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Should I Block Ads? (shouldiblockads.com)
151 points by notriddle 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments





I was on a fresh setup recently and caught a glimpse of the raw internet on my way to install uBlock Origin and uMatrix. There are still fake download buttons everywhere. I can't understand how the non-ad-blocking world tolerates that stuff - no choice and no voice I guess? The amount of autoplaying videos was disturbing as well.

This includes plenty of “good” sites.

I kept forwarding Worldometers’ COVID-19 data site [1] to friends and families, then later realized it’s full of banner ads if viewed without ad blocking.

[1]: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/


Oh wow, I also forward that site around, and sometimes comment on the great minimal design and information density.

Just had a look at it with uBlock Origin disabled, and wow, how do people browse the internet like this?


It really is jarring when you see your regularly visited websites without ad blocking. A news site that I look at has infinite scrolling ads of those "Dentists everywhere are furious about this trick" with a picture of an avocado boiling in water or something equally ridiculous. I realize that ad blocking does take money away from site operators, and I do pay for many of the news sites that I frequent. But honestly a site that is willing to blast me with ads about how I can cheat my insurance company with ONE SIMPLE TRICK doesn't deserve money from my clicks. And I do get that they often can't choose what ads are shown. Perhaps that's the bigger issue.

Edit: elaborated on my final point.


Indeed. I showed my 80 year old mother uBlock Origin and she actually said it made her remaining time more useful. That really put it into perspective.

Without content blockers on iOS it has some garbage google ad or something advertising 5 cures for arthritis and something called nutreance. I wonder how many people get a fake Covid cure advertised there since that seems to be the level of advertiser.

Browsing the internet without an ad blocker is like navigating the Warp without a Gellar field.

https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Gellar_Field


I send my friend a link a while ago and he complained to me. I tried it with ads off and it was horrible.

Google actually got that right with their ads - they were non intrusive and fitted in. Facbook started ads well, but these days they are getting annoying.


They got it right initially, with ads being unobtrusive, but easily identifiable. Now, though, there is barely an indication that somebody paid for that link at the top. Moving the ads from the sidebar to the main results, slowly removing the yellow background, made Google ads be just as hostile, but in an insidious rather than overt manner.

This is exactly why I insist on using adblocks. Trying to find the actual download link on pages is an absolute nightmare without them. The fact these sites allow ads like this and then complain if you use an adblocker is beyond me. If ads were not so hurtful to the experience of websites, I would have no reason to block them. The problem is that I feel I am forced to use an adblocker just to be able to navigate a webpage without aggressive bombardment of wasted bandwidth, visual garbage, misleading marketing, videos I don't want playing, noises I don't want to hear, and other aggressive tactics. The other part of it is that I will never ever click a link from an ad. If I want cheaper insurance, I'll look up my rates myself. If I want a bigger penis, I'll go see a doctor. If I want some such product, I'll look into it on my time. I'm just not a targetable demographic for advertising, but I feel I have to block them merely because of how relentless they are on so much of the internet.

I've had this when dealing with family members computers. It's an absolute disaster.

I was cleaning up my mums computer (malware, crapware, virus scan) a few years ago and she got annoyed when I removed the emoji toolbar for Internet Explorer. It was quite a facepalm moment, I assumed it had installed itself without her asking for it, but no she wanted it there.

This probably an important reason people would rather browse Facebook or Instagram on their phone. It's literally a much better experience.

Those are also full of unblockable ads, and spyware to boot. I don’t think that is a better experience at all.

It still has ads, but it is also a better experience.

The web ads tend to bed more intrusive and outside the UX, more irrelevant, and more malware like.

I don't like those apps either, but the UI is definitely better.

I'm not sure why Firefox just doesn't build adblocking into the browser as a first class feature - maybe because they rely on the Google funding?

All of the "ad-supported business model supports creators, ad-supported businesses allow more people to access to the content" just feels like after the fact rationalization.

The same with how good targeting is because the ads are relevant.

If your content is valuable then charge for it. If browsers actually blocked all the ads like users wanted (and made a better product) then sites that couldn't support themselves without ads would die.

Wouldn't that be nice.


> I'm not sure why Firefox just doesn't build adblocking into the browser as a first class feature - maybe because they rely on the Google funding?

They kinda do. They keep building APIs requested by the adblockers so that adblocking can continue to work efficiently/effecitvely. They're also blocking the underlying abuses of advertising by increasing privacy by making it more difficult to track/fingerprint, increased security with the safe browsing checks (phishing/malware), and anti-cryptomining.


> I'm not sure why Firefox just doesn't build adblocking into the browser as a first class feature - maybe because they rely on the Google funding?

I am glad that they do not. I doubt that mozilla would be able to make anything nearly as good as ublock origin. They already tried something similar with "tracker blocking" - it is uncustomizable and generally inferior to ublock.


I completely agree, but websites are even worse. At least the ads are super clearly marked and they're entirely unlikely to "trick" you or infect your phone with malware.

