Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
A note on the argument about the 'morality' of adblockers (utoronto.ca)
257 points by zdw on Apr 6, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 214 comments

"People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs."

For those who are wondering, the source of this quote is Banksy, the famous graffiti artist.


Public advertising certainly has a coercive feel to it. If ads were food then advertisers would be running around shoving food into people's mouths (mostly junk food, too). And yet we think nothing of feeding people information without their consent.

It's interesting to imagine a world where you have to explicitly agree to be exposed to information. I think I would rather like that world.

> They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

Correct, Banksy never asked permission before shoving his advertising in my face.



Happy enough to use the system when it makes him money.

Banksy's quote is quite ironic, coming from a guy that's well known as a master of publicizing his own work... even more, doing that by creating/exposing his work in "public space", using the walls of private and public buildings as a canvas without asking anyone for authorization.


Anyways, property can still be argued about, and cities will make laws to make sure nothing gooes out of control. I prefer seeing graffitis than large ads.

Yep, cities may have regulations for that, and they usually do these days.

And I don't necessarily agree with your preference. My family used to own a large, historical house that had a huge front wall because the terrain was very elevated from street level. And I can tell you from experience, most "graffiti" is worthless crap scrabbled by drunk teenagers without ANY artistic talent or ANY worthwhile message to the world. If you give graffiti a pass because there's the one-in-a-million Banksy, you should also tolerate ads everywhere because a few of them happen to be awesome.

No, I still prefer graffiti.

But when the cool kids do it, it's disruptive

"Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours."

That's an interesting conception of one's natural rights in a public space, given that basically nothing in a public space "gives you choice whether you see it or not" by the definition of "public space." The following does not sound different in principle from the quote:

"Any member of the opposite sex (who with their looks implies you're not sexy enough and all the fun is elsewhere blah blah BLAH) who gives you no choice whether you see them or not is yours. They're yours to take, 're-arrange and re-use'."

I honestly don't see a difference except in degree (and hence in jail time I'd prefer to see resulting from actions based on each of the attitudes, roughly 15 days and 15 years, respectively.)

There's a big difference between blocking ads on my machine and spraying ads in a public space. The latter is a small-time prank of course and nothing close to a serious crime, but the philosophical basis for it cited above couldn't be more off IMO.

> I honestly don't see a difference except in degree (and hence in jail time I'd prefer to see resulting from actions based on each of the attitudes, roughly 15 days and 15 years, respectively.)

Except for that thing about human rights and dignity, the violation of which is fundamental to the reason why there's jail time for transgressing upon it.

Whereas ads are... really just ads, as long as we don't have anything equivalent for them.

What if I wear something terribly ugly according to a street artist and he throws a pie at me?

What if I paint the walls of my house and a street artist decides my taste is intolerably poor and sprays the walls?

What if I own a shop and advertise something in that painting and it gets sprayed?

What if it's a corporation who puts up the ad?

What if a guy (say Bill G) runs a corporation that someone dislikes and throws a pie at them (as someone in fact did?)

What if someone doesn't like seeing women or people of color on ads and sprays them? (a real-life situation)

Where's the line - when are you free to act in public disregarding others? I for one would imaginably prefer a pie thrown into my face to having something I painted on a wall sprayed over. Why is the former a question of "dignity" while the latter isn't? Is it because corporations have no dignity? What about a model whose image is altered by misogynists - is she entitled to "dignity"?

I think that being too particular about rights ("ads are just ads" hence not covered by rights etc.) is the way to lose all the rights.

(By the same token - not being too particular - all the cases above should cost the perpetrator the same IMO, 15 days of detention, tops I'd guess, although the guy throwing the pie at Bill Gates is much less scary to me than the ad-spraying misogynists; unless you manage to prove the latter constitutes hate speech or such.)

I see the difference between the set of human rights assigned to "publicly distributed information" and "human beings" very much a question of principle and not just a question of degree.

How about:

* "publicly distributed information" is a shop's name and a perpetrator adds racist slurs to that name (the shop is operated by a member of a race disliked by the racist in question.)

* the act of "rearrangement" performed by a "street artist" to a human being is having a pie thrown at them. the human being in question ran a Ponzi scheme and just got out of the courtroom, having proven plausible deniability.

Which one feels subjectively worse? Is this example consistent with "rights assigned to information" and "rights assigned to human beings" residing on entirely different planes?

>I honestly don't see a difference except in degree

Well, that's pretty concerning.

Are you really comparing blocking ads and remix culture to rape?

OK, that's it. You're done. You've passed the point of no return in this discussion, and are no longer participating honestly. You're just going for shock value.

People are publishing content on the internet without putting it behind a login/password/restricted access.

Not only are they publishing it, they're announcing its presence on social media, performing "search engine optimizations", and cross-promoting it on other non-web technologies (radio, tv, printed media, etc.).

... At no point, as a consumer of this content, did I get presented with so much as a simple "In return for consuming this content, you agree that you will look at the ads being shown here".

I also haven't agreed to such things for cable tv or radio - but guess what? I don't generally consume those media products, in large part because the formats are linear and full of "unskippable" ads.

Nothing is stopping the web from moving to this format. There are many sites out there that present an interstitial of some sort before moving onto the main content. And every time I end up on one of those sites, if my ad blocker isn't dealing with it somehow, I generally remember and avoid visiting the next time.

If you want me to pay for the web content that you're publishing because that's the business model you've decided on, be up front and attempt to get a paid agreement from me. Or deal with the fact that I'm part of the audience that doesn't look at the ads in print media, mutes or skips channels on TV, and installs ad blockers for the web.

If an ad comes on the radio, I usually change the station. During TV commercials, I mute and do something else. There's nothing that compels me to sit through the ads to listen to the music or watch the television show. Similarly, I have no problem with "skipping", or blocking, ads.

Some may not want to deal with the bandwidth required to keep an ad-blocking loop running at all times. They get a default penalty of having to suffer ads, without actively having signed on for it.

>... At no point, as a consumer of this content, did I get presented with so much as a simple "In return for consuming this content, you agree that you will look at the ads being shown here".

Isn't it common knowledge that many sites rely on ads for their revenue? Sit-down restaurants in the U.S. don't tell you as you walk in that you're expected to tip, but it's common knowledge that wait staff aren't paid minimum wage because customers are expected to tip. Yet, it's generally considered rude to not tip even though it's even easier than installing an ad blocker and restaurants won't refuse you service, whereas some websites try to block ad blockers.

Edit: Added last sentence.

> Sit-down restaurants in the U.S. don't tell you as you walk in that you're expected to tip, but it's common knowledge that wait staff aren't paid minimum wage because customers are expected to tip.

That's also something the rest of the world scratches its head about. I'm not sure the best way to make your point is to use an example of how absurd the US is.

American tipping isn't a particularly good system, but it's unkind to not tip if it means cheating the wait staff out of their wages.

Similarly, ads have issues, but blocking them is not fair to the creator, who reasonably expected ad impressions in exchange for creating the content and paying for visitors' traffic.

> it's unkind to not tip if it means cheating the wait staff out of their wages.

Very likely "unkind", but I categorically reject your framing of it as "cheating by the customer".

The practical and ethical responsibility for a livable wage lies with the employer, even if your specific state's laws permit them to violate it.

The real culprits are (collectively) the lawmakers and their donors, who allow this "race to the bottom", followed by the employers who benefit every day from the workers' powerlessness.

Or, to put it another way: "Donate cash to my salaried employee out of pity, so I don't have to pay them for their actual work! If you don't do it, they'll starve and it'll be all your fault!"

Then why dont you lobby for the government to raise minimum wages for waiters.

We don't tip because their min wage is so low, their minimum wage is so low because we tip.

Tipping is a cultural thing. And practically wait staff make much more from tips than they would if they were paid hourly by their employers.

But isnt it some kind of circular logic to say that, waiters are paid less (by restaurants) because it is common knowledge that they are tipped. And customers must tip, because, they are paid less by their employers. Dont you think it would be simpler if there was no expectation of tips. You know what I think, its the employers who are getting away with cheap labour. It is like some companies that have a variable pay included in the offer, over which the employee has no control.

Note: That's true only for a minority of the US' individual states.

Every cafe and restaurant in Australia is upfront about the cost of their service and food. I don't think that your example of tipping is a very good one because the rest of the world doesn't operate like that, it's a very American centric view.

I agree with the OP. The content creator was not upfront about wanting money and used adverts, and we are within our right to say no, I'm not lowering myself to watch this advert.

It's time we accept that adverts are not the solution.

In addition, is it just me or are most adverts just crap and garbage that lower the overall experience every time?

I'm in Australia at the moment. Just a couple things I find refreshing, besides a generally more laid back attitude about a lot of trivialities:

* No tipping. Employers are required to pay a living wage. ($17-21/hour, depending on some factor)

* Sales tax is included in the price. No "add x% at the register" crap.

> it's common knowledge that wait staff aren't paid minimum wage because customers are expected to tip

"Common"? No it isn't. ~65% of Americans live in states where that would be ILLEGAL, and those employers would be committing the crime of wage-theft.


Maybe the real problem is your state's laws.

As the sage once said, "your failed business model is not my problem". If someone wants to spend time and money making stuff and instructing a web server to give it away for free, on the gamble that people who want that stuff might also download a bunch of ads, it is not my responsibility to ensure that their gamble pays off by acting according to their predictions.

I don't know about where you are, but your state's (failure of a) business model is not my concern.

Where I am, at the very least, wait staff are required to be paid minimum wage, like (almost) everyone else.

The ironic thing is that many of the same people who complain about ads also complain about paywalls.

This is not necessarily ironic. For example, most of the content producers that I fund are the ones which make their media available as open to the public (e.g. wikipedia, democracynow.org, tvo.org). This is a model that I encourage.

Sounds like you would not consider it unethical to exploit a flaw in a website that allowed you to order products without paying. After all, the website is public, and you weren't asked not to exploit the flaw...

