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New York Times phasing out all 3rd-party advertising data (axios.com)
1237 points by jbegley 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 549 comments





The NYT currently has a LOT of third party JS and cookies. Enough that I think it is noticeably impacting performance and user experience.

Which hopefully was another motivation to cut it back. I mean, "privacy" should be enough, but when it's making your user experience terrible that should be enough too! (Although could lead to trying to performance optimize it instead of getting rid of it; getting rid of it is the right call).


Idling on the New York Times's homepage without an adblocker in Firefox, Activity Monitor says the tab is using ~10% of one core of my cpu, and About:Performance says it's using ~200 MB of memory.

Now, I have a pretty fast CPU—a 4790K—and it wasn't that long ago that most computers had less than 200 MB of RAM total. And, you could read on those computers just fine.

On the other hand, if I repeat the same test with my Slack tab, I get 30% of CPU and 400 MB of RAM. Slack doesn't have ads, and IM clients are another thing that worked just fine 20 years ago.

I guess my point is, the web is bloated, and I'm not sure why we're harping on The Times.


Slack has an entire app ecosystem layer in it these days, not to mention they've never really trimmed down the electron fat. Slack hasn't been a contender for "well made" in quite a few months.

NYT should be a relatively simple website. Sure, they have some very nice interactive stories and we'll give those a pass, but even just plain text articles load an amazing amount of cruft. It's text, just send the damn text.

Everyone else being bloated isn't an excuse.


The New York Times's Homepage isn't just text though. I see a lot of large, high-quality images, many of which transition to other images so you can see multiple visuals for a story. There's a "live updates" sidebar and a real-time stock ticker. There are video and audio embeds.

> Everyone else being bloated isn't an excuse.

It's not, but I'd rather focus on the worst offenders instead of the half-decent ones. I didn't compare it to Slack because I thought Slack was a good example—I did it for the exact opposite reason.

And, as long as there are sites that are so much heavier and yet seem to be doing fine (I don't like it, but it is what it is), I doubt NY Times is removing 3rd-party ads due to performance issues. It could be a nice side effect, though.


For comparison, I disabled ublock origin and privacy badger and loaded https://fivethirtyeight.com which is in the same realm - heavy text content with several interactive widgets, video and audio embeds.

Render time for my (aging) macbook pro is within the acceptable threshold (< 1500ms), memory snapshot in firefox is ~90Mb, and it feels like it loads quickly and responsively. It could be better - but it's infinitely more usable than NYT for me.


I don't think 1.5sec render time is acceptable for a webpage whose main payload of interest is 2-5kb of text (the article).

There's no articles on the page linked, and all the graphs on the right are dynamically rendered

Optimisation opportunities: if you have a dynamically generated image, and you haven't yet received user input, statically generate it.

NYT is not app but website (IMO) but Slack is app. Not good comparison target.

Websites are apps, apps are websites. The area between each is a gradient, not black and white. The best way to measure this is to check a couple of metrics.

Does this resource need to be generated dynamically?

Related: can this resource be cached?

More important: can this resource be resized?

Often overlooked: do I need to process this javascript to provide the equivalent UX?

The modern Web is terrible, and the modern state of app dev is terrible due to a substantial subset of the reasons that the modern Web is terrible.


> Slack hasn't been a contender for "well made" in quite a few months.

It was a contender?

> NYT should be a relatively simple website.

There's editors from the NYT lurking here who will strongly disagree.


Once upon a time, Slack was actually really solid and I happily used it. It.. was quite some time ago.

And sure, obviously NYT is more complex than throwing textfiles at users.. but do you really need to be running A/B tests for acquisition and have such a complicated pipeline to buying a subscription? Do you need dozens of analytics suites? Data is useful, but only to an upper bound of what you can meaningfully analyze.


I don't disagree with you AND I've already been chastised once in the last week by a NYT staff member for daring to challenge their assertion that the web should be and overly complicated mess.

Cutting through institutional pressures is not easy, especially when those pressures are well entrenched. I recently had to rid our SEO department of a religious belief that everything in creation must be server-side rendered or it couldn't be indexed and the phrase "holy war" applies.

So, I have some empathy for the NYT staff as individual contributors, but as an org, it's time to evolve.


.

Are you working for booking.com?

"It's text, just send the damn text."

They only send what the user requests.

Using a software program that makes automatic requests that you are not easily in control of, e.g., a popular web browser, might give the impression that they control what is sent.

They do not control what is sent. The user does.^1

The user makes a request and they send a response.

One of the requests a fully-automatic web browser makes to NYT is to static01.nyt.com

Personally, as a user who prefers text-only, this is the only request I need to make. As such I don't really need a heavily marketed, fully-automatic, graphical, ad-blocking web browser to make a single request for some text.^2

    #! /bin/sh

    case $1 in
    world        |w*)  x=world       # shortcut: w
    ;;us         |u*)  x=us          # shortcut: u
    ;;politics   |p*)  x=politics    # shortcut: p
    ;;nyregion   |n*)  x=nyregion    # shortcut: n
    ;;business   |bu*) x=business    # shortcut: bu
    ;;opinion    |o*)  x=opinion     # shortcut: o
    ;;technology |te*) x=technology  # shortcut: te
    ;;science    |sc*) x=science     # shortcut: sc
    ;;health     |h*)  x=health      # shortcut: h
    ;;sports     |sp*) x=sports      # shortcut: sp
    ;;arts       |a*)  x=arts        # shortcut: a
    ;;books      |bo*) x=books       # shortcut: bo
    ;;style      |st*) x=style       # shortcut: st
    ;;food       |f*)  x=food        # shortcut: f
    ;;travel     |tr*) x=travel      # shortcut: tr
    ;;magazine   |m*)  x=magazine    # shortcut: m
    ;;t-magazine |t-*) x=t-magazine  # shortcut: t-
    ;;realestate |r*)  x=realestate  # shortcut: r
    ;;*)
    echo usage: $0 section
    exec sed -n '/x=/!d;s/.*x=//;/sed/!p' $0
    esac

    curl -s https://static01.nyt.com/services/json/sectionfronts/$x/index.jsonp

   Example: Make simple page of titles, article urls and captions, where above script is named "nyt".

    nyt tr |  sed '/\"headline\": \"/{s//<p>/;s/\".*/<\/p>/;p};/\"full\": \"/{s//<p>/;s/..$/<\/p>/;p};/\"link\": \"/{s///;s/ *//;s/\".*//;s|.*|<a href=&>&</a>|;p}' > travel.html

    firefox ./travel.html
Source: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22125882

The truth is that they are just sending the damn text. However you are voluntarily choosing to use a software program that is automatically making requests for things other than the text of the article, i.e., "cruft".

1. The Google-sponsored HTTP/[23] protocol is seeking to change this dynamic, so if websites sending stuff to you without you requesting it first bothers you, you might want to think about how online advertisers and the companies that enable them might use these new protocols.

2. However I might use one for for viewing images, watching video, reading PDFs, etc., offline. Web browsers are useful programs for consuming media. It is in the simple task of making HTTP requests that their utility has diminished over time. The user is not really in control.


I'm just as upset by bloat and tracking as well but the criticism seem a little off for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.

I go to a restaurant and I can't just walk into the kitchen and grab a plate of food. Nor can I walk into the refrigerator, grab some supplied, and then walk over to the stations and start cooking. Instead I have wait to be seated, order indirectly via a waiter, wait for the chef and staff to prepare more order, etc...

It seems to me visiting a website is similar. The user choose to visit the site. That includes the 3rd parties and less controls. Just like I don't get to pick what sources the restaurant used for their food, nor do I have any say in their hiring or management practices. Nor do I have any choice in the music they play or the TVs they have on (bar like restaurants often have TVs). If I don't like their choices my choice is to be or not be a customer. I don't get to hack around that, walking in the back door and taking the food.

I know the analogy isn't perfect. It's my computer and I have no obligation to let them use it as they please vs as I please. But still, there's some middle ground IMO between the 2 extremes.


>the criticism seem a little off for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.

IMO the reason is quite easy to put the finger on:

It's because it is framing the problem squarely as one of the user, culminating in the phrase that one is "voluntarily choosing".

If you don't want to do research and customize scripts for every friggin' domain/website (and having to do it again when the site structure changes), there is no "voluntary choice".

If you don't want to accept that this "solution" has to forgo a lot of essential characteristics of hypermedia, there is no "voluntary choice".

If you're not technically versed in these things, there never was a "voluntary choice" to begin with.

In general, if you want to use the World Wide Web remotely as it is intended, there is no "voluntary choice".


> I'm just as upset by bloat and tracking as well but the criticism seem a little off for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.

I think you're unclear in your mind about the relationship between you and the website you visit.

To use your restaurant analogy, browsing the web is more like ordering delivery. You send a request for food from the menu and money to cover it, and a while later, a driver with a bag arrives at your doorstep. That bag contains the food you order, some packaging, often plastic cutlery, and some advertising. The transaction between you and the restaurant involved exchanging money for food, and the restaurant doesn't get to have any further say about what you do with that food. You're free to throw away the box, the cultery and the advertising leaflets into the bin, and give half of the food to your cat. They cannot, technically or ethically, make you eat the food out of the box it came from, while reading the advertising leaflets.

It's like that with web browsers. You ask for content (via HTTP), you get a response that includes links to other things you're invited to request. You're free to cut the response up and render it the way you like, you're free to request or not request the other linked resources. That was how the web was designed to work, that's how HTTP protocol is meant to be used. Now plenty of websites will try to insist they're more like dining in than delivery, but that's just them trying to guilt-trip you into making them more money. It's not something they're entitled to.


Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge all include the ability to block certain requests.

https://developers.google.com/web/tools/chrome-devtools/netw...

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Tools/Network_Monit...

https://developer.apple.com/documentation/safariservices/cre...

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/devtools-gui...

The web's first browser, working in line mode, could probably request the text, and only the text, of an article from nytimes.com. It has no capability to automatically follow links to ads and trackers.

https://www.w3.org/INSTALL.html


The long line of sed is out-of-date and thus "broken". For something simpler that works, try this:

   nyt tr |sed 's/ *//;/</!d'|uniq > travel.html
This will produce a simple web page of titles and URLs for each article page.

An interesting point of discussion might be the amount of third party cruft on the template article page versus the more dynamic front page. When Javascript is disabled, on each article page all images display and there are no ads. Downloading any video in the page is as simple as

   curl -O `grep -o https://[^\"]*mp4 article.html`

You're right, I guess, if you consider "the web" to mean "HTML over HTTP". In real terms, though, a modern web site is the HTML plus all of the images and other text that goes with it, and it's designed as a package. The fact that the web browser connects to the web server to download all of the bloat doesn't change the fact that the bloat was specified by the HTML served by the web site. It's just an implementation detail.

Pro comment here which should be way higher up the page. Good comment content, good Unixbeard vibe, great use of sed.

> it wasn't that long ago that most computers had less than 200 MB of RAM total

I don't think you're aware of how much time as passed since 200 MB of RAM was the norm. Even in 2005, lower end Dell laptops ($639) had 256 MB of RAM as the minimum [0]. The 2002 PowerBook G4's base model had 256 MB [1].

[0]: http://web.archive.org/web/20050309050556/http://www1.us.del...

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowerBook_G4#Models


Sure, you can argue it wasn't that long ago, but that totally ignores the rest of the point:

> And, you could read on those computers just fine.

The problem is not that the New York Times website is using too much memory for the average system. The problem is that it is using several orders of magnitude more memory to run ad-related JS in the background than it needs for the user-desired functionalitty.


Isn't the user-desired functionality that the New York Times make enough money to continue investigating and publishing news? Ads are simply a means to an end.

No. The user doesn't desire journalism to be dependent on ad revenue.

It isn't the user's responsibility to provide a better solution. Not having a solution doesn't make the problem disappear.


A few weeks ago, out of Coranavirus-induced boredom, I decided to run Apple Rhapsody in VMWare, which can be thought of as a very early version of OS X.

At first, I couldn't get it to boot—it kept kernel panicking, and I couldn't figure out why. After a bit of Googling, I found the problem—I'd given the VM too much memory. Rhapsody DP2 will not boot if it has access to more than 192 MB of RAM. I assume Apple figured that no one would ever need that much.

Rhapsody came out in 1998. Not really that long ago.


On a side note it just shows poor programming on Apple’s part . I mean they didn’t built it to last , at that point Moore law was very much in force , even few years ahead had they projected they would have clearly seen that 192 mb was going to be too less.

