. Often it's people talking about movies in clickbait-titled videos. Their primary skill seems to be talking for several minutes without actually saying anything, and avoiding the video title's topic for as long as possible. It's kind of impressive, but does nothing to enrich anyone's life and drowns out better content with worse SEO.

The only thing I remember about pre-monetized YouTube was it was mostly pirated TV shows.

I'm pretty happy with the content on YouTube - lots of fun tech stuff like EEVBlog, Techmoan, bigclive, the 8-bit guy etc that would never happen on regular TV. A lot of them seem to make half their living from Patreon though.

> Because all this free video is just so great right? A world full of nobodies blathering on about themselves?

Just because that doesn't appeal to your taste doesn't mean that it is bad. Stop judging what other people like to watch.

You argument is essentially "people who make videos that I don't like should be pushed out".

Before entertainment was so easy to make, there certain bars of quality one had to meet in order to get access to publishing. There is no such metric now, no hurdle of quality or notoriety to jump, and you would argue that nothing has changed?

How does taste render the observations of an individual invalid? Are you so genius that you can make such ...judgments... yourself? But I can't judge because I have tastes???

> How does taste render the observations of an individual invalid? Are you so genius that you can make such ...judgments... yourself? But I can't judge because I have tastes???

Here's the difference: I'm not judging. I don't believe in a "quality bar". I'm not judging which content should be created, sponsored or paid for.

Let people create and publish content, and let people vote with their clicks, eyes and wallets.

But you, no, you think that only content that passes your quality bar should be funded.

Don't like content or ads? Don't watch/view them. Nobody is forcing you to. But you want to force others not to view them.

I hate ads, but they pay for a lot of the content and services I use, and I'd rather view them than pay for them.

Don't like them? Don't use those services and content. Your call.

>You argument is essentially "people who make videos that I don't like should be pushed out".

You keep putting words in people's mouths all over this thread. It doesn't make for interesting conversation.

This is clearly a sensitive subject for you, but please engage people in an honest manner.

Youtube existed for several years prior to becoming the massively monetized behemoth it is now. Furthermore, numerous alternative video providers exist or have existed, everywhere on the scale from amateur to enterprise.

No-one’s saying you can’t advertise. There was advertising in the world long before persistent stalking of users was a thing. They advertised based on the content, rather than the user.

> Oh, yeah, I remember how much free video was available on the internet before YT.

Yeah, I remember that too. What is your point?

I would _love_ to be able to pay for all the content I read while knowing my privacy is preserved. Good riddance!

Oh, and others who aren't as rich as you to pay for their content in cash?

Or just people with money should be allowed to have access to content?

> Or just people with money should be allowed to have access to content?

That is the case for pretty much everything non-digital and schools and education as well and thus an entirely reasonable position to take. You might then argue that libraries should be expanded, but that is a separate issue.

Also, just like with adblock plus none of these features forbid advertising as such. Advertisement which are "acceptable" and non-privacy invasive are completely unaffected and I am very much in favor of enforcing some reasonable consumer protection bith technologically and by law.

Wait, are you actually defending that only rich people should have access to content?

> only rich people should have access to content

I feel like you're overstating. Yes, only the richest of people, those who can afford to purchase a newspaper, should be able to read the news. For those poor people, maybe there's some organization, like a public library that could invest in things that are seen as a public good? Or organizations wishing to facilitate people passing time, like barber shops, coffee shops, or waiting rooms, would buy them and leave them strewn about as bait for those poorer customers.

Personally, I really wish microtransactions were more of a thing starting in the late-90s. I feel like Patreon and others have tried to fill that void. I think it's a false choice between every byte of data behind a paywall and advertisers clawing for more information about every bowel movement in order to cover your screen with promotions.

> Yes, only the richest of people, those who can afford to purchase a newspaper, should be able to read the news.

Wait, what am I reading? Only people with money should have the right to access news and information?

With the incessant lobbying you've done in this thread I think it's fair to ask the advertising industry for some donations which you could then use for your other big passion, offering poor people access to information.

Yes, it's true that they already have that through national television, cheap newspapers, book exchanges and donations, but if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.

> With the incessant lobbying you've done in this thread I think it's fair to ask the advertising industry for some donations which you could then use for your other big passion, offering poor people access to information.

Nice ad hominem.