If the company ships your order then I'd say the ethical onus is quite low on your part. This is a company that has made not one, but two errors that seem to reinforce each other. How could a reasonable person tell if the company intended to give away their products or not?

Nice strawman.

Nowhere did I imply that. Everything I mentioned was webpage reading/viewing content that the publishers themselves announced across the world, hoping to get readers - who in turn would view their ads.

My point is that your argument is ludicrous. "What, these people that have been promoting their stuff everywhere have advertising on their site?". It's not like it's unexpected. The idea that each website would have to get your consent to show you ads is outright silly.

I don't have a problem with people using adblockers (I use NoScript myself, which has a similar effect), but let's not pretend that it's some kind of ethical action you're taking; that because a website hasn't entered into a formal contract to show you ads, that it's ethically fair that you block them.

And while you didn't imply the situation I described, that situation is using the same arguments you are using - "it's public" and "I wasn't asked not to".

I'm not a party to the contract between the advertiser and the content provider. In principle, I don't necessarily even have an expectation that a given content provider uses advertising revenue to support the provision of their content — they may use a subscription-based revenue model, and offer some number of "free" page views per day/week/month/whatever, as a teaser to encourage new subscriptions. They may just have stupendously deep pockets and like providing that content out of the goodness of their hearts.

Whatever; doesn't matter.

To make the leap from "I chose to view that page" to "I chose to view the ads on that page" is specious and unsupported, and I'm under no obligation whatsoever to enter into an agreement between two other parties on the basis that they happen to have a standing agreement.

To suggest otherwise is tantamount to suggesting that because I chose to walk down a specific street at a specific time, I somehow also chose to see a specific dude taking a specific dump.

I can promise you, I didn't. Just as with ads on the web, however, my consent is apparently not a factor in this equation.

(Why, yes, I do live in San Francisco. How ever did you guess?)

EDIT: And, yes, before you judge or jump to conclusions: I do have paid, auto-renewing subscriptions on subscription-model websites, and I use ad and tracker blocking plugins. It's not my fault that some of the sites I view have chosen (what I think are) shitty revenue models.

As "AdblockingAndMorality" notes, ads are also potentially dangerous content. Let's say that you're a small business, and CryptoLocker nukes everything, including your backups. Would the content provider be liable? How about the ad distributor? Why shouldn't they, if you've been given no opportunity to opt out?

> I'm not a party to the contract between the advertiser and the content provider. > ... an agreement between two other parties

It's irrelevant what the behind-the-scenes relations are. The party you are engaging is providing the webpage with all it's content; that some of it is outsourced doesn't matter. Using your rationale, you should also be blocking any work done by freelance journalists.

If a company outsources it's billing, does this now mean that you can ethically access their services for free? After all, if a different company is the one posting you the bill, "I didn't agree to anything with them", so you don't need to pay up. It doesn't work that way. If you've ever been chased by a debt collection agency, you'll know that argument is no defence.

Perhaps walk into a diner and have a big meal. Then refuse to pay because you don't have an existing contract with any of the point-of-sale EFT providers or the manufacturer of the cash register. Those are contracts that the diner has with other parties and you have not consented to a contract with them, so you are within your rights to ignore them.

> I somehow also chose to see a specific dude taking a specific dump.

If you know a street is extremely likely to have a dude take a dump, then yes, choosing to walk down that street is accepting that you're also going to see a dude taking a dump.

Regarding your edit, I really don't care. I just think that talking about blocking ads as some sort of morally pure action is nonsense. It's not. You're consuming the content without the full bundle that the content provider put together - if you want to see the article, you're expected to see the ads along with it. I'm not saying that you shouldn't block ads, I'm just saying that if you do, don't pretend like it's actually an ethical action. If you want to be ethical, then don't use the site at all.

Using your rationale, you should also be blocking any work done by freelance journalists.

No, using that rationale, I should be blocking any work done by anyone I choose to block.

EDIT: As far as the "ethics" of ad-blocking, I'm not the one arguing ad-blocking is an ethical position. For me, it's an aesthetic position (ads are ugly), and — as The Fine Article does point out — one of choosing to have my browsing habits remain untouched, unmolested, and unanalyzed and re-sold by the demonstrably unclean hands the advertisers are grabbing at me with.

I guess you can call that an ethical position if you want, but it's not about what's right or wrong in my behavior, so my ethics are pretty much moot.

No, using that rationale, I should be blocking any work done by anyone I choose to block

You were complaining above that you were presented with content from a third party that you hadn't consented to, and didn't have a contract with.

I'm not the one arguing ad-blocking is an ethical position.

If you're not arguing about the ethics of it, why have you been talking about consent and the structure of contracts between parties? Nothing in your first, largest comment has anything to do with aesthetics, it's all about consent. Why, in the same paragraph as this statement, do you demean advertisers quite heavily about issues other than appearance? (deservedly or otherwise)

I'm still interested to hear your opinion on walking out on a bill because you don't have your own contract with the third-party EFT vendors.

I didn't say there weren't ethical arguments to be made around ad blocking. In fact, I offered what I thought was a pretty clear position on what I found to be the most compelling issue in that vein. I didn't lead with that argument in my original reply to you because it wasn't on point; I was replying to your specific language about contracts with an argument about my duty to honor a contract I wasn't a party to.

As for your question about skipping out on my restaurant tab because I don't have a contract with that restaurant's EFT vendor, I have two thoughts:

1. It's disanalogous, and so irrelevant. If some restaurants give away their food, some restaurants charge a monthly fee and let you eat as much as you want, and some charge per plate, and I don't know which is which before entering — before ordering, even — your question might be cogent.

As it stands, however, it's pretty much universal that if you walk into a restaurant, you'll be paying for your meal. So, I guess, to move that analogy to websites, if every website always had ads, and I was making an argument about blocking them on the basis that "I didn't know I'd be seeing an ad", I'd be full of shit.

But that's clearly not the world we live in, is it? So, moot.

2. Pursuant to my point above, that we live in a world where one always (or so close to always as to be practically indistinguishable) pays for one's meals at a restaurant: if Joe's Diner only accepts payment via Whiz-Bang EFT, Inc. and I don't have the means to transact with Whiz-Bang EFT, Inc. (say, I only have cash, or I don't have their app installed on my employer-provided phone — which is the only phone I'm carrying — and don't have rights to install new apps on that phone [1], or whatever), then it's not my fault if I can't pay Joe's Diner for my meal, is it?

My contract isn't with Whiz-Bang, else I'd already have a means of transacting with them, but I do have an (implicit) contract with Joe's to pay them for the food I ask them to serve me — again, we're talking about a world where one pays for one's meals, on a per-meal basis. If Joe's imposes an insurmountable obstacle to my fulfilling my contractual obligation, they're the ones who've voided that contract, not me.

Again, however, this is disanalogous to ads and websites, so I don't think it's terribly relevant. I'm just answering the question you specifically re-asked.

[1] Yes, that's unlikely to the point of absurdity, but so is this entire argument.

EDIT: formatting, phrasing, and clarification.

Sorry, was pulled away yesterday.

In short, I find it really odd that you take a "that's the way the world is" with the diner, but not with website advertising. You talk of consent and contracts as if website advertising is some kind of weird outlier that you hardly ever come across.

Just as you don't have a contract with the EFT vendor, neither do you have a contract with the web ad vendor. But the product is a whole - you're supposed to get one without the other. Blocking web ads is like skipping out on paying the bill at a diner. The individual damage is much less, and trivial, but ethically it's the same thing.

I do it. It's a selfish thing - I value my convenience more than I value the trivial fraction of a cent it costs the content provider. My problem is with people who will torture philosophy to try and make it sound like they're fighting a morally pure fight by blocking ads. It's not ethical, but it's not a great sin either. Just admit it's a selfish action and stop torturing the philosophy around consent and contracts. This kind of debate tactic is like the libertarian who redefines 'violence' to include receiving a letter from the tax department.

If you want to be ethical and you feel violated by ads, simply don't patronise the site. I don't care about blocking ads, but I do care that people describe it as some sort of morally clean action rather than a selfish convenience.

Actually, I don't think it's a fair point to say that "I chose to view the ads on that page" is specious and unsupported at all. Those ads are part of the markup and makeup of that page.

But that's exactly my point: without loading an arbitrary page, I can't know whether or not there are ads embedded in its markup.

If a page's headers could somehow tell me, "Hey! This page has ads! Do you still want to load it?", and I choose to continue viewing the page, then I've consented.

Absent that kind of exchange, I am in principle being involuntarily subject to unwanted content.

The same is true of every element on the page, from the menu system to the related articles box. Shall we have headers for every single element on a page?

Navigation elements are an expected, and rather essential part of a site's functionality.

Ads aren't — as ad-blocking software perfectly demonstrates: the day a site legitimately doesn't work (in the sense of being unnavigable, or somehow otherwise unable to be utilized in the way its creators intended, irrespective of its revenue model) because advertising content — which someone has chosen to include in order to monetize my eyeballs — doesn't load, then maybe you'll have an argument.

It's as simple as this: ads, if they're on a page, aren't what induced me to view that page. If the stuff that does draw me to a given page doesn't work, that's a problem. If ads don't load, my (personal) experience of the page is, in fact, improved. How exactly is that a problem, again?

Navigation elements beyond a spacebar and hyperlinks aren't essential. And probably PageUp. From websites of the 90's to today's product pages, there are plenty of websites that only require a spacebar and links to get around - no fancy dropdown menus or related article boxes.

Example, I've just been looking at https://www.consul.io/ - no menus, no special boxes. All you need is a spacebar to navigate the page, and you click on links to go to other pages. It's perfectly workable - fancy geegaws are not essential to navigate the site. Just like not all sites have ads, neither to all sites have drop-down menus and similar.

Perhaps I should have used HN as the example - it's also nothing but space/pageup and links.

You claim that you were never presented with an agreement that the content is provided in return for you viewing the ads, and yet you're very clearly aware that's the deal being offered, as you state here.