Most ofthe gnu utils still work perfectly fine many of them were written in late 70’s and 80’s , apple itself ships , in the latest OSX , posix utilities from late 80’s versions for GPL reasons.

Perhaps it is not fair comparison , utilities are not the same as an OS . unix or Linux from the same era may not work anymore as well.


I don't think it's a fair comparison. :)

In addition to being an entire OS as you mentioned, Rhapsody was a "developer preview". The final version was called "Mac OS X Server 1.0". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X_Server_1.0


> 1998 [...] Not really that long ago

The Apple II came out in 1977, 43 years ago.

1998 therefore roughly marks the halfway point between the dawn of mainstream personal computers and the present day. I dare say 1998 was a very long time ago, in PC years.


That's fair, but respectfully, it really wasn't my point.

"There was a time—recent enough that it was within most of our lifetimes—when most computers had less than 200 MB of RAM total. You could read on those computers just fine."


>I decided to run Apple Rhapsody in VMWare, which can be thought of as a very early version of OS X.

Rhapsody was more of a quick and dirty port of NeXTSTEP to Mac hardware than a version of OS X.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXTSTEP

>Rhapsody came out in 1998.

NeXTSTEP is from the late 80's.


> NeXTSTEP is from the late 80's

The version he tested was from 1998. Similar to how Windows NT came out in 1993, but the current version (Windows 10) has a few added capabilities since.


The version he tested was not a version of MacOS.

MacOS addressed up to 96 Gigs of RAM initially, now up to 128 Gigs of RAM.


> I'm not sure why we're harping on The Times.

Because '10% of a core and 200 MB of ram' just to read a few headlines is obscene, and slack being even worse doesn't make the NYT's bloat less obscene.

With my uBO/uMatrix settings, about:performance in firefox reports that the nytimes.com homepage takes 7.9 MB of ram (and immeasurably little CPU time, because I disabled javascript.) https://lite.cnn.com/en/ is better insofar as it takes 2.6 MB of ram.


Thank you for making that point and alerting me to the existence of the far more usable Lite CNN site.

It really isn’t easy to make any fair claims about memory usage unless you’re being extremely careful. The browsers and apps do all kinds of crazy caching with freely available memory, for performance reasons, and they can get by with a lot less than what you’re quoting. Try seeing how memory scales if you open 10 or 100 tabs. It might seem super bloated until you’re about to run out of memory, and then somehow seemingly magically be able to still open two or three times as many tabs.

Having the ability to magically open new tabs in this situation doesn't do a whole lot of good when all the other applications still suffer from overall memory pressure because the app doesn't give back memory to the OS in time when needed.

> it wasn't that long ago that most computers had less than 200 MB of RAM total.

Half-Life 2 lists 512mb ram as required. It came out in 2004.


The retail version required 256MB, it's the Steam version that needed 512.

I was thinking another decade further back than that, or so. :)

Also, Half Life 2 was a state-of-the-art video game for an audience that largely had fancy gaming PCs.


Video games still target pretty mainstream pc specs. They have to, or no one can run the game. Sans Crysis.

Not every game is Crysis for sure, but for instance, a lot of AAA games right now require 8 GB of memory minimum. The $400 Surface Go 2 that came yesterday has only 4 GB of memory in the base config, and such specs aren't isn't particularly uncommon. Not that you'd be playing AAA games on that machine even if it had more memory, but hence my point.

Neither the Xbone or the PS4 offer 8GB of ram to the game (system reserves), and yet almost every AAA game launches on those platforms.

They likely couldn't run Slack or the NYT tho. Just think about how slow the PS4 store loads (it's html5) or the whole xbone ui.

Games are actually optimized for speed. NYT is optimized on a different key performance indicator.


Looked up similar hardware running games on Youtube and yup - it's pretty awful even for quite old AAA titles. Bet it still runs league of legends at like 150fps though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ4Oh0BAt6I


Half-Life 2 was remastered with updated graphics in 2007 when it was re-released as part of The Orange Box. I pulled the original box from 2004 out of my closet and it states 256MB was the minimum required: https://slerp.xyz/img/misc/hl2_reqs.jpg

A six year old CPU can still be described as "pretty fast?" Moore's Law really must be dead and buried.

8 threads, 8MB cache, 4GHz? Pretty fast, yes. Not the fastest, by far, but are you really arguing that casual web browsing for news viewing (viewing! the stats are not even for page load, but idle) should require top of the line equipment?

No, I'm saying Moore's Law suggest(s|ed) that every 18 months your chip's speed relative to current offerings is about half what it was. And this old chip has had four cycles of that exponential decay.

I just built a 12 core system I would describe as "pretty fast." A high end consumer desktop these days is 16 cores. A couple years from now, that will be considered "pretty fast."


Actually, Moore's law says nothing about speed, just the number of transistors you can stuff into the thing. Plus progress has been leveling off.

The only reason anyone ever cared transistor count is because that is a rough proxy for measuring speed.

It hasn't been for a long, long time now.

Moore's paper was about VLSI manufacturing. He certainly cared about transistor count. He didn't once touch on how those transistors get to be used.

Why did he care about transistor count?

VLSI manufacturing makes chips, made of transistors. It does not sell end products. The end products are a concept that their clients care about, not them. The same way a tree farmer does not spend his days thinking about toilet paper, even though that's what he is actually helping create. Instead, he thinks about trees, and how to best grow them.

Make no mistake, he knew he worked on the production of CPUs and memories, it was just not his focus. Also, he certainly cared about switching time, but his observation was about transistor count, not switching time.


Why did their clients care about transistor count?

Ever since the arrival of multi-core CPUs chip speed should probably be considered a dual number: max single core throughput and total throughput.

Also, my over 6 year old DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) CPU[0] is still plenty fast. It’s almost everything around it I have since upgraded (NVMe SSD, RAM, audio interface, video card) to keep overall system performance high.

[0] https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/77780/i...


We've just hit a point of AMD being competitive again in the last couple of years and things are looking up - Intel has doubled core count on their top end consumer CPUs and more than halved prices in their last couple of generations.

The last decade of stagnation in the consumer CPU market was less the end of Moores law and more Intel not needing to do any better because they had no real competition.


This is pretty severe revisionist history that presupposes that Intel's investment of billions every year in trying (and failing) to make soft X-ray lithography work well enough to double transistor count was just them not trying hard enough due to lack of competition.

So them more than halving prices and boosting core counts massively in the space of a couple of years just coincidentally coincided with AMD competing with them again?

I wont argue there wasn't lots of R&D going on behind the scenes, but their current improvements are still on the same architecture they've been using for years - this wasn't something they couldn't have done earlier (especially the prices - surely being able to lower them so much and still make a profit means that consumers were getting screwed earlier?).


Intel's competitive strategy has, historically, always been to retain such an overwhelming technical advantage in terms of transistor count that the other things didn't matter--they could make a huge profit while still providing better value than the competition. The only time that didn't work until now was when they tried to completely switch architectures (with Itanium) and they were able to quickly recover their advantage by returning to an x86-based architecture. Now, of course, this strategy has finally failed them, and all sorts of people are accusing them of having been complacent due to the lack of competition, but really I don't think they were doing anything differently from before (at least with regards to what you're talking about).

Intel has had serious yield issues for their top-end chips for the better part of a decade, so that will also affect pricing. Everyone from ARM and Qualcomm to AMD and nVidia has been able to successfully step to new process nodes with acceptable yields where Intel struggled to hit the same node steps.

I think it's more a function of modern OS's not really taking that much more from the CPU than they used to be- IIRC, Windows 10 is faster than Windows 7 on slow hardware because it disables more nice-to-have features (think Aero).

CPUs continue to get more powerful, but the minimum hardware requirements for newer editions of operating systems tends to not follow the same curve that new game releases do. (I can't play Rainbow 6 Siege on my Ryzen 5 3550H + GTX 1050 laptop, but CSGO runs fine on it and my i7-2670QM laptop mobo with a GTX 1060 strapped to it.)


Oh I completely agree that basic desktop computing is still reasonably responsive on older CPUs; I'm just pointing out that the mere idea of a six year old CPU being called "pretty fast" by current standards would have been unthinkable for most of my lifetime.

> IIRC, Windows 10 is faster than Windows 7 on slow hardware.

This has not been my experience with Windows 7 ==> 10.


10 (and IIRC 8?) felt incredibly slow on my gaming PC until I switched to an SSD for the OS disk. I think it hits disk way, way more often than 7, which makes it feel slower. Even on an SSD it doesn't really seem any better than 7 did on spinning rust (programs load faster, of course, but you can't really credit the OS for that—the OS interface itself, and OS utilities, don't seem faster). This was true even with Cortana and all that junk totally disabled.

Strange. I'd expect you to be hitting at least 40-50fps on 1080 High settings in R6 Siege with those specs. Minimum system requirements for R6 Siege is an i3. Maybe because its a laptop you are either hitting thermal limits or you have significantly less VRAM than the desktop counterpart.

> Minimum system requirements for R6 Siege is an i3.

I've never played R6 Siege and have no idea how it performs, but I would just like to say that this is effectively meaningless and I hate how games put it in their system requirements. Writing "moderately fast CPU" would carry more useful information. A Westmere Core i3-530 from 2010 is not going to perform anything like a Coffee Lake Core i3-8100B from 2018.

(I'm not that smart, I looked up the model numbers on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Core_i3_micropro...)


The actual minimum listed for that particular game seems like it does what you're asking for:

> Intel Core i3 560 @ 3.3 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 945 @ 3.0 GHz


I think it's possible for Moore's law to still be true while single core performance stagnates

For everyday user computing tasks, it’s not that Moore’s law is dead so much as just irrelevant. We’ve hit the point of diminishing returns on CPUs getting faster.

Many users have flipped to prioritize power efficiency and quiet operation over speed. And even despite those optimizations, most of their tasks are still bottlenecked as often by their available memory and the quality of their network connection as as their processor.

We just haven’t figured out what to do with all that power in the hands of a user who isn’t super technical, so we’re just spending it on inefficient cruft instead.


That CPU is pretty close to the Ryzen 2700x I just installed last year.

And yeah, Moore's Law isn't a law recently. :)


Yeah, an 8 year old cpu with a 2 year old graphics card still makes a decent gaming computer.

As another datapoint, this HN page uses 56MB in Chrome for me.

That's actually strangely high for HN, I get 7.6 MB in Firefox.

15Mb when measured through about:performance 70Mb when measured through about:memory

I don't know why they are different.


17.35 MB for me in Firefox 76.0.1 on MacOS 10.15.4.

But it has been a couple hours since your comment and the other replies :)


I have 10.4 MB on firefox and, on Chrome is 33 MB.

I get 11.1 MB in Firefox.

M? Are you sure?

I get a 58kB HTML document, plus 2kB each CSS & JS, 3 * ~400B images, and a 7kB favicon.

Edit: Oh sorry, RAM. Leaving comment just to compare page size to RAM use for interest.


Wow.

There's now ~388 comments. Source is 529kb and content 114kb (simple cut and paste of page, no markup).

Those are some impressive ratios.


11MB on Firefox, Windows.

47.10MB in Safari

All I can say is Slack performs just fine for me on my Mac laptop, I never notice it being laggy.

When I go to NYTimes without an ad blocker, it takes a long tie to show up, it sometimes freezes my scrolling while it loads things, things jump around on the page so when I'm trying to click something I get the wrong target as some ad loads and moves things around, it can be 10 seconds until the page stabilizes after load. I do not experience that with Slack.

How does Slack use so much RAM and CPU and still perform better than a mostly static page of text and graphics? I dunno. But it does. In the end the RAM and CPU usage matter to me theoretically, but all that really matters is the actually experienced interface. The NYT may not be the worst, but it's definitely worse than many, and the comparison to Slack is odd to me, cause my experience with Slack is that is quickly responsive with no lag.

You have a different experience, for you nytimes loads faster and has interactivity with less lag/freezing up than Slack, which for you has a lot of lag/freezing/slow load problems?


Not the NYT, but some other at least partially renowned news site in my country has that problem. I am one of these crazies that doesn't like mobile sites, so I mainly use desktop versions. Had my phone fully charged an left the page open. An hour or so later the phone already shut down.

I don't think 4790K is that powerful anymore. Anything below intel's 8th generation is pretty lower end regardless of gen.