The Facebook and Instagram apps are malware: spyware, specifically. The animals have left the barn at that point.

I firmly believe that if the users could see what these client apps are actually doing on their device, they would never use them.


No they're not.

So the reason I block ads, or at least started is a book I read called Pre-suasion by Robert Caldini. In it he points out that internet ads are dismissed and ignored by our conscious mind but because of that often will produce an effect on our unconscious mind. Think like the subliminal messaging type thing. People who were shown Kodiak ads on a webpage in an experiment couldn't recall seeing any Kodiak ads simply because we are so used to internet ads we ignore them; however later for the subjects favored purchasing a Kodiak camera over competitors products.

The books final chapter concluded by explaining an experiment they did where simply by showing a particular image in the background, combined with a spaced follow up and increased incentive, they were able to sucessfully manipulate people's political and voting preferences in a manner that lasted over a year.

I decided at that point no one gets to screw with my subconscious but my immense amount of childhood trauma. In my mind every other reason pales in comparison to this one for why I adblock and put it on my wife's computer, and every computer a family member owns.


Your imperfect recall of the brand name "Kodak" makes your cautionary message about the insidious effects of ads deliciously ironic. Or is that repeated misspelling actually part of an astroturf campaign to ensure that the notoriously detail-oriented minds of Hacker News readers latch onto the apparent typo, firmly embedding it in the forefront of awareness?

Even without the psychology, advertisers aren't charities giving money away as many people seem to believe, they want a return on their investment and that return comes from users giving them money. Manipulating you into giving them money is the sole reason that 99% of ads exist and if it didn't work there would be no ads.

> however later for the subjects favored purchasing a Kodiak camera over competitors products.

Even worse is that when they were purchasing the camera the cost of the ads was embedded in that price. They weren't just manipulated into buying that brand, they paid for the manipulation itself. I now make a conscious effort to avoid advertised products, at least the ones in meatspace where there are no ad blockers. I can't wait for the day that AR is advanced enough to let me block them too.


Totally agreed. Ads compromising my brain is far more dangerous to me than ads compromising my computer. The effect of modern ads on individuals and society are tremendously negative.

It's our responsibility as parents in tech to teach our children to block all ads. My son hasn't browser the web without an adblocker, ever. I showed him what his favorite sites look like without an adblocker and he was really surprised.

Is it? Who will pay for the internet then? I almost feel guilty for blocking them in a way, I appreciate that we need to have some naive users to fund stuff.

Some smarter sites ask you to voluntarily unblock their site. If its something I value I will actually do that. If it's forced upon my often I'll try and work my way around it.


Not the ad companies, and I'm not sure I'll miss the ad-funded internet. The internet services I use most often and enjoy are either paid or are essentially nonprofits.

The ad-funded internet seems to largely churn out a wealth of low-effort content mill sites polluting Google results. I won't mourn their death in the slightest.


This made me stop and think: what services do I use frequently that are supported by ads? Honestly, not much. Search engines (DuckDuckGo), YouTube, Outlook.com email, a couple of non-traditional news sites (Ars Technica mostly), Stack Overflow, and podcasts. HN links drive most of my browsing habits, and that kind of content tends to not have or rely on ads.

And apart from YouTube, I'm mostly fine with the ads on those services. Clearly I'm not the average user, but I agree with your conclusion that most ads and the services they support can die in a dumpster fire and I won't care.


yeah the old argument: this is the current pricing model how will we survive without it. see Netflix and Spotify for examples of how that works out i.e. there will be a new model once the old fat cats roll over and are replaced with new ones. The internet existed before it had ads, it will survive again without them. note that all this malicious activity is _because_ money has been introduced to the ecosystem.

How many people actually disable their adblockers when sites don't allow you to access them if you have one enabled? It's just much easier to close the tab.

I am almost never in a situation where the content is worth the trouble of disabling my ad-blocker. Information is so-readily available that is it laughable that a website would be essential enough for me to bother turning my ad-blocker off, and the few times I've had it has nearly-universally resulted raw clickbait. Furthermore, that sort of behavior displays an arrogance from the publisher that makes me question the overall integrity of the article I was trying to read in the first place.

I do use my adblocker disable button, but not in response to sites pleading for me to do so. I just find that sometimes it helps when a web app is being wonky. (Usually, the adblocker has misidentified one of the app’s main first-party JS files as an ad script and prevented it from loading.) Of course, since we’re talking about web apps, no ads usually result from this.

Usually. But Fidelity loads bootstrap.js from the ensighten CDN on some pages, so it’s not a mistaken first party domain blocked but a tracking third party you need to allow.

Then it sounds like you might be in the market for a new stockbroker.

Back in the day, Forbes was one of the first sites asking users to disable their ad blockers. I whitelisted them, seeing that they asked nicely. But then it came to light that they were not screening the ads, resulting in users being served with pop-under malware.

Ever since then, I just close the tab when a sites asks me to unblock. It is not worth the risk.