I think the anger is quite misplaced here by the author as it has never been the ad industry that has done "everything that was within their technical capabilities to spy on people and shovel ads on top of them" as the ad networks are simply a platform for which there are buyers of ads/eyeballs (advertisers) and sites/apps that display said advertising. It's the sites that you use that have chosen to include the code snippets needed to display ads or track you (not withstanding those terrible ad injector add-ons). Without your favorite sites providing it space to advertise on, there would be no advertising network.

In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today. Paywalls largely don't work for many types of content and advertising is much more lucrative for the sites you patronize. Who's paying for that "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" quiz on Buzzfeed that you gleefully wasted 5 minutes of you life on? Certainly not you; it was the advertiser who paid in exchange for an opportunity to influence you in some way (either direct action or indirect branding).

When you think about the 'morality' of ad blockers, it's not about the ad networks that we're talking about, it's the publishing sites that produce the content you consume. When you block an ad, the network doesn't pay the site. Simple as that.

> In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today

Then how come, every time I pay for content, that content still has ads? The paywalled newspaper sites I frequent do this. Or, notice how they do this in every movie theater in America now -- you can't sit there in peace before a movie. Instead, before the trailers start, you're subjected to a barrage of loud ads.

Even on the March Madness app -- I've logged in with my Comcast credentials, they are going to show me the regular TV ads, and yet they make me miss live game action to show me ads specific to the app! And they do this every time you leave the app and come back.

Every place that an ad can be placed, it will eventually be placed, in every medium and whether a consumer paid for that content or not. Throwing ads in our face is so widely abused that I'm completely unsurprised that adblockers are mainstream and still growing. Our web browser is one of the few places we still have control.

Thankfully, progress is not purely monotonic towards ads. In the old days, you either watched TV shows on air with commercials (except on HBO) or... waited for the entire season to come out on DVD or something. Or pirated them, once that became technically feasible. Now, Netflix, iTunes, and friends will sell you most shows ad-free, and this has become my only method of watching TV since it is such a better experience.

Even on the Internet, remember the good old days of popup ads and blinking banner ads (that you couldn't easily scroll out of view)? I don't know what sites everyone else visits, but I don't use an ad blocker simply because most of the sites I visit either have no ads (like this one) or have few and unobtrusive enough ads that I can easily ignore them. (I don't care about tracking.) A notable exception is YouTube, where the obnoxious video ads caused me to start ad blocking recently.

Oh, and... while there are plenty of ads out there plaguing mobile devices, most good apps (at least on iOS) either don't have them or have an in-app purchase to disable them. Compare that to the websites the apps replace, and you can see a significant improvement.

> Thankfully, progress is not purely monotonic towards ads

You bring up good points, but thinking about this particular line more, I wonder if it really is heading that way.

Anywhere you find exclusivity for content provides the opportunity to put in an ad. You can be as customer-hostile as you like and get away with it because there's nowhere else to go. I put up with the March Madness app because I have no alternative -- I must watch that content there.

So if we're headed towards many players of exclusive content, why wouldn't a Netflix or HBO pull the same cash grab once their subscriber growth goes flat? Hey, I probably would if I was in charge over there.

Another example just from today: I saw an ad before an Amazon Instant video. Granted, it was for an Amazon product, but Amazon built an ad system of some sort to deliver it. Curious they made that.

>So if we're headed towards many players of exclusive content, why wouldn't a Netflix or HBO pull the same cash grab once their subscriber growth goes flat? Hey, I probably would if I was in charge over there.

If they do I am done watching. I don't think I am alone in this (I don't watch broadcast TV or youtube on my phone for the same reason).

Also their content isn't as exclusive as they like to think: you can get it on pirate sites.

The newspaper used to cost $1 (each! every day!) and it was full of ads. Probably about as much percentage of area as a typical news site today.

There must be a balance between "no payment" and "no ads" - the optimum profit doesn't necessarily happen at one of the extremes. Do you think you'd choose a higher priced subscription if it offered no ads?

well, newsprint ads have the benefit of curation so that they are not overly sexualized or from scam artists, and they don't attempt to track and collate you. They also have the benefit of being bought by local services in your town, if it's a local paper. So advertisements actually serve a useful function there.

That said, if my local paper started producing the swill I encounter merely seconds after turning off adblock, I would consider the "no bullshit" version as well!

Maybe? Probably? I would surely consider it.

It's a combination of "the ads subsidize the production of the content somewhat i.e. you aren't paying the full price" and "everyone is desensitized to ads now anyway so we might at well show them in every place we can possibly get away with it".

FWIW I think it's mostly the latter (e: was thinking specifically of cinema when I wrote this - nl is right it depends on the medium).

It's actually mostly the former. Not sure about movie theatres but for example printed newspaper costs are usually not even covered by the price of the newspaper. The ads is where the money is.

His point is valid. If you rely on something that causes people harm that must be factored in when they seek to minimize their risk.

I don't use ad blockers because I generally support your position. I do block flash because it is so annoying and especially noisy ads and downloading video I didn't ask for on my limited bandwidth.

It seems to me it isn't 100% either way. There is an issue of being a free-riding meanie when you block ads those providing content rely on for income. There is also an issue of sites being overly obnoxious in their serving of ads. The users right to control their computer makes sense.

The risk of privacy violations and serving malware are real and impact the ability to claim blocking ads is fair.

Those that believe in blocking ads mainly don't believe it is ok for some ISP or others to replace website ads with their own ads. This is normally based on the idea they don't have the right to change web content clients request and this argument largely relies on the same idea those that say ad blockers are wrong rely on. It is true there is space between these arguments to slip in the claim that while others don't have the right to eliminate the web content and replace it with their own the end user does. This is a reasonable argument, but it is not, IMO, without a reasonable counter-argument (that those providing the web content are doing so with the ads as part of their offer).

I don't think ad blockers are immoral or unethical but I do think they are not 100% pure either. They are a reasonable thing to resort to given an understanding of the whole situation. But they do, it seems to me, take away an earned benefit from those providing content.

> I didn't ask for on my limited bandwidth.

Your browser asked for it though. Maybe fix you browser so it isn't doing things you don't like?

Of course with HTTP/2, websites will be able to send you stuff that even your browser didn't ask for.

Isn't fixing his browser exactly what curiouscats is doing by blocking flash?

I for one did, and its called Noscript. And waddayouknow, it blocks ads (as a side "benefit")...

HTTP/2 makes provision for the rejection of pushed resources.

>In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today.

One way I'm trying to overcome that is to actually pay for content. I've started in a small way by supporting people who producing the content I care about at Patreon.

+1 to you and I agree this is a nice step - though it doesn't work at scale, nor is it 100% appropriate for the ideals of the web. If you think about the web as the penultimate democracy for content, where content of the highest quality is available to even the poorest person, then saying "pay for this or you'll remain ignorant" is just not fair.

Example: I would be more ok if Coursera/Udacity and the like went with an ad-based model rather than a pay-per-view model. Why? Because the people it's meant to help - the individual who can't afford to take out massive loans to pay for school or the kid from the bad side of town - can't really benefit if it costs 100's or 1000's of $$ to study, say, computer science or the like.

Retort: But there are a number of other free resources! See link here or here! Retort back: Those aren't the highest quality, and usually those are free because: a) they're supported by ad spend b) they're supported by VC funding and will eventually move behind a paywall of some sort eventually.

Where do you earn "1000s of $$" per visitor? Are you serious?

Part of why ads are so irritating is that they shove tons of attention seekers on every page just to earn a tenth of a cent.

I think they were referring to taking a course at a university.

That's not without cost, though. It could mean that poor become so inundated with ads that they waste their already limited budget on frivolous bullshit and junk food, and have to take out more payday loans to pay the water bill this month.

Your point has been made several times on this topic but can someone cite some study about how poor people are more "susceptible" to the ill effects of advertising and how everything that is being advertised is obviously "bullshit"?

If anything, advertising is what allows poor people to have the same access to content/information without having to pay real wages in return for access.

What types of online ads that you see do you consider bullshit?

It's not that they are necessarily more susceptible, it's that they would be exposed to more of it, under this model.

How do the advertisers benefit from showing ads to people who can't afford their products anyway?

Patreon's model desperately needs a "one-shot" mode.

Ideally there'd be two types: the one-off, and the time-limited subscription. Not only would this provide a bit more data to the content-creators, but for me the consumer it would play better with my budgeting. Having to remember I have N subscriptions going on at any time is far more tiring then knowing I have X disposable income and want to apportion it out, or that I've committed to a maximum of subscription period of X before I'll decide to renew it.

IMO, a lot of content creators had already been providing one-shot opportunities by selling merchandise. The problem for me is that I frequently don't care for merch, so Patreon basically filled a niche for me: creators I was happy to give money to without actually asking for any more.

It really discomforts me that a lot of creators seem to feel obligated to provide a higher level of service for patrons.

>It's the sites that you use that have chosen to include the code snippets needed to display ads or track you (not withstanding those terrible ad injector add-ons).

Facebook tracks me and builds a shadow profile whether I use their shitty site or not.

>In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today.

And yet if I pay for something, it invariably still shoves ads at me. Paying TV subscribers have to watch commercials. If I pay a subscription to the Economist I still see ads in print and online.

>Paywalls largely don't work for many types of content

Content isn't worth as much these days.

>When you block an ad, the network doesn't pay the site. Simple as that.

And that's why I love ad blockers. I don't want anyone to get money for forcing me to watch ads I don't want.

In most cases, a website will not get paid unless the visitor actually clicks on the ad (or carries out the action that the ad points to). In those cases, using Adblock and simply ignoring the ads would produce the same amount of revenue for the site: zero.

The problem here is that the trade-off is not "I tell you a story and you see this ad in return". The real trade-off is "I tell you a story and you have to allow these other shady companies to track you and run their code on your computer". Ads demand too much in terms of attention, performance, privacy and security.

So find a better business model. If it's not paywalls, and it's not ads, figure it out.