They increased core count for every gen starting 8th gen and made a significant leap in perf.

Your processor would give the same perf as the lowest end ryzen.


> Your processor would give the same perf as the lowest end ryzen.

Not for single core performance though, right? Which is what I'm looking at here.


An AMD Ryzen 7 2700x has faster single core performance than yours, maybe 5% more. Anything faster/more recent is even more. It's multicore advantage will be much more.

2700x user here. I didn't realize how low end it's considered! I game and do all the coding things and never really wait long for games to load or code to compile...

It's not low-end, it is middle of the pack, given it's age, and for the price it's still a good buy for things like compiling and encoding, let alone any grand strategy/4x style of game that relies heavily on CPU multi-threading speeds.

Everyone has different requirements. Depending on your resolution and required frame rate you might have get a more powerful video card that becomes bottlenecked by your cpu.

But the 2700x was a good buy, in retrospect.


Yeah, I also built this machine last year. 1050TI, 64gb ram.

See I can't imagine running on a 1050ti but I only need 32gb of ram. I can't drive my monitor (5120x1440) with that video card at any reasonable rates. Everyone has different requirements.

Oops I meant 1070ti. Nice monitor!

cant do it on a 1070ti either, sadly. Its a samsung CRG9 and it is awesome.

I remember when computers were faster than me. Those numbers barely keep up with my standard issue brain, which is 40-year-old tech and can just about read the newspaper and carry on intermittent conversation at the same time.

You weaken your argument by making a rediculous statement that "and it wasn't that long ago that most computers had less than 200 MB of RAM total."

Yes it was. 1997 was a long time ago. Kids born that year can legally drink.


> IM clients are another thing that worked just fine 20 years ago.

Bit of an absurd claim to make, since IM clients 20 years ago had a fraction of the features that Slack has today. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.


"Progress" has been disappointing in the computing world but none of the modern devs seem to have an issue with these slow giant bloated apps!

Now compare to nj.com

Because this is an article about The Times.

I can’t help but wonder if all these extensions are actually delivering the promised value. After all many media organizations got taken by FB’s lies about video out performing text, to the point where they made significant staff changes. Is it unreasonable to think they fell for something similar from the ad networks?

I totally agree with the base sentiment. But until you actually work for a place like this, and understand where the revenue comes from and how it is used, it makes me pause to make those kind of blind statements with exclamation points.

As one of the VP of products where I currently work will say when someone suggests removing this ad or that ad, "Sure. No sweat. OK - now tell me who I should fire."


I recall that there were adverts on some of the top news sites that link to scams though dodgy companies like Outbrain.

I checked BBC and CNN, and it seems like they don't have such links (anymore?). Do I remember this incorrectly, or is my browser maybe blocking Outbrain?

Of course, I am not talking about the JS or cookies specifically, but rather the links bought by advert companies that link to scams for cryptocurrencies, binary trading, "health" products and the like. They often have JS exploits. But my main point is I clearly remember the website real estate to be merged between site wide adverts and external scammy adverts.

A few years ago, this was actually on of the main reasons I didn't read websites of otherwise traditional media companies. Or maybe they have taken steps to stop using Outbrain et al.?


There are a few news sites that I refuse to visit because I get so frustrated by the performance on these sites. Not to mention auto-playing videos, broken back buttons, lazy loading that causes me to click the wrong element, and a myriad of other design flaws that seem almost ubiquitous on all major news publications' sites. It's funny to me that these could easily be the simplest of websites that are made incredibly convoluted.

If you're in the EU, NPR is forced to ask you if you want to accept tracking cookies. If you say no, they redirect you to a text-only version. Which seems incredibly spiteful, but actually works out wonderfully in my opinion since you can just read the news without all that cruft you mention.

https://text.npr.org


It's almost like they need you to click on random shit to defraud advertisers.

I opened Business Insider on my girlfriend’s computer without adblock last night and the fans sounded like it was ready for takeoff. Couldn’t even scroll smoothly to find what we were looking for.

Kudos to NYT for trying to stop this madness. It’s gone way too far


Here are the ads I see on business insider:

- Taboola (The supermoon is coming, 17 biggest exercise myths, what is COVID recovery like, Does anyone know if COVID will do away in warm weather)

- Los Angeles drivers are stunned by this new rule for auto insurance. (I live 3000 miles away from LA and have never stepped foot in Southern California.)

- Ron Paul's message for every American.

- The forever spin top, made in Canada (aka we have no ads to sell)

- A background check company (lol)

- MemSQL (probably the only potentially relevant ad)

I would be terrified if my ability to get paid was based on this crap.


I see Taboola as a coarse grained sieve, to preselect into different target audiences, based on what sort of trash they click. At least it appeared to me like that when i fiddled with my blocking for testing, and wondered why i ever should click on that crap? Most useless.

To be fair, in almost fourty years of being online, I've never been served a relevant ad for anything.

> Which hopefully was another motivation to cut it back.

As an aside, it matters a great deal in which ordering you place your benefits. Which advantage you 'lead' with can make a great deal of difference between an effective and ineffective pitch, even if all you have done is swap them around in a sentence.

Compare Oatly's [vegan] oat milk which basically uses "Better at frothing than regular milk... and it saves the environment" vs "This milk saves the environment... and it is better at frothing than regular milk." These will read the same to you in the medium of Hacker News but they are markedly different in efficacy.


Not only the NTY, have you ever opened WaPo in developer tools? WaPo is equally worse, a huge number of trackers.

Yep, I noticed the site loads much faster in Brave Browser which blocks all ads and trackers.

Brave: A browser that blocks ads/tracking so it can integrate its own as a business model.

Why do people use it? I can understand blocking ads with e.g. ublock, but I cannot understand wanting a browser that shows you desktop ads for internet points.


Never looked at Brave’s business model - and agree, it’s possibly more toxic than ADs. That being Brave wants you to buy their currency to pay creators then the creators pay them to get paid. On top of that, they created their own AD network and are paying out 70% of profits to the users, which sounds like huge conflict of interest.

EDIT: Appears Brave is even holding payments in escrow for parties that did not even sign up to receive payments, that’s not shady at all. Even makes me wonder what’s happening to all the funds in escrow.


Worse they accept payment on behalf of creators who haven't even signed up. Surprised that's even legal. It's come up here before:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18734999


We quickly (by January 2019) corrected a mistake shipped in December 2018, so please update your priors on us. See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20290942.

Repeating out of date information _per se_ and to ascribe malice is never justified, whatever you think of ads.


I haven't investigated it since that thread, so I don't know what changes were made. Apologies if it was corrected and resolved, I'll check it out again, and assuming it has I certainly have no interest in spreading misinformation.

However, I think the idea that telling people you were going to be collecting money on behalf of someone, not letting them know, and just keeping it isn't likely to have been some small "whoopsie." Building a system to let people know didn't happen by accident. The $100 threshold wasn't an oversight. Not including visual differentiation between verified and unverified creators wasn't a slip-up. These had to have been purposeful and thought-out decisions.

I don't think the idea was to steal as much BAT as possible from would-be donors, it felt like a growth hack: you know, make it seem like Brave works everywhere, then one day when it is, we can all forget about the fake-it-till-you-make-it bit.

Which is normally fine, but people tend to get defensive about their money.

billme 11 days ago [flagged]

Feel free to explain how exactly Brave’s actions were not intentional, this wasn’t just a bug, but series of intentional actions via code, interfaces, emails, documentation, internal policies, etc.

Further, comments, tweets, etc. generally are not the best way to communicate issues as complex as this, nor do I feel it the public’s job to clean up or go out of their way. You made a mess, you clean it up.

(You appears to be serial down voting; classy.)


> (You appears to be serial down voting; classy.)

Hacker news does not allow you to downvote responses to your comments. (Nor for that matter, can you tell who it was that downvoted you, so that accusation is unfounded.)


The Napster guy did something similar with his micro-payments system. Did not go well.

You could also just not spend any money and leave that feature disabled.

And you could use Facebook and disable every tracking feature and hope they're honest.

When someone does shady things in one area.. they probably do them in others.


What then differentiates it from Firefox?

Compatibility with Chrome, its plugin ecosystem, and developer tools — but without the Google integration.

It's got some competitors in this respect though. Namely Vivaldi and Edge.


So basically … Chromium?

Basically … No.

Brave has all the Google integrations removed.

https://github.com/brave/brave-browser/wiki/Deviations-from-...


Never, then that will completely nullify the ability to be outraged on others behalf and complain about it! I wonder if these are the folks that mash every button on the elevator, because everything must be enabled?

Exactly how do I know Brave has not collected funds for me, but hasn’t told me?

How do I know if there is an answer to this question if I haven't searched?

If you just block and free-ride, more power to you (this is within the rights of users, by law and by design of the web standards). However, many Brave users want to support creators by contributing regularly, and a lot of these users prefer to earn tokens they can give back rather than to self-fund their wallets.

Browsers today, without strong tracking protection, are passive servants of ad-tech implemented via JavaScript. Average users don't know how to block. Most users don't subscribe widely at risk of overpaying (cross-subsidizing, the publishers call it). Brave's model not only cuts out ad-tech intermediaries, leaving only the browser in the middle — we then let users opt in (with blind signature cryptography so our servers can't link ids or transactions, and via an Ethereum ERC20 token, BAT) to support creators directly yet anonymously.

We will add more over time to support creators, including things like patreon and superchats mediated in the browser (client side and user first), with privacy and pseudonymity as well as anonymity (the default).


Seems like there is a lot of mistrust of browsers these days. Personally, I like Brave, except that some versions on Linux seem to bloat out / crash Fedora.

I think I see your view as to the "why" of Brave -- how do you see building user trust at scale?

Another concern that comes to mind: Chrome, Safari are backed by companies with massive warchests, and though Mozilla is not as far as I know as liquid as GOOG, AAPL, it has proven staying power. I'm not sure what the term is in the mobile app space when a popular app gets bought up and modified, but what guarantees do I have that the Brave app won't be bought out by unscrupulous dealers down the road?


Yes, because of this ad-tech, some days I wish you had taken your work on JavaScript and sent it entirely to /dev/null, no offense.

> Why do people use it? I can understand blocking ads with e.g. ublock, but I cannot understand wanting a browser that shows you desktop ads for internet points.

Does it actually do this? When I had Brave, I never noticed that.


It’s optional. I am strongly against Brave (the privacy wording, taking cryptocurrency to be “donated” to content creators who hadn’t heard of Brave and then keeping it in “escrow” indefinitely, etc). However, if you are aware of the risks and the company’s not-stellar reputation among security people, you can use it if you want.

Wow!!! - Brave is holding payments in escrow for parties that did not even sign up for the service, that’s not shady at all. Even makes me wonder what’s happening to all the funds in escrow.

No, you're mistaken. We don't hold payments at all (we are not licensed to intermediate). If you use the browser to tip a creator who hasn't signed up, your browser holds the tip and retries every 30 days up to 90th day.

Didn't you just say that you stopped pretending to accept tips for people you have not signed up in January 2019? And yet here you say that you still have this same deceptive behaviour in your browser?

(Please clearly state you how you’re related to Brave in your profile if you don’t want me to repeatedly ask you when posting comments.)

Feel free to link to public documentation on Brave’s site showing the screenshots of Brave’s workflow, policies, etc.

As is, you’re comment assumes I understand a lot of things, which you say I don’t, then go on to not explain them; tip, comments, tweets, etc are a poor place to do this.

For example, what has happened before the 30th day; as in please list from start to finish everything that happens from me downloading Brave, finding myself, making a “payment” to myself, and nothing nothing. Also, if relevant, disclose any and all business policies & procedure; for example, is there a difference between a $5, $101, $1001, etc transaction.


Brendan is the CEO of Brave and fairly famous for a number of things, so I can't say I understand how you (as someone who is apparently savvy enough to understand how Brave works) don't know who what his relation to it is?

Exactly how do you know that user is the CEO of Brave? (Serious question, I don’t have an answer.)

He’s relatively famous and easy to google. That HN account is not a brand new account someone made to pretend to be him either.

I won't google a random HN username unless any disclosure.


How famous is not a problem. I don't watch carefully HN username while reading posts unless hints.

If they're doing it right, it's locked in a smart contract, in a bunch of individual balances that get unlocked when an admin at Brave provides a withdrawal address. That way, while they could steal from those accounts, it'd be readily apparent to any intended recipient whose funds were stolen.