It depends. If I'm trying to refill my prescription on my pharmacy's web-site, or complete the paying of road tolls through my state government site, I turn it off... Temporarily... for that site.

If it's to read an article, see a video, or find information: never.

Also: Firefox with Multi-Account Containers is great.


Well - all of my ad-blocking is through a Pi-Hole - and I am not in the habit of logging into it's management interface and whitelisting sites unless absolutely necessary.

So... tab gets closed, site loses my eyeballs completely.


> How many people actually disable their adblockers when sites don't allow you to access them if you have one enabled? It's just much easier to close the tab.

Some sites intentionally break if you're using an adblocker. It's really easy to argue to not use those sites.

But...

What about government sites? Government sites don't work with strong ad blockers.

What about bank sites? Bank sites don't work with strong ad blockers.

What about your work related sites? My employer's HR site doesn't work with strong ad blockers. Many of my employer's internal sites don't work with strong ad blockers.

Yeah it's much easier to just close the tab. Unless the site is literally required for your continued living.


Anecdotally, I can't recall a single time my adblocker (uBlock Origin, AdBlock Plus before that) ever interfered with any of my online banking websites, ANY government website, or employers' websites.

And if they ever do, well, most people only use a small number of such sites. Whitelisting them would be easy enough.


> What about bank sites? Bank sites don't work with strong ad blockers.

For these sites I use anonymous mode in a different browser.

I don't disable my adblocker. I wouldn't go walking around dark alleys blind drunk in Mexico City at 2:30 in the morning either.


If the site is not internal to your company, and it's broken, most reputable ad blocker lists will accept bug reports to fix it. EasyList has a forum specifically dedicated to doing this.

If it's internal to your company, just whitelist it. They already pay for your time, so it's really their business if they put stuff on their internal sites that ruins your productivity.


I have used a few different bank sites and they all work with ad blockers.

Depends on your bank and the definition of a strong ad blocker. Danish banks use a common authentication solution that is generally (always?) inserted as a third party iframe. If you use the uBO enhanced Easy mode [0] or stronger, it'll be blocked.

[0] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Blocking-mode


Hmm, all the bank and government websites I've used work fine (so far) . I've also worked at many companies now, and I haven't had trouble with ad blockers there either.

I'm actually surprised how they could cause problems? Do you have specific examples?


> I'm actually surprised how they could cause problems? Do you have specific examples?

1) use uMatrix and block all scripts and all third party sites

2) go to your favorite bank

3) if you're lucky, you'll get a warm welcome to enable javascript. i don't think that's reasonable, but just enable it to get moving.

4) after enabling javascript, see a few third party sites. some of them are "content delivery networks" (which IMO shouldn't be a thing, and absolutely shouldn't be a different gTLD), some of them are telemetry (hope you trust your bank to vacuum up only what they want), and some are services your bank tries to upsell you on (please sign up for our (third party) rewards to further monetize your purchase habits).

5) good luck trying to figure out which sites to trust



I try my best to send a polite email to sites that don't work but I need to use.

Thankfully, UK government sites don’t have this misfeature.

I don't remember ever disabling my blocker in response to such a request. What I do do is look for donation options when it's a valuable resource, but it's often hidden or nonexistent.

They will still show ads. Paying users are more valuable and the ones you actually want to show ads to.

There's no rule saying I can't pay them money, and continue to use an ad blocker as well.

Assuming they'll still let you see content with an active blocker. Once you have a business relationship they can set any terms they want.

If I'm giving them money, and they still insist on screwing with me like that, then I won't stay a customer for very long unless I actually HAVE TO.

Honestly, whenever a site doesn't allow me to access it with an adblocker active, all I do is look up the right adblocker rules to remove that restriction and continue on my merry way. Usually not that tricky to do so, most rely on JavaScript and HTML elements for this stuff.

Alternatively, if it's a single page, then either reader view, an archiving service, or flat out editing the offending elements with the inspector works fine.


I have the same approach to sites that require JavaScript.

If a page loads blank, or contains a single line of text "this applications requires javascript", it's an insta-close.

The unintended benefit of this is I nearly always realize I was procrastinating when I clicked the link anyway... so now I regard NoScript as a productivity tool!


If sites have a wall come up complaining about my ad blocker or cookies, I can usually get around it using my ad blockers content filtering to block the paywall itself. If it starts to take more than three seconds, I close the tab and move on.

If you find turning off your ad-blocker, just install a second ad-blocker. Having to turn off two ad-blockers, makes it a whole lot harder ;-)

uBlock Origin + DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials is the combination I am using.


I use DNS hijacking to redirect known adhosts to a black hole (basically a pi-hole, but done on OpenBSD with Unbound). You think disabling two ad-blockers is a chore, wait until you have to SSH into another box, tweak a .conf file, and reload a daemon...

It's still worth it for them to ask if a non-zero number of people turn it off (and make them some money rather than none).

Option A: Decrease the amount your site is shared by X%. Get ad revenue from 100% of viewers.