I hate ads, but I know that ads fund a lot of the services and content I consume online. I always have the option to now use those services or consume that content and avoid the ads.

Heck, half of HN's commenters would be unemployed if not for ads. Which might actually be a net win for society.

You're calling out other's logical fallacies but you're not adding anything to the conversation, either.

You're pulling basically the same narrow quote, ignoring the rest what others are contributing.

IRL microtransactions (nickels and quarters), fueled the vending machine and newspaper economy for the last century. It's a shame there's no digital equivalent because it's very difficult to make credit card transactions under $5 profitable.

Also, getting rid of user-tracking wouldn't get rid of Internet ads.

> That is the case for pretty much everything non-digital and schools and education as well and thus an entirely reasonable position to take.

> Wait, are you actually defending that only rich people should have access to content?

I'm not sure how you got that out of the parent comment. It says "this is not a new problem, but it is a problem". A system that relentlessly tracks users and their habits is not the solution. If for no other reason than it sequesters poor people to parts of the web that track them, while rich people can afford to pay for content.

> Or just people with money should be allowed to have access to content?

>>That is the case for pretty much everything non-digital and schools and education as well and thus an entirely reasonable position to take.

Please explain to me how "just people with money should be allowed to have access to content" being "an entirely reasonable position to take" doesn't fit into that?

He explicitly said your position is "a reasonable position to take". You appear to be so set on being against people, you are seeing things they did not say.

I am arguing that though the position is reasonable, the ad industry as we know it is a piss poor answer. Poor people paying with their privacy is bad.

Numerous times in this thread you have argued against something nobody said.

You do not argue in good faith.

Should just people with money should be allowed to have access to food?

Where I'm from there are unemployment and welfare systems in place so that people shouldn't be so poor they can't afford a basic lifestyle (which includes being able to participate in the public discourse - i.e. have access to media)

You don't have an inalienable right to watch people's uploaded YouTube videos.

If you don't like a service enough to pay for it, do you really like it that much?

The article we're currently discussing is ad supported.

This is what I see at the bottom of the page. https://imgur.com/a/xL5oC Advertising revenues are falling fast.... If everyone who reads our reporting... helped fund it, our future would be much more secure.

Yep, they're having to beg for funding already. Now imagine if ad revenues went away completely?

99% of online "news" organizations would go under. We'd be left with a few publishers that can survive on their readers paying to view the content. Similar to how TV/radio/book publishers/movies/etc already work.

There would no longer be profit incentive to promote clickbait articles that just re-link to the original source, no more fake news sites being spread around social media, no more perverse incentives to get as many clicks as possible without providing any actual value of your own.

Bring it on! I want this future so much.

They will have to come up with a real business model. You know, where they give people something they want in exchange for money.

The horror!

You know advertising is just another business model right? They have to give advertisers something they want in exchange for money. If they can't do that, they don't get money. It's a business.

> They will have to come up with a real business model. You know, where they give people something they want in exchange for money.

Trading attention for content is a real business model. Just because you don't like doesn't make it any less real.

Not only that, the article we're discussing is ad-funded.

The reason you're reading it without paying for it is because it is ad-funded.

They either make something people (readers or advertisers or sponsors) will pay for or they go out of business. That's pretty normal. I don't see why it's so important to prop up a specific failing business model. There are other models.

> I don't see why it's so important to prop up a specific failing business model.

Nobody is propping up anything, let them do business.

Don't like the ads? Don't access those websites. Vote with your wallet and clicks.

>Nobody is propping up anything, let them do business.

Did you read TFA? Browser vendors that allow invasive tracking are propping up this model.

It's a real business model until we deploy widespread ML-driven ad-blocking across all browsers.

Not such a real business model after that. And it WILL happen, because ads are a nuisance and the browser market is competitive. You're fighting with gravity at this point.

Even if all browsers implemented this kind of tracking prevention, why would ad revenues go away completely? Surely they can still show you somewhat targeted ads based on things like the contents of the page you're on, your IP address, etc. While that's not as accurate as your entire browsing history since forever, it's not nothing.

Not completely, I sent some money their way recently and will do so again if they keep putting out stuff I want to read.

Why does it matter how much I like a service?

Also, not everyone has enough money to pay for a service, the rest of 7B people of the world isn't as rich as hacker news readers.

Sure, a sponsorship or freemium model would cover that though. After all if the users don't have that much money to begin with, advertisers are already wasting their money.

