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Please Stop Using Adblock (But Not Why You Think) (medium.com)
910 points by ndiscussion 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 384 comments

> hardworking volunteers continually update and maintain the filter lists

This can't be said enough.

Large numbers of users still have no idea that their blocker works at all because of these lists.

The collective amount of work which goes into these free-to-use lists on a daily basis is impressive, especially considering it's done entirely on a voluntary basis.

To get an idea just glance at the commit rate:

EasyList/EasyPrivacy: https://github.com/easylist/easylist/commits/master

uBlock Origin: https://github.com/uBlockOrigin/uAssets/commits/master

Add to this all the regional lists, specific-purpose lists, the hosts files (Peter Lowe's, Dan Pollock, malware lists), etc.

Thank you gorhill. Seriously, all the work you have done with uBlock Origin has made the world (wide web) a better place. And first recognizing the oft thankless blocklist maintainers here without a hint of name dropping yourself is truly honorable.

uBlock + uMatrix is such a powerful combo that I don't need any other ad- or script-related extensions on top of them. No Ghostery, no NoScript, none of that.

Big shout-out to all these volunteers indeed, I wouldn't use the web so much if it weren't for them making it half-decent.

The amount of effort being put into these lists as well as the success of your extension also speaks volume about how unbearable ads are nowadays. I hope we will never lose this battle, at least not on the Internet.

Would you be willing to turn adblocker into a time tracker and you pay for the time on site via a monthly payout via something like PayPal?

If not, would be interested on how you expect publishers to make money?

Consider, you are posting on HN that does not have 3rd party advertisements the website is simply cheap enough to keep running that it does not matter. Personally, I would not mind if all the advertising supported publishers went away. There are enough people willing to make absolutely free content that as a consumer I really don't need more than that to be entertained.

Still, there are a range of funding available that doesn't depend on advertising such as donations, subscribers, and or merchandising. What's at risk is really the lowest form of content that can't be supported with it's own merits and I really see the problem if it simply goes away.

You’re vastly misunderstanding what exactly Hacker News is. It has multiple(?, two?) full time employees working on it, funded by Y Combinator, one of the most ‘important’ venture capital firms in Silicon Valley/US.

Hacker News is a marketing expense for this investment institution.

Most newspapers are also "marketing expenses" for their owners. Editorial independence has always been a challenge for the press, either from "philantropist" owners or from big advertisers.

How much does HN actually take to run?

At least $400k, ballpark, factoring in the employee costs.

There is no way this is true. People were running BBS systems out of computers in their closet in 1997, with thousands of users.

As hilarious as this is as a statement, I'd really love to see some backup for this as I just cannot believe this is even close to true.

Three full time employees taking turns moderating comments and submissions 24x7, with silicon valley salaries?

If those employees went away and were replaced with a couple more volunteer mods and an hour-per-month server maintenance budget, what would change?

The site would collapse. That’s not an exaggeration. Those two aren’t merely employees; they run and direct HN.

I disagree with many of their decisions, but they’re largely irreplaceable.

There are also a lot of behind the scenes volunteers that do the work, too. But making the front page interesting on a daily basis is no small feat, and from an outside POV that seems almost entirely thanks to those two.

I thought votes did the front page?

The front page is highly curated. From time to time you will see stories that are many hours old with a handful of upvotes overtake newer and more popular stories.

Those stories are promoted by staff because they are interesting and didn't get the limelight they deserved.

The reverse also happens. For example, many cryptocurrency stories are suppressed because they are neither interesting nor novel.

So in short, yes, votes play a role, but without curation, HN would be a cesspit of self promoting cryptoscams and repetitive content. (After all, how hard could it be to fake HN votes?)

> Personally, I would not mind if all the advertising supported publishers went away.

There are a large number of award winning hyperlocal news websites run by hardworking and talented local news journalists who rely on advertising to survive. With out them though, there's be no one to report or investigate the shady things going on in local government.

This advertising is directly sold by them (which isn't easy to do in an Era of Google and FB), without networks.

For 99% of them, it's the most practical way to pay the bills. Subscribers are possible, but only if you're established and you have a wide enough audience. For a small town you'd need 1000 subscribers at 5k just to make a 60k pretax salary which support 1-2 staff members.

Advertising supports hard journalism, which supports a healthy democracy. Ask yourself if all publishers supported by advertising going away would truly be a good thing.

> For a small town you'd need 1000 subscribers at 5k just to make a 60k pretax salary which support 1-2 staff members.

1000 subscribers @ 5k is 5 million dollars. You probably meant $5/month.

Correct, $5/month is the upper bound of what I've seen the more successful hyperlocals pull off (most recently bklynr in Brooklyn)

Honestly, it would be better for these hyperlocal sites to be supported by ads from the local community, both for lack of toxic ads and for the fact that most readers will be in the same community. Now there's a startup idea for you.

Yes, and that's pretty much what I do

>Advertising supports hard journalism, which supports a healthy democracy.

Hard journalism is corrupted by advertising. It leads to corporatocracy and an unhealthy democracy.

Independent media with public funding and a charter to support the public good (e.g. like the BBC used to be run) works better.

Hyperlocal media supports smaller coverage areas where it's not practical to have a publicly funded organization. Even then, you're going to have debates regarding the agenda of the organization.

At a local level advertising generally does not corrupt the journalism. At the local level, it's community oriented where the journalists are genuinely interested in giving a voice to advertisers as well as informing citizens. It's a more positive ecosystem than what you see on the national level.

I've never heard of hyperlocal investigative journalism. Local journalists simply won't have the resources to be able to do it.

At a local level advertising probably doesn't corrupt the journalism simply because there isn't very much of it.

Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I serve ads for these types for a living, so I do have a lot of expertise here.

https://inn.org/members/ http://www.lionpublishers.com/members/list/

There are thousands more that are not members - simply professional and entrepreneurial journalists trying to make a living doing what they care about.

My hyperlocal news outlet is “sponsored” by many local businesses. I have always felt there was a conflict of interest created by this sponsorship.

One of the businesses is an auto shop. If that auto shop is doing something like re-using old oil to save money on oil changes or some other shady tactic would the hyperlocal news go after them?

I’ve never seen investigative journalism out of my hyperlocal news, it is all just community news about upcoming events and the like.

I could be mistaken but your links don’t make it clear to me that any of these hyperlocal organizations are doing investigative journalism. My hyperlocal outlet certainly doesn’t.

An ethical journalist will absolutely go after that auto shop. But what you're describing is a political/ethical conflict which can arise any time an organization accepts support money, even from readers.

There are not a lot of hyperlocal investigative news outlets listed there although granted there are some.

The ones that do exist appear to be non-profits relying on donations (e.g. aspenjournalism.org / birminghamwatch.org) that don't run ads and give a strong impression of being run by one or two people.

I'm really unconvinced that this is a significant industry let alone one that is supported by ads.

There are quite a few, and as I mentioned, most of them are not affiliated with any organization. I wouldn't operate a business based on a market that didn't exist. I guess you can choose to believe otherwise though - although I'm not sure why.

If corporate advertising inevitably corrupts journalism to support corporations, then why doesn't Government support inevitably corrupt journalism to support bigger, more centralized, and more intrusive Government?

I've never heard of a corporation run by somebody who wants to make less money.

I've regularly heard elected government representatives argue that their government should be smaller, less centralised and less intrusive.

What exactly made you think these situations were in any way analogous?

Pre-2003 BBC regularly used to hold the government to account because it was explicitly independent and it had a charter that emphasized its responsibility to the public. That kind of set up simply isn't possible if you are advertising funded - the conflict of interest is too great.

    > What exactly made you think these situations 
    > were in any way analogous?
That's so condescending it made me cringe. As if you're scratching your head why someone would be skeptical of state-run media.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of state funded media but the Koch-linked corporate think tank narrative of "big bad bureaucracies" is a pretty facile one.

I'm not really sure what your curious apparent inability to find companies not cartoonishly intent on profits or your acknowledgement of the existence of elected advocates of smaller government has to do with the question.

I'm also not terribly convinced by "holding things to account". I'm sure many news organizations have, and many more have been accused of, criticizing large corporations for specific misdeeds without necessarily questioning the overall capitalist systems that allows them to exist. Likewise, news organizations also can and have criticized specific governmental misdeeds without necessarily advocating that the government should not be involved in specific things at all, or that some specific things should be handled by a more local government versus a national-level one.

The BBC was never better. It’s a media organisation. By virtue of the people in the industry it must have a left wing bias. More importantly, being a bureaucracy that still exists we know that it’s continued existence is its primary aim. The BBC and all the similar organisations in different countries helped define the bounds of polite opinion. Whether that was 30-70 or 40-60 on some hypothetical left-right scale the effect is the same. People outside the Overton window hated the established media, whether the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph or the ostensibly non-partisan BBC. The explosion in television channels and more importantly, the internet led to an information free for all. The Overton window for polite opinion hasn’t shifted much but people are a great deal more aware of the alternate viewpoints and possibilities. The number of people who find the BBC or any other establishment organ both ideologically congenial and politically relevant has undergone a decline that’s irreversible. The information ecology and economy have changed.

