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> The news and other content we all enjoy on the open web is mostly underwritten by ads, as are the social networks activists use to coordinate.

And who underwrites the underwriters? We do! It's a lie that ads give people content and services for free (explained below). If Mozilla truly wants to fight for users, it needs to end its reliance on advertising revenue, and help invent honest ways for content and service creators to get paid by end users. We are a creative industry. We can find ways to do this while also keeping access open to the fraction of the population that can't afford to pay (which per below would only be people who don't buy advertised products).

I know this truth is hard to swallow for an industry that has grown so dependent on ads. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." But if we are to do the right thing, we have to really think about the truth:

1. The advertisers who pay web providers get their money from us, added to the prices of other things we consume. There is no free lunch.

2. The overhead cost of advertising is huge and we pay for that too.

3. We pay the opportunity cost of a product that cannot put users first because ad-supported web providers live or die by giving advertisers what they want (and what we want indirectly and secondarily). This includes both the cost of lost privacy as well as business, editorial and design decisions that optimize for advertising revenue. As has been said, they are using us as products more than treating us as their paying customers. Let me restate to be extra clear: WE are the paying customer, but we don't look like that to their finance department.

4. We pay for all the collateral damage of advertising, such as the tremendous amount of link-bait and other garbage that advertising perversely incentivizes.

5. We pay the social costs. Whether or not you agree with the social costs laid out in the above article, I'm sure most can agree democracy and the free market assume people make voting and purchasing decisions based on facts and reason. Advertising undermines democracy[1] and the free market[2]. Advertising is predominantly about manipulation and deceit. I believe the social costs are the most expensive.

Added together, we end users are paying a lot more for "free" product than if we could just straight up pay for it. And even we non-users are paying the social costs and collateral damage.

Ads are simply a sneaky and dishonest way to get at end users' money without them realizing it.


[This is a condensed version of a more detailed case with reference links that I made here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7485773]

[1] You don't need me to explain. We all know that money often overwhelmingly decides who gets to run in an election, plays a big part in who wins, and influences what legislation they introduce, support or fight.

[2] http://www.chaosisgood.com/2013/03/how-advertising-undermine...

Mozilla is prototyping a content micropayment system tentatively called "Subscribe2Web". Here is a video presenting the ideas behind the project:


$12.70/month, according to that Mozilla research, is the total value of advertising per user, which means that is the most we'd have to pay on average if could just pay directly, and in fact much less per my points above!

This is even less than I had estimated. I need to dig into this number further.

Thanks for the link. This issue is a project of mine and it helps me a lot.

this was fascinating to watch and i'm glad mozilla is thinking about this problem, but i don't see how this is much different from flattr.

subscribe2web doesn't yet seem to solve what to me is the key part of the problem: in order for me to pay to opt out of ads, i still have to link my payment information to someone with a relationship to mozilla or some one else, and enable them to track what i read in order to distribute the funds. that's not necessarily better than google analytics and google ads...it's just different. and when it gets baked into the browser by default, it's potentially even more problematic than the status quo in certain ways.

I suppose you want some sort of zero knowledge proof, so the browser can prove that the request is coming from a user who has paid without revealing who the user is.

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