And if you don't care about a service, why care if it goes away?

> Sure, a sponsorship or freemium model would cover that though.

No, it wouldn't. It would only cover a small fraction of creators, and definitely not enough with money.

Your attention is worth far more than the cost of the content/service to the advertisers. And the service is worth to you far more than your attention.

It is a trade where value is generated to both sides: you provide your attention, which is worth almost nothing to you, and receive a service in return.

> And if you don't care about a service, why care if it goes away?

Caring and liking are different. I hate my ISP, but it would be even worse if it went away.

Your attention is only valuable to advertisers to the extent that you might buy something. If you can't afford what they're selling, your attention is not worth anything to them. The whole online advertising industry is propped up by a few % of people who click ads. That's how I know that a relatively few people can keep it all afloat.

> That's how I know that a relatively few people can keep it all afloat.

No, clicking on those ads doesn't cost anything for those few people. Now they'd actually have to pay for the content, and subsidize everyone else, which wouldn't happen, they'd just move to a paywalled model.

Ads generate cross-subsidization, subscriptions generate pay-walling.

They pay for other stuff in life, why should online services be any different?

It is like some devs that contrary to other professionals, don't want to pay for their tools.

Because they aren't as rich as you and can't afford paying for everything with cash, but would be happy to pay with their attention.

They aren't just paying "with their attention" — but also with having all of their behavior, across the entire web, recorded, tracked, and modeled by folks with demonstrably unclean hands, whose incentives are aligned against them.

That is a categorically different bargain than merely having something that competes with the content for their attention. Just because the viewer may be ignorant of it doesn't mean they aren't (implicitly) making it.

I am not rich and also cannot afford to pay everything I would like to have, neither everything that is free is worth my attention.

Advertisers don't want the attention of people that can't pay for things.

People rich enough to pay for things are essentially subsidizing everyone else in the ad model with an irritating ad middleman. Subsidizing is fine, but let's be explicit about it with a library instead and avoid these gross privacy invasions.

It blocks certain tracking features, not advertising per se. Ads would and does continue to exist, it's just slightly less adjusted per-person based on tracking said person.

Tracking improves targeting, increasing ad efficiency and increasing content revenue.

Lowering it would mean less revenue for content creators.

Tracking does not increase content revenue. Advertisers pay as little as they can get away with while demanding as much tracking as they can get away with.

If they can get away with less tracking their ads will be less effective but revenue for the content creators will not be affected because it is ‘as low as they are willing to go’.

> Tracking does not increase content revenue.

It does, it increases marginal advertising efficiency, which makes more ads economically viable, which then increases ad spending, and creator revenue.

That is as weak an argument as the argument that extending copyrights for works by dead authors ‘promotes the progress of science and useful arts’ because it funnels money to people who are involved in creating works.

If you accept that kind of argument you can justify just about anything.

Would it be though? Think of how much attention and focus people would regain for themselves.

Ads are still there. They'll simply not be targeted now, like the punch the monkey ads of old. On balance, users would probably prefer ads to be relevant, for products and services they actually might want.

> Think of how much attention and focus people would regain for themselves.

Which is worth $0 (or close to it) for them.

People are willing to trade their attention for free services and content.

> Which is worth $0 (or close to it) for them.

You don't get to decide that for other people.

The thing is: with a 22% impact their employees have a clear signal that they need to brush up their CV. 100% would mean they would have to ask tough questions about how they would pay for their baby’s milk (I realise this is a little dramatic but I’ve seen that happen).

I feel like that problem, like GDPR, should be read as: you have to ask permission, rather than you are not allowed to. I think retargeting, well done, is a great tool. I hate myself for forgetting to include tea towels in my last Amazon order. However, without a ‘Get out of my face’ option (and more generally better controls) those ads are incredibly hurtful and need to be gone. I personally would do shameful things to remove Taboola from my mobile browsers (embedded in social media apps).

It's not about some silly ads at all, it's about several companies collecting massive amounts of information about a very large numbers of individuals. There are essentially no controls imposed on that information and it will live pretty much forever.

Information is power, and such a database could be used for manipulation, blackmail, fraud, etc.

But if you think that's acceptable because it might help you remember to order tea towels, what can I say... thank goodness the EU GDPR is there to save your butt.

I see those databases as the key tool that I interact with most of those services and how, as the person developing services for the same services, I can improve them. If the information there is wrong, I’m happy to correct it.