Option B: Maintain current number of visitors. Get ad revenue from Y% of viewers.

Depending on the values of X and Y, the ad revenue may go up or down as a result of requiring unsafe browsing. Your conclusion assumes that X is always equal to zero.


Some sites can be fooled using tools such as uMatrix which block elments at finer granular level, but is tedious to configure and not very friendly to non technical users. If I can't stop junk on a site that way, unless the information is really vital, I usually close the tab and forget about it.

I think medium mode in uBO is a fair balance between granularity and usability:

https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Blocking-mode:-medium...


I had to disable adblocker to view my old Yahoo mail inbox. I didn't find a way yet to safely switch from Yahoo to Gmail without potentially missing out on emails or lose access to sites registered using that email.

I did disable it. I am not proud.


Really? I have an old Yahoo mail account I give out for companies I know will spam me. I use an ad blocker and have not had any problems with Yahoo mail. I don't use it daily, and it's not my main email client, but it works just fine. I'm on Safari with 1Blocker.

If you disable ad-blocker they force you to use an outdated interface where you can't even format the text. So they offered two options: disable ad-blocker or switch to the old interface. Yahoo mail keeps get worse and worse every year.

Enable forwarding of your Yahoo inbox to Gmail, or enable Gmail's periodic fetching feature from the Yahoo mailbox.

On mobile I can use the Gmail app to add Yahoo accounts. It's possible to also have the same thing for the web app?

Yep, just close the tab :D

I've done it for a small number of sites that I frequently visit and they ask nicely. If a site outright blocks me, then I never get to the point of frequently visiting them anyway.

Today i finally disabled Adblock for Twitter.com because scrolling the Timeline is way too wonky as Twitter and Adblock fight over dynamically adding and removing ads as I scroll.

Really? I've never noticed any issues with uBlock Origin and Twitter.com.

Some sites ask you to do it voluntarily, and if its something I value enough I will do. If it's forced I will sometimes try a workaround, sometimes just close it.

Right. There's usually a site just as good without ads.

It’s way more rewarding to use ublock’s little picker to block their overlay :) if that doesn’t work though, nope - close and move on.

Depends on how annoying they are. If it is a simple overlap I'll delete the element. If that doesn't work I'll trying google cache or something similar if I really want to access it. I also run the bypass paywalls app so I don't run into that problem on most news sites anymore. I do pay for a small number news sources I read consistently but still want to read articles posted on HN / Reddit outside of those. I don't think bypass payways is the most ethical solution but I'm not really sure there is a great solution right now.

Ad blocking is a security issue now. When the ad networks started serving malware, what were the websites response? Basically nothing, they just said it's not their problem and pointed the finger at the ad networks. Ad blocking is now vital to having a safe web experience. This is not some trivial issue. Computers and the web are critical for modern life now. The same computer that people use for browsing news sites is also used to do online banking, pay bills, apply for unemployment, do work with sensitive data (for example a work laptop), and so many other things.

And computers are also used by minors. Some of these ads are really disturbing and not something minors should see. Again, when this started happening, how did the websites respond? They did nothing.


This x10000.

I just disable them via /etc/hosts because I can't tolerate any more useless javascript putting load on my CPU.

My workstation (E5-2640) has seen multiple generations of operating systems, video editing software, DAWs.

Browsers and web browsing in general is the only thing that I can tell it's getting consistently worse year after year.

I know it's an odd metric but 10-15 seconds to fully render a newspaper homepage is more than it takes for my full DAW setup (Cubase + FL Studio as VST plugin) to fully come up with tracks loaded and play button ready. I don't even recall dialup being this bad.


Funny because I feel this way about Cubase, it consistently gets worse. My projects take much longer to load than any webpage, fwiw.

With ad blocking, some sites present you with an overlay, preventing you from accessing content.

A really nice Chrome and FF extension to scrub overlays is named Behind The Overlay:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/behindtheoverlay/l...


For people who do not use a browser made by an advertising company:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/behind_the_ov...

90% of the time I just close the tab, if the content I want isn't immediately visible without jumping through hoops. If the content is hidden by a newsletter popup, the percentage is 100.


Also a shameless plug for the extensible, amalgamated hosts file I actively curate:

https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts


I have a much simpler trick for this. As the page loads, if you start hitting Esc repeatedly really fast just at the right moment, when the content is loaded, but the overlay is not, or a little bit earlier, it might work too. Not always though.

Edit: If you miss it, just hit F5, and try again. It’s a good game.


If you use ublock origin you can usually just right click and block the element and peel it off layer by layer.

I've had better luck with AdGuard for Safari than 1Blocker. I use AdGuard on both macOS and iOS, and I just use their content-blocking Safari extensions, not any of their other products. I had paid for 1Blocker but found it increasingly let ads through. I wanted a product based off of EasyList instead (which AdGuard filters are).

I used to use AdGuard until they switched to an Electron app that needs to constantly run in the background…now I just have a homegrown content blocker I whipped up once and should polish and release someday but am just too lazy to finish.