Let me be more clear, using an example. Appears Brave only attempts to contact the Whois email after the funds in escrow exceed $100 USD.

Let’s say the have million in escrow, they invest it, don’t lose any of the funds, and 5 years later end up paying out all funds due.

Does the “all funds due” just the million, is it the million plus the returns they made on million, is it adjusted for inflation because they sat on it 5-years, etc.?

Comparable example might be the funds held in escrow by gift cards; my guess is unless Brave is being super careful what they are doing is or will be defined as illegal.


It's worth noting that the funds they are holding are funds they are giving out to users to donate to websites (as part of their boostrap fund), so it's not really as horrible as you are saying (but still.. weird).

It is horrible & toxic — no party regardless of intent should be collecting funds on behave of another party unless that party has legally agreed for it — or they’re legally using a well known structure for doing so that’s audited; for example, in the country Brave is headquartered, a non-profit business.

https://twitter.com/tomscott/status/1085238644926005248

> A final update on the thread about Brave: they're now opt-in for creators! While it's still possible to tip folks who haven't opted in, the data is stored in-browser and the UI has been clarified. These are good changes, and they fix the complaints I had!


Brave doesn’t make it easy to see the changes they made without installing the software and likely having to buy their crypto to test it; appears Brave is still selling the tokens for third-parties without their knowledge. System should be you send funds, transfer is not done until 3rd party authorization is received, 3rd party has no fee cash option instead (fees if any paid by donor) — and transaction voids after 30-days.

> Brave doesn’t make it easy to see the changes they made without installing the software

https://github.com/brave/brave-browser

> and likely having to buy their crypto to test it

I have 24 BAT and I didn't buy them. I donate some of what I earn from ads to a project maintainer on Github.

> Brave is still selling the tokens for third-parties without their knowledge

Brave doesn't sell tokens. They did raise money through a token sale but that's not relevant.

> System should be you send funds, transfer is not done until 3rd party authorization is received, 3rd party has no fee cash option instead (fees if any paid by donor) — and transaction voids after 30-days.

The transfer isn't done until the creator verifies with Brave. See my comment above.

Doing a minimum of reading (wiki, brave website, reddit) would do wonders for your comments.


So Brave blocks AD from one creator, made gave you tokens to give a another person of your choice for watching their ADs?

What am I missing? You’re basically stealing, fencing the goods, and somehow giving away the proceeds makes that okay and I need to waste my time reading more?

As for doing more reading, sounds like a personal attack, if so, combined with your “Robin Hood” life style, maybe you’re the one that needs to spend more time.


It's not a personal attack. You have made so many false claims. I'm out.

Where did I make false claims?

It's opt-in, we do not and will not turn it on by default. If you want to try it, click on the triangle in the URL bar on the right. Thanks.

Brave, the self-annoited "brave" answer to that question everyone is asking: "why isn't there another middleman between me and the producers of content I like, skimming another 30% of their income off the top?"

Actually, they are trying to do the exact opposite — which is to eliminate the middlemen and make paying creators more frictionless.

Yes, if you opt-in to the system, they will take a cut, which is entirely reasonable if the model ends up being better for users and creators.

Time will tell if that's the case, but it's an interesting experiment.


It’s my default mobile browser. It does NOT replace ads with its own — this complete nonsense. It blocks ads unless you opt-in to see them and the whole Brave Points thing is stupid. I’ve never opted-in.

It is well-known that Firefox and Chrome do their own tracking. no extension, ublock or otherwise, can change that.


> It is well-known that Firefox and Chrome do their own tracking. no extension, ublock or otherwise, can change that.

Huh? Firefox has telemetry but the ways to turn it off are well documented.


Why would I do this:

1. Research the latest settings I need to change in about:config to ensure telemetry & tracking are disabled, and privacy settings are optimized (and hope I got them all).

2. Install ublock origin and possibly other privacy-related extensions (e.g. to block finger printing)

3. Do this on every device which I use... I don’t know about you but I have dozens of devices between myself and my family

4. every time i re-install Firefox or create a new Firefox profile, repeat step #1 and #2.

5. Read the release notes for every Firefox update to ensure there aren’t new or changed about:config settings I should change.

When I can just use Brave instead?

You seriously do all 5 of those steps religiously? Because if don’t, you’re a step or 3 behind Brave’s our-of-the-box defaults.


It's almost as if you can opt into it if you want to. Amazing.

That's not an argument for using Brave. If you don't opt into it, why use Brave at all? You're essentially using a glorified Chrome with uBlock.

Because its considerably faster, they claim. https://brave.com/improved-ad-blocker-performance/ https://github.com/brave/adblock-rust

They rewrote ublock origin in rust, and its native to the product, not tacked on. Shady business model aside, they are making technical contributions to the world.


Brave for iOS is an ad-blocked browser. Maybe there are others, I know none.

It also auto-closes tabs I might have browsed in anonymous mode. Safari doesn't, and it's quite a nightmare to fatfinger into anonymous mode and see whatever you had opened anon mode for.


MobileSafari natively supports content blockers as well. You can turn them off temporarily or for a specific site. There's a variety of apps in the App Store that include block lists; just flip a switch in Settings similarly to how you'd add a new keyboard or autofill provider. The adblocker app doesn't get your browsing history, it just provides the list of blocked elements to Safari.

There are a (fairly small) number of use-cases where Chromium-like behaviour is needed (my 90% of the time browser is FF) but I don't want a browser that's reporting my every move back to Google. AFAIK Brave fits that need. And no, I've not opted in to their ad system since I hate ads anywhere and everywhere and want them all to die.

Chrome now has a gimped ad block API, brave is more flexible. It also comes with some anti fingerprinting measures and additional options.

uBlock Origin still works fine in Chromium today. Even if Google were to disallow it and other powerful adblockers, the alternative (similar to content blockers on MobileSafari) is not a serious problem, at least for me. I have Ka-Block! on my iPhone, which blocks ads just fine, despite having a much less powerful interface than uBO.

>uBlock Origin still works fine in Chromium today.

They intended to gimp the API. Not sure if the changes are in effect already though.

>Even if Google were to disallow it and other powerful adblockers, the alternative (similar to content blockers on MobileSafari) is not a serious problem, at least for me. I have Ka-Block! on my iPhone, which blocks ads just fine, despite having a much less powerful interface than uBO.

Good for you. It's not enough for me. I even write my own rules for the sites I visit often.


You can write your own rules for most Safari content blockers. But if I don’t trust websites not to invade my privacy, why would I trust a third party ad blocker that has access to my entire browsing history as opposed to the Apple method where the content blockers just give Safari a list of rules?

That's a very good point, but I have to say ublock origin has done nothing yet to breach my trust.

Don't all ad-blockers work with (regex-like) rule lists these days?

The difference is that ad blockers traditionally intercepted your web requests to block ads meaning they had both network access and access to your browsing history.

Content Blockers in Safari submit a list of rules to Safari and Safari blocks the requests. No third party has access to your browser history.


Note that Safari has added new APIs to allow for a content blocker to regain access to such information if you so choose.

Link?

Not that I don't believe you but I can't find any information



Does that let the extension intercept the browsing history or just allow the extension to get information about a page after the user pulls up the share sheet and chooses to send the page to the extension?

As I understand it, that delegate method is called whenever an extension rule matches something on the page.

That would be amazingly slow to call an out of process function on each match when the page renders. Extensions run as a separate process. I would be amazed if Apple would allow something that inefficient as careful as it is about battery and memory efficiency.

I mean, the Safari application is already doing XPC with the web content process constantly anyways. And perhaps they can batch these messages?

Why would Safari be doing any communication with the content blockers? The content blockers are submitting JSON one time to iOS Safari and aren’t running at all.

The Safari App Extension is running in the background, which is presumably what the process is communicating with.

You’re talking about MacOS and not iOS? As far I know, the only time Safari or any other app on iOS calls an extension is when the user chooses to “share” with that extension

Yeah, I think this API is only available on macOS. On iOS this would require keeping the extension alive in the background, which Apple seems largely opposed to allowing.

That's just macOS, not iOS, right?

I believe so.

> If you don't opt into it, why use Brave at all?

Sounds like you compiled a statement like "give me the factors of 26, but you can't use 1, 2, or 13." If you don't opt into it, you definitely aren't using it.

As for why someone would opt into it: some people don't mind being tracked but they care about who's doing the tracking and how their data gets integrated. If Brave shuts down everyone else's tracking but then Brave is building a profile on a user, that's fine for some.


> Sounds like you compiled a statement like "give me the factors of 26, but you can't use 1, 2, or 13." If you don't opt into it, you definitely aren't using it.

Parent comment said that the business model of Brave is opt in, implying that they’re recommending you use brave but not opt in to the crypto/ad business model. I think it’s perfectly fair to ask what is the value prop of Brave if you don’t use their crypto/ad system.


As far as I'm aware, Brave is the only browser that blocks ads by default. Personally I just use uBO/uMatrix on Firefox, but I can certainly understand why some people might prefer a more streamlined default experience.

The fact that so many people get bent out of shape about Brave blocking ads by default is probably also seen as a positive signal by many people who hate ads. If Brave pisses off people who run ad-supported websites, that's a fantastic endorsement.


I guess if you can’t figure out how to install uBO, then Brave makes sense. I suspect that the pool of people who care about blocking ads, can’t figure out uBO, but are willing to install an extra browser is pretty small, but I have no skin in this game.

I’ve never seen anyone angry about Brave blocking ads; what I’ve seen are people angry at Brave blocking ads and adding their own, which is a drastically different complaint.


Chrome+uBO isnt necessarily the better option, as far as raw performance.

https://brave.com/improved-ad-blocker-performance/

https://github.com/brave/adblock-rust

Using Chrome+uBO+uMatrix and Brave side by side, Brave just works better. Less knobs to fiddle with, sane defaults. Sure I love the power of uMatrix, but it comes with its own time sink managing it. Brave, out of the box, performs correctly in most situations, and switching from default to blocking all cookies, javascript, and fingerprinting is only a click each (and thats the advanced mode.)


Now that’s a good argument.

Plus as far as their advertising goes (which I still think is pretty grey ethically to block ads and then show your own) its still privacy focused. If you opt into ads, you get OS notifications and they dont build some kind of profile of your behavior on their server. They send your client a list of ads, and your client knows which ads to show you, all targeting is local. Destroy your client, destroy the profile they have build of you. It might not be great, but they are clearly looking at advertising different than the rest of the marketing tech landscape, so kudos.

Theyve somewhat gone back to the juno/netzero/kmartbluelight internet model. If you did want to be subjected to ads, at least they are in a consistent place in the user interface, and not all over random pages breaking performance and scroll.

If I were forced to choose between two ads types, id pick Braves before the modern webs. Their product is like ad supported shareware. (The rest of the tipping and bat economy notwithstanding.)


Last I checked, the number of people using Adblock Plus dwarfs the number of people using uBO, so there's clearly a pretty large number of people who find uBO difficult, or perhaps simply don't know about it. Either way, I don't use it and wouldn't invest in that company either; I wouldn't bet on them succeeding in the long run. But I think can certainly understand, if not agree with, the people who decide to use it.

> I’ve never seen anyone angry about Brave blocking ads; what I’ve seen are people angry at Brave blocking ads and adding their own, which is a drastically different complaint.

I think for many people who hate ads, this distinction isn't really relevant. They like that Brave pisses off people who run websites with ads. Perhaps disliking website operators enough to cut off their nose to spite their face.


The difference between Adblock plus and uBO doesn’t affect my point. Most people are fully capable of installing an ad blocker, and tons do.

I guess I get people wanting to piss off those who run ads, but that applies to ad blockers as a whole. That’s not an argument for Brave specifically.


Well I can't defend it further than I have. It's not my intention to provide arguments for using Brave, merely to explain why I think many people have chosen to. You and I agree that Brave isn't the browser to use, but evidently plenty of people do want to use it and I think the reasons I've described explain a lot of that. I doubt it'd be causing so much consternation if that weren't the case.

For website and ad network operators, it could be worse. Automated 'clickfraud' extensions could have gained traction. Maybe Brave will do that in the future too.


FWIW, if you opt in, any profile that Brave builds (for ad matching purposes) never leaves your machine. You can inspect or delete it any time.

That's one part of the appeal — that this stuff stays local.


Brave is also a bit faster on older Windows computers.

this is an ad

"But changes to major web browsers to crack down on third-party data collection and new internet privacy rules are making that practice less viable."