From experience, if the information is true, appropriate and sensical, the benefits are clear and valued by both parties. There is a problem when they are wrong and the user can’t provide feedback.

> such a database could be used for manipulation, blackmail, fraud

Which is why I refuse to keep private information about me accessible to a company whose security practices I don’t trust.

I’m not sure your condescension hits the mark.

Your private information is collected and shared no matter if you refuse or not. The biggest offenders are US companies, where there are no laws offering customers access to information about them or the possibility to delete or correct it.

Criteo is one of the most profitable companies in France. Take 20% off and they are still the most successful French company of this decade.

They said the same thing when browsers started blocking pop-ups.

The advertising industry will survive.

It will survive but what it needs is to re-think how they show ads and make them less intrusive. So this is a good thing.

I'm quite happy with Apple; they are providing a needed service.

Ads are one of the top vectors for malware and have been for years. I have a right to not be tracked, my data sold for money (and I get no profit), and generally my privacy invaded. I don't allow it and have not since I was able to understand the threat and mitigate.

I run a Pi-hole on my home network and I also run one at work, as I work for a small business. Works like a charm. I also use uBlock Origin, Decentraleyes, Privacy Badger, No Coin and a couple of others on every machine I control. I disallow my browser from sharing data like fonts installed, visited history, etc. I disallow HTTP/S referrer, geo location, network prefetch, and more. I use a proxy server and sometimes a VPN. I prevent WebRTC from leaking my private address schema. What ads? I also run only unix-like operating systems running fully open source software.

You can even take advantage of a Pi-hole by passing your phones traffic through your home network even when you're away. Defense in depth to avoid the dreck.

"Advertising technology firm Criteo, one of the largest in the industry, says that the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature for Safari, which holds 15% of the global browser market, is likely to cut its 2018 revenue by more than a fifth compared to projections made before ITP was announced."

Wow! A feature which doesn't block ads, in 15% of the browsers, is going to cut over 20% of this poor company's revenue.

I wonder if it's possible to make an opt-in ad network that could take the place of what existed before. Is there any way ad-supported monetization strategies and the free/open web can co-exist? While the current system is indeed terrible (buggy, overbearing ads taking valuable bandwidth and screen space, pervasive tracking, etc) is what we want really an arms race between ad companies and the rest of the internet?

As much as I dislike overbearing ads and marketing, a "free" web should enable enable monetization strategies I like as well as ones I don't like.

Could an opt-in ad network work?

Let's say you like the work of some content creator -- is there no ad network currently that you can go into, register preferences, allow/add the cookie (maybe download a browser plugin that inserts it for you on registered sites), and enable you to pay the content creator by way of watching an ad from time to time? Even something that did a monthly fee (like twitch) for just any kind of content? Surely this exists already and I just haven't heard of it yet -- the only thing similar I can think of is Flattr/Patreon.

Fun anecdote: my friends christmas gift for his wife was revealed pre-christmas. He bought a trip to London and a particular theater visit that had some special significance to her. But, he was doing all the planning on their shared computer so it started showing ads for this, so she added A, B, and C and in the end wasn't very surprised on christmas eve (still happy though).

So private browsing isn't just for porn?

That wouldn't matter -- there are ways to fingerprint a browser/PC across sessions and into private browsing modes.


Last I recall, it requires javascript or flash to generate unique fingerprints reliably.

Noscript or umatrix should protect you.

Can someone from the AD industry list a few (3 or more) legitimate uses for ‘pervasive’ tracking.

Improving ad targeting and therefore reducing non-productive ads, generating more revenue for creators.

The better ads are, the more revenue they will generate for content creators.

That's true to a point. If ad targeting gets too good, users "find this creepy" and start using more ad blocking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Targeted_advertising#Controver...

Not from ad industry, I'm just seriously curious who visits my site.

You don't need cross site and cross browser trackings to see the visits on your site.

Fuck advertisers. The last thing in the world I want to do is pay thousands of dollars for a device/OS/other product, only to have the company not only sell me out to advertisers, but also turn around and waste my time peddling me shit I don't want.

I think a more-accurate title would be "Ad companies can make millions with web bugs."

These features cannot “cost” ad companies something, any more than my higher fence “costs” thieves in lost opportunities.