AdGuard is very good. I use it on all my devices: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android.

This is missing what in my opinion is the biggest reason: advertisers create perverse incentives where pages are rewarded based on visits and ad-clicks rather than quality of content. This results in extreme forms of clickbait, misleading extreme headlines, and shallow low-information-density content.

The answer is obviously yes. You externalize the pain (lost revenue isn't a thing felt by you) and internalize the gain (no ads to view, etc.). It's just like the answer to:

* Should you pirate your school textbooks? Yes, obviously. I did it all through uni and I'm a good software engineer. Oh sorry, that's not right. I meant "It's a travesty that a university I pay money to would force me to spend money on books I could just get from the previous year. The writer barely makes any money on the book anyway".

* Should you pirate games? Yes, obviously. A game that's free is better than a game you pay for. If it's sufficiently cheap then the advantage of discovery and your library makes Steam or Epic worth it. "Store-bought games include intrusive DRM that messes with your system files and is a security nightmare"

* Should you pirate software? Yes, obviously. That's why most paid software is SaaS now. You can't pirate SaaS. "Same DRM argument as above".

Ultimately, the answer to "Should I get something for free which I would otherwise pay for" is always yes.

I mean we still have DRM and shit and once upon a time people grumbled that they pirate games because they don't like always on DRM. Well, Steam is always on DRM and folks love that. To paraphrase big Bill C, "It's about the money, stupid".

I could probably invent a plausible smoke screen for everything from riding on trains for free (why are cars so subsidized?) to not paying for parking (I already pay so much in road tax and income tax) to taking all the Halloween candy someone left outside in a bowl (I never had this stuff as a child, all these kids already have way more than they need).


YES.

I think you should block ALL ads entirely, internet and everywhere. They are time sinking distraction and you definitely don't need them in your life.

A specific adblocker somebody needs to develop is podcast ad blocker, just auto-skip or have no sponsored message please.


You do realize that most podcasts will go away if they can't make money via advertising, right?

None of the podcasts I listen to have ads, many use things like Patreon or have a "first hour free, second hour only for members" model.

This and, either way, you shouldn't care.

Heuristically, save yourself time and energy and snap to the game theoretical conclusion. You'll go out of your way and incur personal cost to be a good citizen and prop up this poorly-conceived system that relies on such good samaritanship, but will most people? LOL no. So it's futile anyway. Get the best deal you can and let come what may. :D If all podcasts go belly up and there'll be a post-ad-economy afterscape where all pocasts are somehow paywalled, so be it -- that would have happened anyway, regardless of what you choose to do, and it's hopefully a more resiliently-designed system which doesn't shoulder users with cumbersome ethical dilemmas.


Niche blogger here.

For some time I tried to fight the tide by continuing to publish ads and not using an adblock myself. By being an amateur blogger, I understand that even beer money helps to keep the moral high. However a couple of years ago I gave up and just embraced reality: deactivated adsense and started to use an adblock. I finally acknowledged that nobody likes ads - myself included - specially the ones not related with the content. Did my blogging suffered with it? Certainly it did.


Firefox running add-ons on Android made me switch to it on the mobile phone. It makes the mobile experience way better than Chrome and Brave.

If you'd like to run decent ad blocking extensions (or any extensions) on the Chromium side of things, give Kiwi a shot. Afaik the current Play Store/XDA Labs release is out of date on the security patches' side of things, but the developer is currently working on catching up. Also, the project went open-source not too long ago and apparently the dev's been working together with some devs of a different browser, so you can expect more Chromium browsers to implement support for extensions in the near future. https://kiwibrowser.com

And, well... There's also Yandex with their extension support, they deserve at least a mention. iirc uBO is broken there, but Nano works fine


Should I invite wasted junkies into my home to use the computer as they please?

Most junkies will give you more privacy than what you can expect from the average ad network O_O

I have actually turned off my Adblocker for LinkedIn and Facebook ad they ads can actually be quite relevant.

I would be willing to on the news sites as well if they didn’t spam them so heavily into the page and they didn’t shift content to load them. The news sites also allow a surprising number of low quality ads. I’m willing to see ads for Tide or a bank, but no fake download buttons please.


If anyone is interested in how to set up a network-wide tracker blocker then I've written some guides on how to configure Pi-hole as a router and Wi-Fi range extender. This means you can force all traffic through your custom DNS, even devices from Google and Amazon that don't respect DHCP.

https://unop.uk/pi-hole-extended-part-1/

https://unop.uk/pi-hole-extended-part-2/

It's still worth installing privacy add-ons to Firefox but this helps with some profiling intrusions in mobile apps and Chromecasts etc. It also helps protect your less technical family members a little, although it obviously can't keep them completely safe from surveillance. Education is an important aspect too.