There are plenty of media organisations with a right or left wing bias. The Overton window is defined by the audience not the media. Media gets dumped on by both the right or left when they step outside of the safe zone.

Most telling foreign news may seem left leaning when that country views them as right leaning. In other cases the reverse happens because large organizations pander to their audience and/or the government not what foreigners may think.

I'd say there are quite a few issues (foreign policy, for instance) where the cable news networks are more or less in lockstep with each other but not really representative of the general views of Americans.

Or, to give you another example, consider the tremendous amount of opinion column space given to people like David Brooks who represent a tiny proportion of voters -- and then compare it to the total absence of, say, anyone aligned with Sanders (who I think we can pretty safely say is more popular than any of the world's Never-Trump Republicans).

IMO, that's a function of a subset of Organizations. Al jazeera news exists as part of a different spectrum, but they still customize their message for different nations. Brazil's local news has again got it's own very different spin on things.

I mean, yes, media from different countries is different. That's one reason why I go read RT once in a while. But the US is dominated by its own homegrown media.

>The Overton window is defined by the audience not the media.

Corbyn's enduring popularity in spite of initial hostility from every single media establishment would appear to contradict this narrative.

The agenda of each media outlet is clearly set by the owners albeit with market forces sometimes pushing them one way or the other.

Almost, the Overton window is often much wider than individual media companies use. However, your point actually supported my argument as the audience was clearly willing to accept outside the range of existing content.

In the reverse case everyone would ignore Corbyn as people do flat earthers. It's only because he exits within the audiences realm of acceptance that anyone is willing to pay attention.

The Overton window is not purely defined by what the audience thinks. Consider the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or the US during WW2 when freedom of speech was at best a farce. In quasi democratic societies you’re constrained to stay within some distance of the median voter or have any attempt to influence the discourse break down. That’s plenty to influence politics. There’s a lot of difference between +1 and -1 standard deviations from the mean in politics, plenty to sustain the tribalism that’s the driver of most politics. Maybe you need to go up to + or - 2 s.d. to dampen dissent but I doubt you need to go further.

Imagine if the internet didn’t exist. Do you think anyone would have payed attention to the German New Year’s Eve rapes? It’s not like anyone in the media class was going to do it before the cover up was a story in itself.

I mostly agree with your point.

I was defining say Chinsease sensors as part of the audience rather than the news organization as the orignization does not have contowl over them. Much like in the US Fox News/CBS etc gets a list of words it can't say, they can add to that list but not remove from it.

Such as http://www.onlondon.co.uk/ though they raised money through a fund raising platform https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/on-london-co-uk (Edit to add link to fundraising, disclaimer: also I personally know the main jornalist, but not finally connected)

> Ask yourself if all publishers supported by advertising going away would truly be a good thing.

Yes. Along with the model of paying people to access information. We should get used to the model of paying people to produce information that we support, even information that we don't consume ourselves. An overtly propagandistic model, rather than the covert propaganda by advertisers/political actors model that we use now.

Seriously: how much of a burden would it be for 500 people to cover a single journalist's salary, and the medium through which they publish? Patreon is a working example; there just need to be better tools, models, and expectations other than conning 2% of internet browsers with deceptive ads as the only thing holding our democracy together.

you are posting on HN that does not have 3rd party advertisements the website is simply cheap enough to keep running that it does not matter

This is misleading. HN does have ads, in the form of job posts for the YC companies. The site itself also serves as a business development tool for a (now) huge investment fund.

Additionally, this site isn't so cheap to run anyone could do it without caring about the cost. The hardware and bandwidth isn't free [1], but more importantly, I believe multiple people work on HN part-time, and dang works on it full-time [2]. That's not cheap, at all.

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11889575

2. https://blog.ycombinator.com/meet-the-people-taking-over-hac...

Let's say it's ~2 million every 5 years. That might sound like a lot of money, but it's couch cushion level of expenditure for a large organization. YC easily extracts enough value to keep it running.

Like Wikipedia the vast majority of value is from free content. That trend continues across my browsing habits. I need to use an ad blocker because I frankly don't see a lot of them.

> HN does have ads, in the form of job posts for the YC companies.

I don't really agree with how you're defining portfolio company job links as ads.

AFAIK they do not charge portfolio companies for job links, so is it really an ad if they don't charge for it / it generates no revenue? The companies and tech mentioned in their descriptions are often just as interesting as other stories posted here. They are more in a gray area of content marketing or sponsored content than native advertising.

I suppose you could make an argument around it potentially increasing the value of their equity stake in a company by making that company more valuable. It seems a bit roundabout — I don't consider them ads any more so than a link to your blog post is an "ad" for your blog, or the comment posts in the monthly job threads are "ads".

Ryan didn’t make a leap; that’s the literal definition of the word. First definition I found: a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy.

Ryan’s link to his blog is 100% an ad, IMO. So are YC portfolio job postings.

Where do you drawn the line between when a link to a blog post is / isn't an ad? Is every submission that links to any site an ad? This seems like a gray area to me.

I don't think a job posting is ever not an ad. Whether pasting a link to one's blog is or isn't for me depends on the motivation.

If the motivation is "I might forget my blog address; better record it here", it's not an ad. If the motivation is, "I want people to be able to find out more about me/drive awareness of me or the blog," it's an ad.

HN does not produce content. The other methods also don't scale as well.

Advertising is the fastest, easiest, most scalable, and most egalitarian method there is.

The actual issue people seem to have with is the modern online implementation that is slow, invasive and frustrating. There are companies doing a better job and things will get cleaned up but there's nothing wrong with the concept itself.

IMO, HN comments generally exceed the value of the story linked. Wikipedia suggest you really can scale content without Advertising. For major news organizations you have things like NPR that again work fine. I also brows plenty of forms that may or may not have a banner ad at the top and both models work.

In the wider realm it's a mixed bag, but advertising really does not seem necessary.

HN comments wouldn't exist without the stories to talk about in the first place, otherwise it's just a message board, which have been basically free to host for a decade.

Wikipedia is an outlier that goes through intense fundraising to survive. It also does not produce content.

NPR has lots of advertising: https://www.nationalpublicmedia.com/npr/platforms/npr-org/

Media publications are businesses and they need to make money to survive. Donations never work and if you tried to pitch that as the business model at even the hippiest startup convention, you'd be laughed off. Subscriptions do work but the public does not understand how to price the value and would rather go to starbucks instead, clearly seen in the endless comments and downvotes on HN when there is paywalled story or advertising talk. Subscription also bring up the issue of access for people without the means to buy.


20% of NPR's funding comes from corporations. Useful yes, required no.

It feels like advertising, but in practice it's virtue signaling. Much like giving to Habitat for humanity corporations want recognition for their donations, but as pure advertising it's not worth it. So, if they where not mentioned on air corporations would likely cut back, but not to zero.

Cool, let's just take away 20% of the revenue then and see if it's required or not. As quoted on that page: "Sponsorship from local companies and organizations is the second largest source of support to stations."

Virtue signaling is still advertising, paying money for exposure. Otherwise it's a corporate donation and that does not scale at all. You can look at the continuous travails of open-source projects that deliver billions in value but get no funding as a perfect example.

The point is that NPR comes nowhere near the massive amount of content that people consume but don't pay for. Please don't just assume the entire industry is incompetent, there are millions of people working in these media companies and they are constantly trying new options. So far, outside of subscriptions for certain high-end brands like the Financial Times, advertising is the only sustainable model found.

I am not saying the industry is irrational, I am saying it's output is mostly irrelevant to me. Further, advertising supported media is consistently the least valuable segment (to me) because they don't need to be as good to continue. They maximize profits by minimum effort and maximum views which creates mountains of meaningless drivial targeting emotional resonance.

Click bait is an outgrowth of payment in eyeballs.

As to virtue signaling, I bring that up because it can occur even if they are never mentioned on air. A company can say they are a corporate sponsor of X even if X only ever mentioned them on an obscure part of their website. In the world of virtue signaling simply accepting money creates vale. NPR is behaving rationally to accept as much money as possible and even to put effort into getting more because at effectively 90% the funding they would create less value, but clearly they could still create significant value with 90% of their current funds.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make now. Your original comment was that you would be fine if ad-supported publishing went away because there are other models. I'm telling you that there are none that come close to the scale of advertising. The examples you cited either do not produce content or are a microscopic part of the media landscape. Tastes are also subjective and what you call low-quality might be exactly what someone else is looking for.

Anyways, if advertising went away, a massive amount of media you see today would also disappear. You would definitely notice that.

And that's before even getting to the even more massive impact it would make on the economy since every major company today relies on advertising for growth and sales. It's easy to look at few annoying banner ads and say that they suck, but this is a 12-figure global industry that plays a critical part in the economy. It's just not that simple.