Notice that the NYT's new ad system has not been prompted by privacy-minded people who install privacy and ad-blocking plugins. NYT is concerned that coming changes to base browsers will make 3rd party tracking so ineffective for targeting ads that a homebrew solution relying on users checking off boxes that describe themselves will work better.

Given the rapacious ingenuity ad hucksters have shown in the past, I suspect 3rd party data collection will find a way to keep doing it's thing and, likely, become even more invasive, at least for a little while. However, the fact that some companies are finally jumping ship is significant. I've long maintained that the ad industry's war on user privacy was ultimately self-defeating. This might be the beginning of the end.


It will likely lead to centralization.

If third-party cookies and device fingerprinting are blocked, then how can you track users who saw an ad twice, before deciding to buy?

You can’t with much certainty, unless they’re using Chrome, and you’re Google.

For the NYT who can rely on “brand” (as opposed to “performance”) advertising this isn’t a big deal. They can charge a lot just to show the image on their site. They have strong enough prestige that many advertisers will not require a third-party arbiter of tracking or impressions.

But I worry that the direction of change will favor Google as an advertising behemoth, and extend their influence over the web and publishing.


Maybe I’m older and from a different time, but conventional advertising was simply based on the topics at hand. Selling camping gear? Advertise in a camping magazine or the travel outdoors section of the newspaper.

These are all completely worthwhile ways to advertise that generated results for decades. This recent change to picking a group of people as opposed to a selection of content providers is very new and many would argue this was pushed heavily by the fact that these companies like Google Facebook and others were able to wedge themselves between the content producers and the content.

I’m not sure we ever truly definitively proved it was worthless to target content subject matter as opposed to personal data.


Sure, they were done, but not nearly as effective - hence all the effort to gather data for targeted ads.

If you want completely integrated ads you'll need about twice as many to get the same revenue. And I'm not even sure what's so terrible about targeted ads in the first place (leaving aside how the data is handled which varies enormously).


While we fill unsold slots with adsense, we make far more revenue with directly sold ads. Either the big ones like Sony everywhere, or smaller merchants and producers targeting specific products (for example: show the ad for this lens on all articles about it, as well as articles about cameras it connects with)

It partly depends on how small your target group is. If you want to reach "People who travel" then targeting the travel page of the NYT should work nicely. But to play devil's advocate, what if you want to reach the 300 oncologists who prescribe your competitor's drug for Specific Rare Cancer and not your drug? Advertising in the cancer journals might be too expensive for your niche brand and you might want to run different messages to different groups within the 300.

That is outmoded. Free services begot personal data (i.e. behavioral surplus) that could be put into algorithms that allows marketing and advertisement firms to bet on our futures. This is truly valuable. Even if the marketing is only 1% more effective, it represents millions in revenue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance_capitalism

Zuboff's book is great.


My concern with describing your ad interests manually is that it will most likely lead to fingerprinting. You’d essentially be building your own unique identifier by choosing ad categories.

If fingerprinting wasn’t an issue (either because the industry was honest or we had effective laws to punish offenders) then I’d say that’s a great idea and could even be implemented in browsers as an “Accept-Advertising” header (just like the headers we already have for language and encoding).


https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6221/536

That study gets into the idea of fingerprinting "anonymous" data. I'm working on a study of how people reveal their unique preferences on ways that are visible to advertisers.


> homebrew solution relying on users checking off boxes that describe themselves will work better.

Sounds like a wildly successful website from 2004.


I'm not sure it will be just "users checking off boxes that describe themselves".

I don't see in the article any mention of how they will collect data. While some will definitely come from users, I suspect they will build profiles based on what a user reads.


I wonder how long until they become the third-party data collection service for other companies.

It’s a great decision and glad they did it.

But subscription revenue is now a much bigger part of NYT’s overall revenue and ad tech CPMs are declining year over year. So it’s not a hard decision anymore.


If true this may have further tack on good effects like fewer click bait headlines and fewer errors in reporting with less pressure to get things out before details emerge.

"Clickbait" used to mean "Ten Reasons Clickbait isn't what it used to be... Number 8 will surprise you"!

Nowadays, people seem to complain about any headline that in any way has the potential to make people want to read the article.

From my anecdotal experience with editors at better publications (such as the NYT), they care far less about individual articles' metrics than people seem to believe.

At many of these publications, writers do not even have access to read metrics. (Bloomberg is the example I'm sure of, but there are others)


Headlines used to include the most important information, and the text for a link for the article would be the headline or something similarly descriptive. Nowadays links to articles often explicitly exclude information forcing you to the article to even see what it's about.

If the title is written in a way that withholds key information when it could just as well be included, I'm willing to call that clickbait. A headline alone shouldn't make me want to read the article. From my perspective, the headline's job is to let me know whether the contents are valuable enough to me that I want to read the article.

> "Clickbait" used to mean "Ten Reasons Clickbait isn't what it used to be... Number 8 will surprise you"!

I think the definition has expanded at the same time that the clickthrough/SEO/likes/dopamine optimization has become embraced by editors, who write the headlines. To me, clickbait is more about substance than style. It's an attentional lure into an article with disappointing substance, to varying extents. Various editors will stylize the headline for the sweet tooth of their demographic.


>writers do not even have access to read metrics

do the writers get to write the headlines though? i thought that was the editor's job, who surely does have access to the metrics.


Clickbait and linkbait were new SEO tools in the late aughts.

Before the advent of this, most headlines tried to be relevant though with occasional good puns and pizazz.

But mostly The Enquirer and the Daily News were outliers and made fun of for their routine exaggerations.


These things aren't inentionally done to generate click revenue at any major outlet.

There's hardly any other reason to do it. Blowing your credibility like this hurts subscription revenue, so the only goal must be boosting your drive-by revenue (i.e. ad impressions).

That's a bit no-true-scotsman isn't it?

People are bitching about 'clickbait headlines' on the Easyjet hack post right now - and that's an article from the BBC.


[citation needed]

Sure...

They are still going to collect data about you and sell it to third parties.

Here's a really naive question. The article talks about collecting data for some audience segments. Are they talking about letting users check checkboxes for the segments they might be interested in, or are they going to try to do what the third-party advertising companies do, which is try to guess what segments their users fall into by hoovering up what data they can find about them?

It's crazy to me that there is a multi-billion dollar industry focused on trying to guess what ads I might be interested in, using lots of privacy-invading techniques that I do my best to counter. Did they ever think to just ask me? I might not care much about ads if it was as simple as declaring the categories I might be interested in, at least if I could be convinced that that's all I would see and that the crazy privacy violations would stop.


> Did they ever think to just ask me?

In Google settings I can choose my interests.

Of course Google knows better than me and would always completely disregard it, showing me ads for dating sites (most seemed unusually scammy) for 10 years after I married instead of showing ads for stuff I might need or be tempted to buy anyway:

- car parts (unless I have recently bought everything I need like today)

- computer/tech conferences

- family holidays, toys etc

Since Google only hires the best and brightest and let them work freely under the most inspiring conditions this must be a really great idea.

For those who don't catch it: this is soaked in sarcasm.

Edits: a bunch.

Let me also add that while Google ads often has great ROI[0 ] you should keep an eye on them. Google has annoyed me for ten years but I'm close to claiming they must have scammed a bunch of dating sites (or maybe just one company with a lot of fronts?)

[0]: although possibly less than before according to friends who used them to bootstrap a nice company.


The last thread on HN regarding "smart" advertising (that I participated in) had a brilliant reply to my following anecdote:

> I buy (electronic) gadgets all the time. Parts for PCs, Raspberry Pis, Arduino, "smart" devices to replace "dumb" devices like light bulbs, power sockets, equipment for race/flight simulation, etc. and adverts were usually just for the latest nVidia card or some games or something. Then there was that ONE TIME I bought a unicorn dress for my (then 2yo) daughter and that's it: Nothing but unicorn shit advertised at me for the rest of my life.

and the reply was something like:

> The fact that FAANG has spent what must be billions on specialised/targetted advertising and still can never show us adverts for anything other than stuff _we've already bought_ reassures me that we'll not see intelligent targetted advertising in my lifetime.

and I have to say I agree.


I haven’t had Facebook for a few years now but taking a look at the advertising section is what finally made me delete my account. One of my interests, according to Facebook, was pants. This was especially odd because I wear dresses and skirts far more often than I wear pants.

Some time later I was in my closet and still pondering how Facebook could possibly be so wrong as to think I was interested in pants of all things. On a whim, I decided to count my pants. And you know what? I had a lot of pants. Triple digits. Way more pants than I realized I had and way more pants than any one person could possibly need. It turns out, I _was_ pretty interested in pants.

Facebook, without ever having seen my closet, had a better understanding of my wardrobe than I did.


For what it is worth, it is my opinion that Facebook (that I dislike more than Google) serves me much more relevant ads.

I've even bought a few things I found through Facebook or Instagram ads, things that I wasn't aware of and that I enjoy, timeular and old school safety razors for example, proving that advertising can be a win-win game.


I get this impression as well: again completely anecdotal, but FB is the only advertising that I've actually heard friends actually talk about approvingly (as in, it offered them things they found they wanted). Which I find slightly bizarre: I've never really ever heard anyone talking about advertising approvingly. As I'm writing this, my partner has just walked into the room and is debating whether to order ice cream on delivery due to being shown a targeted advert on Instagram. Something seems to be working, anyway ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You have hundreds of pants and you just kinda forgot about it? That's like several wardrobes filled with pants. Do you have a separate apartment just for your clothes?

I don’t really have a good excuse other than I enjoy fashion. Women’s pants take up less space than you’d imagine. I had a walk-in closet and my pants took up a section about equal to a normal sized hall closet. I hadn’t forgotten about them I just didn’t realize how many I had. I’ve since re-homed the vast majority of my admittedly excessive wardrobe in order to live out of a suitcase. Expensive clothing was one of the many ways I felt I was trapped in the rat race.

They buy all of your credit card data.

That isn't itemized. It'll tell them how much you use a credit card, and where, but that's it.

No, what they do is buy point-of-sale data from stores, often through companies like Nielsen and larger. NOW they know what you're buying, and Banana Republic ain't gonna stop telling them, because the market research aggregators pay them back by telling them who is buying their stuff, like people whose credit card usage is 45% directed at clothing stores.


I'm not sure that would allow you to glean specific types of clothing, unless the purchases were at Pants R Us or The Pansatorium

You are assuming it is Visa or MasterCard selling transaction information but that seems unlikely (beyond aggregate, non-identifiable data).

It's far more likely that the Gap is uploading your itemized receipt data to advertising networks (complete w/ that email address they always ask you for and your CC info) under the guise of improving their own retargeting.


Part of this inaccuracy is on purpose.

People can really freak the fuck out when you can predict what they need accurately. For example the real case of a store advertising specific baby items to someone who didn't know she was pregnant.

This is why "suggested items" often have one wildcard thrown in: They don't want you to realize just how much they really know you.

Of course this doesn't explain failures, but I wouldn't rule out smart ads just yet.


I remember reading that article too (about the pregnancy thing). I was blown away at the time, but seeing how much AI has progressed in the past decade yet how far away we still are from seeing that in practice, I must say I no longer believe it. I believe like all AI hype of the past decade, the achievements were embellished beyond the point of truthfulness. Perhaps they sent the ad to 100 people, 20 of them pregnant and knowing it, 1 pregnant and not knowing it, and 79 not pregnant, and chose to only report the 1. Perhaps they just made up the story. Perhaps they just got lucky and by pure chance they got one prediction right, and have been trying for the past decade to recreate that magical moment. Remember Google Flu Trends? What ever did happen to it? Surely they didn't discontinue it because it was predicting flu too accurately.

I wish this was true. I would love to be able to go to e.g. Amazon and just find something I didn't know I wanted recommended to me on the front page. Instead, the only things on there are advertisements for Amazon Prime affiliate services; the list of things in my wishlist/saved items/recently browsed; and some objectively (i.e. un-customized) "hot" items in categories it knows I browse.

Meanwhile, the thing I might want, if only I knew about it? It's not on the front page; it's not on the hot or new pages; and it's not anywhere near the first page of results for any search I do. These are SEO death-zones, where I just see 1000 optimized contenders for the one boring highest-profit-margin product.