It's a pretty simple equation for me. If you're too lazy to curate ads and rely on a third party service to show any random ad to your users and run any random javascript in their browsers, your ad is probably on an adblock list and will therefore be blocked on my devices. If, however, you give half a shit about your users and therefore choose what ads they see, it probably won't be on a blocklist and won't be blocked on my devices. It's simple, either both of us care or neither of us do and it's up to the content provider which path they take with me.

Should you ever find yourself travelling in a foreign country with a monthly quota of just 2 gigs of data, you realise extremely quickly that every ad is an ad too many.

I don't block ads, I block third-party scripts and trackers, the ads just happen to not be visible without those, which is not my problem.

I wish instead of calling them "ad blockers", we had used something like "tracking blockers". The tracking/automation of ad networks is what the issue is, not the ads, yet we've made it more confusing for those that don't understand how these things work.

Not at all. I hate ads with a visceral passion. They are a theft of my time/attention for which I am not compensated.

No website has a right to exist, same with businesses. Nor do they have a right to my attention. People all cry 'the world will die without ads!'... no. Some of us have been around since the Internet started. All sites were free and no ads (banner ads came later, and were mostly static)-the sites full of passion, hours poured in for no financial gain. The difference is that now we have a generation of young people who feel entitled to make money off everything.

Now, the tracking is most definitely an issue, but first and foremost for myself and many others is the hatred of any and all ads. Life really is different without them. If someone comes up with an ear/eye implant to block all ads (tv, radio, billboards all of it) I'd pay whatever it cost.


They're commonly called "content blockers", because they can block more than ads.

This is a really well put-together site with very reasonable arguments describing the problem with web ads. I'm glad they put this together. It's refreshing to see something in this space that just has the facts without being preachy or screechy.

> Should I Block Ads?

Yes. Permanently.


To add to that HTTPSEverywhere and Privacy Badger are quite useful too

Both of those add-ons are quickly becoming irrelevant. Privacy Badger, because Firefox and Safari have tracker blocking built-in, and HTTPS Everywhere, because HSTS preloading is standard in all of the major browsers.

Any views on Magic Lasso for iOS/Mac? Seen it mentioned recently. I’m on 1Blocker Legacy, it’s fine, but I’m aware it must be getting out of date.

Aren't we at the point where displaying rich media ads, especially ones with video, costs more energy than they actually earn?

How could this even be a question?

Either you block ads or you don't know that you can block ads.


> Do ad blockers stop sites from making money?

The honest answer to this is “Yes!”, not a 7-paragraph non-answer.


Adblockers stop sites from making money from those third-party ads.

They obviously don't stop a shopping site from selling products or from GitLab.com registering users for GitLab services etc.

If the way a site makes money is by abusing the visitors, adblockers stop the abuse and the money from that* side of things, which may be all the income they get, but not necessarily.

So, this is not a simple yes/no situation.


It is quite simple and you said it yourself.

> Adblockers stop sites from making money

Stop right there. You don’t get to decide the site’s business model. They get to choose it, not you.

And I mean duh, no kidding adblockers don’t stop online stores from letting people buy stuff. Thanks for the insight there.


>You don’t get to decide the site’s business model. They get to choose it, not you.

They can choose any model they like, but we decide whether or not it's profitable.


> You don’t get to decide the site’s business model.

I didn't say I get to DECIDE the site's business model, I get to JUDGE it. Do you want to argue about my judgment that ad-based business models are harmful?


So they need a set bushiness and tech teams to build an internal ad stack, and try to get advertisers... many who wont buy in without 3rd party tracking to mitigate fraud.

There's better and worse in advertising, sure. But third-party ads are a compromised business model even at their best. I'm not saying businesses don't involve compromise, but the goal should be to figure out how to have the most net benefit to the world (I don't think profit as an end in itself is a respectable goal). Thus, choose the compromises that are least detracting within the scope of real-world options.

> So they need a set bushiness and tech teams to build an internal ad stack

Somebody needs to take responsibility for the malicious and broken ads. I really don't care who does it; you can contract it out, or do it internally, just as long as the work actually gets done.

The work isn't getting done, right now.


Sometimes a website will break with an ad-blocker. How do you allow ads in such a site when using pi-hole?

Blocking JS across the board with selective whitelisting will defeat a lot of anti-blocking. Element zapper to dispose of divs that cover content by default.

Pi-Hole's dashboard allows you to disable the ad blocker for a short period of time.

Personally, I usually disable JavaScript when a site gives me an adblock wall. That usually allows me to bypass it.


Usually I just find a new website.

Can I possibly be the only person here who doesn’t use an adblocker?

I like buying things. I like seeing ads that interest me. I don’t care who tracks me or monetizes data about me that is 100% worthless to me. I like not paying money out of my own wallet to read websites and watch videos.


You'll notice that the essay doesn't build its argument around "ads bad" or "privacy good" or any of the typical shibboleths.

It builds its argument around crap like fake download buttons, fake FBI warnings, coin miners, and ads that break the website. These are the reason why University of California and Edward Snowden recommend ad blockers, and they're the reason why I recommend them too.