The only TV I watch is the Olymics, would it go away without advertising well possibly. I bring that up because my habits are well outside the norm. Would I be aware of 95% of the news disappearing sure, would it directly impact me well probably not.

Advertising is largely zero sum, it increases the cost of products while increasing individual product sales. People would buy almost exactly the same amount of food for example without any advertising so that's pure dead weight to society. Despite all those car ads people would still buy a car without them further without that massive cost those cars would be either cheaper or better, etc across a huge range of industries. Without ads people would still buy soap and other home goods, at worst they would pay less when doing so.

The real issue is that ad-based companies seem to have a feeling of entitlement that makes no sense. It is perfectly normal and reasonable to choose for yourself what you like to watch or listen to on some media.

I personally have no interest in seeing any kind of ads and indiscriminately block all of them. I'm perfectly fine if that causes companies with ad-based revenue to go bankrupt, and there is not slightest legal or moral obligation for me to support these companies.

If you have a company and worry about ad-blockers, the first thing you need to do is to create a product that you can actually sell.

Of course, as long as they don't complain and stop whinning about ad-blockers, I have no problem with companies who base their revenue primarily on ads. I'm simply not one of their customers.

Nobody is saying you can't choose things for yourself. Where did you interpret that?

It's not about ad-based revenue. Every single company relies on marketing for success, and so the economy is tied to advertising. There's a reason that some of the largest companies in the world are advertising businesses. People are also bad at judging value and dont/wont pay for things like news. Like I said before, plenty of publications sell subscriptions but HN threads still whine incessantly about paywalls, while also ignoring how many people can't afford to pay but would still like access.

Also, adblockers are not really a big deal, there are plenty of ways around them, especially if you want the content, and you're at best blocking about 10% of the advertising that's reaching you anyway.

My web app was time consuming to design and create, and fully ad supported. There wasn’t anything like it and people loved it within the niche. It would have been difficult to get started with merchandise, subscribers or donations, but once we had traffic it was easy to sell advertising to fund further development.

You'll notice people here will say then you shouldn't exist if you depend on ads. They essentially prefer a centralized internet.

I still subscribe daily to print newspapers. Today they had a half page ad for an amazon sale. No clickbaity content, no jarring colors, looks good, is designed to integrate with the content, and contains useful information.

How does it work? You want to publish an ad, you go directly to the publisher. You design the ad for the paper or the magazine. It looks good and works for everyone involved.

Web ads, however, are a complete anti-pattern. I imagine that the advertisers and the publishers can save themselves a lot of money and goodwill if they directly work together like they do in print.

The problem is how to finance the hundred thousand micropublishers. To avoid the adnetwork trash effect you’d need someone big, like medium, to implement some well integrated advertisement with revenue sharing, like youtube.

Failing that affiliate and ad networks and maybe microfinancing like patreon are the only things to get something out of micropublishing.

Doesn’t seem fair.

Bitcoin / Lightning / browser integration / one click article buy may solve the problem in the future.


How would it actually solve it in a way that previous attempts at pay-per-read microtransactions haven’t?

What the fuck does Bitcoin have to do with it?

Keep in mind that the majority of browsers (Safari and Chrome) have built in payment mechanisms already.

I've come to realize that there are two things called "Bitcoin". One is the actual technical system that exists. That's the thing that (slowly) does 2-4 transactions per second, and is mostly driven by speculation and some light crime. Approximately nobody uses it for actual commerce.

Then there is "Bitcoin" the idea. You can see the start of it in the initial paper: "A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution." [1] This is the techno-libertarian ideal of a perfect, stateless financial system that magically solves all financial problems

So Bitcoin-the-idea has everything to do with any money-related problem. Even though Bitcoin-the-reality is in fact not helpful for this. As the idea and the real thing diverge, it becomes more obvious that a large number of Bitcoin-the-idea adherents are essentially religious in their behaviors. (There's another, much smaller segment for whom the idea is something they are working toward. You can tell them because they will distinguish between present and (imagined) future.)

Unfortunately, the Church of Bitcoin attendees welcome questions like your about as much as parents welcome people saying that Santa doesn't exist. So thanks for speaking up and asking blunt questions like this despite the flack I'm sure you get.

[1] https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

> What does Bitcoin have to do with it?

Previous poster was using it as an example of a medium for exchange used with micropayments.

Bitcoin is probably the worst example of micropayments, though.

Also, bitcoin has been completely incapable of doing micropayments for a long time.

That's why I have mentioned the combination of Bitcoin / Lightning, not only Bitcoin. Lightning seems very suited for micropayments.

Reminds me of old computer magazines like BYTE and Macworld. Context is something completely ignored these days.

The problem is publishers assuming I care about this. That they're actually indispensable to the ecosystem, rather then what they are - a passing interest who's absence I wouldn't notice or care about.

Most of internet media just isn't good enough.

Thanks for getting to the point I wanted. Then I guess ads on these sites don’t matter, as they are so pointless, you’re not Visiting these sites.

However, you still do, so they have value. That value comes at a price, rather you think they are good or not good for the ego system. You’re actions speak in the camp of them being good.

I think we can all agree, some porn and content is not good. However, the value walks with out attention And not our moral desires.

Through out this thread I’ve seen people say they have no respect for Facebook or google and their ads, yet services they use daily. Unwilling to pay, the product is you.

Either pay with your money or lack of attention and this seems like it’s no longer a problem. M

The issue is, we want all this but want to provide them with little or not compensation for their value.

We use to speak with our attention, we didn’t like this store, so we never went there. Today, this extension is merely still going to the store, but ignoring what we dislike.

Thus is the debate.

There’s no debate. I use ad supported services (like Facebook) and I block ads. End of story. If these services go away because of some ad revenue problem (unlikely) I just don’t care. Right now there is no ad supported service that I believe I would pay anything for other than google search itself. I don’t have to right now so the issue is moot. I had a pretty rich life before Facebook and MySpace, somehow I’ll survive and I think I speak for a sizable chunk of people. Some people might value fb enough to pay for it like compuserve in the 80s. Good on them.

I can possibly see how these issues might matter to you if you make a living at google or a large content company, but I, like the vast majority of people do not. It is not my concern. I don’t get why this is so hard to understand.

I currently host my own email, at, if I only used the servers for email, considerable cost both in rent and time.

I wouldn't use Gmail, but I'd probably consider Fastmail if/when I don't want to host my own email anymore.

I might use Dropbox over Google drive (rather than store stuff on my server), and I might use Neocities.org to host a static Web site.

So there are many ad supported services that live next to "for pay" equivalent services.

As for content, I used to subscribe to lwn.net - but stopped when I realised I wasn't reading it closely enough to warrant the subscription. I might come back at a later date.

I'd love to see a site like like lwn that syndicated news; a clean look, perhaps with ads/delayed publishing to non-subscribers, the "subscription link"-system (i could share what I read with non-subscribers). And with proper compensation for conrmtributers (individuals and institutions).


You've crossed into violating the site guidelines here. We're trying to avoid this kind of flamewar, and ban accounts that do it repeatedly, so if you'd please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules, we'd appreciate it.

How did he violate the guidelines? It did not seem like an ad hominem as much as a fair argument.

Unless I'm missing something from the context, the comment broke at least three: the one against calling names in arguments (e.g. "leech"), the guideline about civility (by going into personal attack), and this one: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize."


I'm sorry but that is splitting hairs. The comment used a name but it was not name calling, it was the core of his argument. He was being relatively civil, it's clear from the comment. And are you really going to delete someone's comment because you think it's engaging in a straw man argument? Can't the other commenter defend himself?

Sorry I think you sometimes get too heavy handed around here.

Especially not newspapers. Not only their information often isn’t balanced, it is sometimes so much propaganda filled with verifiable false facts (e.g. on the wage gap) that I wish they would disappear. I mostly use them only to take snapshots and build videos about how the press publishes false information or correct information worded in such a way that the reader gets the wrong idea.

I would pay for Youtube. Or rather, for good youtubers. In fact, I donate using Patreon on a monthly basis to a few youtubers who provide accurate news. QED...

No wonder they are dubbed as “Washington Compost” or “Confabulated News Network”. And same for any social network (Twitter, Facebook and Youtube) who censor right-wing informtion, not only I don’t care about their ad revenue, but if they disappeared because of this, it would be a net win for society. Neither newspapers nor social networks will disappear, unfortunately.

We've had adblockers for fifteen years. It was reasonable to speculate that they might kill online publishing in the early 2010s maybe. But now?

Print doesn't have easy adblocking, it's just you and a pair of scissors. Which is stronger, print or web publishing?

How many years of adblockers not destroying the internet should we see before it's reasonable to reevaluate our initial assumptions about their impact?


There are hundreds of articles for any topic on the internet. Even if 10% of them could survive without ads it would more than enough. The problem is right now there is no way to distinguish between them without visiting them all. And I am not going to open and close 5 websites before I could finally find the one without ads.