Instead, to find genuinely-interesting new products, I have to go into particular micro-categories, and then browse through ~20 pages of irrelevant same-y things to get past the micro-category's own SEO death-zone. (Even within e.g. the "Scientific Instruments" category, the first ten pages are all either N95 masks or brewing equipment, rather than, y'know, beakers and test strips and CO2 monitoring equipment and such. I know why—they don't re-rank per the browsing habits of the other people who've viewed a given category, but instead reuse the item's global rank in all categories it appears in—but it's still ridiculous.)

I mean, maybe I'm an outlier; I watch YouTube reviews of life-hack tools, kitchen gadgets, etc., so most "novelties" aren't all that novel to me. When I'm looking for "something I don't know about", I more mean "something that would excite me, but which nobody within my filter-bubble is excited about yet."

But surely an AI could deduce a ranking algorithm that would show people like me what they want to see, right? I feed it plenty of training data in terms of what I do and don't bookmark/save on the site. It just needs to think one level up from "tags" / "similar users."

And the weird thing is, I feed plenty of data on exact products I've been interested in in the past to every service I use. Like I said, I watch YouTube videos about e.g. knock-off portable game consoles; I search Google for those products, say things about them in Facebook Messenger, etc. I know I'm getting my privacy invaded by these services—the least they can do is to actually use that information to get me a "recommended" product listing for the thing I'm considering buying!


She knew she was pregnant, and had made purchasing decisions based on that. Her father did not, and called Target when the house received ads for baby-related items (cribs/diapers).

Hmm. Maybe this story was simply marketing of "perfect" advertisement services? Or an outlier?

I would have thought that HN readers would at least be somewhat tech savvy, but alas.

Advertisement systems are way less advanced and much more stereotype driven, than privacy freaks care to acknowledge. Think of this - advertisers have less than 100ms to decide the best ad to show you... often multiple times per website. Do you really think that any ads are actually personalised?

I remember having to differentiate between Bike Helmet for Barbie(a toy) and Barbie Bike Helmet(safety device for children)... Or the fact that if you let a learning algo run through the categories, they can place dildos(adult toys) right next to water guns(kids toys).

There are services that target you with offers that are highly tailored*, but online ads are not one of those services.

(Amazon's "You May also like", food delivery services suggestions, and similar things that can calculate for a long time)


?? 100ms? Why, is precomputing outlawed or anything and I didn't hear it? And "privacy freaks", really? I thought after Snowden the notion that only crazies care about privacy no longer flies as it did.

I'm not interested in educating you of all the constraints that each display ad tech company has to operate with. Suffice to say - no one is calculating or storing a list of "perfect ads" for you, nor does anyone particularly care that you like tentacle porn. You're really not that valuable.

Yes. Privacy freaks are overreacting on how deep ad tech cares to know about you. It's way less than what NSA or spying agencies(hello Facebook) are able to collect and use.


100ms? I mean Google et al. can precompile a list to serve you. There is no need for a hurry.

They can't. The lists of viable ads are constructed, built and updated real time. There are shortcuts, but then you have to account for things such as quality scores, probability of you clicking on the ad if you recently have seen them, etc.... and do that trillion times per second.

Even light speed is not infinite.


> The fact that FAANG has spent what must be billions on specialised/targetted advertising and still can never show us adverts for anything other than stuff _we've already bought_

FAANG companies earn billions on targeted advertising, but it's up to the customer running the ads to do it effectively.

Google and Facebook don't particularly care what ads people are buying or if those ads are working.


>reassures me that we'll not see intelligent targetted advertising in my lifetime.

The only thing which prevents this are incentives. Content provider are paid per click. Intelligent targeting would reduce clicks. Advertisers would have to pay more for intelligent targeting. So why not just keep the status quo?


I remember on one of those threads, the defense was that the advertisers are able to say, "We showed this person an ad for X. S/he bought X." And no one looks too closely about what order it happened in.

Recommendation engines do. not. work. If they can't figure out what you might like based on the articles you read on the New York frickin Times, 25,000 more data points about you aren't going to help.

I share similar experiences. I routinely tell Google not to show me obnoxious dating ads, or ads for pornographic video games, etc. They tell me they won't show me a particular ad again, and then immediately show me an almost identical ad from the same company.

On mobile YouTube, where I see most of my ads, it's also almost impossible to click the extra-tiny shishkabob menu next to the ad without first clicking the ad a bunch of times. Until ~6 months ago, this made the ad disappear, and made it impossible (or at least, I didn't see how) to request they not show you the ad. And now it looks like you engaged with it. I don't think this accidental clicks was necessarily their intention, but they certainly decided to make that shishkabob smaller than all the others, which was absolutely a deliberate dark pattern. Presumably to increase the effort required to/decrease the frequency of users taking this action.

Now they've taken to pitching me pretty extreme propaganda from the likes of The Epoch Times.

Best and brightest, indeed.


I worked for 5 years for an ad network. We had a team of ML engineers working solely on improving the recommendations accuracy.

There's one thing, though: no matter how good your recommendation algorithms are, if you only have shit to advertise, you'll only recommend shit.


"Best and brightest" was pretty glib, I'll admit.

My problem is less that the recommendation engine isn't good enough than that this industry is too large and too powerful, and I believe that it's existence is dangerous to society.

For instance, given the Snowden documents, I would give the odds that NSA isn't piggybacking on this private intelligence a very, very low value. How you feel about that is a function of your politics, but even if you think NSA is a good actor, it's not hard to imagine an intelligence agency you wouldn't appreciate gaining access to that information.

But a more mundane and realistic concern is just Google being a monopolizer. The other day they "helpfully" opted me in to their new meeting service and "helpfully" inserted a meeting link into my calendar. This caused me to be 10 minutes late to a job interview over Zoom - because I'd spent 25 minutes waiting in an empty Google Meeting! I'd just assumed the client used this service. (Luckily, they were understanding.) My personal frustrations aside, IANAL but that seems like the very definition of a monopolizing tactic, and I'm pretty sure that's illegal. If I'm wrong, then I submit that it should be.

It's not hard to imagine Google gaming the stock market, or to imagine malicious Googlers conducting insider trading. I'm sure the best and brightest could come up with more ingenious and more lucrative ways to abuse their position as well.


Now they've taken to pitching me pretty extreme propaganda from the likes of The Epoch Times.

Seriously, why can't we say No Thanks to a company's ads and let them stop wasting our time and their money?


It's in Google's best interest to let the company pay them for showing you irrelevant ads.

If all players would act rationlly then Google would have no incentive either way. If Google would show more (irrelevant) ads then the cost per click would be reduced and Google would get the same payout. But most advertisers are still people and because of this Google still has an incentive to show more ads.

They actually do that. It's not difficult at all to get banned from Tier 1 online ad networks.

How does one achieve this ?

[flagged]


I have never searched for these things :)

If I click the button to explain the ad, it tells me it's because of my age (I'm a young man) and time of day (I watch videos in the late evening.)

Which is certainly a profile that makes sense, in broad strokes. But no, these are not my interests.

(No judgement to people who like playing pornographic games and dating online! It's just rather inconvenient when I'm trying to watch YouTube videos with my family!)


>I mean, if that’s all you search then...

That's the absolute wrong way to look at it.

There is no "you". There's a cookie/advertising ID. If you're going and constantly changing out; it's back to square one.

It actually seems to be their base arrangement. Every time I 've blown away every cookie/tracker/reset my advertising ID, the ground state seems to be teenage to twenty something with a smattering of mortgage offers/weight loss/health tips/sexual dysfunction stuff that I assume is Google's equivalent of a fortune teller's cold reading in terms of trying to make a decision on which avenues to go down in order to further specialize.

I actually messed around with it once to figure out what it would do with minimal prodding and more or less random clicks. Interestingly, the mortgage click didn't really change their estimate of my age (or they just think that every male on the internet is into 20 somethings). They've never done a good job in terms of picking up on themes except when I've looked up a bunch of enterprise software documentation while logged in on Chrome, or made travel reservations.

Frankly; I find the entire process insulting in the sense that Google would likely respond "You're using our service wrong" rather than admit they've engaged in a decade long romp down digital stalker lane. If I wanted unsolicited buying advice, I'd ask for it.

They're the new Clippy in my book. Every Ad reverberates with a mental Tink Tink as the great data hoarding monolith known as Google does it's damnedest to sell me something, coming off as an Alzheimer's patient in the process.

And again, I resent the status quo being that "if I gave them more info, I'd see more relevant ads". I don't want your damn ads. I don't want my information in any form stored in your databases. Leave me alone! That includes in the statistical voyeurism sense too!

This would be the single most impactful way to return the Net to a repository of valuable information.

Kill the advertising incentive in the absence of opt-in.

But how will websites stay up without advertising, you might ask?

I don't care. I host things I want out there. I find a way to account for it. If you want to present me first party ad like the DailyWTF did for years, I'm okay with that. The third-party monetization model needs to stop though. All it encourages is bad behavior and ad revenue maximization techniques.


> There is no "you". There's a cookie/advertising ID. If you're going and constantly changing out; it's back to square one.

Enough to just log in to Gmail or YouTube and you're back.


I'm still waiting for the day when advertisers realise they've been sinking millions and millions of dollars into a garbage industry. Think of all the industries tied up into advertising, and how basic ad-money is to keeping on the lights of the modern internet! Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, it's all ad-money, where will it all go if the ad-money dries up?

There is a reason that Google, at least, is worth so much on the stock market.

My mother is definitely not a tech savvy computer user, but she's learning. I've finally showed her how to do a few things 'online', including email and basic searching. She wanted to order flowers for a relative due to a family death recently. As I imagine that vast majority of the population is also trained to do, she went to Google, typed in "order flowers" and went to the very first site that Google showed her. And that flower site, of course, was an ad - though it has gotten harder and harder to notice these over the years.

She ended up spending $30 with free shipping (down from $50 after I showed her how to find 'online coupon'). Google probably made a nice percentage of this sale.

Think of how many times that situation is repeated every day, all over the world.

There's a reason Google can afford so many pointless 'diversity' managers, expensive research, projects that are canned after a few years, and tens of thousands of highly paid and pampered employees. They've practically got a printing press...


"Flowers" is one of the most ad-heavy queries out there. When I worked at Yahoo it was commonly used as the example to show or test some ad displays. Even on Google now you see only ad content above the fold.

I've wondered this, too. There have been maybe a handful of things I've found out about, gotten excited about, and went and purchased. At least since the days when I had to bug a parent to buy it for me (I'm in my 50s). In each case, I proactively went out and bought it on my own. I never clicked on the ad. I don't know if I ever have clicked on an ad, let alone bought something that way.

I've been assuming I'm somewhere close to normal (definitely debatable) and that most people when they want to buy something just go and do it. How many people actually see an ad, get excited about it, click through, buy the product, and then come out of a kind of trance or something and wonder what caused them to do that? I'm probably more susceptible to candy displays at grocery check out counters than I am to online advertising. I'll occasionally buy one of those and tell the clerk it's an "impulse buy".

I assume there's a reason this is a billion dollar industry, but if I'm the poor schlub they are targeting then I wonder how they even stay afloat.


Google has backup strategies and could pivot fast, not without shedding a lot of people.

You're right, though - ad money is definitely providing bad incentives, but it also provides support for cooky projects. Marketing people also get to show their managers these nice graphs on ad spend "returns", that are complete lies.

Twitter and Facebook are much more tied into ad money, though.


Facebook might be more tied to ad money and I dislike them even more than I dislike Google but they actually sometimes manages to show me relevant ads - and unlike their "bigger brother" most of the time without insulting me and my family badly in the process ;-)

I'm surprised how dodgy the Facebook and Twitter ads are. Maybe this is an Australian-localised thing influenced by all my various blockers and noscript extensions, but Twitter shows me 50% outright scams ('Twiggy Forrest says this is the deal of a lifetime!'), Facebook shows me 50% anime clothes which are clearly not officially made by Studio Ghibli. Amazing that this industry works.

It’s the invisible hand of the market. If it was wrong it would be inefficient and change so it must be right and you’re wrong!

My towel is also damp if you can’t tell


>Google has annoyed me for ten years but I'm close to claiming they must have scammed a bunch of dating sites (or maybe just one company with a lot of fronts?)

I seem to remember an article a long time ago that pulled back the curtain on a lot of these niche dating sites. Apparently it's all basically just a single backend with a whole bunch of different front ends and they just use attributes to decide which niches you could potentially fall it. It has the effect of having lots of niches for people to sign up for, but a bigger user base in each one since they're basically pulling names out of a common dating pool.

The example in the article was that there was one site specifically for dating farmers and one sight specifically for dating within some specific religious denomination. But if you identified your religion in the farmer ones people in the religious one would see your profile too and vice versa. And, of course, the whole thing was just lousy with bots and scammers.

I read this article ages ago though. At least 6 or 7 years. I'd be surprised if that dynamic was still working.


I think that technically, Google and Facebook aren't to blame for these ads. They can slap as many labels on their users as they want, but it's up to the advertiser (at least on facebook) whether they want to target based on those categories and interests, or if they just use the default 18-35 (male) targeting that they think will work better. One of the reasons I started blocking ads on youtube was the unskippable horror movie ads; I can imagine that it would be hard to narrow down "interest in horror movies" from your internet data, so they just target everyone, no matter how much I adjusted my advertising interests.

FYI: Google doesn't choose what's the best content for you - we're not there yet. The advertiser chooses to target you. Let alone - they are completely oblivious to your relationship status or you having kids.

> Did they ever think to just ask me?

I've wondered this for years, but I think I know why they don't do this.

If they asked me what ads I'd be interested in seeing, and were to abide by my exact parameters, that would limit how many ads they can show me and hence how much money they can make.

Instead, they spend billions to make guesses on what to show me, not just to show me what I want to see, but to make guesses on what I don't know that I want to see, opening up the door to showing me many more ads and make more money. That and they know that even ads for things I'm not interested in at the moment can persuade me to buy in the future.

Of course, I'm not saying that any of their methods are actually very effective. Whenever I've turned uBlock Origin off, or saw ads on Hulu, I don't remember ever seeing something that's even remotely interesting to me or got me to engage. Like a lot of things such as "AI", I believe that modern advertising is a lot of overvalued bunk that mostly has value on the perception that it's necessary. It survives because people in charge don't actually understand the technicalities behind advertising, except that its use seems necessary and correlates with continued cash flow.


If they ask you, you will tend to answer with what you perceive a better version of yourself should want. But they don't care about that imaginary version of yourself. They care about what gets you angry enough to click/share.

I've looked into this, since I think there's a massive amount of value being left on the table due to this disconnect. The standard answer is essentially what you're saying, combined with the fact that some advertisers are willing to pay more. A business that sells ad space is going to sell it as expensively as possible, so they don't want the highest bidder to know they're not on my 'approved subjects' list.

A trick I think they're missing though is that I'm a lot more likely to pay for things a better version of myself should want, even more so if I've essentially asked my advertisers to nag me about it. The potential conversion rates are so much higher that I think any network which gets this right is set to blow the competition out of the water.


If the potential conversion rates are indeed higher, then that would have shown up on A/B tests.

The basic advertising infrastructure has been A/B tested to death. And one of the biggest takeaways that is that what people think that they respond to is not what they actually will respond to. One of the next biggest is that people who actually have responded are often completely unaware of what it is that they are responding to.

The underlying reason is simple. A/B testing is very good at teasing out what we respond to before we consciously notice that we are responding. But since that happens before we are conscious of it, we lack awareness of what caused that.

But the simple fact remains. If you think that advertising would work better if they just did things the way that you think that they should, you are almost certainly wrong.


A thought occurred to me that those companies are actively fighting against your attempts to improve yourself.

Given that a 'better me' would probably spend less money on frivolities, that's probably the case.

Really though, it's a wasted opportunity. I have childhood ambitions that I'd follow up almost any realistic lead to achieve. I refuse to believe that out of six billion people, not one has created a product that would help me. But nobody in the ad space is even asking for my input.


Wouldn't it follow then that you would also buy things that you think that better version of yourself would want? Or is it that people want to be that better version without actually doing anything about it.

>I've wondered this for years, but I think I know why they don't do this.

In similar vein, why not just advertise based on the content the person is currently consuming? Put fishing ads into an article about fishing, the same way people put gun ads into gun magazines.

Given how abysmal targetted advertising is I don't see this being much worse.


>> In similar vein, why not just advertise based on the content the person is currently consuming?

Why not advertise based on what they consumed last week too? And once you start down that path it's like the Netflix recommendation problem. Also, at scale one Hope's they refine the algorithms based on actual CTR feedback.


>Why not advertise based on what they consumed last week too? And once you start down that path it's like the Netflix recommendation problem

from my personal experience because it takes a way too static view of my consumption habits. Echoing some other replies here I find these personal recommender systems to be completely awful.

They constantly recommend me stuff I've already bought or have no interest in any more, and Netflix constantly overfits what I like, vastly underestimating genres I haven't seen yet while recommending me awful shows presumably just because they fall into some sort of similar buckets to higher quality shows I've watched.

Case in point, the NYT already got rid of behavioural targetting in Europe last year and actually saw ad-revenue go up. (https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/20/dont-be-creepy/)


the Netflix recommendation problem

Maybe you're thinking of how it is now, but when Netflix had its sophisticated Cinematch, its recommendations were much, much better.


Because people spend lots of time on things they won't buy. Contextual advertising is available. It's just not as high-performing, in general. Works for search, for instance. Ask your marketing team.

Well, if you've got uBlock Origin on most of the time there's no information on you. Obviously you get the untargeted ad. Essentially no one but the broad audience guys are buying your attention.

I don't know. Amazon knows exactly what I bought over the years (ublock or no ublock) and still tries to sell the same or weird stuff to me, or recomends the same books I already bought. I think advertisers just don't care.

Amazon's "also bought" recommendations are usually pretty good in my experience. e.g. "people who bought replacement roomba filters also bought replacement roomba brushes" Usually I find these recommendations fairly sensible.

They didn't seem to target me well before I started blocking ads, or when I used Facebook where uBlock Origin doesn't work and where I pretty much voluntarily told them everything about me before I wised up. But your point is well taken.

> that mostly has value on the perception that it's necessary

This is known as the Amazon vacuum problem. Try buying a vacuum and your suggestions will be about vacuums forever!


The best time to show you vacuum ads is right after you buy a vacuum because:

* You have concrete intent

* At a 5% return rate (pretty low), that's 5% you're going to buy the alternative


I hear that that explanation a lot.

I'm not sure I buy it.

As for why:

1. I don't have much data except myself but I can't remember buying from those ads.

I can remember smiling at them a lot though.

2. That wouldn't explain why I get ads for the exact same product I bought.

Here's another argument I remember from marketing at engineering school:

Some marketing is justified even after the customer has bought -especially with expensive items - to make them feel like they did the right thing (which in turn should make them less likely to return it.)


That's the problem with advertisement. It's ok to annoy 95% to sell to 5%.

Just look at polling and you'll see why "just ask me" is not as simple as it seems.

Many of the audience segments aren't interests, they're demographic and psychographic information. Per the excerpt below, would you willingly provide investable assets (ie, net worth), marital status, level of education, or family size?

If not, presumably the "large team specifically to support this year of a dozen people" that NYT assembled has built a system to infer those things about you.

This is NYT trying to stay competitive in light of CCPA (which state will adopt it next? my guesses are NY, OR, MA, or WA) and GDPR. First-party audience segmentation is now all but required for larger publishers.

From the article:

> Those segments are broken up into 6 categories: age (age ranges, generation), income (HHI, investable assets, etc.), business (level, industry, retirement, etc.), demo (gender, education, marital status, etc.) and interest (fashion, etc.)


I can't think of the last relevant online advertisement I've seen. They're almost always out of context and uninteresting. On the other hand, magazine ads are usually well-fitted to the topics in the magazine, and I find I often read them.

The point is, I'm not really convinced that tracking is necessary in order to produce more relevant ads. I guess it's kinda necessary in order to track how many views an ad gets, but there's gotta be a better way to do that, and it doesn't need to collect any data other than "viewed++" or maybe a bit more to prevent gaming the system.


I haven't worked in online advertising for a long time now, but when I did it was in the early days of retargeting, and the startup I was at was pivoting to doing search retargeting. But honestly, without any real metrics to justify it -- I suspect just investor interest / industry buzz.

I ran some quick numbers myself to see how the early experiments with it were doing, in regards to click through rates, and I didn't see any statistically significant improvements. I became very very skeptical -- one of the many things that led to me having a large fallout with the founder.

Now I'm sure in the intervening decade there's been improvements, and this is just one anecdotal datapoint, so I can't make strong claims about the efficacy of retargeting generally -- but I remain skeptical.


Go into the market for a mildly big ticket item other than a house and do some searches or browse some websites with privacy blockers off. You'll get start getting "relevant" ads.

I went to a e-bike manufacturer's website a couple months ago and they chased me around the internet with ads for like a week.


For me, this more often presents as ubiquitous ads for something I have already bought.

For some ads, i think google, you can click/tap on that blue little X to close it. Then a clickable field appears, and when you click, or tap on you can choose "I already bought this" among the reasons for why you closed that ad.

Question is if one is willing to do that, or not. I prefer blocking them.


Even more so on amazon

"yes Amazon I have just brought that TTRPG supplement why would I want to buy it again"


I once googled airport tow tractors to see what their specs were. Saw ads of airport equipment for months after... I'm nowhere near buying a 16-ton tug to move airliners around.

That would make for an awesome "saw a coupon, this is what they shipped!" story. Probably good resale to an FBO.

I'm in the market for a bigger house. Schibsted knows. Google still seems to have no idea.

I love it when they spam you with big ticket purchase ads right after you have made a purchase.

Yeah I'm full up on computers/cars/kayaks/trailers/riding lawnmowers right now, thanks.

Maybe sell me monitors or printers instead, or wait a month and show me fancy kayak paddles, GoPro, or roof rack mounts that save my back.


Generally I think the reason for you and others is that what you are interested in isn't advertising in their channel so it is always irrelevant.

I think the base cause of this is that we look for products based on life events; if the light burns out, we search for a new lightbulb. Google can't have this data (thank Dog), so can only serve targeted ads based on recent internet activity. Thinking of this in terms of PID loops, there's too much external interference, and too much lag in the loop for it to be really effective in calculating the next derivative.

> It's crazy to me that there is a multi-billion dollar industry focused on trying to guess what ads I might be interested in, using lots of privacy-invading techniques that I do my best to counter. Did they ever think to just ask me? I might not care much about ads if it was as simple as declaring the categories I might be interested in, at least if I could be convinced that that's all I would see and that the crazy privacy violations would stop

I could be wrong here, but I think it's because marketing folks believe that they know you better than you know yourself. That certainly seems the case with salespeople, whose role is to pitch something that may not be desired right away.


It's not a matter of people thinking they know better, but a matter of people seeing which approach makes them more money. Internet advertising is based on a bidding system which is highly tracked.

Advertisers may be bidding too highly on "targeted" demographics, but that's outside the issues of organizations like New York Times. Its in NYT's best interest to get the highest bids possible.

They may have been monitoring the difference in ad prices between highly targeted and not, and decided the difference no longer worth it.


People act differently than what they say they do. The problem is data quality and fidelity when spread across the web.

When you get clean data like Facebook and Google with their first-party access, they can know you better than your own friends.


It’s simpler than that even. They don’t care what you want/need, they care what you can be convinced to buy.

> Did they ever think to just ask me?

I think you misunderstand who the customer is here. What you want is irrelevant. It's what they can get you to pay for.

If you knew what you wanted, you could just type that into a search box. Clearly, the NYT display ads have other purposes. Looking at the home page now, the ones I see are to spark feelings of need and suggest a solution at the same time. Skipping right over the part where I think about needing something and figure out the best way to solve that need.


If I'm paying for a subscription, then I am the customer, theoretically anyway. Which is why I wish they would take a subscriber-centered approach. If they sent me ads I indicated I wanted to see, then I should be more willing to click on them then some ad trying to indicate how much I really need a left-handed blivet in my life even though I've never indicated any interest in such an item. It seems like it would bring higher click-through numbers for a lot less work. Companies selling left-handed blivets might be hurt, but that's not my concern. But then I don't understand anything about the current system, admittedly. I do everything I can to avoid it.

I am not actually a subscriber though, but I think I might become one for at least a while after this is in place just to try to reward companies moving in this direction. It would be refreshing to be able to go to a news site and not have noscript show dozens of domains in it's list.


Sorry, but if they're selling ads, the advertisers are the customer for that. You're the product.

> Did they ever think to just ask me? I might not care much about ads if it was as simple as declaring the categories I might be interested in

The most profitable ad categories are in things like insurance and legal. Who would opt in to those?