Yes, but the "ads bad" arguments hold up to scrutiny as well, even though it's not what this site focused on.

It's an easier argument to reply to with "you're stealing the website's livelihood", which is why it's usually worth bringing up after you explain the many other problems ads have.

Yes, I'm not denying the significance of tact. But just because it may be tactfully or politically harder in some cases to focus on "ads bad", that doesn't make it wrong.

And how to fund creative work is indeed a complex question. However, "I won't support business model that is itself harmful" is a perfectly fair position. I can both want a website to get funded and also refuse to play along with funding it through third-party ads which are harmful even without the worst problems of deception and tacking etc.

In short, I think it's really important that we not forget that ads-bad is basically true and has been since at least the old penny-papers and yellow-journalism.

See for one good source Tim Wu's The Attention Merchants. A good intro is episode 16 at https://humanetech.com/podcast/


Yes but personally my enjoyment of ads outweighs things I don’t care about at all.

I wouldn't use one if they got rid of the fake download buttons and sketchy dating ads.

I think this article downplays the downsides of ad blockers too much. If ad blockers become the norm, much of the current web will no longer be viable. Facebook, YouTube, Google, Reddit, StackOverflow, and countless other sites are fundamentally based on advertising and can't survive without it.

The article tries to address this a little bit with the "Ad blockers do not block all advertising" section, but I don't think it fully acknowledges that if everyone installs uBlock Origin as the article suggests the web as we know it will collapse.


"collapse" is really quite a big word. You listed five websites, which is hardly "the web as we know it", though it certainly is a sizeable portion of online traffic. Stackoverflow would easily survive since it is a tool used mostly by wealthy people, easy to monetize. Reddit may survive but is it even alive right now? Youtube would have no way of surviving as it is.

But really, you are conflating "the web" with "megacorps flushed with cash able to hire (tens of) thousands engineers building unprecedented surveillance tools and networks". And the end of the latter


There are better, more efficient ways to monetize than ads. Ads are one of the most destructive and socially wasteful ways to monetize content; it's just technically easy. If we make ads nonviable, you can expect things like micropayments to become more common (and I'm happy to make that trade).

(Disclosure: I work for Google, but not in Ads)

Micropayments are generally considered to be unviable for the general population (edit: business model wise, not tech). People are unwilling to pay even pennies for an article[0], because now users are facing the burden of choice, constantly thinking about how their browsing is racking up pennies. Not to mention, it boxes you into the pay-per-article model. Sites like Twitter or Facebook don't make sense in this world.

I also think it adds significant barriers to entry, since micropayments aren't accessible, at all, to younger people, or the poor. Information should be as free as possible imo.

If the market decides all ads should be blocked, then sure, things will change, but please don't pretend this won't have huge ramifications - things will not be remotely like they are today. For the news at least, it'll likely just be the expensive megacorp publications that survive.

[0]https://www.cjr.org/analysis/reuters_digital_news_report.php


> micropayments aren't accessible, at all, to younger people, or the poor.

This is a purely technological problem, not some sort of fundamental problem with the concept of micropayments.

If advertising were really the only way young or poor people could generate value (this is not actually true, but for the sake of argument I'll go along with it), there could be dedicated websites where people intentionally look at ads in exchange for credit in their micropayment accounts (whatever that looks like, be it Bitcoin Lightning or some service from Square). Of course, once you phrase it this way, it becomes more clear that using ads as an indirect monetization strategy kind of doesn't make sense. It's better to have people perform mechanical turk style tasks (the monetization strategy of Captcha clones).

As a parent, I'd be happy to put a few cents in my child's micropayment account so they don't have to get their brain flooded with garbage whenever they use the internet.


> People intentionally look at ads in exchange for credit in their micropayment accounts.

> It's better to have people perform mechanical turk style tasks.

I do like the idea, but I still think the barriers to entry are way too high. I'm worried that what will really happen is people will just download content via other means, which will start publishers off the deep end putting DRM into their webpages. Just look at Steam as an example - it very much reduced piracy rates because it lowered the barrier to entry.

> As a parent, I'd be happy to put a few cents in my child's micropayment account so they don't have to get their brain flooded with garbage whenever they use the internet.

Easy enough for someone living in a 1st world country. A child in Bangladesh who just wants to read about maths or video games however... Not to mention, your child is now directly linked to your bank account, whereas before you had pseudo-anonymity.


> because now users are facing the burden of choice, constantly thinking about how their browsing is racking up pennies.

That's how text messages started, where you paid something per message. Pretty soon everyone shifted to the package model, where you prepaid for a whole bunch of messages - more than you would use in a month.


> For the news at least, it'll likely just be the expensive megacorp publications that survive.

Says the guy working for one of the largest megacorps that would be most impacted...


Totally fair point, but just because I work for a big company doesn't mean I'm not worried about smaller companies. I care about the health of the internet and have spent a lot of time thinking about advertising, micropayments, free speech etc.. this is an important topic for me.