Website owners could easily fix that problem by declaring some standard mandatory component of URL for every ad-supported page. I would happily write and use an extension that would erase all links that have e.g. string "/ads/" in them. That way I would never visit there part of the internet and wouldn't harm them in any way. However since they don't want to make this small step towards my needs they are welcome to go to hell.

I specifically whitelisted the ads on Daring Fireball (and a few other sites) because they're 1) relevant and 2) unobtrusive. I would whitelist any site with the same policies.

Back when I bought magazines at news stands, the ads were a big part of the reason as they were targeted to my interests (without spying on me). I want to connect with relevant advertising. I just want to do it on my terms, with out spyware, malware, slow load times, autoplaying video and sound, distracting animation, etc.

I am happy to pay directly for content that is interesting and useful to me. For a long time, I subscribed to computer magazines like Byte, even when I had Internet access and supposedly had all the information at my fingertips.

These days, I can't remember the last time I've read a good article on technology someplace other than on a blog, a website of a group of enthusiasts. If I ever ended up on websites like Wired or The Verge in the last five years or so, it was definitely by mistake.

Many publishers make money through ads because most people wouldn't pay a dime for that stuff. Catchy is good enough to make people waste time, but not money.

Edit: oh -- it's not all black and white, either. I use an ad blocker, but I whitelist the pages where I think it's worthwile. It's not an all-or-nothing thing. Publishers who put out quality content and whose ads don't try to serve me malware (eh, Forbes?) get whitelisted. Everyone else, to quote the famous nihilistic philosopher B. B. Rodriguez, can bite my shiny metal ass.

>If not, would be interested on how you expect publishers to make money?

Why is it our responsibility to find a way for all publishers to make money?

I'll start with the premise that underlies my thoughts here: I like content that some publishers put out, and I accept that it costs money to produce.

I'm a fan of the book Extreme Ownership, and reading your question got me thinking (a bit laterally, admittedly) about the book. I'm in a situation right now where I read and enjoy content made by professional publishers, and I also generally hate the direction Internet Advertising has gone. This puts me in a bit of a pickle... I can use an ad blocker, fully accepting that I'm cutting off the revenue stream from people whose content I enjoy, or I can not use an ad blocker and waste my battery, get tracked, and be generally annoyed.

But what can I do about this? I can sit and bitch about it, I can wait until someone else comes up with some solution (which may just be ad-blocker-pay-walls, urgh), or I can spend some of my brain cycles thinking about and sharing my thoughts on solutions that result in publishers still having revenue without the parts that annoy me.

Maybe you don't enjoy content that publishers put out, and that's totally fine. In that case, it's probably not worth thinking about; the publishing industry having terrible flash ads and video popups and things doesn't affect you, and if they go broke from not coming up with an alternative revenue model, that won't affect you either.


Would people be willing to shell say $5/mo towards their online news content consumption?

A browser plugin could then track time spend (keep all data local), at the end of the month, present a simple dialog that says, your top 5 destinations were these, uncheck any that you don't want to pay, and rest will get your $5 divided by time spent.

This way users would get to browse ad-free, thanks to the ad blocking solutions, while publishers would also get some revenue. Ideally the payment service could generate some revenue as well and pass some to further developement/maintenance of the ad blockers.

I'm not sure I'd agree to a "time tracker," but I am generally way more willing to pay to get content easily and donate to sites I like than I was when I was younger.

By charging users. It's the only truly honest way.


Journalism is pretty much a pillar of democracy. Without anyone to report on the activities of government, you get cronyism and corruption. Look at any country where the freedom of the press is restricted for examples of this.

I already have free press, cronyism and corruption. They are perfectly compatible.

I love sweeping generalizations presented without evidence to back them up.

Cheers mate. You're the real star, though!

We're opening up our threat intelligence system on the blockchain and soon to reward people in a new token for submitting and validating links. Mostly geared towards anti-phishing, malware, child safety and news credibility. metacertprotocol.com

Time to pay the volunteers! :)

A whitelist sounds like it would be far easier to maintain, though each user would be on the hook for that.

No more cat-and-mouse that you'd have with the blacklisting approach, at least.

This graphic from within the article


is what drove me over the edge on the Acceptable Ads program as well, and I switched off of ABP and onto uBlock Origin for this same reason.

I get that it probably doesn't break the Acceptable Ads rules, since they are probably stuff like: your ad isn't allowed to talk, or to pretend to be someone like the FBI or the user's Operating System, or include a JS payload that tries to break out of the browser sandbox, or to break the page layout, or to move around or flash. Those "Around the Web" things break none of those rules, and from a technical standpoint I don't know of anything objectionable about them. Not to mention none of this stuff is any worse than the papers I see in the grocery aisle, and Eyeo probably doesn't want to enter the business of judging whether a headline is Truth or not.

But tabloids have done enough damage to our society without migrating them to the Internet. So off to UBO I go, and I'm bringing everyone else with me that I can. Also, you should delete your Facebook account and never go back, because there's tabloid crap in there, too.

How blatant bullshit from Taboola is "acceptable" is beyond me. Our standards are really, really low if an acceptable ad merely means that it doesn't install malware or do sneaky things to your browser window.

Even before I learned about uBlock Origin, I installed an extension dedicated to removing Taboola ads. It's shocking how many people willingly tolerate that garbage.

taboola and similar are what's known as a "chumbox". here's a taxonomy:


This is why I have no qualms whatsoever about ad blocking or busting paywalls on mainstream news sites. If they have such poor editorial standards I doubt their own content is much more reliable.

Have a look at http://outline.com

This has been wonderful for me. Removes crap, kills paywalls.

That is so nice.

Taboola is generally known to be one of the less-shady ad platforms, amusingly enough. The fact you consider it to be particularly egregious, which I don't really disagree with, seems to reflect the state of affairs in the online advertising industry.

Taboola, Outbrain and its ilk were what pushed me to install an ad blocker in the first place. I'd put up with ads for years, but these repetitive, misleading, intrusive ads were the final straw. The idea that they're "acceptable" is a joke.

I mirror this 100%. I really wanted to not use a blocker because I was trying to "support the industry". I even for a very short time attempted to build my own blacklist, but it quickly became easier to just block everything.

Now not only have I been using a blocker for a few years, I install one on any family/friends computers I am working on, and advocate for one whenever it comes up.

I don't know what it would take for me to come back now. Unfortunately it's a tragedy of the commons: a small number of sites/advertisers can completely ruin it for everyone -- and, I'd argue, already have.

Not really, the whole industry knows Taboola and Outbrain are the lowest tier, barely above scammy affiliate links. There are of course worse networks like RevContent but nobody is mistaking Taboola for anything but shady.

I am so glad I have no idea what any of you are talking about. I have been using ublock origin from the day I heard of the possibility of adblock jumping shark.

I personally consider a native platform's shadiness by a mix of the kind of content they allow, the kind of content that ends up on there, and the amount of fraudulent traffic/clicks that advertisers get billed for.

Taboola and Outbrain at least have manual reviewers attempting to uphold a certain standard for content, though there is a ton of room for improvement. I've never noticed a lot of suspect traffic coming from these two, which is in stark contrast to networks like content.ad or adblade. Of course, Outbrain/Taboola don't compare to the big networks, but I've experienced a good balance of affordable and reasonable quality traffic, though this isn't always the case, as costs/quality can be quite variable over time.

> Also, you should delete your Facebook account and never go back, because there's tabloid crap in there, too.

You can block those with UBO as well and use Facebook via the browser. There are reasons to get off of Facebook, but this is not worse than another random website really.

why not just disable showing of acceptable ads? i have always done this, since they introduced it.

Because Ublock Origin is more memory efficient than Adblock Plus.

If enough people start doing this, AdBlock will somehow react to get people to see their ads again.

Just because you got rid of the problem doesn't mean the conflict of interest isn't there. And if there's a conflict of interest, it's just a matter of time before something happens. Having an extension in your browser that you can forget about is much easier on your nerves than an extension that doesn't do anything bad at the moment, but could.

> If enough people start doing this, AdBlock will somehow react to get people to see their ads again.

That's a hypothetical future problem, not requiring action today.

If ABP is blocking all ads for me, why would I care about a conflict of interest?

In fact, I agree with it; I like that advertisers are victimized, paying extra to be on whitelists yet still not reach people because of a simple checkbox in the settings. Are they victimized, though?

Users who install ABP yet say yes to acceptable ads are a special demographic. Why would the gatekeeper to that demographic give away free access to that demographic? If someone pays for that access, it probably means that they perceive value in it for them. Ads are more valuable if better targeted and all that.

> If ABP is blocking all ads for me, why would I care about a conflict of interest?

You might not care, but if you are recommending others an extension to use for blocking ads, you cannot do it solely on your own preferences.

Imagine being recommended as alternatives an adblocker that you can install and forget or an adblocker that you need to configure and keep on watch in case it starts showing ads anyway. Having no experience with adblockers before, which one would you choose?

I can't recommend based on my preferences? What?

> in case it starts showing ads anyway.