If you want to smarm about a better business model, I invite you to find it yourself. It's much easier to perform that smarm than find one, but I guess if you have to rationalize free ridership it's a good line. And it means you don't have to come to grips with the idea that it's a social problem instead of a free-market-hallowed-be-thy-name problem; it does mean you can mostly wave away that the money needs to come from somewhere and every scalable option involves advertising that free-riders block, native advertising that compromises the integrity of the work (if it's applicable at all), or requiring payment that readers won't pony up for. (Yes, really, every option, you're welcome to bookmark this post and cheetodust about it if one ever comes to fruition but I am comfortable betting my side of the line.)

Fixing the country, though, is ssssocialism, and we can't have that. Instead people who entertain us should beg for scraps, I suppose. That's sustainable.

I claim that part of it at least is a technical problem.

No, really. Compare user payment habits on desktops/websites versus mobile devices. Sure, there are the issues that users have become attuned to $1 apps, that many are incredibly reluctant to pony up even that, etc. etc. But at least some users pay $1, because it only requires a few taps and the purchase is associated with their existing $devicevendor account; good luck getting that to happen on the web, where not everyone has PayPal (to which the most common alternative is pulling out a physical wallet and filling in a long list of text boxes) and you need to make your own account system.

What would the web be like if micropayments had actually become a thing?

I suppose it depends when those micropayments had become a thing. I don't think, for example, that the various "pay a sliver of money when you hit a page" services out there have any chance, nor would they have had a chance five years ago. Content on the internet is Free, and when it's not Free, it's time to get boiling and resentful.

Ten years ago, fifteen? Maybe. At this point I feel like the entitlement of free ridership has won pretty hard.

> In fact, our reluctance to pay for any type of content has led to the state we are in today.

People's reluctance to pay and their aversion to advertising is, I think, understandable and reasonable.

It is just a quirk of the time period that we find ourselves in that there is any "moral" dilemma attached to this situation.

The reason people perceive it as a moral situation is because we've established a society in which one must extract money out of others in order to survive.

Our welfare system is not yet currently capable of providing people with the basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, clean water, healthcare, education, and equal access to opportunities.

If it were, you would find that the cost of content really would approach $0. If, for example, artists did not have to worry about any of the previously mentioned necessities (if it was just given to them), then most of them would probably be perfectly happy to continue to produce content for free and without advertising.

I know, as a software developer and entrepreneur, that I personally would be happy to not charge anything for any software that I create (or charge very little), if these basics were taken care of.

As more people continue to lose their jobs to robots and automation, we will (if we can avoid destroying ourselves), move in that direction.

> Our welfare system is not yet currently capable of providing people with the basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, clean water, healthcare, education, and equal access to opportunities.

Even if the welfare system was capable of giving these, people would want more. We can examine this by looking current people model. Their desire to earn more is not decreasing when they reach the minimum or optimum level of necessities.

I think the problem is life standards that emphasized to us by ads. The goal will be always higher than our necessities. Because, this is the only way to keep alive current economic system, balance of production and consumption.

So, I don't believe giving more to people solves anything. But I do believe, people's desire should be left to themselves by standing a position against all ads or things serve to this purpose.

> I think the problem is life standards that emphasized to us by ads.

Heh, if that's true, that's another reason for folks to use adblockers. ;)

> So, I don't believe giving more to people solves anything.

When it comes to solving problems, the evidence is rather strong. Giving people more food, shelter, medicine, health care, education (even plain old money), results in striking benefits to individuals and communities.

This should not be surprising, but if you need studies, there are plenty:


I am trying to say, while you are giving people what they need, also you are(or others) saying that to people what they have is not enough and they need more to survive.

But of course people would motivated more if they didn't have to think about their necessities.

I dread the day where the only content available is what artists can produce independently. Movies like Interstellar, or the TV show Lost, are by their nature very expensive, and it would be a great loss if this type of content could no longer recoup its expenses. I hope there's a place in the future for both indie work and expensive "blockbuster" content.

> I hope there's a place in the future for both indie work and expensive "blockbuster" content.

Certainly. You'll note that as individual expenses go down, group expenses should go down as well since employers will no longer have to cover their employees cost of living. Prices of everything will continue to plummet (as they have been). If anything, they should be able to do more on the same budget.

EDIT: You might think "Well who's paying for all those basics? Surely that will imply higher taxes."

Compare the cost of a 1GHz CPU today to the cost 10 years ago. The price went down and yet taxes did not play a significant role in that. The basics could be covered by taxes, but they need not be. The price of basics goes down over time naturally as technology advances and builds off of the knowledge and efficiencies of the technology before it. Taxes can be used to accelerate this process, but they are not necessary for it to happen in the first place. Free, clean drinking water was not even a thing a few centuries ago. Now it is everywhere in first world countries. The same should happen with other necessities.

Gets me thinking about Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Where people are banding together to maintain Walt Disney World in a post scarcity society.

I'd be interested to know what the Internet is like for folks in countries like Sweden where welfare systems are far more capable.

For example, do Swedish websites also rely heavily on advertising? How does the economy of Swedish content (in Swedish markets) compare to American content in America?

BTW: I should be clear that I am not advocating any particular type of welfare system. It does not even have to be government managed. The important thing is that a system exist to free people's minds from the mundane details of basic survival.

The profit motive exists just as much in Sweden as in the US. Welfare acts as a safety net for individuals, not companies.

As such, a welfare system may allow capitalism to function better. Because it makes it easier for disgruntled employees to start a competing company, or reduce the worry about companies shutting down (though you may get a chain reaction depending on its size etc).

Tim Swanson in 2007[1] on ad blocking:

There is nothing ethically or morally wrong with an ad-blocker. It is no different than using any other technology to filter language or explicit content. No one is being harmed nor has property been destroyed or stolen (the owner was not deprived of their property).

Plain and simple: if you do not want to pay for the bandwidth and hosting charges, don't put material online. Just because you are trying to make a living does not mean anyone should partake in your business model. After all, should everyone that visits your site be required to click on one of the ads?

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20070422181056/http://blog.mises...

(Interestingly, in the current link to this article, http://mises.org/blog/whats-wrong-blocking-ads , the author credited is B.K. Marcus, despite there being no change in the article.)

I finally installed an ad blocker a couple of years back, after two decades of browsing without. It had become too much for me to cope with. The popups that took advantage of me clicking to focus on their page to get past my popup blocker, the ads with sound that didn't start muted, the overlay ads that blocked out the whole page until acknowledged, etc. This doesn't even begin to address the privacy concerns. I spent too much time being angry at nameless faceless advertisers and the asshole coders who serve them.

I never liked advertising, but I usually liked the sites I was visiting and wanted to support them, so I didn't kill the ads. Even now, I let a small number of sites serve me ads, if they have shown themselves to be responsible and respectful of my attention. reddit is one of the very few, for example, because they almost never serve a really obnoxious ad.

And, of course, I have never heeded the alligator tears of the online marketing industry (or any other marketing industry...physical junk mail producers can rot in hell). I respect the desire of websites to support their business. But, I'm not obligated to accept the method by which they want to do it, if it includes behavior that I consider unethical or just annoying.

I have run an ad blocker for at least the last 6 years, probably longer - it has been a staple in my browser setup for so long I cannot stand browsing without one.

The author linked to a tweet which I think requires further examination "ad blocking is shoplifting for the Web".

This argument fails on several fronts, the main one is consent - by loading a website, I am not required to load any or all resources that the server presents to me - certainly in many cases e.g. text-based browsers there is no point to loading these resources - they simply cannot be displayed to the user.

An adblocker is the same, it is a consent mechanism - the server presents my browser with resources that it thinks would be worth rendering with the content, I am free to allow or not allow these resources to be loaded as I choose - and this includes offloading the decision making to other code on my machine.

I don't have a solution for the content creators, I wish I did - I regularly buy books from authors I first discover online. I would be open to micro-payments - however I am skeptical surrounding current implementations as it requires me to submit my browsing history and likes to a third party which is one of the other reasons I run an adblocker in the first place.

I wish bitcoin could enable micro-payments like this. I would love to donate small (or large) amounts of money to websites that I found a useful answer on. Unfortunately, for this to be possible every website has to enable or provide a way for me to pay them (be it bitcoin or something else) and all of the end users also must have this same payment system set up, which will just never happen. I just wish there were a better way for content creators to make money than ads. A ubiquitous bitcoin type solution would definitely be a step in the right direction.

There is a huge irony in that fact that AdBlock's function of keeping ads away from our content will eventually do the opposite. The alternative to ads alongside my content is ads inside my content.

Let's face it: paywalls don't work. The alternative on the horizon is native advertising. Buzzfeed is now famously refusing to host ads. Instead they sustain themselves by publishing content that subtly supports the agenda of any company with deep enough pockets to pay for it. A viewer's ability to distinguish between native ads and regular articles is small and quickly vanishing. If separate ads stop reaching people, the path to monetization remaining is to change your content to reflect someone else's agenda.

I keep AdBlock off by default because I prefer a world where creators can make a meaningful articles and a useful apps without caring about who they are supporting, and can, as the price tag, separately attach an ad.

I do see it as a moral issue. There are good people making content that's being sustained by ads. I am never going to remember to give them my modicum of support if I don't consider them innocent until proven guilty. It's worth the small annoyance. It's worth the 2 seconds it takes to turn it on for the problematic pages. Hell, you can even map it to a shortcut[1]. It sucks, but the alternative is positively bleak.


TL;DR: The bathroom may be dirty, but at least no one's taking a shit in my kitchen.

[1] https://adblockplus.org/en/faq_customization#shortcuts

> paywalls don't work.

That's not a serious discussion. There are tons of websites out there, especially those with professional content, that you pay for. For trade magazines, one trick is to get your employer to pay.

LWN has presented the most quality content on Linux and related tech for about ten years now, and they do it professionally.

There are also lots of communities with entrance fees, like Metafilter. And even open access journals have business models of their own.

You can't survive on fees with a flood of mediocre content, but that doesn't invalidate the model for everything else.

> That's not a serious discussion.

You're right. Let's discuss paid content.