Ad companies survived with basic magazine-style ads. The only reason they complain now is that they are being forced to shift from “absurd money grab” to “ordinary company profit” for the first time in years. And there are small violins everywhere playing for these whiners.

What can we do that would cost ad companies billions?

Stop working for unethical companies like Google, Facebook, Criteo and the thousands others that make money by spying on people.

Or at least stop defending those practices, like a certain ucaetano does in this thread.

I'm looking into what can be done politically though. Talking on forums doesn't get very far...

Install AdNauseam: https://adnauseam.io

> Criteo, one of the largest in the industry, says that the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature for Safari, which holds 15% of the global browser market, is likely to cut its 2018 revenue by more than a fifth compared to projections made before ITP was announced.

If Safari is 15% of the browser market, how is this causing a 20% drop in revenue?

Maybe Safari users, in aggregate, are more valuable than the average browser user is to advertisers, on account of Apple device owners leaning wealthier.

I like ads that are targeted to my interests. Far, far better to see ads for SaaS tools on Facebook than the standard generic or offensive crap. I help Facebook every chance I get, via the UI to signal when I like an ad vs. when I don't.

Same with Carbon ads. If all Internet advertising looked like that I wouldn't care at all.

I dislike targeted ads as they are most likely to influence my behavior.

I think (well, hope) that internet content creators will start to figure out different monetization strategies. Do online ads even show any kind of ROI? I suppose they must, but I'm curious what kind of numbers they actually get.

It seems a lot of the tracking that is happening is in an effort for ad network companies to show their value. I'm hoping that eventually advertisers will realize that it isn't really worth their money to continue throwing money into the black hole that is internet ads.

We really need a new model for the ad economy. Brendan Eich is making some promising steps in the direction with Basic Attention Token (BAT)

I'm wondering how long we'll have to wait before iAd 2.0 is launched as the only ad service offering tracking on Apple devices.

Why would The Guardian be against privacy?

I helped a friend set up his new Samsung phone and was surprised to see the browser nagging us about a installing adblockers and anti-trackers. Looks like Samsung too is taking privacy seriously.

Happy to see things are improving, it was a wild west for a while...

>> Internet advertising firms are losing hundreds of millions of dollars following the introduction of a new ...

Was this number calculated by the same people that calculated that media and software companies loose billions due to piracy?

It costs them nothing, because there was never any data Apple was sharing. They should look at the differential privacy data Apple was talking about, and maybe that will be better than nothing.

No one owes these ad companies their business model. They took advantage of the inherent insecure nature of internet and preyed on users all the time.

I am very much against regulations a la what EU is doing but at the same time I acknowledge that monopolies are evil and bad. There is a reason countries have antimonopoly laws and it puzzles me why we do not have a solution yet to fight against the global monopolies like Google. I mean this is something that obviously free market cannot solve on its own.

I find some irony that my content blocker app blocks the guardian’s article about ads.

What would happen if ads were illegal?

Here is an experiment that seems to have gone well (banning outdoor advertising)


Anyone that's ever been fortunate enough to visit Hawaii knows how wonderful a place with such regulations is. Even in areas far less dense than Sao Paolo, I got a sense of relaxation from simply driving on the highway that I don't get (even in lovely rural stretches) when my attention is beggared away 10 times per minute by fast food signs. I doubt that society can yet fully quantify what we are trading away to make a few billboard operators wealthy and satisfying a few advertisers.

There are relatively few billboards where I live, sometimes none.

As soon as I cross some boundaries (city? county? not sure) there are TONS. And instead of ‘traditional’ billboards they are bright LED based ones that draw your attention and switch every 5-10s. It’s horrible.

Where is that?

Assuming making ads illegal actually gets rid of them (a big assumption), content providers and search engines would have to move to a different revenue stream. They could charge users directly: (1) Micro-subscriptions over a long time span, something like $1/month (2) Micro-payments; something like $0.03 per day of use. Transaction fees hurt #1 less, so I think it's more likely. Probably bundled over a year.

The degree to which losing ads hurts content providers depends on how much ad revenue needs to be replaced by direct payments. If an average user sees ~3000 ads a month (just a guess) and the CPM is $10, sites will need to convince users to pay $30/month for what was previously "free". The lack of ads would reduce users' mobile bandwidth costs by up to 50% [1], which does free up money, but direct payments would probably weigh more heavily on the user's mind. So a lot of sites with perceived low value would lose their advertising revenue and not be able to replace it. On the other hand, if each user only generates $3 in ad revenue per month, the transition is a lot easier.