This hasn't happened with ABP, and could conceivably happen with any ad blocker, even one whose developers are saints (due to a bug).

Basically "might happen" is just FUD.

Reminds me of 1990's anti-Linux FUD. Don't use that, it might not support some sound card or video card you might want to buy later, even though it works now! You might run into a problem that needs support and then you're screwed. Etc.

So this discussion has devolved to the point of cutting out words from sentences to change their meaning and using the new sentence as a straw man. Here we go again HN.

At that point, why not just use ublock origin which is both faster and blocks more?

The fundamental problem with defaults is that people do not change them, no matter what they say.

There might be a fantastically tiny fraction of people actually following through.

Eyeo even uses this behavioral insight to make a case that users like the acceptable ads program (since users don't change defaults)

The speaker was asked by the audience whether there is a control group in which the acceptable ad option is switched off and the speaker only grinned about it.

It's a dark pattern and Eyeo is fully aware of it.

There is no dark pattern except for the cover up of what "acceptable" really is. The setting is prominent and clear, smack in the middle of the General panel. Moreover, I seem to recall, there is no default; you're prompted for this at install time. (Not going to bother reinstalling just to check whether this is true.) In any case, I do not remember at all that there is a situation that ads keep being shown after ABP is installed and having to hunt through settings. I was prompted to check my setting by this HN submission, and it feels like I've never seen that panel before, yet it shows that acceptable ads are off.

I think that people who are vehemently against ads are steered toward the setting which is right for them: and Eyeo probably wants it that way, because their selling point for the whitelisting is that they provide access to a segment of the population who are not vehemently against ads.

It's still a little surprising here. Not having an adblocker at all is the default setting, users had to go out of their way to install it in the first place. Given that, you'd think that people would manage to turn off the 'allow acceptable ads' option too. (Perhaps it is well hidden?)

I'm not bothered by ads. I see them on TV, I see them on billboards, in magazines in the waiting room at my doctor's office and I'm fine with all that. What I don't want is the tracking.

So for me, acceptable ads are the ones that don't involve surveillance of my online activity in anyway.

> Basically, they ran a survey which found that 71% of their users would allow ads with “no annoyances”. That means no animations, no sounds, and no flashy colors.

This needs some context.

This survey ran in 2011 - older readers may remember with some nostalgia the slightly less evil online advertising landscape back then -- pre-Facebook / partner analytics scares, pre Spectre/Meltdown, pre javascript bitcoin miners ... and various increasingly nefarious activities that may fall under the umbrella of 'online advertising'. Plus a significantly smaller ratio of mobile:desktop browser users -- advertising on mobile is rarely thoughtfully executed.

This survey question was answered by just over 1500 people. AdblockPlus on Chrome alone today is showing up on the store as having an installed base of 10,000,000+ people. No idea what it was in 2011, but 1500 people -- some of whom (70 people, 4.5% of responders) indicated that "Blocking ads is wrong and I disable Adblock Plus whenever possible" -- is a tiny, skewed by self-selection, horribly dated basis for current state.

"eyeo does mention that smaller websites can be whitelisted for free. In fact, they claim that around 90 percent of their partners are given this service free of charge.

But that means diddly when we all know that nearly all global ad revenue goes to just two companies: Google and Facebook."

So 90% of websites get it for free, and mainly Google and Facebook have to pay. I think the author intends for me to be outraged, but I'm not.

I'm also not having any reaction to the "acceptable ads" the author thinks I'm supposed to find unacceptable. They're clickbait, sure, but they fit the "no animations, no sounds, and no flashy colors" criteria.

I have basically no sympathy for Google and Facebook here. I think they get what they deserve with their practices.

Perhaps it didn't come across clearly, but the main problem (imo) is the conflict of interest this introduced between eyeo and its users.

The fact that a product named, plainly, "AdBlock Plus" that doesn't make clear that the "Plus" means "Plus all ads from the 2 largest purveyors of Internet advertising" is worth pointing out.

As long as those ads are not annoying. I'm guessing that the ads from google and fb still need to pass the acceptable ads guidelines.

whyever 5 months ago [flagged]

You are being hysterical. The plus is there for historical reasons, way before acceptable ads were a thing.

We ban accounts that do personal attacks and name-calling, so could you please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and not do that here?

Your comment would be fine with just the second sentence.

Facebook doesn’t pay. They hacked around ABP and blocked THEM from working on Facebook.com.

It seems that the problem is people have different reactions to ads. Some want no ads at all, some don't mind ads as such, but are wary of ads with heavy js and video payloads that cause slowdowns and are potentially malign. There doesn't seem to be a good solution that allows the user to easily modulate what they'll accept.

Don't forget all the tracking and the profiling.

They hardly ask your consent for that.

I really wouldn't feel bad about any adblocking.

And for anyone that wants to run ads : just serve them locally in a sufficient format and you'll slip through blocks.

> And for anyone that wants to run ads : just serve them locally in a sufficient format and you'll slip through blocks.

I thought so too. Once you reach a certain size, even 1st party ads get blocked.

Yeah, but...

> Once you reach a certain size

Top 5 annoying ads of all time for me are autoplaying Youtube ads -- which I would think would be self-hosted.

> just serve them locally in a sufficient format and you'll slip through blocks.

In what universe do you live? Every little forum that self-hosts ads is already in the blocklists.

Advertisers want require that ads are served from a 3rd party server for attribution.

An added complication is that one party will buy ad space from Google, and then turn around and sell it on to another party that may put up quite different ads from what was initially claimed.

I always thought The Deck[1] seemed to achieve a good balance. It was trivial to whitelist them, and I had no qualms in doing so. Too bad it apparently wasn't sustainable...

[1]: http://decknetwork.net/

Carbon (https://carbonads.net/) seems to be going strong.

non-tracking ad networks are pretty niche, you're basically trading revenue for aesthetics.

I have carbon on one of my projects and get 100 clicks on 60k views for $0.95CPC - I think adsense could easily double that revenue but at the cost of more intrusive tracking ads - not really worth it for a side project but I'd be tempted to switch if I had a bit more traffic.

What does your site provide - does it sell any products or services or is it purely ad supported? If it’s ad supported and you don’t care about your brand I’d say there’s no risk in switching to shittier ads, but if you want to keep a quality brand or have other services you sell, be careful as shitty ads could put off potential paying customers making it not worth it in the long-term.

The advantage of Carbon (or any other quality ad network like The Deck) is that the ads don’t really look like ads, so you can use them pretty much anywhere without degrading the UX and getting essentially free money. It might be not much but it’s still free money in exchange for a minimal change in the UX. Nasty ads might pay more but would degrade the experience so much I would no longer consider it “free” money no matter how much they’re paying.

Ad blockers are good enough, I think.

I run an ad network that serves ads server<->server (I just wrote up how it works[1] for someone else) and I suspect this approach will become more popular to cover the people who "don't mind ads as such".

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17000756

I don't think the issue is about the minutiae of who's paying whom. It's more the idea that a service which was created to serve the users by blocking ads, is subverted into yet another ad-tech vendor, skimming cream for themselves based on strip-mining the brand equity of what was once a principled venture.

> I think the author intends for me to be outraged, but I'm not.

Problem is that Google and Facebook are partial monopolies. It's not fair.

They're monopolies by user choice, which is a fundamentally different dynamic from monopolies of old. https://stratechery.com/2015/aggregation-theory/

Google and Facebook being partial monopolies might be a bad thing, but that would mean it's even less of a bad thing that they're the only ones who have to pay Adblock Plus while the non-monopolies don't have to pay, wouldn't it?

If the choice is between paying nothing to get whitelisted and paying pocket change, then the latter is preferable of course. But there's a third option, adblockers that can't be bribed by these partial monopolies.

I've always used ABP without thinking about it but today I switched to uBlock Origin and it's been amazing, no sponsored links, no annoying popups.

In my view, advertising doesn't create value, the world would be a better place without it.

I don't understand. Generally I don't mind ads if a website is giving me content I want and what I need. But, what I do mind is when whole sections of a website get their content and scripts from multiple different other domains! Most of times it's easy to block such references altogether, but often it breaks the websites which rely entirely on them. Not the ads are the problem. The websites are the problem.

Why don't they embed their ads entirely inside the webpages? They could do an elaborate internal dynamic ads system without needing to load a whole stream of third party content and software from other domains! What's the problem? I don't get it. So, I continue to block ads per default, and I don't care about the constant whining about how "morally wrong blocking ads is".

EDIT: Having a process integrating ads internally will also give the operators of websites the opportunity to vet the ads for potentially malicious advertising campaigns, aka fake ads, etc. Just an idea.

Facebook serve their own ads inline. Adblock engaged in a cat and mouse game trying to block their ads whilst simultaneously attempting to get them to sign up to the acceptable ads program.

Adblock does nothing to incentivise publishers to behave (rewarding relevant, low bandwidth, visually appealing ads). They only care about using their user base as a weapon so they can extort 30% of profits.