There is absolutely a place for paid content on the internet. But I don't think paying for content is a replacement for the majority of things currently funded by ads. The internet is inherently open. Paid content is inherently exclusionary. If we're talking about a genuine substitute for ads, that right there is a non-starter. Whether I'm paying for it out of pocket or through my company, the fact is that there are loads of people out there who are not getting access to that content.

A lot of what sucks about paywalls is the friction, and the trust needed of the host (that the content will be worthwhile). But even in a world that's solved these problems, there's still the fundamental problem that the majority of the world won't have access that content because they don't have the money to throw around.

As is often the case on the modern Internet, the majority of things currently funded by ads is spam.

Then there's all the low-quality content, which isn't outright spam, but no-one in their right mind would pay for. Most people would probably not mourn that either.

The problem with news, if that's what we're discussing, is that they can't decide which side of the fence they want to fall on. Celebrity gossip and researched content is vastly different and there is no reason to believe they fall under the same business model.

If we can get some kind of legislation that requires native advertising to be labelled in a non-obnoxious, but non-discreet way, I'd be totally cool with it, and prefer it to traditional advertising even. Too bad that probably won't happen.

I think Buzzfeed actually does a reasonable job of it, it's pretty easy to see whether or not content is an ad, and who paid for it.

It's not like advertising-supported content was ever uninfluenced by its advertisers.

On a broad scale, we have moved from a culture of ads as info, to ads that push you to buy whatever the factory produces. This huge supply and false demand for things we don't really need has a huge impact of consumption culture, personal distress - an ongoing feeling that you always lack something, ecological waste and people wasting their hard earned dollars on things they don't really need. God bless ad blockers.

> things they don't really need

Who gets to decide whether something is necessary or not?

Maslow understood that humans "need" pathways to self-esteem and self-expression. An extensive collection of Marvel action figures could slip through that loophole.

Francis of Assisi lived in abject poverty, and would be a much harsher judge than Maslow, and would probably criticize either of us for bothering to own any electronic devices.

I'm neither a Franciscan nor a Maslowian, but the concept of "human needs" hardly lends itself to immediate and universal agreement.

Extreme cases are never good examples for a general make sense rule. Most of the west ads induced consumption is not self expression purchase, but rather a desire to confirm to an imaginary false standard that ads present as something real. The aim is not self expression, but the bottom line of corp. xyz. The effect of the massive ads everywhere is found (IMHO) even in your comment: identifying self-esteem and self-expression with buying something. For a simple argument, consider all the things you buy and never used, the piles or garbage a typical western society produces.

But its the content creators being punished, not the ad companies. If anything ad blockers are in their interest since the type of person who blocks ads is probably the type of person to ignore them anyway.

>But its the content creators being punished, not the ad companies.

It's both, right?

I don't think so. If an ad isn't displayed, then the impression probably doesn't count and the publishing site doesn't get paid. It would certainly hurt the content creator more.

>It would certainly hurt the content creator more.

I think you could make the argument that you affect the content creator to a higher degree (larger percent of income) but I suspect you affect the ad company to a higher dollar amount. Nonetheless it's a negative for both.

The content creator gets paid by the ad company for showing you the ad, the ad company gets paid if you click on it.

With that in mind, there is a net-positive outcome for the ad-company if users who aren't going to click on the ads use ad-block, because that means they don't have to pay the content creator for showing ads that nobody clicked on. They only miss possible profit if you're using ad-block but would have clicked on an ad were it presented to you, which is unlikely considering ad-block is generally opt-in. Depending on the ratio of how much they make per-click vs. how much they pay the content-creator per ad, they could definitely come-out with more money due to users using ad-block and not requiring them to pay the content creator when they wouldn't have clicked on the ad anyway.

Not all ads are click based. You're thinking primarily of AdSense and a lot of retargeting ads but most ads are still bought on a CPM basis based on views. Yes, if a publisher consistently shows ads that have a low CTR (clickthrough rate), then the ad network should optimize out of displaying that ad on that site.

Its disproportionately high for the publisher. Niche sites with demographics that overlap with adblockers demographic get hit harder than other sites. The ad company will find other places to serve their ads (unless its a product catering to the same demo). (Full disclosure, I work in ads and ad blocker has never cut into our cash money. That being said I'd be interested to hear from another advertiser who has been affected)

I'm not sure anyone's that worried about the ad companies - they go bust, less ads, win. It's a shame though when creators like Gigaom go.

Maybe ad blockers should emulate downloading and displaying ads, perhaps via proxy servers to minimize throughput. That would protect content creators, no?

That is a weak argument. You don't need advertising to make money if what you're doing is valuable. People will compensate you for it because they know it will go away if they don't. Take the No Agenda Show[1] for example, they have no advertising. Two podcasters make a living creating six hours of original content every week and are solely supported by their listeners.

[1] http://www.noagendashow.com/

That sounds nice in theory but in actuality is complete BS. On a site like Teamliquid.net, a video game/eSports forum and team, over 50% of visitors have ad blocked enabled and they in no way make of this missed revenue from donations or TL Plus ($5/mo for ad free).

Everyone always says they only have ad block on for obnoxious sites, but that's such a load of shit. The free internet is run by ads, like it or not, and as someone who uses ad block I accept that I actively hinder it.

I don't mind if people use ad block, it's just the moral high ground people take that annoys me.

I'm responding to this post because it's a good segue (esports). I'm an esports fan myself and count as one of that 50% on the few times I visit that site. It is, unfortunately, not their fault. I have on several occasions uninstalled my ad blocker for a time -- one time it was a few months, one time it was a couple years. Both times it was ended by a single website that was a bad actor. Once it was autoplaying audio ads, which frustrated me enough that I nope'd right into installing AdBlock Plus. The second time it was a flash ad that, after about 30 seconds on the page, began consuming about half of my CPU. After I figured out why I immediately nope'd on over to AdBlock Plus once again.

For me, at least, it's a tragedy of the commons out there. All it takes is one bad actor to spoil it all.

This isn't theory, it is a concrete example of content creators who make content and make a living with absolutely zero advertisement. If you need yet another example, LWN ( http://lwn.net ) runs mostly on subscriptions, instead of ads (90% of their revenue is subscriptions).

People won't pay for bad/terrible content, that is the hard truth.

> You don't need advertising to make money if what you're doing is valuable.

Not necessarily. There is a threshold of value that must be met to make people pay directly for it. For example I run a niche site that gets 5K uniques each month - clearly I'm providing some value - but I doubt that what I provide is enough to make people pay me directly. Ads are the most effective way of solve that problem: reward content producers that can't meet that threshold but still add some value.

There is a legitimate place for marketing. If I cure cancer in my garage but never tell anybody, what I've done can't become valuable.

While I like your poetic verve, this isn't true. Ads were always garbage. Old ads lied just as much and tried to instill the same feelings. They just had less direction since they didn't know how to measure and optimize on outcomes.

Is there anyone arguing that adblockers are immoral other than somebody on Twitter? In the US, the legal issue has been settled. Fox tried suing Dish Networks over their commercial-skipping feature. Fox lost.[1]

The main problem with ad blockers is that they're not very good technically. They're usually regular expression based and need too much information about the exact format of ad code, so they need constant updating. Some have deliberate holes. AdBlock Plus sells "block bypassing" to "good" advertisers. Ghostery blocks tracking but then does tracking itself. (If you use Ghostery, go to its preferences and opt out of "Ghostrank".) BlockSite became adware.

There's no money in the ad blocking business. Last year, the AdBlock Plus guy was trying to make money by selling hoodies. An automatic ad blocker with machine learning to adapt to new ads would be a nice open source project. You won't make any money, but you'll get lots of publicity.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_Broadcasting_Co._v._Dish_N...

Unless it's changed recently, I'm pretty sure "Ghostrank" is off by default, and you have to opt-in, but yes, it will track you if you turn it on. (The ABP "allow some advertising" option is an opt-out though IIRC.)

Does anybody remember the internet in the early 90s? Before it started getting rammed full of ads and get quick rich startup schemes? It was kind of awesome, kind of a mess. People just put up whatever personal scratch they wanted to itch paid the then outrageous hosting fees ($20/mo for 1MB of space!) and the world was good.

My point is that these days, it seems like providing the same experience for most people, involves millions of dollars, thousands of dollars a month in hosting fees, forming a company and having a marketing department that buys ads on ad networks.

We can all dream of making our millions, but sometimes it's just cool to have a modern personal site and get on with life.

Jason Scott is exactly what I'm talking about. He's almost singularly keeping the promise of the Internet alive. Long after most people have given up and signed on with the ad networks, he spends his days trying to catalog and make available human knowledge.

Surprised you haven't heard of neocities, sounds a lot like a modern version of what you're talking about :).

Neocities is a community of 42,200 sites that are bringing back the lost individual creativity of the web. We provide free hosting and tools that allow anyone to make a web site. Only your imagination is required.


Also http://tilde.club/ as a more retro take on that concept.

> ($20/mo for 1MB of space!)

A friend of mine did computing, but took one unit of fine art... because students got 5MB storage, except for fine art students, who got 10MB... and zMud was 6MB...

You can still have a modern personal website. The reason we do not see them as much anymore is that 1) the web has gone much more mainstream, and 2) social media sites have taken over a lot of the market share the personal sites once had.

I think if you step back a bit from this problem, the real source of the problem is that typical capitalism -- supply and demand and all that -- fails miserably for such things as web sites and services, where there is zero marginal cost.

Subscriptions or other kinds of paywalls are the closest to a capitalist solution, but they require artificially limiting supply. The most dramatic and poetic discussion of the evils of artificially limiting supply to increase profits would have to be chapter 25 of The Grapes of Wrath: http://genius.com/John-steinbeck-grapes-of-wrath-chapter-25-...

Ads produce such a tiny amount of revenue that the web ad industry is in a position of just giving up altogether, or trying to milk every penny out of the ads. And as others have noted, that's not pretty. Everything from obnoxious in-your-face-ads, to ads that don't let you leave the page, to ads that don't let you view the content for a few seconds, to video ads with audio that comes on automatically, to ads that track you all over the web.