>Who would opt-in to those?

The OP's approach doesn't depend on people opting into legal ads. You can use ML/regressions/whatever to extrapolate the best people to show which type of legal ads based on their interests, even if those interests do not include "Legal". There doesn't even need to be an opt-out option at all. I don't think consumers would mind, since opt-outs reduce the service's advertising revenue which in turn increases the cost of the service. Almost no one wants to pay more money.


>I don't think consumers would mind, since opt-outs reduce the service's advertising revenue which in turn increases the cost of the service. Almost no one wants to pay more money.

Your natural learning just failed. Congratulations. Can't wait to see the Machine learned version you want to force on people completely unawares of what you're doing.

Privacy bloody means something. Until you start respecting people's desire to be left well enough alone, and not have their attention imposed on by obnoxious advertising, all you are going to door ensure that the wave of sentiment against the practice grows more and more severe.


So we’re not just anti-tracking now, but also completely anti-advertising? How else do you think free services will get the revenue they need? Do you think all of them will be able to survive solely on patron revenue and purchases? Some surely can, but you’re making a universal argument here.

Wherever advertising is necessary to keep a website running and up to date, being anti-advertising is akin to being anti-working to get your money or anti-walking to get to your destination.


> You can use ML/regressions/whatever

But do you not feed that with all sorts of data you aggregate about the user?


When a user volunteers granular data about their interests, you can use pre-existing correlates between those interests and purchasing probabilities. Those correlates can be derived from exogenous data generated from a subset of users with the same interests (who voluntarily accept more tracking for free premium features), experiments, educated estimates from experts, etc...

The above approach might not be perfect, but I would compare it to the recent trend towards organic food. Organic food is simply costlier and less efficient to produce. Nonetheless, a growing number of people wouldn't do without it. They only visit stores with organic meat and produce. Websites that completely eschew tracking and third party tracker data can be the "Whole Foods" of websites.


You can infer a lot about which sort of stories people read especially for news papers - and also their geo location.

Basic ML clustering - its not perfect.


If people don't check the "legal" or "insurance" boxes, then they wouldn't be the most profitable any longer, something else would be. And it would be something people are proactively more interested in. Besides, if you're in a situation where you might need a lawyer or you might need a type of insurance, you might actually go check that box, even if you uncheck it again once you've found one.

If the top categories apply for most people by default, then there's no reason to have people opt-in or track them.

The general categories apply to everyone. The profitable subcategories are very specific, especially based on location and income.

got a source on that claim?

The adsense niches which pay the most:

https://alejandrorioja.com/high-cpc-adsense-keywords/

You also see it in Google keyword prices:

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/most-expensive-keywords-g...

The most profitable keywords are in industries where there is a high lifetime customer cost. Most of those are mundane because the less you think about it, the longer you stay as a customer.


I would have said the more ambulance chasing legal queries and plumbers 15 years ago when I did a bit of AdWords plumbing keywords in London where £45 to £50 quid

>> Adblocker detected! Please disable to enjoy my marketing guides.

Sure...


You are not the target. Who do you think clicks on "10 hot girls want to see you NOW! click here!" or "Item you bought 6 month ago is now at a 50% sale!"

I know some of the people who are the target. People who would buy 3 lifetime supplies of coffee because of a 20% sale. People who can't pass something framed as an exceptional offer. And of course, they are in debts.

Fuck advertisement. It is preying on vulnerable people, it is making markets less efficient (by distorting information and urging consumers to not act rationally). Forbid this scam. Fund internet service in a saner way.


Does anyone have resources on why it's best to place ads based on the user profile instead of based on the related content on the page?

Personally, my interest fluctuates quite a lot and is probably closer to the current article than a median projection. When I want to buy a new thing, that interest is only valid for the time until the purchase decision.

It's just an observation and probably naive. But it seems like content-based ads could be quite efficient while requiring much less privacy-invading tracking.


It just seems like a lazy way to automate ad buys. If you had to consider the content on the page and match the ad content to the page, that's just more effort and thinking to be done. Advertising is dubious enough, companies aren't going to pivot like this to see a blip on the radar.

That's how Google's billion dollar adwords business works. It's not about laziness, it's about the right environment to use it in.

It's highly dependent on the environment.

Sometimes contextual relevancy is the best. Ads on search results are contextual since they can be easily aligned to what you're looking for.

Other times, the content is generic or there's more info about the user (which is usually more behavioral than simple interests) and it's better to target that way. For example, you may be reading local news but you looked at new shoes yesterday, so it's better to show you ads for the shoes and try to complete that purchase than generic ads for local businesses.


I honestly just kinda want an "ad shopping site" to discover new brands. Like let me post a description of an item I'm looking to purchase and then companies reach out to me with what they've got.

I want content-sensitive non-tracking ads.

Like, I'm reading cooking recipes and might actually be really interested in this fancy cooking equipment or specialized book on the topic.

Just don't tell me about that when I'm thinking coding and clutter up my thoughts.


I have never heard a satisfactory explanation for why this isn't what's done. When I'm reading about lawyers I might be looking for lawyers, when I'm reading about rolling pins I probably want a rolling pin.

Three weeks later I've hired a lawyer and bought a rolling pin and I don't need those ads anymore, they are perhaps the least profitable ads to show me.


If I open a new general store in a neighborhood, and I want to reach all the local people online without wasting money on advertising to non-locals.

There isn't a cheap way to do it without using some data. People don't often research stores in an area, once they find one in an area, so you're basically left to hope that people drive by and see the store name to Google it -- but those are people who were going to your site already.


You mean a walk-in kind of store? I feel that this lends itself more to billboard ads and mail flyers. What do you want me on your site for?

Again, I don't want my thought processes hijacked, so the only acceptable context would be me searching for general stores or things that you carry, which I usually.. don't. If I'm looking at a map it is a good fit as well.

On the other hand, I'd really like a searchable inventory of all city stores, even in general terms. Sometimes it's not even clear which store might carry some obscure item and I'm left to guess and check all possibilities in person, often in vain.


How would this be different than going to Amazon.com and searching for "bluetooth speaker" or "marble chess site" and seeing offers from different companies for products you can buy? Amazon also makes it convenient since you can order through their site instead of being redirected to a third-party, and they assist in the shipping/return process.

I started building such a thing - the problem is the same for any marketplace startup, it's really hard to get enough people on either side to scale.

I'm surprised there's so many comments here about demographic data while that's only a really basic view into current ad tech. Since the late 2000s ad networks have invested heavily in retargeting [1]. It's quite common that people end up in a vendor, add something to the cart and never finish the transaction. Retargeting attempts to catch behaviors like that and adjust to display the items that the user showed interest in. I haven't been in that industry in years, but in the 2020s I can only expect much more nuanced systems based on ML. And everything falls apart without being able to keep a history of what you do and who you are.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_retargeting


This is called permission marketing and was advocated for most prominently by Seth Godin starting in the late 90’s.

Unfortunately for every person in marketing who like Seth Godin cares even a little about things like privacy and consent, the marketing industry is full of thousands of people who would rather ram all kinds of ads as quickly and frequently as possible in front of every unwilling eyeball possible to try to brainwash as many impressionable people as possible into believing they need all kinds of things that they had no interest in previously. It’s a numbers game. They don’t just want to sell people things they want or need or would benefit from. They don’t even want to simply introduce people to unexpected solutions for problems they actually have. They want to do those things but they also want to exploit every psychological weakness possible to introduce new wants and new needs and new problems and insecurities into the consciousness of their targets because one can’t maximize sales without psychologically manipulating more people into thinking they want or need things they don’t.

Ads are primarily exploiting impressionable insecure people with poor impulse control.


"Audience segments" is a pretty general term for... well, segmenting their readership so that advertisers can target specific groups. They could be doing this based on what articles you read, your geographical location, or whatever else it is, including possibly just asking you. It doesn't say much about the degree of kosher they will abide by.

That said, removing 3rd party data is a big deal, because 3rd party data is consistently one of the worst offenders but also one of the simpler ways to make your advertising slots more valuable.

At face value, it means:

1. They are not buying/using data gathered about you from elsewhere by other companies and other websites.

2. They are still directly analyzing data they gather about you from sites owned by NYT.

3. They could still use data gathered from sites affiliated with NYT using NYT trackers, if that's something NYT does. No idea if NYT does it.


> 3. They could still use data gathered from sites affiliated with NYT using NYT trackers, if that's something NYT does. No idea if NYT does it.

NYT seems to do this with sites they own like The Wirecutter. Even privacy preferences are controlled by shared infrastructure. For example, thewirecutter.com uses https://purr.nytimes.com/v1/directives, which serves this JSON. Presumably the values depend on which regulations you're covered by:

  {
    "PURR_AcceptableTrackers":
      {"value":"controllers"},
    "PURR_AcceptableTrackers_v2":
      {"value":"processors"},
    "PURR_AdConfiguration":
      {"value":"full"},
    "PURR_AdConfiguration_v2":
      {"value":"rdp"},
    "PURR_CaliforniaNoticesUI":
      {"value":"hide"},
    "PURR_DataProcessingConsentUI":
      {"value":"hide"},
    "PURR_DataProcessingPreferenceUI":
      {"value":"hide"},
    "PURR_DataSaleOptOutUI":
      {"value":"hide"},
    "PURR_DataSaleOptOutUI_v2":
      {"value":"hide"},
    "PURR_EmailMarketingOptInUI":
      {"value":"checked"}
  }

Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting to see how they’re implementing it.

From the perspective of GDPR at least, I’m pretty sure NYT and its owned sites count as one controller/processor, and I think passes the sniff test for case #2 rather than case #3.


> trying guess what ads I might be interested in,

No, they are trying to guess which add will produce the best return in terms of advertiser-sought behavioral changes if shown to you. That probably has some overlap with ads you are interested in, but it's not the same thing.

> Did they ever think to just ask me?

The ads that it is generally most valuable to show are the ones that the target wouldn't expect to have interest in. Advertising largely exists to create desire; if you ask people what advertising they'd like to see they will identify the advertising that would do the least to change their behavior from what it would be without the ads, which defeats the point. Untargeted ads would probably be more effective.


They did. Do you remember back in the day, when you signed up for yahoo and it asked you for all the things you were "Interested In"? That's what that was. It didn't work well. It turns out most people don't answer, and the ones that do lie.

Even if that weren't true interests change and you'd never update a profile like that, and the most profitable things to advertise for you'd never put on it in the first place even if you remembered.

Even if that weren't true, the people that would would make the most money would be the people who got to you before you got around to updating it.

As context: I'm 32 years old now. I've been advertising online since I was 15.


I assume what people are interested in is one thing, but things they may _need_ is another.

Being able to hoover up information that is more up to date than when you last filled out the survey means they could potentially be more accurate. i.e. You're shopping for some type of product, your search history and browser history indicates this, but is outside the realm of what you filled out in the survey. Being able to direct some ads that fit your current needs could be lucrative.

I'm not an advertiser, but this is just my small bit of thought on it. Perhaps others are able to confirm or deny this is what's happening.


Some company trialed this (maybe it was hulu) and the results were astoundingly stupid. They had maybe 18 ads and three categories, you picked a category and got your six ads repeated infinitely.

I like the idea of ad preferences built into the browser with an api that lets ad companies tap into what people actually want. It wouldn’t be invasive and it might actually generate better roi. The best person to market to after all is someone telling you “I want what you make”. This would also help the browser companies/organizations.

Another note, Facebook and Google are both some of the largest companies in the world because of their advertising technology. We created them with our clicks.


Your actions show your interests more accurately than asking you. Also interests are too wide and can change over time. What's more important is what you're looking for right now and the recent actions you've taken (like reading about electric cars or looking at new shoes, even if you're interested in tech).

> Did they ever think to just ask me?

This would assume that the goal is to show you what you want to see, rather than to show you what advertisers want you to see based on what they think you need to see and might respond positively to.


If they're avoiding all third-party data, can they do better than user-submitted preferences plus observed behavior on the domain? It seems like anything else should count as third-party.

With 6 million subscribers, just looking at which articles people read gives a pretty good indication of what they are interested in. They don't need to do better.

Probably trying to combine data across all their online properties YouTube and pinterest and so on.

The pervasiveness is still an issue. And if you offer that kind of information you should be paid handsomely, seeing as how much money that information may touch over your lifetime.

What you do and buy is much more accurate information than what you say. A form of preferences will never be as effective as surveillance.

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