Micropayments were a solved problem in the 90's, Viditel did it and it worked like a charm.

> Facebook, YouTube, Google, Reddit, StackOverflow, and countless other sites are fundamentally based on advertising and can't survive without it.

Can’t wait! Did you mean for this to talk me out of it?

For the most part, the ad industry is toxic. If their service isn’t worth anything to it’s users, why prop it up by through ads?

First party advertising is more acceptable in my mind. Eg. Facebook selling ads to other businesses to show on Facebook. Where it tends to go wrong is that they are incentivized to track everyone everywhere through pixels on other sites, in mobile apps with Facebook logins, and buying credit card data. Some companies manage to sell high quality ads on their site without resorting to this behavior. If that was the norm, I’d turn my blocker back off.


Web site owners brought the wrath of ad blockers upon themselves.

If ads were limited to a simple image, MAYBE a non-obtrusive animated GIF, it'd be fine. Honestly, I thought Project Wonderful[0]'s ads were fine and even had an exception in my blocker for them.

But no, advertising networks allow advertisements to run JavaScript, auto-playing videos with sound, and create malvertising that hijacks my browser and even attempts to install malware or exploit browser vulnerabilities.

In short, fuck 'em. If your business isn't viable without being hostile to your users, then it isn't viable.

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


So do you turn your adblocker off on legitimate sites that don't run malicious advertising? (Which, unless you have a browsing history not fit for publication on this site, is likely the majority of sites that you visit)

Or do you just want to have your cake and eat it too? It's quite funny to me that the same crowd who blocks internet advertising wholesale is often times the same crowd that bemoans the fact that so many websites are going to subscription models and paywalls versus say 10 or 15 years ago. Frankly, there is little discernable difference between adblocking and theft, but I'm sure that that statement is not a popular one on a forum like this.


> legitimate sites that don't run malicious advertising

That's the problem.

There are plenty of legitimate sites that have run malicious advertising because they used an ad network that ended up allowing one. Like Forbes: https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2015/09/malvert...

So as a precaution, no. Today's totally safe ad is tomorrow's malvertising.


Years ago before Google got into advertising I said I would pay for Google.

I would now, if it meant that I could have an ad-free (legitimately, I use an adblocker) privacy-guaranteed experience.

Would I pay for YouTube? I don't know, I pay for Netflix though, so maybe? I support some YouTube channels on Patreon, so there's definitely money there.

Facebook? Nope, but then I am half a beer away from deleting my Facebook account at any time anyway.


There's an easy fix, they just need to serve ads from their own domain. Give up on the click tracking, go back to the way ads were handled in paper newspapers and magazines. They didn't have tracking and still made a lot of money. These sites need to take responsibility for the ads and treat it as part of their content. The ads in old paper magazines were curated and carefully placed.

Instead these sites just whine and do nothing. When some ad is malware or very poor quality? They just offload blame to the ad networks like it's not their problem. Users don't like the tracking? They just say they must have tracking for ads to work, which is a lie since ads existed before the internet.

So I will continue blocking ads. Their greed and incompetence is not my problem. If this makes lots of websites go out of business then so be it. Maybe the next generation of websites will learn and start treating ads properly as part of their website content.


Good. A web without ads and ad companies is a freer, fairer, and more decentralized web.

How is it freer? Would you pay 10 cents every time you scrolled through your Twitter feed?

Freer as in freedom. There would be less incentive to build massive centralized surveillance networks to serve targeted ads if ads did not exist.

>Facebook, YouTube, Google, Reddit, StackOverflow, and countless other sites are fundamentally based on advertising and can't survive without it.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I use all of these sites and I see utility in all of them (even the much-maligned Facebook.) Youtube, for all its controversy, is arguably the modern Library of Alexandia.

But with every other business in the universe, you either adapt to changing market conditions or you die. I don't see why the web should be any different.


John Gilmore famously stated that "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it".

I believe there is a corollary: Advertising interprets attempts to avoid it as damage and locates your eyeballs anyway.

It's a constant battle with an opponent with the highest order financial motivation.

Let's keep our PiHole tricks a little quiet and maybe they won't catch on right away :)


> The article tries to address this a little bit with the "Ad blockers do not block all advertising" section, but I don't think it fully acknowledges that if everyone installs uBlock Origin as the article suggests the web as we know it will collapse.

The web as we know it "collapses" every ten years anyway. The question is what replaces it.


It's a stupid business model that involves bad UX by definition. Not ever do I want to see an unsolicited appeal to buy something. Ever, ever, ever.

The sooner it goes away, the better. I do not hold to the proposition that there is no other way to pay for the internet.


That ship sailed when websites neglected to screen ads properly, resulting in malware being served to unsuspecting users.

If the sites collapse, so be it, but it won't because the vast majority of people casually surfing the web do not know how to use ad blockers.


Any business that needs to dump pollution into our waterways should not be allowed to operate, no matter how much good its products are. Any business that needs to destroy our minds in order to be profitable should not be allowed to operate.



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