I don't have a perfect solution, and I am not going to blame people for using ad blockers, especially if privacy and tracking are big issues for them. But I suspect that if everyone used ad blockers, a lot of web sites that we know and love would disappear. The best thing I can think of is that the big ad companies should offer a plan where you skip all ads, but pay the same amount the ad would pay to the advertiser for the privilege of viewing the page ad-free.

I don't think there is a problem to be honest. It's just the market playing itself out - if you can't provide content with ads that I'd like to see, then you should go bankrupt.

I am subscribed to some weekly email newsletters - they have a few ads, that make sense. I don't mind it, I like it when a product I may actually be interested in, is advertised to me.

Gruber has weekly sponsors - I don't mind, at all. I like it.

When google provides me with an amazon link when I search for a book, I am fine with that.

On and on. The only folks moaning at the ad-revenue being decimated are the ones who thought annoying their users with ads they don't want is ok. It's not ok.

I envision a future where the default mode is silence, and all advertising is opt-in. If I need to buy a t-shirt, I press a button that temporarily subscribes me to a "channel" of advertisements from t-shirt brands, along with whatever relevant preferences I decide to filter the ads by. In other words, I give companies explicit permission to advertise to me. Once I buy a t-shirt and fulfill the need, I unsubscribe from the channel and it's back to silence.

The benefit to users is obvious. But there's also a lot of benefits to advertisers. After all, what can be better than a prospective customer saying, "I need to buy something, show me ads"? Instead we spend untold billions developing technologies and algorithms to predict people's behavior and end up invading their privacy and pissing them off.

Advertising for a loooot of products works based on CREATING demand that was not intrinsically there. Would we really know who Justin Bieber and what his mediocre music is if it wasn't for advertising? Who'd opt in to discover Kim Kardashian? It'd be status-suicide to admit you are looking for stupidity. But when it's spontaneously there, well then...

That's what TV advertising banging you over the head over and over again is meant to do. Sure you don't consciously go 'oh nice chicks X brand of beer' but when you're awkwardly standing at a bar, you'll recall that maybe if you get that X brand of beer, it'll be more like that party in the tv ad instead. This is of course not conscious.

If western society ceased creating unnecessary demand (apple watch anyone?), we'd live in a very different world. So yeah, not happening. They want to show you ads even if you hate it and they will, because you can't do anything about it. Ad blockers are allowed only because they largely hurt the folks without any power, the small timers.

All big companies are interested in forcing ads on you, make no mistake about it.

>It'd be status-suicide to admit you are looking for stupidity.

In our tribe yes, but in general no. Otherwise "normal" people wouldn't be talking about it on Facebook.

>apple watch anyone Status symbol: nobody needs a 10k gold watch, which is why it allows you to show that you can afford to throw 10k away.

You're sort of describing Google Search, with its ads on the side. Neat

Just because I'm searching for a term doesn't mean I want to see ads for it. I hope this helps, thanks.

Unless the people who use ad-blockers get in the habit of paying for content--and they won't, because why pay for what you can free-ride for?--this would be a disaster. Immediately actionable ads are only a slice of the advertising market; the point of advertising is not to sell you something now. It is to eventually sell you something. Both brand and market reinforcement advertising are major players.

Advertising creates demand and establishes brand awareness in potential consumers who may develop (either directed or otherwise) demand in the future.

But brand awareness is waste: you put money in, your competitor put money in and the two cancel each other out.

I wonder how effective the ads were in Computer Shopper back in the day, vs other advertising? People bought that magazine almost strictly for the advertising in it, very similar to your model.

I'll pay for good content - and I do with WSJ, Nat Geo and more - but I'm sure as hell not going to disable my adblocker any time soon.

I'm sick of marketing and marketers. They bombard us 24/7 on every medium they can.

- Turn on the TV and you're not only swamped with blatant ads, but they've pushed subtle product placement into everything possible.

- Turn on the radio and you're blasted with ads.

- Go on Facebook and you're hammered with "tailored" ads, clickbait, autoplaying viral videos and more.

- Go on Twitter and every popular hashtag is flooded with people advertising unrelated products.

- Walk down the street and ads are everywhere.

- Open a "free" news site and you're bombarded with ads and ads disguised as articles. Look up a tutorial and you're presented with a slide-based site that loads up new ads every time you click, or throws extra ads in on every other slide.

It's a battle and I will never entertain a "morality" argument from those in charge of the above.

Completely "free" content online is total junk for the most part. I wouldn't pay to read Reddit, anything from the Gawker network, ReCode, etc. as they haven't content worth paying for, and I won't support their ad revenue either as it makes no difference to me whether they survive or disappear. I would have previously considered paying for some of the mainstream tech news sites but they've absolutely ruined their content in recent years in the name of getting easy clicks for ad revenue.

Could not agree more. And it doesn't just cover display ads, but marketing emails and social media posts too. All equally odious.

An entire industry predicated on the idea of getting me to pay for something I don't want, and using my bandwidth to do it. Every advertiser tries to justify it, too.

"We only send emails to people who want them" or other such tripe. Nobody wants to be part of a sales funnel. If the product is actually good and useful, it will sell itself by word of mouth.

What gets under my skin is the perception that they have this "right to be seen".

Where 'being seen' means robbing me of my attention for a moment to try to sell me something I likely don't want, and every company and their dog is lining up around the block to be seen.

This author has nailed it: "The ad industry has spent years cultivating a 'fuck you' attitude where they would do everything that was within their technical capabilities to spy on people and shovel ads on top of them. To now suddenly be concerned about the 'morality' of what other people do is the height of hypocrisy."

When Ad companies start respecting my wishes, I'll consider respecting theirs.

>Nobody wants to be part of a sales funnel. Maybe not, but lots and lots of people are wanting to buy things. I my case it is a car - if I go to a car dealer I become part of a sales funnel (a particular unprofitable one, but that is a side issue).

>If the product is actually good and useful, it will sell itself by word of mouth.

The cure for cancer will sell itself that way, yes. But even things that should sell, such as cheaper cellphone plans, don't.

>But even things that should sell, such as cheaper cellphone plans, don't


Anyone who's specifically shopping around for cell phone plans doesn't need to be force-fed advertisements. If anyone's unhappy with their cellular plan, they'll be shopping around.

The hassle of switching cell phone plans greatly outweighs my dissatisfaction with my carrier at present. Therefore even if there are cheaper plans, they aren't so cheap that I give a shit. If Bell starts a 5$/mo plan with unlimited talk/text/data, word will get around and I'll switch.

As it turns out people don't tend to talk about which cellphone plan they use, unless actively asked.

And you are totally right that people will be asking around if they are unhappy, but how could they know they should be unhappy with their current plan if they don't know yours is so much better?

Yes, that's why every successful company in the world spends 0 dollar on marketing and advertising. Right? They're just that dumb. If only they knew their products could sell themselves!

A lot of misplaced anger here. The most beloved services and content exist because of advertisers. Put yourself in the shoes of somebody trying to create a new Internet publication, casual video game, search engine, social network, or most any other online business. What do you imagine a successful business plan will be? Paywalls? Good luck with that :-p

The rant is written as though advertisers snuck into the media, as though they infiltrated, they used subterfuge to penetrate an otherwise non-commercial, innocent world of dollar-free self-expression.

The whole thing is backwards. Advertisers and the advertising industry were the parents and premise of this world, not its covert invaders. I find it sad to see folks forgetting which industry we have to thank for the very forums on which we (piously!) castigate it.

As somebody who would like to build a business himself on the back of the Internet, my feeling on the existence of so frictionless a currency as advertising is mostly gratitude.

> The rant is written as though advertisers snuck into the media, as though they infiltrated, they used subterfuge to penetrate an otherwise non-commercial, innocent world of dollar-free self-expression.

Apparently you never used the web in the old days? It was a "non-commercial innocent world of dollar-free self-expression".

> Advertisers and the advertising industry were the parents and premise of this world.

They absolutely were not. Web sites existed without ads and without sponsorship and they still can.

It's as if you are claiming that record studios invented music.

I actually don't mind most ads. If you've got a static ad related to the content I'm browsing, it doesn't bother me. I actually might click on it. I feel the same way about ads in newspapers and magazines.

But then there's the increasing minority. The get-in-your-face-as-much-as-possible ads. The interstitial ads. The noisy video play-by-default ads. The scroll-over ads. The ads that follow your mouse down the page. The ads that go as far as they possibly can to disrupt whatever I'm browsing.

No. That's too far. That's why I block ads.

If there was a way to white-list "responsible" ads, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Until then, no, I won't subject myself to that arms race.

Ad blocking software, until it comes default in a browser, actually helps the industry. The sort of people who run the software are also the same people that ignore ads anyway. By removing yourself from their audience profile, they are able to decrease CPMs/CPVs for their advertisers, since they aren't wasting impressions on you.

Part of web advertising for the bigger companies is brand awareness. Every ad viewed is absorbed at some level, it can't be fully ignored. Even if you don't click your awareness of the brand has increased.

That's why I never knowingly view ads.

I'm as scared as the next person of all the data being sucked up but if I wanted to be charitable, ... a different pov is perfect advertising which would effectively read your mind and present you info exactly when you need it. Thinking about going on vacation to Vietnam? perfect advertizing would devine that and show you ads for good hotel deals, flights, attractions, restaurants, events, markets, etc in Vietnam. Perfect advertising would also not present ads for things you'd already done there unless it knew you'd probably want to do them again. It would know if you're an adventurous eater or a conservative eater and present you with restaurants that meet your preferences. If you're a thrillseeker it would present you with thrilling activity options. If you're a clubber you'd get ads for the best clubs featuring the artists that fit your preferences best.

Perfect advertising could read your mood tonight and suggest restaurants if your mood indicated you wanted to go out. I could know which ones are already booked solid and not present them. It would would know if wanted a quiet intimate dinner or a louder venue. It would know which friends are free and suggest asking them along.

Yes I'm scared of some of the repercussion of getting to that state and all the abuse and how it will probably never get there but it's certainly a fun thought experiment to imagine what perfect advertising might be.