"Facebook serve their own ads inline. "

It is never too early to say goodbye to ads


Third party hosting means it is a lot easier to pay a website per view. You can't do that if the ads are hosted on a domain not controlled by the advertiser.

Similarly, if you are going to personalize the ads, they need access to some third party that has this personalization.

Not that I am defending the current state of web advertising, just explaining why it is third party hosted.

I understand the gist of it and how it works. Websites provide not only dynamic ad frames they also embed trackers and the like. Abolishing "third party hosting" as you call it will make all of that not entirely impossible. The website operators still can and will have to gather usage and view data and sell it. They have to do it, not some other third party I might not be aware of.

So, that excuse won't convince me, like, online ads and data mining networks trying to adsplain that their business model might perish. I won't believe a word of it. It will become more strict with a distinct delegation of responsibility, yes. Websites and services will have to use only their own domain to provide any kind of content.

This exists.

I run an ad network that offers this kind of server-to-server request of ads.

My publishers pull an XML or JSON URL from their server, then render the ads however they want.

As long as my browser doesn't load anything from different domains other than the website's domain I don't mind. If that exists, every single website needs to adapt such practice. Anything else is a waste of breath.

It doesn't.

In terms of technical details, I request that the publisher send me:

- How many ads they want on the page

- The client IP address (at least within a /20 of it)

- The client user agent (they can strip hex/numbers at the end that are added by some US-based Internet providers)

- Some keywords/topics (if they want contextually-targeted ads)

- A cookie they have dropped for the purposes of ad retargeting/blocking if they've obtained a preference from the user to do so.

In return, I send them a list of objects containing:

+ a title for the ad (supplied by the advertiser), no HTML permitted

+ a "description" for text ads (also supplied by the advertiser). <a> and <b> tags permitted, but no other HTML.

+ an image for the ad (also supplied by the advertiser) delivered as a data URI. I verify that it's actually an image (jpeg or png)

+ a "click through url" that points at a domain that the publisher has given me (usually something like ads.mysite.com) that I host -- they have to point the NS for this domain at my name servers

+ a preference url that indicates that the user didn't like this ad. This can be called server-to-server.

I still believe in content sponsorship, even though some mega-ad networks like Google have screwed publishers and consumers hard, and it's nice to see moderated consumer views here: There's a lot of people on HN against any form of advertising on the grounds of some kind of "eyeball rape"

I’m interested. Can I get a pointer on how to find your ad platform?

Sure. My email address is on my HN profile.

I'm still trying to figure out all the commercials, so I'm not yet focusing on inbound traffic (i.e. website) but if you reach out via email, we can see if we can do something together.

How would you deal with one of your customer faking ad views?

That's the main reason I hear from people why server-to-server ads won't work reliably, since the ad network "needs" more data to verify legitimate views

KYC: I don't accept customers that I can't reach or traffic I don't believe.

I don't actually pay on "ad views"[1] directly. If an advertiser wants to buy brand awareness (CPM/CPV) then I need to understand how they're measuring the ROI on that brand awareness. Once I understand that, I can test traffic -- basically mix it in -- on each of my publishers to see if they are generating that ROI. This takes time for brand awareness since good tests usually take months, but for CPA/CPR/CPL deals are faster, so I end up doing more of that.

Nevertheless, if I thought someone had figured out a way to cheat me, I'd stop their traffic; I'd talk to them, and explain my thinking. Maybe they can convince me I'm wrong.

[1]: I'm not requiring clicks, but "impressions" as the IAB puts it are insane https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11901567

Blockchains? Views ledgers?

Throughput limitations. This won’t (at least in current iterations) scale well.

Interesting you allow <b> but not <strong>. Can you give the names of some of your clients? I'd like to check out how it looks in action. I understand if you can't though.

Saves bytes.

I'm not opposed to other styling but I need to really think through the implications and understand the impact.

If you reach out (my contact details are on my HN profile), we can talk through how I might be able to help. I'm happy to introduce some of my clients in the process.

> As long as my browser doesn't load anything from different domains other than the website's domain I don't mind

So you don't care about the content, only the source? There's nothing stopping the website from simply routing malicious JS from the ad network. Even worse, it would be much harder to block it this way.

> EDIT: Having a process integrating ads internally will also give the operators of websites the opportunity to vet the ads for potentially malicious advertising campaigns, aka fake ads, etc.

If you let inline malicious code inside your website then you're doing it wrong.

That's about as great in theory (and probably practice) as the acceptable ads program.

Since my ad network doesn't serve any JS from an advertiser (let alone "malicious" JS), I don't know what you're talking about.

What exactly are you trying to block?

The quote I argued against didn't specify anything regarding your particular ad network. My argument was pretty simple: the content is more important than the origin.

> Since my ad network doesn't serve any JS from an advertiser

That's about content.

> As long as my browser doesn't load anything from different domains

That's about the origin.

Just because your network doesn't serve malicious JS, doesn't mean all networks do. And just because it comes from the same origin, doesn't mean it's safe.

Adzerk. Reddit used them for many year before rolling their own.

3 reasons... nobody has time to put their ads on specific websites - it has to be automated to reach thousands of websites/communities at once. Second no advertiser trusts an individual website selling ads, unless there is tracking and reports and they know everything about the demographic of people who see the ads. Third - since advertisers are used to highly targeted ads and tracking... an individual website would basically have to rebuild all those tools in their personal system. That would be impossible without 3rd parties.

Full disclosure: I wrote this post.

I'm sure a lot of us here have already embraced uBlock Origin. It seems to be universally acclaimed on most tech forums.

Before I wrote this post, I wasn't aware that eyeo served ads directly, which is what prompted me to write it.

> Before I wrote this post, I wasn't aware that eyeo served ads directly, which is what prompted me to write it.

I think they floated this idea but ended up nixing it after users weren't happy. I run ABP with "acceptable ads w/o 3rd party tracking" a subset of the acceptable ads list and have for the last couple years. I've never seen an ad they injected or I wasn't aware they injected it.

The ad-supported site I work on and who employs me was added to the acceptable ads list today. I'm not affiliated with eyeo in any other way. We did not have to pay them (yet?).

One heads up and kind of a correction, for users that want to stick to Safari on iOS (myself being one of them) after installing Firefox Focus on iOS, go to iOS Settings -> Safari -> General section "Content Blockers" and toggle on for "Firefox Focus"

Then ad blocking is on (:

You can also use Crystal.

From the article, Crystal also participates in eyeo's Acceptable Ads program.

As a stupid and impatient person, I didn't get to the end of the article the first time i looked at it. After I saw you wrote it I went back to check if you mentioned ublock by name.

You might want to have something below the header and above the lede that says "hey just before we go any further, the solution is to use ublock origin instead of adblock." And even better, a big image of adblock with another, bigger red "no" symbol over it (in addition to the one that's already in the logo i guess) and then a check mark next to ublock origin. Like I said, I'm stupid. It's an interesting article but i already knew adblock plus was sketchy so I didn't finish.

Although uBlock does a fine job at fighting most symptoms,AdNauseam ( banned by google. )does a better job at fighting the cause by clicking on ads in the background, providing some financial incentives to advertisers. To fight back and undermine value & business models seems more effective than just docile ad-blocking. Link: https://adnauseam.io/

It would be useful if it was registering a click as a generic user without means to identify you personally. I don't see this on their landing page.

EFF Privacy Badger combined with uBlock Origin is my current combination.

Privacy Badger is not an adblocker. It block sites that track you by some magic heuristic. It just happen to be that ads are really intrusive. Every time I see a "please whitelist or page in your ad blocker", I get a smug smile on my face, because I do not have one

It's a great combo, although as a developer it's also a constant source of "why the fuck does this website I'm working on not work" because privacybadger is the most aggressive cookie destroyer on the planet.

They work well enough together that I set up any new PC for friends and family with them, after giving them a non-admin account.

what does privacy badger do that can't be accomplished with a custom ublock list?

Mostly automation -- you don't have to actually craft the list. It will just spot stuff it thinks it should be blocking and do so. And if you need to correct it (uncommon in my experience) the UI for doing so is right there next to the address bar. Also, it's capable of just blocking cookies for some sites, which is nice when they're hosting common J's libs/fonts or something, and blocking them outright would break the page.

I ran Privacy Badger for a while. It is very good for finding out who is setting 3rd party cookies or using alternatives to cookies (eg. localstorage with unique identifiers). Rather than using a list, my understanding is it uses heuristics based on what cookies are set, whether they are 1st vs 3rd party, their expiry time and the like.

The good thing about privacy badger is that you don't have to care about the contents of ads ('acceptable ads') or how much you like a particular site ('please unblock us in your ad-blocker).

If a site has parts with 3rd party tracking cookies then I just don't see it.

The downside of only using privacy badger is that you do see some ads. At the moment I find that level of ads acceptable.

Interested why you chose to focus solely on uBlock Origin as an alternative instead of something more forward thinking like AdNauseum?

> something more forward thinking like AdNauseum

I personally disagree with "forward thinking" description for what AdNauseam does, hence why I disagreed when the AdNauseam authors asked me to implement hooks in uBO[1].

To me the ideal for many reasons[2] is to reduce as much as possible the number of connections to 3rd parties on any given web page.

* * *

[1] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/issues/67

[2] Privacy exposure, page load time, bandwidth, CPU/memory.

I care about privacy in absolute terms. The difference to me, personally, between the advertisements I'm served after using AdNauseum and TMN running in a tab for 6 months vs the ads I was seeing using other blocking protocol (such as UBO and Privacy Badger) for longer periods of time have me convinced that the only way to gain any amount of privacy on the web these days is through obfuscation. I couldn't care less about page load time(as long as the hit is <500ms), bandwidth consumed or CPU/memory load on my desktop.

I hate the tracky nature of the web nowadays, and feel that AdNauseam is fighting fire with fire. UBO is fighting fire with CO2, fine unless the fire has it's own oxygen supply, which I would argue the online ad industry has in the form of copious numbers of inattentive and uncaring users.

I've never heard of AdNauseum. Could you elaborate on why you call it "more forward thinking"?

The goal of AdNauseam is to not just avoid websites profiting from ads, it’s to destroy the ad industry as a whole.

So it automatically clicks all ads your browser encounters hundreds of times to reduce the value of ad impressions.

> it automatically clicks all ads your browser encounters hundreds of times

I think it would be hard to deny that clicking every ad hundreds of times is straying into uncoordinated DDoS territory, considering the installed userbase. I don't see that as enlightened or forward thinking.

I agree with gorhill on this and would rather decrease connections to 3rd parties. After all, part of the reason the web is so slow is that browsers make so many 3rd party connections! With that in mind, my approach to ad blocking is to combine DNS blocks, MVPS /etc/hosts + my own entries, JS blocking, and uBlock Origin. This setup catches more junk and is more likely to work while transitioning or temporarily changing my setup.

I would say the goal of AdNauseam is obfuscating ad profiles. It not necessarily clicks all ads, the rate can be set in the preferences.

Personally, I would welcome similar extensions for social media, automated follows/likes/post/retweets, let facebook backup GBs of generated pictures per users for facial recognition or Gmail mine random emails. A more noble use case for lifefaker if you will.

Who pays for the content you consume then? I am assuming you are a paid subscriber to all of the sites you visit?

Sites that offer paid and ad sponsored alternatives are fine. It’s sites that don’t offer subscriptions that should just change their business model, if it’s now based on intrusive tracking ads from ad networks.

And no, I don’t mind consuming contents from hundreds of ad financed sites while simultaneously wanting the majority of them to simply disappear because they could likely never sustain a different business model than ads.

There are other ways to fund content that doesn’t involve slapping a bunch of third party trackers and running retargetted display ads.

Some examples other than subscriptions would be sponsored content and creating a product such as an ebook or selling products that are related to your content.

I am a subscriber to all the German-language news site I visit, or they're all paid with taxes.

I run my own image host, my own irc bouncer service, and many many more for all the use cases where I'd have to rely on ad-infested services.

good for you, and how are lower income countries going to do it?

How are they doing it today? Ads from lower income countries pay less as well.

I remember reading about a similar project a while ago, but frankly, it had slipped my mind.

Perhaps I'll write a follow-up post later.

AdNauseam and similar programs certainly throw a monkey wrench into the discussion.

AdNauseum essentially defrauds advertising networks. That is not the righteous path.

"Acceptable ads" allowed by default (opt-out) are inherently and OBVIOUSLY the right idea, but the acceptable ad list should be maintained by a disinterested party, not an advertiser or ad agency.

Problem is that disinterested parties are just that-- nobody cares enough to do it. Who wants to go to that effort to _allow_ ads?

One solution would be for Google and other large advertisers to fund a not-for-profit company to build acceptable ad lists, and then convince adblock addon developers to enable the lists by default through sheer benevolence.

Enforcement is easy, if they play games like AdBlock and start allowing intrusive ads, Gorhill (uBlock Origin developer) and those like him will instantly disable the lists and their entire model falls apart.

> "Acceptable ads" allowed by default are inherently and OBVIOUSLY the right idea

I think you're overestimating how universal that opinion might be, and underestimating how many people don't want any ads.

Not at all, I'm one of those people! It's opt-out. We can simply uncheck a box to block the acceptable ads too.

I edited my original post to make that clear, I thought "allowed by default" was sufficient but several people had the same reaction.

It should be opt-in. The user should have to check a box to allow "acceptable" ads.

Though I expect you'll find that the number of adblock users who check such an opt-in-to-ads box to be vanishingly small.

That's why it has to be opt-out.

The goal is to make the web a markedly less hostile place to visit by eliminating intrusive ads while still allowing sites to support themselves through advertising.

"The goal is to make the web a markedly less hostile place to visit by eliminating intrusive ads while still allowing sites to support themselves through advertising."

That's not my goal. My goal is to eliminate unsolicited advertising.

I don't want it, and if websites have to find other, non-advertising-based business models to support themselves, so be it.

This mostly just makes it so less tech savvy users would have to be exposed to more advertisements. Even after they've gone out of their way already to install an ad-blocker.

If I'm installing an ad-blocker I want it to block all ads.

in my case that was false. I used a manga reading site that had ads on page change making literally impossible to use their site.

this is why most people use ads, they are annoying and intrusive.

It's clear that it won't work or get enough revenue to survive unless it's enabled by default.

That doesn't mean it should be enabled by default.

> "Acceptable ads" allowed by default (opt-out) are inherently and OBVIOUSLY the right idea, but the acceptable ad list should be maintained by a disinterested party, not an advertiser or ad agency.

That's silly. If a person is installing an ad blocker, the "obvious" thing is for it to block advertisements. You may not like it, but everybody is fully capable of making up their own mind on whether they think certain advertisements are acceptable or not.

this is purely sophistic. It is shady to block ads and sell ads at the same time, but for me at least "ad blocker" meant "stop redirecting me to crap sites while clicking on your menus".

It was about being literally unable to use some sites, I don't care about still images at the bottom of a page.

> It was about being literally unable to use some sites, I don't care about still images at the bottom of a page.

For me it's about privacy and security too, but most of all, I just don't want to see any ads whatsoever. I don't watch ad-supported TV, no ad-supported radio, no ads to my mailbox, won't use apps that show ads, and no ads are allowed in my web browser either.

Use your own definition "ad blocker" if you want to, but everybody else will see it as dishonest if a product claiming to block ads doesn't actually block ads.

There's no such thing as an "acceptable ad" for me, so allowing them is not "inherently and OBVIOUSLY the right idea".

What's obviously the right idea for me is making all unsolicited advertising illegal, and throwing any violators of that law in jail.

Ads is quite conflated as a term.

should flyers be illegal? posters? tv ads?

mozzila is now trying to introduce non tracking ads in their browser. how are non tracking ads different from posters on the street? (minus security concern, honestly i trust mozilla on that)

"should flyers be illegal? posters? tv ads?"

Yes, yes, and yes.

Who needs all this junk? No one.

When walking down a scenic street, you know who says to themselves, "What this street really needs to make it truly pleasing is more flyers and posters"? No one.

When watching TV, who yearns for more ads? No one.

This is all junk no one needs except the advertisers themselves. The rest of us don't want their garbage.

"Advertising" is just a friendly name to "manipulation for monetary goals". It should honestly be illegal.

Seems like entire human economics need an upgrade.

Sorry, but there's no such thing as acceptable brainwash.

Is not available in ios appstore

uBlock Origin is great, I have been using it on both desktop and mobile for a while. I wish it would be there by default in Firefox and also other browsers!

Glaring omission that is built in to Chrome: https://www.betterads.org. one might hope it's not as much of a racket, but the conflict of interest exists.

This is just my personal opinion, but I find that it only removes the worst of the worst though, and I find it dishonest. For example, they ban auto-playing video ads, but

> The Better Ads Methodology has not yet tested video ads that appear before (“pre-roll”) or during (“mid-roll”) video content that is relevant to the content of the page itself.

So shitty news web sites that put one of those "we put a useless video here so we can show video ads" videos on their page can still continue using auto-playing video ads, with sound, and I'm pretty sure they'll find some way to define Youtube's pre-roll ads as "totally not a banned prestitial with countdown".

Also, just saw Taboola on their web site - their ads certainly meet the technical standards, but are one of the most obnoxious ones on the Internet, and the cause for many to disable the "acceptable ads" program/switch to uBlock.

They're just trying to take the worst edge off to reduce the necessity to install an adblocker, or, if you want to interpret it uncharitably, maximize the amount of people who get to see the bad-but-not-absolutely-horrifying ad formats.

It's way too little way too late.

If you're curious, I keep a list updated a few times a day at https://github.com/cretz/badads

Not mentioned: on Android, Firefox can use extensions including ublock origin.

And on that topic, "Dark Background and Light Text" currently at 0.6.8 is also mighty handy, though there are some items that end up invisible like voting arrows on HN.

Alternatively there’s Brave, an open source browser that comes with built in blocking of ads & tracking.

Brave is available for iOS also as well as Android and Linux and Windows.

Brendan Eich, the guy that made JavaScript is on the Brave dev team.

Brave is a bit buggy on iOS but it works well enough that I am now using it.

Brave does not sync passwords and bookmarks on iOS (don’t know about the other platforms) which is a bit unfortunate but all over not too bad.


The reason why I switched from Chrome to Firefox on Android

HN's voting arrows are visible with "Dark Background and Light Text" if you use the "Simple CSS" option (which can be set on a per-site basis).

(Some other sites can be made to work better with the "Invert" option.)

Yep, also why I switched from Chrome to Firefox on Android. And my home network/VPN is sitting behind a Pi-hole instance for good measure.

If I switch to Firefox mobile, is there a way to transfer all my stored passwords from Chrome?

Firefox for desktop can import settings from Chrome and desktop can sync. passwords to mobile

> Let me get this out of the way: I have nothing against businesses making money. Businesses which find a market need and fill that need deserve to make a profit. That’s the only way many services would exist.

Let ME get this straight. I DO have issue with businesses making money by being slimy, rule breaking, ethic-breaking or otherwise deceitful so they can make a buck.

A good purpose for companies is to better society by either make a product, or provide a service. I nary think that people (not other companies, mind you!) would think that some inapp pay-to-play lootbox chumfest would be bettering society. But hey, we offer them LLCs so they can engage in horrendous behaviors and then protect everyone in charge.

And lets discuss ads... No, I'm not paying the bandwidth to download them. I'm not paying the CPU time or ram to display them. No, they are bastions of computer disease and poison. I will block each and every one of them as soon as I find them. I will ignore every domain that attempts to host them. I don't care if "your company relies on them" - well, too bad. Die then. My personal network/computer well being is worth more than your bad actions.

woah. I understand you would like to see the ads economy burn to the ground. but do you plan to build a viable alternative from the ashes? I am not criticizing your hate for ads, but as a fact they empower a sizable sector of our economy (directly or indirectly, like how amazon sell discounted devices with lock screen ads).

I agree that ads-driven websites tends to turn into tabloid full of clickbaits but newspapers had always had ads, why not on the internet?

Let me give you an alternate hypothesis.

There's the story about the kid who broke a window, and all the resulting economic activity somehow 'bolstered' the economy. In truth, when all is added up, the community lost by the cost of a window. This is called the "Parable of the Broken Window" (broken window hypothesis relates to a Reagan-era policy of broken windows = crime. not related).

Advertising is the same way. Their primary mode of communication is to jam up legitimate communication and crowd out others. Their best efforts is to enact in a combination of the parable of the broken window alongside the tragedy of the commons to see their wares.

You ask for a viable alternative? There isn't one. The very basis of advertising is parasitic. It cannot live on its own. It has nothing of value to offer. But it can crowd out legitimate discourse and sell our attention and thoughts back to us after weakening us slightly. We wouldn't fight for a tapeworm, tick, or mosquito, would we?

You also argue that they "empower a sizable sector of our economy". Again, that does look to be the case on a first look, but I say look deeper. They're costing even more, and we as a society only recoup the sizable sector as its outcome. Again, the parable of the broken window rears its ugly head.

(edit: because I got the name of the thing wrong)

I have wondered many times how those bad ads keep showing up on many pages despite of AdBlock Plus and now I understand. It's eye opening that these evil people charges 30% of ad revenue to let you through their plugin called AdBlock Plus! For what? Just "reviewing" the ad? There can be one time review fee but not the recurring fee. That is pure conflict of interest and immediate give away to this whole evil money making scheme called AdBlock Plus. They are ad mafia in its very sense.

Thanks for writing this article. AdBlock uninstalled. uBlock Origin installed.

Classic clickbait title:

"Use uBlock because Adblock's parent company eyeo GmbH runs 'Acceptable Ads'"

That's very old news, surely.

And? It seems many people still use Adblock, so it is a good reminder to use something else.

Could've at least tried to not be misleading and spelt out "Adblock Plus".

While on one hand, the acceptable ads program does border on extortion, and them allowing Taboola is bullshit (and the reason why I no longer allow those ads), I think "acceptable ads" is a sane approach.

I'm willing to tolerate ads to a certain extent. I'm not going to pay (in money, time, or looking at ads that I consider unacceptable) to sort the good from bad. Ad companies have consistently failed at avoiding bad ads. So some third party will have to do it, and either advertisers or publishers or platforms are going to have to pay for it. That's what Acceptable Ads is doing. Are they abusing their leading position with ABP to charge obscene amounts of money? Definitely.

Could the ad industry have avoided it by introducing strict, technically enforced ads quality rules earlier? Maybe. (Depends on whether they could have convinced the early adblockers to not block those ads, which they might have been able if they enforced really strict rules instead of just banning the worst of the worst.)

ABP allowed Taboola (fun fact: The Taboola ads you got with ABP are/were different, less obnoxious versions than the ones served to people without adblockers). I don't like that, so I no longer use ABP, so ABP gets less revenue. Maybe someone else will make a different "acceptable ads" system that I'll be willing to opt into - and I'm perfectly OK if they squeeze money from publishers/advertisers/platform to make it profitable to maintain such a list.

Somewhat related:

Anyone know of a clickbait "not why you think" blocker? I bet 71% or more of users find it an annoying pattern. And a clickbait blocker would be wonderful in general.

I was interested in the article because of the 'not why you think' clickbait.... turns out that was exactly why I don't user eyeo blockers...

So not only clickbait but misleading in my case.

isn't that the definition of clickbait?

NOT WHY YOU THINK - turns out to be your daily Adblock Plus rant, what a surprise. I too would like a clickbait blocker.

In conversations about ad-blocking a common idea that comes up is that "you look at the sites -> so there's value in them -> so you should be paying for them". I don't follow this chain of logic. Firstly, it presumes that humans are perfectly rational machines and that we only do things that we want to do, or that are valuable to us. This does not match my experience of reality. Often the main reason we choose to visit a site is because a link to it has been put in front of us. A lot of the time this is largely due to the site's PR/marketing budget. So we've only ended up at the site in the first place because the site wanted us there... then they act put out by our presence and consumption of their hallowed content and demand we allow marketeers' manipulations into our psyches in return.

Most websites (say as a completely unsubstantiated, overgenerous guess: 99% of them) don't need to exist. internetlivestats says that there are 1.8B websites, 200M active. So even if as few as 1% managed to stay alive without ad support, that's between 2M and 18M websites still left to look at. I'd find something to read in there.

Choosing to visit a website is generally extremely passive. We look at the front page of HN (for example), make a few micromovements of our fingers and now we have dozens of tabs full of stuff to read. We didn't wake up that morning desperate to read any of those things, our existence wouldn't be negatively affected if went to bed that night not having read them.

Some people (especially those who currently make money from ads on sites) seem to think we're desperate for them to exist and that's why we put up with their ads. It even materialises into weird threats sometimes "wait and see what happens when we stop operating because you wouldn't watch our adverts"). Bring that world on, I say. There was plenty of content on the early internet before everybody saw it as a way to make money.

People who create content online for business reasons (either to directly make money or to keep their business relevant and known) then act as if they are obliged to make them for the good of society. If it's that difficult and expensive, and you don't want to do it for the joy of it, just stop. Don't pretend you're doing it for altruistic reasons.

> It even materialises into weird threats sometimes "wait and see what happens when we stop operating because you wouldn't watch our adverts").

Note that the threat is not "if we can't make money from our ads, we'll need to start charging a subscription fee for our content."

Because they know that hardly anyone would actually find the content they provide to be useful or entertaining enough to justify paying real money for.

If I woke up tomorrow to find that all commercially produced content on the web cost money, there's only a handful of sites that I'd consider subscribing to (maybe a couple of high-quality news organizations). The sites I find the most valuable are blogs where people freely share their own interests (which cost almost nothing to host).

People treat most pages like utilities, but you still pay for utilities. I'm accruing a constant, slow electricity bill just browsing around, whether or not what I encounter is worth it.

> On mobile, Firefox Focus

I can't speak for other platforms, but Firefox for Android does support "add-ons", including uBlock Origin.

Firefox for Android (other then Focus/Klar) has the added benefit of also providing cosmetic content blocking.

This allows blocking ads on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, etc.. For many this might be the greater part of their mobile internet experience.

The industry got greedy over Ads money which transformed into a revenue generation model and destroyed the user experience in so many cases. Go to NFL or MLB and I find it extremely ridiculous that you have watch 30 seconds of video ads before watching a short 30 second game play.

Some of the Ads are annoying in page popups and sometime some just hover around as you scroll.

I get the idea behind video ads, but nothing makes me hate a product more that when I want to watch 5 different clips and each one has the same ad before it.


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