Premium content services that people already pay subscriptions for (magazines, Netflix, etc.) would do fine. Content services with insufficient quality or breadth of content to support a subscription model would either (a) give up, (b) continue as a hobby rather than a business, or (c) provide free content to build an audience with the hope of becoming a paid service in the future.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/01/business/cost...

What counts as an ad and what does not? There are obvious differences, but it is sometimes more subtle.

HN would have to cancel the "Who's Hiring" monthly job ad threads.

The vast majority of content providers would go out of business, and product discovery would largely disappear.

There are many channels for product discovery other than advertising. Like do you ever talk to your friends?

For the first one, that might be a net win. For the second one, it would be more inconvenient. But there has been an era before the internet and I was doing just fine then.

> For the first one, that might be a net win.

Yeah, I'm sure that reducing economic output and driving a lot of creators out of business reducing in increased unemployment and poverty will be a net win for everyone!

Wow, can't believe what I'm actually reading...

> But there has been an era before the internet and I was doing just fine then.

With ads.

Good. We need an ad apocalypse



Once again, free market solves the problem more efficiently than any regulation would: Apple sees that users needs privacy, uses it's position to capitalize on that, everybody's happy and users who don't care about it that much (like me) are free to choose other phone manufacturers and pay less.

I used to work for an ad company, and a frequent thing missed in these articles is that the ad company isn't the only one who looses out.

Ad companies take some percentage of revenue as a fee. If they're loosing out, then three other people are also loosing out:

* The advertiser, who no longer gets their ad in front of the right audience. Now they're stuck advertising their potentially excellent product to people who have no use/desire for it. Selling their product now costs more, and it might make an otherwise profitable product not work out.

* The content producer. The person who made that webpage/video/funny meme. They only did it for ad revenue. Now that revenue is reduced, they'll have to make do with a shittier camera or will have to get a side job.

* You. You now have to put up with more lower value ads. They tend to be less useful to you (you might think normal ads aren't useful, but these are even more annoying and even less useful). That on top of the shittier content and fewer worse products available to buy from the above two reasons.

> You. You now have to put up with more lower value ads.

Not if I block all ads :D

This news may be tragedy to the ad companies that profit off of blatant and forceful violation of users' privacy, but it is truly wonderful news worthy of celebration to the average web browser.

It sounds like you're saying that when users demand privacy, ad companies will punish them with more a obnoxious ad experience. Can you not see how this is literally an "abusive relationship" between the user and the advertisers?

> They only did it for ad revenue

Most only did it for revenue and ad revenue just happens to be the easiest for many.

I, for one, have never built a website for the ad money. I get my money through value-add services such as showing what I can do, by showing what I have done; providing software and services to other people so that they can also create their own things and provide help and input.

> You now have to put up with more lower value ads

No I don't; I use adblockers, like everyone I know. Everyone as in not just developers or tech weenies. Everyone as in normal people with social lives or claim they don't worry about privacy because they have nothing to hide. People don't want their bandwidth (precious bandwidth these days) wasted, they don't want their battery wasted, they don't want their privacy violated.

Let's build and promote platforms that empower content developers to get paid for their work through means other than advertisements. Patreon is a great example of that (and I wish I knew of other similar services).

Sure, the personal site is for selling your services and writing about whatever you like. The thousand dollars of yearly revenues is just a nice to have side effect.

The thousand dollars of yearly revenues is not worth the impression of me being unprofessional by having advertisements plastered on my online persona.

What I never understand: why try to track me and try to understand me when all that is needed is to chose ads within the context of the page where the ad is displayed? There is a reason I am visiting a certain page. Targeted tracking _never_ works for me. These ad are simply wasted. Targeted ads are snakeoil. I get to see useless stuff. And it gets so annoying if you only see the same ads for weeks or months (I dont care about IBM products!!!11). That‘s one reason, I bought ad blockers for my mobile devices, too.

Edit: I know one reason: the ad industry has to reinvent itself in order to sell. To provide useful ads to ‚endusers‘ is just a lie!

I think that contextual ads are only more profitable on specialized niche sites.

The advertiser doesn't care so much -- as soon as conversion rates drop or conversion costs increase, they go elsewhere.

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