No. Perfect advertising will convince you to buy the advertiser's product, regardless of what that is. This is the mindset described in the original article.

You're describing perfect advertising for you.

Even if the ads were limited to a topic you deemed relevant, the advertisers would still essentially lie (or elide truths). E.g., they'd show you good deals on hotels in Vietnam without bothering to mention that people are regularly knifed in those hotels, or that they have bedbugs, etc., etc.

Perfect advertising for the informed consumer would be a list of objective specs that can be compared between similar classes of products, allowing the consumer to choose the best product within their budget, needs, etc. If you're a company that produces an inferior product, how would you advertise it in that scenario? Reduce the selling price, or lie, lie, lie?

As soon as people are knifed that will make it back to review sites and the ad's rep and the firm behind it are over.

So no, scamming people is not perfect advertising even for the advertizer

Funny, I wrote a blog post on why ads suck (http://www.tomjen.net/why-ads-suck/), but the key take away message is that you don't get ads for the best products as often as you get ads for not so good products. In your example you would get ads for bad vacations, less decent flight deals, etc.

Look, if I don't install uBlock on my parents' (and, to be frank, every other non-technical person's I know) machine, they will be calling me next week because google.com redirects to malwareinjector.com and facebook.com goes to fuckbook.com. On another note, the author cites some random twitter dude. Who gives a damn about what he says? He is probably just upset because he invested money in some weird ad-scheme business and it turned out bad for him.

Kill ads using a host file. You have to update it every few weeks but it makes the web so much easier to look at.

Using a Hosts File To Make The Internet Not Suck (as much) || http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/

For backup blocking...

Adblock Plus - Surf the web without annoying ads! || https://adblockplus.org/

The host files part was pretty cool. I might not add all the ad/tracking sites, but I definitely added the shock/malware because I know for a fact I won't ever want or need to visit those.

I love using the someonewhocares hosts file plus Ghostery plugin on all of my browsers

hosts files are nice, until you need to unblock something to make it work.

then they turn into a big pain.

Unfortunately "unblock-to-make-work" is step #1 when dealing with academic websites, in my experience.

yeah but uBlock is easier

I'm so torn on Adblockers. While I agree that advertisers generally don't act in good faith, the penalty falls unfairly on content producers. Two wrongs don't make a right, but maybe the middle ground is to be a responsible website owner who uses best privacy practices around advertising while consumers un-adblock their site. Seems like it's really just an arms race not benefiting content producers, as it is now.

A couple of years back, Ars Technica started putting up banner ads targeting adblockers: "Ads pay for the lights, etc." I felt guilty enough that I unblocked ads on Ars.

Returning to the site one day, I see the technical equivalent of a "punch the monkey" flashing banner ad. Aaand, adblocking back on, plus I now block the anti-adblock ad. And I no longer feel guilty. You had your chance and you squandered it.

Ars Technica styles itself as a site for well-informed technology-oriented people. The ads should fit the site. Insulting your audience's intelligence might work on Facebook, but these days you don't deserve to make money from advertising (on what is essentially a niche site).

I disagree that the penalty falls unfairly on content producers. The content producers choose their business model. If technology makes that model untenable then the content producers must change their model.

Imagine a site that started their business when ad networks were less abusive. Over time people started running ad blockers, and the ad networks saw revenues declining, so they started amping up the annoyance factor--more animations, more noise, more tracking. This drives more of the site's visitors to blocking, which makes the ad networks more desperate. Revenues continue to decline even though the site does nothing except produce more valuable content.

None of this is the fault of the site running the ads. Maybe it's inevitable, and maybe they just need to suck it up and evolve or join the ranks of obsolete business models, but it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the unfairness of the situation.

I replied with something similar elsewhere. The content producers have to pay for hosting (generally). Their business model may not work, but adblocking is basically circumventing their revenue model. The only "fair" means would be to not go to that site if it serves ads, but then the internet would be much smaller. It's just as moral as pirating movies in countries that don't offer them or offer them in friendly formats. I see why you'd steal, I don't think you're a bad person, but it's still not a moral means of acquiring the content.

> the penalty falls unfairly on content producers

Not really. No-one is obligated to produce content; if a business model doesn't work, then you probably shouldn't do it.

So what business model should content producers use, if they can't use the "advertising can fund anything" hack? That's a broader conversation, and I think it's the right conversation for our society to have. Advertising is an expensive tax on our economy (and on human well-being) that doesn't need to exist.

I would argue the content producers do receive a larger burden due to the costs of hosting that content. A more fair argument would be that users should just boycott the site, not consume it in an altered means. That kind of gets into the weeds, though, eh?

While, I think there is room to fund content producers in alternate means, I don't think advertising needs to be written out of the playbook. It's just a matter of properly recognizing the cost of violating privacy and the alternatives. I think society as a whole has a bit to learn about the price of privacy.

>The ad industry has spent years cultivating a 'fuck you' attitude where they would do everything that was within their technical capabilities to spy on people and shovel ads on top of them. To now suddenly be concerned about the 'morality' of what other people do is the height of hypocrisy. The ad industry has lived by the sword of 'technical capabilities are all that matters' (to the detriment of basically everyone else on the Internet), so it's only fair that they may now die on that sword, like it or not.

"They were mean in the past so we can be mean to them now," is not really a valid argument.

I'm more concerned with the anthropomorphism of an entire industry. This line of reasoning ignores the fact that The Ad Industry is not A Person With A Memory And Coherent History but rather just an almost-random sample of people with jobs. If the industry was immoral ten years ago, that doesn't mean it's immoral now, and it doesn't mean that most of the people that make it up are immoral - then or now.

But, your counter-argument is not really a valid counter-argument, either. If we act as though the present incarnation of the ad industry is to be held responsible for its past actions, that will encourage moral behavior going forward and discourage hypocrisy. Of course, I'm still anthropomorphizing the ad industry here, and assuming that it's even capable of "learning a lesson" might be assuming too much (for the record, I think it mostly is assuming too much). But I think that's supposed to be the point - sort of. By anthropomorphizing a thing, we might force that thing to behave somewhat anthropomorphically. Or, we might not.

I think we're all just trying to rationalize our behavior which is that we don't like looking at ads, and we have the technical means to block ads, so we block ads. Anything more than that feels awfully post-hoc.

By blocking ads, you're denying revenue to people whose content you wish to consume. There is no way around this fact. Maybe, by doing this, you will encourage forms of revenue generation that are less intrusive, or maybe you want to encourage a culture where revenue generation isn't necessary, or any of a thousand other 'reasons'. But, I think that if you tell yourself that this is the primary reason that you block ads, as opposed to 'I find ads irritating and don't wish to view them', you should take special care to look really hard for some cognitive bias in your thinking, because you'll almost certainly find some.

> in the past

in the continuing present

Do you have a specific argument against the concept of "turnabout is fair play" here? That it's not okay to be "mean" to "mean" advertisers? I'm not convinced it's an invalid argument here.

Even if you do, I have another disagreement with your characterization of the argument here - on the one hand, "mean" is too mild a term for the sheer willful negligence on behalf of ad networks in preventing a flood of malware, fraud, and untold millions in economic damage at the hands of criminals in these and other fashions.

On the other hand, "mean" is too strong a term for committing basic self defense at the expense of a minor impact to a few revenue streams - when this is lauded as a good thing, to be achieved wherever possible, when it serves the consumer - to be encouraged through competition in a capitalistic society. It's an act which requires no malice whatsoever.

I don't think that's necessarily the argument. Rather, the argument is that it's okay to fight back.

Two things,

(1) I always assume morality doesn't exist, laws do, consequences do, but running on the premise that someone will make a decision for increased short term revenue is a sound one.

(2) I use affiliate links in my articles, and although I don't make a lot, $100 - $200 every month isn't bad.

I've also considered adding ads that don't use javascript. i.e. someone pays me to add an image to my content or has me do a write up about a product. Both of these, because you trust me, and I can decline to advertise for the advisor makes a much higher quality ad.

There's something I rarely see discussed: plenty of ads out there range from distasteful to plain disgusting. Sometimes I wonder if people realize what's being show on their websites.

Adblockers do not block ads. They block BANNER ads.

If advertisers want to pitched their products, they should contract with websites for that website to display a relevant, clickable, ad hosted by the website. Such schemes are no different than buying space to paint a poster on a stadium wall. And as adblockers only target ads delivered by third parties, such displays will go untouched.

(Yes, i know adblock allows ad hoc image blocking, but the user will see the ad and must choose to block it every time it is updated.)

Advertisers than want to buy open-ended ad space on websites, that want to display different ads depending on who views the space, who want to track users to better target ads, who want to use "ads" as a Trojan horse for installing tracking cookies ... they can all rot alongside the good people from "windows technical service department" who called me at 4am this morning.

Google has bothered me for a while with their lack of advertising ethics. I recently cleared and disabled my youtube history and they're still doing targeted advertising for videos I had searched for and watched weeks earlier. Clearly my history was not truly removed, which was my assumption anyway but the fact they so blatantly show it off is rather disrespectful from a user standpoint.

Honestly I think the best bet moving forward for sites is to have a small minimalistic form of advertising (the way HN does advertisement with job postings for example, even while its just for Ycombinators benefit, is a good example of non-intrusive advertising done correctly), and probably a small subscription fee ($1.99? $4.99? pay what you want? hard to set a price) for users to hide advertising and support the site/service they enjoy using.

The major argument against adblockers (at least as far as I have seen) is that it deprives content creators a source of revenue. I can't disagree with this statement because it is true, it is a (read: singular) source of income that we (read: users of an adblocking program/method) are eliminating. I for one believe that they should ge something.et paid for their work, but ads just don't seem to be the right solution. I know there is paypal donations, and patreon subscriptions (or similar services) but these don't seem to draw people to contribute. I can't seem to think of any other alternatives to these, but I'm sure there must be something. Anyone have any ideas?

That people don't pay for content online is partly a social, historical, and technological problem. Crowdfunding is slowly but increasingly becoming viable, as it enters the social awareness/expectation for content creation.

Other options include government (known for relatively high-quality content in many parts of the world: for news, science, education, art, and other works that are widely considered to be a part of the common good).

But I'd like to see more of a rise in crowd-sourced "content pools" that, for example, would commission many works/creators in an ensemble centralized around broad topics (e.g. "participate in commissioning a cabal of high-quality tech blogs" if that's your fancy).

As sort of an aggregator of content or a commission based system? Or more like a business with employees that produce content, such as columnists / reporters for a newspaper?

I wrote a blog post about this a while back and said how the economy of web is changing and a lot of businesses have to adapt or die: http://www.pesfandiar.com/blog/2014/04/05/is-adblocking-unet...

I think content is becoming cheaper to create, but there will always be business models for high-end publishers other than advertising. (Like many other forms of art)

The advertising industry comes with its own hidden costs. Thousands of extremely bright engineers are working every day on delivering a particular ad to a particular person. Optimizing the delivery for the last milliseconds or targeting the ad just right, if they had this or that data point.

Now imagine that advertising was solved. (I rather like the idea posted here of subscribing to an ad channel. It's not perfect, but a huge improvement) But just imagine that all the engineers currently employed by ad networks, are solving more acute problems of humankind? Cancer? Feeding the world? Harvesting solar power?

I don't think framing the issue as one of individual morals is very constructive. Here's how I tend to think about the future of web advertising:

1. The tracking data that the online advertising industry gathers is bad for users and will ultimately be bad for advertisers. It should go away. Doing so will require a combination of technical and political restrictions on the way that advertisers do business. Solely one or the other will not be sufficient.

2. Advertising is and will remain the lifeblood of the Internet. The past is littered with the calcified husks of arguments claiming that subscription plans or microtransactions are capable replacements for advertising revenue. If a majority of users install ad blockers, society as a whole will suffer as content creators are squeezed out of the market. Whether or not this is a moral behavior is not the point -- users with ad blockers are game-theoretic parasites that feed off this weakness in the system. Societies have traditionally addressed such weaknesses by classifying such behavior as undesirable, shameful, or immoral. The movement to classify ad blockers in this category has already begun: in the future, either ad blockers will attain a majority or plurality install base among users or this movement towards demonizing ad-blocking users will intensify.

"If a majority of users install ad blockers, society as a whole will suffer as content creators are squeezed out of the market."

Oh noes, you mean there won't be more Buzzfeed crap or their ilk?

If your art is good enough, people will find a way to pay you.

Beethoven, Newton, Einstein... their content is SUPREME. They would have done what they did regardless. They didn't need advertising, and neither should you.

We would simply not have many of the greatest web companies today if it was not because of ads. It's one solution that works and works really well. To call it immoral is to ignore everything that it has given us. You can complain about the annoyances of it and rightly so, but if you are going to bring in morality, first you must consider and imagine an internet or world without some of the most beloved businesses in it. I don't believe in a consequentialist argument either that just because something good comes out of an immoral thing then it justifies it given the benefits outweigh the harms. I would agree with you if that were true. I simply disagree with the assertion that ads are immoral or immoral to the extend that you seem to imply, I'd argue they're more of annoyance than anything else. And the burden of proof is really on you to tell us why ads are immoral since you're the one making the assertion, so far I haven't seen that, and until then or until when we find an alternative, ads are here to stay, and rightly so if I may say.

Beloved businesses? Do you mean Facebook? Or perhaps Google? Come on. The best parts of the Internet have always been free. Advertizing made that possible like the lampray made the trout.

And I'm sure that you can provide sources backing those claims. Right?

EDIT: And yes, advertising is immoral. By its very definition, it is a form of manipulation for own benefit.

best parts of the internet are free

I used to be in defense of the targeted ad movement, but I have completely changed my views. When I finally found out that even my gmail was being surveyed to build a profile about me, I decided that personally it had gone too far. But if we really want to change it we have to stop playing into the business model and we have to start educating the users. That is one of the main reasons that I started Rebil (shamless plug: rebil.co ). I plan to fight this battle not with adblock, but by creating products that are open and honest with their consumers and deal openly in currency rather than hidden data transactions. The question is, will consumers value their data and their privacy enough to pay for services? I think they will and I am betting on it.

My personal opinion is if the site wants to make it a requirement to view the ads, they can write the front-end and back-end code to enforce that.

Not requesting a particular asset over the network is probably not circumvention or exceeding authorized access. Accessing the APIs to retrieve content through an entirely alternate program, unfortunately, has been deemed circumvention and the site would have a case against anyone who tried it. Not that the court of public opinion would come down on their side, but the law certainly would.

I think in a world where using curl can get you charged and convicted, adblockers certainly stray dangerously close to exceeding authorized access under the CFAA. I don't think this is right, but I do think it's the reality we currently live in.

"Accessing the APIs to retrieve content through an entirely alternate program, unfortunately, has been deemed circumvention and the site would have a case against anyone who tried it."

Do you have a cite for that?

You really never heard of Aaron Swartz or Andrew [Weev] Auernheimer?

Getting from those cases to circumventing adblockers seems quite a stretch.

What do you mean by "entirely alternate program"? Curl vs wget vs Firefox?

I agree - programming your browser through an extension to selectively retrieve elements is probably not circumvention or exceeding authorized access.

But I think it has been shown that iterating curl from a bash script was exceeding authorized access in Weev's case. Standard HTTP GET's to which the server replies "200 OK" but after the fact was deemed to be illegal.

Hence, there is some space between Point A and Point B but it's quite mirky IMO how large that space actually is.

We know, from a copyright standpoint, for example, that it's illegal to use an extension to surround someone else's material with your own ads. So you can't add ads, but you can remove them?

I don't know if there exists a case where a site has gone after users they knew to be using blockers (it wouldn't be difficult to determine this from the logs). But it would be an interesting case, to be sure.

"Shoplifting for the web" - so where do you draw the line? If I mute the TV during commercials, is that stealing? If I change the channel, is that stealing? If my monitor is too small for the ads to show on the side of the article, is that stealing? If my internet connection for some reason drops all connections to doubleclick.net is that stealing? If I don't have ad blocker enabled, but have conditioned myself to not even notice the ads, is that stealing?

If the first two ads in google search results are exactly the same as the first two actual search results, which link is is moral for me to click?

I say we abandon the concept of advertising completely. Everyone should switch to models where consumers pay the content creators directly. http://autotip.io

When websites look like this[1] without an adblocker I am amazing that everyone doesn't have them installed.

[1] https://i.imgur.com/T6tji3g.png

You should show the before and after!

I am not sure that the "morality" argument re: adblock has anything to do with the "ad industry and its supporters." Rather, people generally speak in terms of the needs of websites who host ads and the harm done to them by adblocking. For the argument expressed here to have weight, we would have to go one step further and say that since websites who advertise necessarily dealt with the evil ad industry in hosting ads, they do not deserve the benefit of a moral argument now.

I am not prepared to view my favorite sites as evil because they attempted to exist.

The thing about current ads is, even if they are perfectly relevant, that they are so overwhelming that the distraction is not worth the potential benefits.

There seems to be a clear need for an ad blocker that doesn't block ads, just runs them in an invisble sandbox.

That way the site owner still gets paid, and you can still get your character test fix, and no one has to suffer through blinking autoplaying crap.

This strategic technology is a game changer that can disrupt online advertising! Remember where you heard it first!

I was wondering why my twitter feed blew up all of a sudden.

was the first person to jump on that guy and compared it to "muting commercials" which is more technically correct (and less illegal)

I think he was being obtuse for the sake of being obtuse based on his profile.

If consumers are to consider the morality of adblockers, I wonder when advertisers will consider the morality of their emotional manipulation and large media organizations the morality of the advertising content the include.

I stopped using adblockers - reasons - they don't work well, hog resources, the dev console gives me enough power to get rid of something nasty, and my intrinsic ad ignoring ability is over level 9000 now ....

How is this a new point? This is literally why everybody uses adblockers.

More importantly, no big publishers / ad networks really care about adblock. A vocal minority use it and think their convenience is socially progressive. The only people feeling the burn are niche sites that happen to have a core demographic which overlaps with adblocker users. Big companies don't care, and the second they do - they'll just block people from using their service who have adblock until its disabled.

And as long as we're all whining in one direction or the other, the average U.S. citizen still watches more than 25 hours of tv per week. So we're all just yelling into the ether of the tech-haves for the next 20 years while that number slowly drops.

To continue said yelling, a point that I haven't noticed mentioned on here yet - since when do consumers get to decide how much they pay for a service? Or how? If I want to sell you x for y - we don't live in a society where you get to decide what y is, or how to pay it. I think capitalism is dumb - therefore I won't pay in money but I will pay in labor I do for you. And you have no choice in the matter. I will take your hamburger and be in your house at 8am sharp. I will rake your leaves. Your yard will be the envy of the whole neighborhood. This is my anarchism. I will inflict it upon you, you cursed content publisher.

I like how much heat this topic on the hacker news. I wonder if its extra touchy given how much "hacker" culture overall developed with online advertising - the big tech successes often depending on sweet sweet ad money. Everybody likes react, hadoop, chrome, mozilla etc, but the truth is that a huge proportion of development on the web was due to ads. And this feels ugly to people. Hackers like to believe their beautiful meritocracy was independent of the advertising bureaucracy. The privileges of the tech elite were made by ads, but now that we're all here in this beautiful (and fully deserved) technological enlightenment, we think we're somehow above it.

Also, am I the only person in this thread who actually works in ads? Ctrl + F did nothing to answer this question

I don't even care if it's immoral to block ads, or if the ad companies are moral or not, I just don't want ads. I'm puzzled as to why the question even matters.

I would like to see a study done on how much ad-blocking can save in terms of energy costs (not running flash ads), bandwidth, and reduction of risk from malware.

I'm not certain it's possible (for me) to care less what other parties think of ad blockers. Or any other set of software, for that matter.

friends don't let friends go without an adblock

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact