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UBlock Origin (addons.mozilla.org)
415 points by grflynn on June 15, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 327 comments



From the horses mouth [1]:

Main reason I published on AMO is because a feature which I think is important was removed from uBlock (per-site switches). That both versions diverged significantly enough so soon is not in my control.

When ABP added "acceptable ads" in their fork, they also created a demand for a version uncompromised by the "acceptable ads" principle, hence ABE happened. When uBlock removed the per-site switches, a demand was created for a version of uBlock with the per-site switches.

This is the reality of GPL: anybody can fork and create their own flavor if they disagree with the pre-fork version. This should not be seen as wrong when it happens, it's expected. In the big picture, users win.

As far as trust is concerned, both versions can be trusted -- that should not be an issue in either case: the development and source code is public in both cases (every single code change can be easily browsed on github).

Edit: Notice that I still contribute fixes to uBlock since the fork, and also try to deal with filed issues (those issues which are relevant to both versions), so it's not like I am ignoring uBlock to the advantage of uBlock Origin -- I also want uBlock to work fine for whoever uses it, I just strongly disagree with the removal of the per-site switches feature.

[1] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/issues/38#issuecomment-966...


> hence ABE happened

Fun fact: ABE is now discontinued "in favor of uBlock" because the latter is just so much more efficient. [1]

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-Us/firefox/addon/adblock-edge/


It has been discontinued too early; from an AdBlock Edge comment, titled "uBlock may be fast, but is rubbish":

> I've been using uBlock now for a while and while it is light and fast, it's is rubbish to use. Exclusions are idiotic, context menu controls don't work, default filters selection is idiotic, it doesn't sync settings like Adblock Edge does, I'm just starting to hate it.

> I'd too like to see AdBlock Edge continue its own development path even if it's not the fastest or lightest. It's still better than all other ad blockers...


I haven't been seeing those issues with uBlock.


The one issue I've had with it is it won't hide the share feature on each link of Reddit.


try right clicking on the thing, click uBlock link, paste:

## .post-sharing-button[href="javascript: void 0;"]

into the box (or delete the other text till you get that) and click create


When I refresh the page none of them are hidden, even the one I used to get to the box. Chrome 44, all other extensions disabled.


Odd. Works for me using Chrome 43.


And don't forget that uBlock blocks Google Analytics, breaks most popular travel sites if you try to actually purchase, and also error reporters like NewRelix. Most of this is the fault of the default inclusion of EasyPrivacy I believe.


Blocking Google Analytics is the main point of any blocker I would consider using.


Many sites rely on Google Analytics to be able to do their own promotions and sponsorships, which is the only way they make money other than ads. By blocking GA, the site doesn't see you as a visitor. So, you use the site resources, don't see ads and don't add to their user/page view numbers. Plus, there's the fact that lots of sites use GA to handle inter-page click tracking so they can see what paths users take to analyze UI/price sensitivity/promos/etc and blocking GA may break your ability to actually use the site at all (many travel sites, for instance).


It's not like GA is the only way to gather statistics, there are other vendors and even the access logs for your server itself.

I'm not willing to let Google follow me everywhere on the internet and if that is detrimental to the sites I visit then they are welcome to block me if they detect that I'm blocking GA.


  By blocking GA, the site doesn't see you as a visitor.
Well too bad. Maybe they should take the radical step of actually looking at their server logs.


When you run a website, you have two choices: spend a bunch of time implementing log analysis and paying for all the storage necessary, or using GA, which already exists and is free. If log analytics isn't my core business, why should I spend time implementing it?


And if you choose GA, you accept that some people will block it, the same way they might block your javascript, your cookies, your css, your images, or anything else they don't want to download.


No, you should buy something that does log analytics for you without shafting your viewers. The existence of deceptive-but-gratis services like GA means there is almost no market for proper analysis software, which is a scandal.


Not to mention that GA much more elegantly handles the case of N > 1 webservers behind a front end.


If those are your only two choices, then you'll presumably choose the better of the two, right? So what exactly is the problem?


Depends on what variable you're optimizing for. If you're optimizing for cost, then you're right, the choice is clear.


There is a very good reason why GA is free to use. It involves building profiles of your users for Google's benefit. Don't be surprised or upset if some of your users don't want to participate in that privacy shit storm.


>blocking GA may break your ability to actually use the site at all (many travel sites, for instance).

What? How does that even work? If GA goes down, their site just stops working until it's back up?


I used one site which would throw an javascript exception and break because it called part of google analytics from some other function that was needed to make the site work. I ended up opening it up in a private browsing session, and I've got my script blocker disabled there.

Yes, the site would be unusable if GA went down.


Actually, because of this, I tend to temporarily disable blocking at the moment of payment, because there are too many redirects and reloads happening at that time to reliably use a blocker. It partially defeats blocking, but at least they aren't tracking me during regular browsing.


The travel sites I saw blocked didn't fail because of GA blocking I believe, but they were depending on various other scripts. I believe they just had messy code that relied on callbacks from third party scripts -- some of which were blocked by uBlock.


Might be worthwhile finding a different online travel company, if they can't get this right I can't imagine what else they'll stuff up when you make a booking!


Too bad for them. They should use same-domain analytics instead. Otherwise they have no chance with me.


They also block the popular on-domain analystics including piwik, or at least they did.


That's not so good. I actually don't use general block lists, but build my own from scratch, starting from a block-all situation.


It's pretty good. I'd rather not have a JS snippet tracking me at all, regardless of which domain it's on.


Many sites? I've been blocking GA through ghostery for years and haven't had any problem ever. Only problem with Ghostery i've noticed is blocking Adobe Typekit and some other UI-framework i can't remember the name of, and that is extreeemly rare. Besides, as many others have said, if a site is stupid enough to rely on a third party server for analytics that is their problem, not mine, there are plenty of good analytics alternatives that can be hosted by yourself easily, and there are plenty of good websites out there that i can visit instead if one is not working without GA.


Sounds like those sites need a better architecture if those things are so strategic to their business.


>which is the only way they make money other than ads.

Yeah.

> So, you use the site resources

Yeah.

>don't see ads

Yeah.

> don't add to their user/page view numbers.

Yeah.

>Plus, there's the fact that lots of sites use GA to handle inter-page click tracking so they can see what paths users take to analyze UI/price sensitivity/promos/etc

Yeah.

Well you know what ? I wouldn't be doing this if ads provider didn't abuse my trust and displayed popup ads. I wouldn't be doing this if ads were actually targeted (lol jk). Early ads providers fucked it up for everyone. Not only do I hate the very principle of ads, I go out of my way to avoid them.

And most of all, I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't Google Analytics. Use piwik, use whatever you want as long as it's selfhosted and doesn't report to <gigantic database of users> and I will allow it. After all, I have no way of knowing if you're selling my data back anyways. It's my computer, I pick what I want to display and which code I want to execute. You want stats ? Use your own server.


I agree absolutely. That's why I use piwik on my sites.

Unfortunately, uBlock blocks piwik all the same.


> uBlock blocks piwik all the same

Good. I don't want to contribute to your analytics. I don't want ads. I just want to browse the web without being tracked. I don't care if that means you can't pay for your site, other sites will spring up that can without annoying users with ads and without tracking them.


The "other site" in the area I'm operating in is Google. So the situation is more like "other sites will continue to dominate by cross-subsidising from their core business, namely annoying users with ads and tracking them".

Is that really what you want?


No, he wants free content without any convenience to him. He doesn't care about the so-called bigger picture, just the instant gratification he's been entitled to.


This isn't true, I'm perfectly willing to pay for content. I just don't want ads and I don't want to be tracked. Thanks to browser extensions I don't have to no matter how much that hurts your feelings. You say I'm entitled but it's actually you who isn't entitled to control how the software works on my computer.

I'm perfectly willing to support business models that aren't terrible. Perhaps you might also consider users not wanting to install rootkits, spyware and adware to support content entitled? It's the same, it's a shitty experience people don't want.


Shh... don't point out the hypocrisy of installing software but preventing the "Ask Toolbar" that it tries to install from installing.

How dare you hurt their business model by preventing the program from installing spyware!

You should be running IE with 12 different toolbars and Bonzi Buddy and the 90-day trial of McAfee.


OK, I'll answer this one. No software I own installs adware/spyware that I then uninstall or circumvent. This includes "free" commercial stuff like Chrome, Steam, the Kindle App, and Spotify. And then stuff I purchase licenses for, including Transmit, Sublime Text, Lightroom. The free consumer software that I do use, KeepassX and Handbrake, don't currently install adware/spyware. If they did, I wouldn't use them.

So no, I'm not being a hypocrite in the same way as the GP is being, unless he has restricted his consumption of Internet content to Wikipedia and pastebin


That wasn't directly targeted at you - but more the "pro-ad" people who support it as a business model. Many of them (not all, as you yourself prove) will uncheck the "install this" for bundleware. Which hurts that business model for software developers.

Now the main difference is that users can uncheck the bundleware in most installers. Few sites offer a pay-to-opt-out option against ads. So what options do users have to disable ads? They're forced to use an Adblocker to opt themselves out.

People turn to alternatives because it provides an easy-access alternative. Netflix soared in popularity and put Blockbuster out of business because you didn't have to visit a brick & mortar store to rent movies. Many people will pay to use Netflix rather than torrent for free, because Netflix provides a no-friction way of consumption.

Provide a way that's frictionless for users to disable ads. A once-a-year payment for $10-$20 does the job fine and likely makes you more per user than ads would. Give them a little flair badge or something trivial and cosmetic and you might convince even the Adblockers to impart some of their money to you.

There are other business models other than Ad Revenue. Many of those business models have been time-tested and work. Ads are the "lazy" way out that shows a lack of care towards your audience.


I'm glad that you don't use Flash or Java. However, I'm sure you can understand if they're (a) very common, (b) bundled with adware, and (c) make one of many fine counterpoints to the "you have a moral obligation to view ads in order to support the artists who made the stuff that you're consuming" argument.

That might not be your argument, but it is an argument that's in the atmosphere. This is a thorny problem, not a cut-and-dry case. The greater good is supported when artists can be fairly compensated. It is also supported when we annoy the art-consumers less. It is probably also supported when our political stances are small, simple, and ideologically pure. It is probably also supported when poor people can consume art. There are a lot of different factors that play into the "is it OK to block ads?" question, and it's not obvious that there's a simple solution which resolves all of them.


We show an ask for donations in place of the ads for users who block our ads (Simple, subtle, using the same colors and fonts as the rest of the site so it isn't distracting). A handful of users do donate. The vast majority do not. Interestingly, the users who donate are also the ones most likely to whitelist our site.

Most (but not all) users today feel entitled to content, games, music, etc for free and get mad when it isn't granted to them and turn up their noses at things like ads that support the content for the price they're willing to pay (free).


Sounds like you've come up with a nice comfortable rationalization for creating bad experiences for your users. How convenient for you. You don't seem to think very highly of your site's visitors.

> Most (but not all) users today feel entitled to content, games, music, etc for free and get mad when it isn't granted to them and turn up their noses at things like ads that support the content for the price they're willing to pay (free).

This is an obvious generalization and an opinion you have. People who block ads do so because ads have been and continue to be annoying, exploitive, invasive and vectors for viruses. I am not sorry I block them, and you're not going to make me feel bad for making decisions about what my computer does or doesn't do.


On the contrary, I think very highly of my site's visitors. That's why there's no banner ad across the top of the page. That's why there's only a single ad above the fold (within the sidebar away from the content so it doesn't distract). That's why I've never done popups, popovers, popunders, etc. That's why I have a script to detect adblockers that, instead of blocking content, just shows a nice simple request for either whitelisting or donating if they can that also cleans up the remnants of the site design left behind by blocking the ads for a cleaner page view for them and specifically reserves space for the message so the laid-out elements don't jump around and distract from viewing the page sans ads. That's why I have 60+ domains blocked within AdSense because I found they were showing fake Download button ads that were trying to trick users into downloading crap instead of free software they were after... even though these were the most high-paying ads available. That's why I've avoided doing bundleware despite the fact that it would make me a millionaire within weeks.

Much of what I said was more a generalization of online users overall. And I'm lucky that many of my own users fall outside of that generalization due to the niche of what I do and the type of product I offer (free open source software, utilities, etc). Sadly, it doesn't matter how responsibly you try to show ads as adblockers don't discriminate (except for AdBlock Plus which allows some ad networks due to payola). And doing ads on your own without a 3rd party service is nearly impossible for an independent site these days due to the nature of the ad industry.

All that said, it's not like I'm giving up. I'm working with my userbase to come up with additional revenue streams to allow the site/project to continue and the millions of users to keep using the software. Including things like paid services, merchandise, sponsorships, etc. Honestly, if we can arrive at one that'll let me ditch ads entirely, I'd be happy to.


Don't confuse the desire to not see ads with a feeling of entitlement. I fully support a website operator's right to detect that I am blocking ads and hide the content, or to make unblockable ads. I don't feel entitled to their resources. But if they do show content I'm interested in, I'll consume it. It's not at all a feeling of entitlement.


Most users don't share your sentiment. There are pre-bundled blocklists in most adblockers to block websites' JavaScript designed to detect adblockers and block content. uBlock includes two such lists by default. Adblockers vary whether these are enabled by default or must be enabled by the user.


> There are pre-bundled blocklists in most adblockers to block websites' JavaScript designed to detect adblockers and block content.

That still doesn't imply a feeling of entitlement.


Watching an ad is paying a price. If it's possible to get something for free without breaking the law and without other tangible negative consequences for yourself, why would you pay a price? Altruism, right? So watching ads is my altruistic duty now?


The respondents have a solid point. You can't criticize them blocking ads, if they're willing to see degrading service because of it. What we lack that would be ideal is full transparency from the site's point of view to know which user is blocking ads and, if they choose so, prevent that user from viewing any content. It should be illegal to 'fake' watching ads just to get the content.

This imbalance is indeed a big problem imo: essentially any scheme from the site is permitted to be circumvented without giving them knowledge: this can create an unhealthy market dynamics where ads get more aggressive (to generate more revenue per user), every user installs ad blocking software (note that once installed, most users won't ever uninstall ad blockers), and websites are eventually forced to chose from only two models: mediocre service (low operational costs) or paywall.

I personally would gladly accept targeted minimalist ads, which I would prefer to having to pay to access most sites. Nowadays I use an ad blocker though since some ads are far too intrusive for my liking.

I think the whole internet industry needs urgently to discuss mechanisms for this problem though.


> It should be illegal to 'fake' watching ads just to get the content.

You mean, like, by-law illegal? Or just something more like "an illegal state" in a program? Because if we're talking about by-law, that's an awful sentiment and you should feel awful for expressing it.

If you mean by-program-state illegal, that's not actually too complicated: add a software dependency on your ad-generation or analytics code to all of your run-time code. You'll pay the corresponding cost in performance that any such paranoid solution is going to cost you anyway, and you'll be vulnerable to highly-targeted blacklisting of your ads anyway, but you can block those general ad rules and force ad-blockers to include arbitrary executable blacklist-code in their browsers, which is sufficient.


As a user you can always fake watching ads, there's no technical solution from the server side -- you have complete control of your browser (actually just controlling the display is sufficient). That's why websites don't even try to deny service for ad-block users -- it's a waste of time. So yes, I think a legal in the sense of law solution is the only way out. Unless you want to propose something like full DMR'd computers being the norm (essentially iOS everywhere), which I wouldn't want.


So you are saying it should be illegal for me to mute TV when ads are displayed? I must carefully listen to ads and periodically pass an exam to ensure that I indeed listened to them and not thought of other things. What a wonderful feature. For ad companies.


That's an extreme example, but I'll play along.

No, I what I mean is TV manufacturers/broadcasters, if they so chose, could make it so that if you use their TV and press the mute button, you accept the TV will inform the broadcaster -- who may deny you service in the future. They should be free to decide if the consumer who doesn't want to watch any ads can watch their content, or if he has to pay subscription.

As a consumer you're not being "forced" anything: you can always subscribe or not watch the channel. Ideally broadcasters would tolerate muting/black-screening many ads up to a point, and if they see you're automatically blocking every ad they may ask you to subscribe.


You can't be seriously arguing for that TV muting analytics thing! That'd be, in my opinion, a terrible invasion of privacy.

Also, what if people have their TV plugged into a separate sound system? They could always use the mute button on that. The only way around that would be to equip the TV with a microphone, to check if the expected sounds are in fact audibly in the room ... (I kid)

(Another thought, would they also block deaf people for using the mute button on their TVs? But maybe they could request a special permit or something ...) (again, I kid)


1) We are using TVs to extrapolate what's acceptable for the internet. Why not just argue about internet directly?

2) If you want to keep using the TV analogy, ad blockers are like distributing a device for automatically muting/blacking out every TV ad, for free. Do you think free over the air TV broadcasts would exist for very long if such a device were the norm?


And you want it to be illegal to stop my TV from phoning home (or to make it phone home false info)? That's nightmarish!


False identity is already illegal. You don't have the right to fake you're not who you are for anything legally binding. Is the law currently nightmarish?

I don't think this is a necessity for TVs, I was just playing along the extreme example.

I meant you can stop your TV from phoning home, just don't complain if they stop providing you service. If you instead falsely convey you are watching their ads, that is what would be illegal. Ads are a form of payment so to speak, and by actively concealing it you are making a false payment -- I'd expect that to be illegal just like false identities are.


Seriously if ads were just like unobtrusive text ads I would be ok with it. I have never minded advertisements in dead tree news papers and magazines (they also don't track users). Online ads are toxic.


OK, I'll bite. So what kind of Internet content have you paid for? And how do you pay for it without being tracked? Because you know, credit cards payments transmit your personal information. Or have you successfully transitioned to a Bitcoin-only currency lifestyle?


A recurring monthly payment doesn't track my activity does it. It just tracks that I've paid for something. Many sites offer PayPal so there's no personal information conveyed at all.

I pay for a lot of Twitch subs. I am currently subbed to like 7 channels. I've also payed for the NYTimes and Washington Post through Amazon's payment system. I've paid for Ars Technica. I pay for Pandora. I pay for Reddit gold. I also buy skins and mounts in free to play games like Heroes of the Storm and TF2.

I pay lots. Do I meet your approval now?


I'm sure you're not seeking my approval, but it genuinely bemuses me that you're happy for your shopping purchases to be tracked by Amazon and PayPal, two giants with a history of privacy-insensitive behaviour, yet not for individual sites to run JS-based, self-hosted, same-domain analytics simply to count whether you're one or 10 unique users within a month.


I don't see how PayPal can track anything other than what I've spent money on. My bank can track that too. There's no control over this. I'm not sure there are any viable alternatives to Amazon or PayPal for what they do. There's very little inconvenience to run adblock, it would be a huge inconvenience to boycott major sites to avoid them knowing what kind of shampoo I buy.


I'm very surprised you havent been downvoted yet.

The sad truth is that adblockers are not a good thing. The value exchange with online content is free access for ads. Adblockers are just incredibly simple to install and use which allows people to skirt this agreement without issue, however just because something is easy doesn't make it "right".

It's always interesting when people argue about privacy without really knowing what ad networks store (which is just a random ID number and some interest categories) vs what they willing give up to social networks. Not to mention that payments are not more private, in fact payments = credit cards = everything including address, birthday, purchase history etc all tied to a real identity. Browsing via ads is far more private than browsing via paid access.


I agree with that as ads support the content rich internet we all know and love

However ads have become just too much annoying with all the pop left and right and other shady tactics to steal your eyeballs or get you to dow load a virus

It is time user started pushing back, since content owners are currently little to no incentive to push back to ads provider for getting high quality ads.

Adblocking puts the right incentive where its due. They should however play nice to web site owners. If the content owner wants not show content unless an ad is displayed, the ad blocker shouldn't circumvent that

They aren't gonna fixing ads provider getting too far by getting to far on the opposite direction. That will just put more content behind paywalls in the long run.


I think the users always had the same choice, don't visit sites where you don't like the experience. Sure adblockers are finally pushing for better sites and ads but the blunt force approach of just blocking all ad scripts is actually causing more harm then good.

Nowadays, hosting is so cheap that independent blogging is not really at risk, everyone can publish anything anytime. The risk is really with top and mid-tier publishers who produce content for money. These guys will be squeezed and what we're headed towards is both paywalls everywhere and a walled-garden approach where Facebook or other big central apps/sites will control access to everything else. Not sure either is a great option for the future.

Note: Yes micropayments/universal "internet" subscriptions might work but this is a far greater problem than people make it out to be. Any company attempting to do this will need massive scale, perfect tracking (again privacy issues here), secure access to billing and identity and ease of use for users. They will possibly help from either ISPs or some other infrastructure layer to actually make this work and even Google is having trouble with their 2nd try at a micropayments model in their new Contributor program. It's just not an easy thing to solve, definitely not as easy as just putting up a few ads and making the content free.


I'm getting dismissed too, and people won't even admit it's a problem, much less give a coherent rebuttal: how are we not headed towards a classic 'Tragedy of the commons' type of scenario where no one wants to compromise (watch ads) but everyone wants free content. I can only conclude quality will degrade and we will get either behind paywalls or crappy content. Serious journalism is clearly suffering imo, for example. In this scenarios privacy degrades, since behind the paywall the provider knows your full identity along with all your browsing habits.

We need solutions for this, not a dismissal. No large company is engaging this in the public because there will be obvious backlash from adblocker users: they are currently fine, getting free content and seeing no ads -- why would they want change? While they don't see the trend is probably unsustainable, in the sense that services will generally be worse than they could have been.

My opinion is that some unobtrusive ads is a price that is worthy of payment, but this scenario is running out if we don't change some rules of come up with solutions. I'm very open to alternatives also such as some kind of internet-wide subscription model. It needs to be discussed, not tossed aside, imo.


Agreed. There are really 3 things they argue for: performance, privacy and security.

Performance is a given, loading less = faster. Same with security, its just a few bad actors who keep allowing 3rd party content and malware. Many networks dont allow for anything other than text + images which have no malware possibilities.

Those two issues are starting to be solved by this consumer backlash and its a good thing. However when it comes to privacy I never understand how people think paying for things with their credit card is somehow more private (especially with all these data breaches) than some random ad network tracking script. The 3rd party cookie was actually a great thing that could easily be deleted and also stored any opt-out settings for users who wanted to skip tracking. Now with random out-of-context "privacy" reasons, browsers have ruined the effectiveness of cookies which means most networks cant even store a proper opt-out preference and they're also resorting to fingerprinting and other signals (at the ISP level) to track users no matter what device/platform/browser.

What the industry needed was more regulation and better standards, not this brute force guerilla warfare which is really harming the entire industry and leading to an eventually smaller and "closed" web.


But you're only blocking ads and analytics? You're not making any effort to avoid the sites that track?


Why avoid the sites that track if it's trivial to visit those sites without getting tracked?


Some of the ad-block using crowd say that this is not about getting the content and avoiding the ads - it's just about avoiding the ads. I've started asking people who use an ad-blocker if there are any sites they no longer visit.


What? How?

If Piwik just analyzes server logs, there should be no way for uBlock to touch it.

But if by "uBlock blocks piwik" you mean "uBlock blocks the piwik javascript file" then that sounds like mission fuckin accomplished to me.


piwik is essentially a self-hosted GA. So it uses JS (like GA) but tracks to a DB on your own server so the data on your visit remains private between you and the site-owner (rather than also being provided to a third-party like Google)


Since I can't reply to the reply on this, piwik (the paid version) works just like GA and is offered as a SaaS where they store and analyze the data.

Edit: link: https://piwik.pro


So, it's bad in exactly the same way that GA is bad: it leaks user information to a third party.


Except we're discussing the self-hosted version here ("use whatever you want as long as it's selfhosted").


Yes, that's Piwik Pro. Apparently "Pro" nowadays means a downgrade, or "for simpletons".


It's my computer, I pick what I want to display and which code I want to execute.

If you really wanted to take a principled stand you just wouldn't use those web sites. Ad blockers are just lazy activism.


> Ad blockers are just lazy activism.

Activism for the lazy; sounds like a good deal.


What has choosing what you download got to do with making a principled stand? It's like some people think that blocking ads is bad manners. I don't get it.


It is bad manners.

It's the same as taking the free newspapers in your area, cutting out all the advertisements, and giving those out to people. Every person that gets the paper without the advertisements affects the newspaper bottom line. It affects it in a small way, but all together they add up. The newspaper functions because advertisers pay them, and if there's no reason for advertisers to expect their ads are seen, then there's no reason to continue paying.


If web ads were more like newspaper ads, I think I would find them more agreeable.

Newspaper ads don't animate and distract me from what I'm reading. When I flip to a different page in the paper I don't have to "wait ten seconds" to start reading. I've never had an ad spontaneously appear in front of the newspaper article I'm reading.

Newspaper ads don't track me, and no matter how sketchy the ad is, it doesn't put me a couple of clicks away from installing malware on my computer.


I agree that ads are annoying and unpalatable, but I don't think that absolves consumers from behavior that I see as a clear responsibility of consumers to uphold their side of the bargain. We have content providers, that choose a business model that allows them to provide content without requiring payment as long as there is advertising. We then have consumers taking this content and automatically removing said advertisements. When the terms of a deal are seen as disadvantageous, it's the right of either party to not enter into that transaction. It is not their right to renege on their side of the transaction while receiving the benefit from the other party.

I understand many people do not see this as a contract between the consumer and the content provider. I just haven't heard a justification for why it's not that I can agree with. To me, it clearly is.


I'm sorry but I just can't sympathize.

Imagine a newspaper trying to go after someone for not reading the ads in the news paper, or for cutting the ads out before reading the paper.

That's what you sound like to the rest of us.

When my browser asks for a page from your webserver, I'm under no obligation to render or even receive the packets that you send back to me. If you seek further guarantees or protections I encourage you to find a different medium.


> When my browser asks for a page from your webserver, I'm under no obligation to render or even receive the packets that you send back to me.

Of course, just as if you receive mail you are under no obligation to read it. But I'm not talking about that level. I'm talking about the contract the consumer and the content provider have. You either believe there is one or you don't. I believe there's a reason that the content provider is giving me content, and it's not out of the goodness of their heart. What reason is that, and what strings are attached?


How can you possibly believe that there is a contract. If I send you a link to an article I think you might like, and you click on it, do you really believe that in doing so you have just agreed to whatever Terms & Conditions are waiting for you on the other side of that link?

Just to be clear, you haven't.


No, I don't believe the loading of a website automatically confirms my agreement with the terms of a contract. On the other hand, when the contract is made clear, if I take what is offered then I believe I am bound to the terms. Inthe case of website advertising, it's ambiguous, which allows people to hand-wave it away, but not so ambiguous that you can't realize you are taking something without having to pay the costs. So who's paying the costs? There is an implied contract[1] when you take services from someone who expects compensation in some form.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied-in-fact_contract


> It's the same as taking the free newspapers in your area, cutting out all the advertisements, and giving those out to people.

What you've just described is me, taking the content from your site, stripping out the ads, and re-posting it on the Internet for others to consume sans advertisements. This is very clearly different from a single person using ad blockers on their own computers, and you know it.

However, this is equivalent to everyone who reads you newspaper cutting out the ads from their own newspaper before reading it. Which, perhaps, should tell you something about the ads in your paper.


No, the difference is we're distributing devices that, at no effort whatsoever, strip out all the ads. An ad blocker is literally a few clicks away on google chrome to never see ads again. His analogy is pretty solid compared to that. It's so easy to use an ad blocker that there's no reason not to, no matter how low impact the ads are. And no single user can make a measurable impact on a website's revenue through advertisements, so his actions don't have a direct content degradation impact either.

Of course, the collective actions do degrade quality. It's classical 'Tragedy of the commons' [1].

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


Me using an ad blocker on my computer is in no way equivalent to me reposting that content, and trying to claim it is causes me to lose respect for the person who holds that opinion.

I get the tragedy of the commons, but far as I'm concerned the impact on content producers is not my problem, the abusive ads they used to employ are. I now have protections against such abuse and I will not feel sorry for them for it.

They chose to use abusive ads. They made their bed, now they get to sleep in it.


It's just a matter of semantics. It's a "device" that strips all ads at no effort, by default everywhere, forever. It's definitively not equivalent to cutting out the ads yourself since that requires significant effort. If you don't like the phrase that "someone is redistributing the content without ads", just replace it with "someone is distributing a device that strips all ads as soon as you see the newspaper". Semantically different, effectively the same.


> It is bad manners.

True, it is bad for the advertiser and the ad hosting site. But it is good for the person annoyed by the ads. There is no objective value in blocking ads, it depends on the party. Since there is no objective valuation, it is not bad manners; it is merely an ability of consumers that is undesirable to advertisers and the ad hosting companies.

> It's the same as taking the free newspapers in your area, cutting out all the advertisements, and giving those out to people.

Nice try at an analogy, but removing the ads from free newspapers and giving the results to people could be seen as conspiracy harming the newspaper, because there would be party doing the removing and taking over the distribution. With online ads, nothing of this sort happens, because the consumer requests the newspaper company - not some other ad-removing party - for the newspaper article, the newspaper company sends it to him with hope he will pay attention to ads and the consumer displays only that part of the sent document which he deems worthy of his attention. He does this with help of his computer in which he is entitled to process and filter information in any way he deems useful. No organized action destroying the business is happening, the consumer himself removes the part he does not want on his computer, he does not remove ads for other people. This is virtually the same as when the person buys a newspaper in store and skips reading the ads, which everybody who would read the newspaper is entitled to do. All people are entitled to filter the information other people, companies and government try to feed them, irrespective of the channel, be it paper, audiovisual channels or the Internet. Otherwise our brains would get really dumb from all the fatuous ads.


You're talking about the newspaper like it somehow has a right to exist. It doesn't. It is a business and whether it succeeds or fails depends on the value it adds to its customers. In this case its customers aren't the consumers, they are the advertisers, and from what you're saying, it sounds like the consumers are prepared to go to great lengths to rid themselves of the adverts, which suggests that the customers aren't getting much value from the newspaper.

If you're telling me that disabling ads is bad manners then I put it to you that attempting to deceive the advertisers about the value of their ads is also bad manners. In fact I'm starting to wonder if it isn't my moral obligation to block adverts in order to help advertisers save money they would have otherwise wasted.


I'm making no argument that they have to survive on their current business model, or that the current business model deserves to survive. I am simply stating that if you choose a content resource that does not require upfront payment but mingles their content with advertisements, there's an implicit social contract, and in some cases an explicit use policy, that defines how that transaction should proceed.

I don't see this as any different than if you were at a conference, and someone offered you a free book which you were interested in if you talked to them for thirty seconds about their product. Taking the book without hearing the pitch is not what I would consider acceptable behavior.

In all cases, it should be obvious that if you desire something (in this case, content), but are unwilling to pay the cost (in this case, viewing advertising), then the correct response is to not take the content.

Some people have made arguments about how intrusive some the the advertisement tracking is as a justification for blocking it. This is a perfectly acceptable justification for blocking that tracking, but it does nothing to address the further consumption of the content. The correct response to the abusive shopkeeper that berates you in line is not to steal his goods, but to leave the goods and refuse to give him your business.

> If you're telling me that disabling ads is bad manners then I put it to you that attempting to deceive the advertisers about the value of their ads is also bad manners.

How are you helping this issue by making it harder to tell which users are viewing advertising and which are not? In any case, the market decides this. You are just making information in the market harder to come by, making the market less efficient.

> In fact I'm starting to wonder if it isn't my moral obligation to block adverts in order to help advertisers save money that would otherwise be wasted.

Forgive me if that sounds a bit like a rationalization of your current behavior after the fact.


    I am simply stating that if you choose a content resource that does not require upfront payment but mingles their content with advertisements, there's an implicit social contract...
Well, there isn't.

    ...and in some cases an explicit use policy, that defines how that transaction should proceed.
If these terms are expressed clearly at the top of every page then I agree that there is an understanding of the publisher's wishes. That doesn't mean I should feel obliged to honour them though.

    In all cases, it should be obvious that if you desire something (in this case, content), but are unwilling to pay the cost (in this case, viewing advertising), then the correct response is to not take the content.
Look, a lot of people run websites because they have something they want to share with others; maybe something important to them. They often work hard to produce the content in their spare time. They put ads on there as an afterthought to help cover the maintenance costs, but they would never do that if they thought it would turn visitors away.

I for one would never want someone to think he wasn't welcome on my site because he chooses not to download certain assets, especially when - in the case of advertising - they're assets I have no control over and may be advertising products I don't even support.

    How are you helping this issue by making it harder to tell which users are viewing advertising and which are not?
I'm not making it harder, I'm making it easier. I downloaded the content but not the ad, therefore I wanted the content but didn't want the ad.

    Forgive me if that sounds a bit like a rationalization of your current behavior after the fact.
I don't even know what to make of this.


> Well, there isn't.

Are you sure? Why do you think the content is being provided then? Presumably there's a reason they've put the effort forth to make it available?

> If these terms are expressed clearly at the top of every page then I agree that there is an understanding of the publisher's wishes. That doesn't mean I should feel obliged to honour them though.

You shouldn't feel compelled to honor a site's acceptable use policy? In some cases violating the AUP can result in legal action, so in at least some cases you are legally compelled.

> Look, a lot of people run websites because they have something they want to share with others...

> I for one would never want someone to think he wasn't welcome on my site because he chooses not to download certain assets

These aren't your sites. It's not your right to make choices for other people. You can accept what they want to bring to the table, or you can decline to trade.

> I'm not making it harder, I'm making it easier. I downloaded the content but not the ad, therefore I wanted the content but didn't want the ad.

You've made it easier on yourself. How have you helped anyone else out? The content provider wanted to trade you content for attention, and you took the content without providing the attention. In what way does that help anyone besides yourself?

> I don't even know what to make of this.

People are susceptible to rationalizing their current behavior, regardless of whether it's truly beneficial in the ways they think to the parties they think. Doubling down on behavior that a content provider may not like with the excuse you may feel morally obligated to save them money by doing so is ridiculous. What right do you have to dictate how they run their business, as long as it's within the law?

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied-in-fact_contract


All of this is implied by you. Neither of us knows what motivates the publishers of websites. But you are missing the point entirely, which is that they all chose to publish to the web - a platform that by definition gives publishers very little say over how their content is consumed.

To complain that some users don't consume your content the way you expected is just really naïve.

For example, let's suppose you expect a user to download your animated gif advert. How do you know that the user isn't on a network that filters out all images to save bandwidth?


This isn't about a producer complaining about users not consuming the content the right way. I'm not a producer, I'm a consumer, but that doesn't prevent me from noting when people are not acting in good faith. And that's how I see this, a lot of people not acting in good faith and rationalizing it through various excuses (myself included). Producers produce content and attach ads as a way to recoup the cost of producing and delivering that content. I feel confident in saying the vast majority of consumers understand their desire and motivations, even if they don't value those desires and motivations much. To take what they are offering while rejecting their conditions is not acting in good faith.


Having read your exchanges with Quadrangle and Baddox, I think I get where you're coming from.

The trouble with your reasoning is that it only considers the point of view of the publisher and ignores the consumer entirely.

It's not practical to enter into an agreement with every website you visit (in fact half the time you're downloading assets from websites you don't visit!) so let's not even go there. Let's just consider the consumer who wants to use the web but doesn't want to see ads. What should he do: disable ads or stop using the web?

I guess your argument is that he should stop using the web because he is morally bound to honour the wishes of the publisher providing the content. Effectively you're placing the publishers' right to advertise ahead of the visitor's right to consume content on the web.

And this is my problem with your argument. I just can't feel guilty about defending the rights of one person to have free access to information over the right of another person to advertise. As far as I'm concerned, where these 2 rights clash, the advertiser should forfeit. Since I feel no guilt, there is nothing to rationalize.

Anyway, I sense this won't be enough for you, so in order to regain the moral highground, I have modified the header of my HTTP requests to include the following statement

    By responding to this request you agree not to send me
    advertising and accept that I may, at my discretion,
    block any advertising included in this or any other
    response.


> Let's just consider the consumer who wants to use the web but doesn't want to see ads. What should he do: disable ads or stop using the web?

Well, find a source to pay for the content he wants to see, find a truly free source of information, or yes, stop using the internet. I'm not sure how this is any different than anything else in life. "This man wan'ts to read in the library, but doesn't like other people around, so he breaks in at night. What's he supposed to do, keep breaking in, or stop using the library?"

> I guess your argument is that he should stop using the web because he is morally bound to honour the wishes of the publisher providing the content. Effectively you're placing the publishers' right to advertise ahead of the visitor's right to consume content on the web.

I'm actually not making any argument that people should stop, just that they should recognize their actions. I don't expect the world to change, but I do expect people to be cognizant of their actions and the consequences. Additionally, I'm not placing the publishers right to advertise over anything, I am placing the publishers right to control their content over the consumer's desire to see said content.

> And this is my problem with your argument. I just can't feel guilty about defending the rights of one person to have free access to information over the right of another person to advertise. As far as I'm concerned, where these 2 rights clash, the advertiser should forfeit. Since I feel no guilt, there is nothing to rationalize.

Do people have a right to free access to information? If I know something you don't know, but would like to know, do you have a right to that information? I'm not arguing someone has a right to advertise, I'm arguing they have a right to control their property. Ad-blockers effectively remove content provider's ability to control their property, which I think is their right.

> Anyway, I sense this won't be enough for you, so in order to regain the moral highground, I have modified the header of my HTTP requests to include the following statement

That's a start, and I think it is, until there is an acceptable way to broadcast to a site you are unwilling to view advertising, a good compromise. This brings up an interesting question though, which I think sheds light on what I'm trying to get at; If there were a box you could toggle on your browser to send an industry standard header that indicated your refusal to view advertisements as payment for content, and some site owners decided to withhold content based on this header (and I suspect others would redirect you to a payment portal), would you browse with it on, if it meant not getting some content? Or, more importantly to my point, do you think the populace at large, even if reduced to the set that understand the flag's meaning and import and refused to view ads, would browse with it on?

I suspect the answer for the majority of the group in question (I don't presume to know your actions) would be to browse without that indicator but with an ad-blocker. I think a lot of the pretense would be gone though.

P.S. I occurs to me this discussion not only parallels one about pirating movies, but is indeed the exact same, in my eyes. Content producers work hard to restrict their content, and users bypass those restrictions to view the content. Sure, content producers are assholes in this case, but being an asshole doesn't restrict your rights. It does help people feel justified in actions that hurt you though, even if they are illegal.


I would pay the premium for newspapers without ads. In fact, I do -- I support news organizations that aren't driven by advertisement.

If you can't find a business model that doesn't antagonize me, then you haven't found a business model that I care to support. If capitalism is failing to provide us with even basic methods of producing quality works, then that's a problem we should tackle at a larger scale.


But this isn't about you choosing to pay for a source without ads, this is about people choosing the source with ads, and then removing them. Those are entirely different things.


> It's the same as taking the free newspapers in your area, cutting out all the advertisements, and giving those out to people.

No, it's more like asking the newspaper publisher if you can have a version of their newspaper (for your own use) without ads, and them obliging. Blocking ads has nothing to do with redistributing someone else's content.


> Blocking ads has nothing to do with redistributing someone else's content.

You're right, it's like subscribing to a service that does it for you.

> No, it's more like asking the newspaper publisher if you can have a version of their newspaper (for your own use) without ads, and them obliging.

No, if they had an easy way to enforce your viewing of ads that scaled, I think it's fairly obvious they would (as many of the blocked ads are indeed an attempt at this, such as the timed overlay). It's more like the distributor responding with both marketing material and content with the understanding you are to view the marketing material along with the content, and you routing the marketing material to the trash from the post office (or somehow tricking the system into not sending you the marketing material). The expectation you are to view the marketing material is still there, even if you've somehow removed your ability to receive it.


> You're right, it's like subscribing to a service that does it for you.

You mean the blacklist services? Those are just a list of URL rules for your browser to reject. You still request the content from the web and the content provider obliges.

> No, if they had an easy way to enforce your viewing of ads that scaled, I think it's fairly obvious they would

Given that I have seen several websites that do this, I think you must be wrong.

> It's more like the distributor responding with both marketing material and content with the understanding you are to view the marketing material along with the content, and you routing the marketing material to the trash from the post office

Yes, it is like that, and I having no qualms with doing that. If I received a free magazine full of good content, along with a separate booklet of ads that are intended to be views with the content, I would have no problem reading the content and ignoring the ad booklet.


That's your choice, but I don't think it addresses whether the action is moral or not (unless you also ascertain that you refrain from all morally ambiguous actions), or whether it's bad manners (as the initiating comment termed it). I think there are a great many slightly immoral things that people do every day and justify by weighing how small the moral infraction is against the perceived benefit to themselves. The perceived benefit of not being annoyed by ads outweighs the slight immorality of circumventing those ads.

It feels like a negligible harm to the other party, so we justify it to ourselves as victim-less, but it's not. The combined harm of all those that do so adds up the what is certainly a non-negligent level of harm in many cases. This is not unique to advertising, we fall prey to this reasoning in many ways, and in some ways we've seen that harm manifested in obvious ways that have then changed our behavior. Consider littering. The harm of a single person dropping a small amount of trash on the ground is negligent, the cost of most of a nation's population doing so is definitely not.


Mr. kbenson, you and many of your kind are trying to foist on the idea that people filtering the information companies give to them are doing something immoral. I do not think even you believe that, but perhaps there is a profit-seeking based incentive to seed a feeling of guilt in the people who avoid ads, or perhaps to make yourself feel good by verbalizing your frustration with decreasing profits from online ads. Whichever the motivation for such church-like patronizing and false analogies, private profit from ads is not and will not be more important than fundamental freedoms of people to read only that which they want. My recommendation to you is to stop crying and seeking the ones guilty for the decreasing profits from online ads and think of some different business model that instead of bothering people with ads, does something good for them.


> Mr. kbenson, you and many of your kind are trying to foist on the idea that people filtering the information companies give to them are doing something immoral.

That's a simplification of my argument as to be meaningless. The information was not given, it was traded. The consumer's portion of the trade is paid in viewing the advertising.

> I do not think even you believe that, but perhaps there is a profit-seeking based incentive to seed a feeling of guilt in the people who avoid ads, or perhaps to make yourself feel good by verbalizing your frustration with decreasing profits from online ads.

Do I believe in your rephrasing of my argument that drops the salient points? No. Am I in an industry that does advertising in any way? Also no.

> Whichever the motivation for such church-like patronizing and false analogies, private profit from ads is not and will not be more important than fundamental freedoms of people to read only that which they want.

Meaning you have a right to content which is owned by someone else without compensating them? I don't believe that is a fundamental right or freedom. If you mean something else by this, which I hope and assume you do, then please elaborate.

> My recommendation to you is to stop crying and seeking the ones guilty for the decreasing profits from online ads and think of some different business model that instead of bothering people with ads, does something good for them.

I'm not in advertising in any way, I don't care if advertising as a form of revenue survives. I don't like advertising most of the time. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything I've said. I haven't made a case that advertising is good, or advertising is moral, or that you should choose content with advertising and them watch the advertising. I'm simply saying that if you agree to content in return for viewing ads, and then you deliberately prevent your viewing of those ads, then I view that as a slightly immoral thing to do.

Maybe it's my terminology that offends you, by using immoral. I could use different terminology, if any lended itself to this that I knew of. I'm using it as a way to describe behavior where one party reneges on a contract with another. I could has used unethical instead, but really that's because I think it's both. I think it's immoral, and additionally societally I think it's unethical.

But it's unethical and immoral on a very, very small scale. That doesn't mean many of those actions from many individuals don't have a real cost.


We have an attention economy. You try to get my attention so you can sell it to advertisers. My attention is scarce, and I don't want to sell it so readily. I don't know whether your content is great until I experience it, and I have little power in negotiating my side of the bargain of what you do with my attention aside from taking more control over my attention.

The practical side of it is this: You want as much attention as possible. If I give you my attention but block your ads, it could still mean that if your content is good, I promote it to others and the net effect is a win for you.

I try to pay attention only to people who respect my attention and don't sell it to the highest bidder. However, I don't wish to be excluded from the common discourse of society around me, so if my attention is brought to a site that wishes to sell it, I may give my attention but retain as much control as I can. I did not agree to the sale of my attention. There are better and more respectful ways to build our economic support for creative work.


> We have an attention economy. You try to get my attention so you can sell it to advertisers. My attention is scarce, and I don't want to sell it so readily. I don't know whether your content is great until I experience it, and I have little power in negotiating my side of the bargain of what you do with my attention aside from taking more control over my attention.

And yet, that's the deal which is on the table. You feel justified in selling your attention, and then not delivering? Keep in mind that the content provider is rarely making any statements as to the quality of the content )in the subjective sense. There are of course often guarantees as to measurable qualitative attributes, such as resolution and/or bitrate in some mediums).

> We have an attention economy. You try to get my attention so you can sell it to advertisers. My attention is scarce, and I don't want to sell it so readily. I don't know whether your content is great until I experience it, and I have little power in negotiating my side of the bargain of what you do with my attention aside from taking more control over my attention.

Since when is it the right of one party in a contract to withold their goods because they feel it's better for the other side? That's the right of the other party, you've already given up your claim on that resource.

> I try to pay attention only to people who respect my attention and don't sell it to the highest bidder. However, I don't wish to be excluded from the common discourse of society around me, so if my attention is brought to a site that wishes to sell it, I may give my attention but retain as much control as I can. I did not agree to the sale of my attention. There are better and more respectful ways to build our economic support for creative work.

Yes, there are. I'm not arguing in support of ad-based revenue systems. I'm arguing that there's a contract between the consumer and the content producer (which not everyone agrees with, but I believe), and that by entering into it with no intention of following through with their side, content consumers running ad-blockers aren't exhibiting the best behavior.

Indeed, I run an ad-blocker, so what I'm saying is that I'm not exhibiting the best behavior. I'm not willing to stop, but I am fully willing to admit it's not very fair to the content sites.


I didn't sell my attention so readily. I didn't sign any contract. My attention is constantly being asked for. It's a sellers market here, sorry. I choose to most readily give attention as a gift to those I like most and who respect my attention most. Wikipedia has no ads.

There are cases where the business model of ads has near monopoly. I use Pump.io but most people and connections are on Facebook / Twitter etc. — it's completely unacceptable for those entities to demand that they have power over censoring my access to interact with my friends who those companies have captured into their system. I don't want Facebook or Twitter at all, I want to interact with other regular people in the world. I'd prefer to do it outside those platforms and do when I can. Blocking ads on those sites is perfectly reasonable, a tiny defense against powerful offensive entities — this is not an exchange between two parties with equal power making an agreement.

Meanwhile, efforts like https://snowdrift.coop are in the works to fund creative work from reasonable and respectful people.


> I didn't sell my attention so readily. I didn't sign any contract.

I think there's an implied contract from not your acceptance of the content, which happens before you necessarily know the terms, but from when you can see it and the ads[1].

Regardless of how you feel about specific cases that may be a monopoly, that doesn't work as an argument for running an ad blocker for general viewing, as it's obvious every site you visit is not a monopoly.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied-in-fact_contract


If a site could be certain to show only ads that do not track me, that the site operators actually are comfortable endorsing (i.e. not some targeted ad system where the site owners have no control over what ads I see), then I would consider not blocking their ads.

This is effectively a matter of social breakdown. I wouldn't bother blocking ads if they were few, privacy-respecting, responsible, etc. But, tragedy of the commons and all, shitty ad-pushers and privacy-invaders ruined the game. Now, sorry to say, this hurts others who try to be more respectful. Not their fault, but that's how the world goes sometimes.


I agree with that sentiment, and indeed maybe I would browse without an ad-blocker as well if the costs could be lowered, but that's not really what my argument is about. I'm making no claims as to how feasible it is to browser without an ad-blocker, but on the moral and ethical implications of browsing with an ad-blocker. I don't think it's right to pre-judge all sites based on prior experiences with some sites, and to then resort to an unfair exchange for goods and services. I do it, you do it, but I still don't think it's right. That said, the (small) amount that it's wrong and the level of inconvenience (or worse) that ads cause leaves be unwilling to change my behavior and stop using an ad-blocker. That said, I still recognize the unfairness, I try not to justify my actions post-facto.

> The information was not given, it was traded. The consumer's portion of the trade is paid in viewing the advertising.

For something to be traded, there needs to be negotiation between the parties and agreement on the price. Ad hosts usually do not require any agreement from the consumer, they send the web pages anyway (with exceptions). The sole act of requesting the information (HTTP request for an URL) does not imply the requestor agrees with conditions the provider may store somewhere on his web. As far as I know, most ad hosts do not even ask consumers to agree with reading ads, far from requiring they comply. So not really - no trade is happening when I download a web page from an ad hosting website.


> It feels like a negligible harm to the other party, so we justify it to ourselves as victim-less, but it's not. The combined harm of all those that do so adds up the what is certainly a non-negligent level of harm in many cases.

Think of it this way. Ad revenue is based on CPM, or cost per thousand ad views [0], which is itself based on the expected return of an ad view. The expected return obviously depends on how many people make purchases for the products advertised to them. So, using your same logic, you could conclude that refraining from buying a product that you see an advertisement for is causing harm to sites that are ad-supported.

[0] Yes, most web advertising is not CPM. I'm simplifying for the sake of the analogy, and the same analogy holds for other ad models.


That only follows if you believe that viewing an advertisement is a discrete event with a discrete outcome, and has no outcome on future actions. Considering how much advertisement happens when you aren't in a position to immediately buy something, and how much research has gone into advertising and human perception, I don't believe that. Brand recognition works, at least in a lot of cases.

But that doesn't even matter. I believe you agreed to a trade, in this case attention for content, and what justification do you have for not following through on your end? It's not within your rights to decide that your portion of the trade doesn't really benefit the other party so you will withhold it, if they have delivered on their portion. That is their decision to make.


> I believe you agreed to a trade

It sounds like this is our fundamental disagreement. I do not believe that requesting an HTML resource is an agreement to load all external resources and execute all JavaScript referenced in that HTML. I submit the request, and the remote server returns some HTML. In my view, that is a complete interaction with no unfulfilled obligations.

According to your argument, I am not within my rights to cURL a URL if that URL happens to point to an HTML that references some ad-related JavaScript.


So how does it affect your argument if the page was returned in it's entirety with all content inlined? If the ad-blocker could detect ads through some heuristic that was accurate enough, would that then change your view on its use? At that point you would be presented a singular resource. Is that enough to change your thoughts on what is acceptable? I suspect we are getting closer to the specific place where our beliefs and assumptions mismatch, but I'm not sure we've found it quite yet.


> So how does it affect your argument if the page was returned in it's entirety with all content inlined?

No, that doesn't change anything. I already mentioned executing JavaScript.

What are your thoughts on my mention of cURL? Do you think it's acceptable to run `curl www.cnn.com` from the command line? How about browsing the web with JavaScript turned off, or using a text-only browser?


What does javascript have to do with it? It's trivial to display images inline through data URLs. Javascript provides for some of the more onerous types of advertising, but it is by no means necessary to the process. We've all seen plenty of ways CSS could be leverages as an alternate solution.

Re: text only browsing, that still allows for advertising, and it's up to the content provider to either take advantage of the mediums available to the client or take steps to attempt to block that access. There are plenty of legitimate cases for text only internet (such as access for the blind).

Re: cURL, now we are getting more into scraping, and I think it's event more clear cut that it's not the intent of the provider for their content to be used that way, and there are much more often AUPs that specifically cover this in a non-ambiguous way.

This is something I've thought quite a bit about, as at times some of my major work projects have been based around web scraping. I've come to terms that some of the things I have done, and do, for work, are morally ambiguous (or even immoral) to a degree (although others may not see it that way at all).

Similarly, I myself run an ad-blocker, as I find the web untenable without one. I'm aware of how hypocritical this is. My argument has never been "do not run ad-blockers", it's always been just to point out what I see as a set of troubling behavior that I see, which I also contribute to. I would prefer not to block ads, but I don't see that as a strategy that's currently useful. That may make me worse than those that I view as ignorant of their actions. I'm prepared to live with this, at least in the short term.

Really,I'm just pushing what I see as introspection.


> What does javascript have to do with it? It's trivial to display images inline through data URLs.

My point applies to that too. Images, text, CSS, video, etc. I'm saying I don't have a problem with requesting an HTML file, receiving it, and then choosing to not render/execute/display certain parts of it.

> Re: text only browsing, that still allows for advertising, and it's up to the content provider to either take advantage of the mediums available to the client or take steps to attempt to block that access.

I agree, but that doesn't sound like your previous position.

> Re: cURL, now we are getting more into scraping, and I think it's event more clear cut that it's not the intent of the provider for their content to be used that way, and there are much more often AUPs that specifically cover this in a non-ambiguous way.

I'm not talking about programmatically requesting large amounts of content. I just meant a single individual running a single cURL command.

> My argument has never been "do not run ad-blockers", it's always been just to point out what I see as a set of troubling behavior that I see, which I also contribute to.

I guess I'm arguing that you don't need to be a hypocrite, because it's not troubling behavior.


> My point applies to that too. Images, text, CSS, video, etc. I'm saying I don't have a problem with requesting an HTML file, receiving it, and then choosing to not render/execute/display certain parts of it.

I think this is a fundamental difference. I think there's an implicit contract. Would you feel any different about it if it was explicit? If there was a preamble to every page that said you were licensed to view the content only if certain conditions were met, such as all included ads were displayed, does that change what you feel comfortable doing or not?

> I agree, but that doesn't sound like your previous position.

I don't think it's any different. It's about intent. Is someone using a text browser specifically to bypass ads? Then the text browser is in essence an ad-blocker (to the degree it works). If it's used because other circumstances that make it desirable or necessary, then it's up to the content provider to either disallow that access mechanism, or provide ads that work. This is the difference between a party failing to collect on their side of a contract, and a party failing to fulfill their side of a contract.

> I'm not talking about programmatically requesting large amounts of content. I just meant a single individual running a single cURL command.

It goes back to intent and text browsing. Any ad that could be made useful in text browsing would be just as applicable to what you got back from cURL. Either it's plain text, or you can parse the output. If oyu can parse it, you can see any included ads.

> I guess I'm arguing that you don't need to be a hypocrite, because it's not troubling behavior.

Eh, I think it is, on a small scale. Similar to littering occasionally with very small items.


The sites are being lazy and/or cheap by using GA. They can use piwik instead. As long as they are lazy, I have an equal right to be lazy.


Not really, GA offers a lot more features than Piwik.

But either way, that doesn't stop ad blockers being lazy activism.


Well, then the sites should buy a service that gives them more features. If the existence of GA means there is no market for such products, then GA should go away.

I have no problem with lazy activism.


uBlock also blocked piwik last time I checked.


That's a pity. This gives me an extra reason not to use blocklists maintained by anyone but myself. (I currently don't use uBlock, but RequestPolicy + NoScript, but am considering switching.)


More like hypocricy and self-entitlement.


Would you block any analytics tracker - even one that didn't share data with 3rd parties? (i.e. a tracker that was purely to enable to site owners to gain insight into their visitors)


No, I'm mostly concerned about cross-site sharing of data.


Me too. If I'm visiting a website, I don't mind the operator of the site knowing about my visit or getting some basic stats about usage. It's when they compare notes to make a larger map of my visits across the web that I start getting nervous. And when they use that data to target advertising to me, I start blocking them.


yes.

I keep analytics only for websites that are not-functioning. Still, I despise them.


Radio Shack had that promise as well, until they went under.


Yes


You can also use NoScript for that.


Why is blocking Google Analytics bad? Isn't blocking spyware like GA the main purpose of ad blocking software?


The vast majority of people use ad blockers to block ads. That's why almost no ad blockers block GA, etc by default. Plus, from my other comment: "Many sites rely on Google Analytics to be able to do their own promotions and sponsorships, which is the only way they make money other than ads. By blocking GA, the site doesn't see you as a visitor. So, you use the site resources, don't see ads and don't add to their user/page view numbers. Plus, there's the fact that lots of sites use GA to handle inter-page click tracking so they can see what paths users take to analyze UI/price sensitivity/promos/etc and blocking GA may break your ability to actually use the site at all (many travel sites, for instance)."


> By blocking GA, the site doesn't see you as a visitor.

They can still use server analytics to see me as a visitor. I even show up on Cloudflare. I don't want them tracking what I do on their site, it should be enough to know I showed up and asked for a specific page. If their business model relies on knowing more, then they chose a lousy business model.

Why is there so much sympathy for ad-supported sites on HN but when other industries with obsolete business models are brought up (like record companies) it's all about "disrupting" them? Have we given up on finding better ways to support content online?


> If their business model relies on knowing more, then they chose a lousy business model.

I must disagree. I certainly understand a desire for privacy and it's definitely within your right to block GA if you feel so inclined, but to assume that sites using GA to track visitors is some sort of shady business model is simply not true.

I've used GA and Heap (Analytics) to obtain extremely granular information about how users traverse a website. This information can be invaluable to businesses in order to understand the thought process that people go through on a website. The underlying goal may be more conversions (sales), but simply using and analyzing data from GA or any other analytics platform isn't going to magically force you to purchase my product/service. These types of insights help identify critical issues with your website - issues such as pages with information that isn't as clear as it could be, or other possible barriers preventing users from signing up. This can be purely technical (i.e. a bug on a specific page), or it could be a lack of information/understanding about your product or service, or many other possibilities.

If you don't trust Google or other similar companies with your data, then you're welcome to block them from tracking you. But I personally don't believe that you should equate the use and analysis of such tracking data as evil in every instance, because it's not.


I agree that GA can be useful to site owners for things other than advertising and shady optimizations. The use cases you describe are all totally valid in my mind. However, and it seems that you agree with me here, those use cases don't require that 100%, or even 50% of visitors allow GA to run. All you need is a decent sample size.

Of course the sample won't be representative any more since people who block GA probably have attributes in common. But people who block GA probably aren't who you want your site optimized for anyway, I suppose.

I don't view GA (and similar) as intrinsically harmful. I just don't believe I'm materially hurting anyone doing something legitimate by blocking it.


This is indeed perfectly fine, as long as nothing is communicated from my browser to a domain that does not belong to the site itself.


> I personally don't believe that you should equate the use and analysis of such tracking data as evil in every instance, because it's not.

We know it's not evil - it's just business. However, plenty of businesses are built around anti-consumer practices.

I personally don't mind someone tracking me on their own domain. Javascript trackers are terrible for security and performance reasons, though I'd tolerate them. I don't like 3rd-party trackers, though, for many reasons:

1. Part of the selling point of using those third-party trackers is being able to quantify what type of user/consumer I am. That's why they track across multiple sites - to provide their customers the highest value. So that they can charge a higher per-unit price.

2. There's no guarantee that such data is only shared with the sites accessed. Even if it was made at the point of use, they can retroactively change that without contacting the user because its their customer who signs the agreement. Most will just click yes without thinking of their user's privacy.

3. If the business sells, merges, changes leadership or goes bankrupt that data policy is as worthless as your trust in it. Look at RadioShack's attempt to sell customer data despite promises not to. Or any company who changed their TOS after a buyout. They don't wipe data from people who don't agree because that data is part of the "company value".

I admit that GA makes a lot of site maintenance and analysis easy. However, I'm not particularly interested in making your job of selling to people easier at my own expense. Particularly when alternatives exist for people who know what they're doing. Yes, it's not malicious behavior, no, but it is extremely discourteous and occasionally sensitive to disclose interest to a third-party.

Think about it like this. Let's say I go to a dealership to look at cars because I like looking at cars. I love engines and wheels and stuff. I only speak with the sales guy, who really seems like a pretty nice person. But the company contracts with some guy who is watching me the entire time for "analytics". After I leave, he tells my bank, the IRS, my wife, my boss and my cousin who asked me to loan him money (but I sensibly declined because he never pays anyone back) because they know him and this guy can't and won't keep his mouth shut. The next day, my bank preemptively reviews my credit history for a car loan, I'm being contacted for an audit out of suspicions of hiding money, my wife is asking me to buy her something because we've apparently got money, and my cousin is livid that I'm somehow filthy rich but I won't give him $10K to invest in a critical MLM deal. It's his big ticket and he'll have it back to me in 3 weeks. Well, 2 months, tops.

Your intentions don't matter at all with 3rd-party analytics because that 3rd party will never respect those intentions. It's not in their contract and thus not their concern what you intend or promise. Plus, their lawyers regularly update it when the company finds new business models to exploit. Not only that, you don't care enough about me to actively review your vendor contracts to make sure your "good intentions" are being followed by your contractors. You're only using the service because it makes your job easier. Why would you go out of your way to do extra work? You don't have any bad intentions, after all.

It doesn't have to be evil or malicious to be exploitative. It's not like third-world factories with terrible labor conditions exist because the owner likes to kick puppies. It's about money, at the end, and businesses will do as much as they can get away with for money.


Yes, ads remain the major e-business model till date (and will probably remain for a long time to come). I guess one of the problems is, everyone needs money to maintain a website and to make a profit, but not everyone has content (or products) that could sell. It's a difficult problem to solve in theory. I think simple text based (or even small images based) ads should be fine .. it's the flashy ones or the ones that delay my workflow that I hate to the core.


Micropayments should be a solution, but it's hard to get the cooperation needed for that going.


What about leasing visitors' processing power to run scientific computation? Maybe MapReduce jobs?

Would that be more intrusive or less intrusive than advertisement?


If I could choose in advance which kind of computations would be done, maybe. And there definitely should be an enforceable limit on the amount of processing.


It should not alter the user experience. Maybe use at most 30% CPU, leaving priority to the other processes. Also avoid computing on devices with battery, or with low battery.


Personally, if this processing infrastructure is managed by a big/trustworthy company (MS/Google/Amazon etc.) I should be OK with it, as long as its sandboxed. But if every individual website wants to implement its own way of using my processor power, I will prefer ads to it any day.


An attempt being developed for that, not ready yet: https://snowdrift.coop/


"Disrupting" is about replacing an old business model with a _better_ business model. You don't disrupt the old one until _after_ you find a better one.

Ads are not a bad business model. They allow free access to websites, while still allowing websites to pay for hosting costs. They don't discriminate between rich users and poor users. You may be able to afford subscription costs, but children and people in third world countries often can't. Subscriptions _are_ the old business model we're disrupting, anyway. Elsevier wants you to pay $50 to read a paper; Google wants you to have free access to the world's information.

Micropayment systems are hated on mobile games, where they exploit addictive behavior and ruin the experience, and tend not to earn much money if they don't. Donations generate very little money.

Ads are also very easy to set up, which selects for website creators who are passionate about making good sites and other things. Higher-effort business models select for website creators who are passionate about making money.

I will admit that ads are not great. But so far, we've been unable to find anything better.


I realize that someone would have to come up with something better first, and my comment about "disruption" was meant partially as a joke. I do, however, struggle to understand the deference many people on HN seem to have for the ad-based business model. It is to the point that I've seen people who block ads accused of "stealing".


Many sponsors and partners will not accept log-based self-hosted stats as they can be easily faked. Many will only accept a 3rd party stats site like Google Analytics as they can be provided with a read-only view into it and know that the underlying data isn't faked. It could be gamed, of course, with some effort (botnet of IPs loading pages from the site, etc) but it's much more involved than faking a Piwik report. Of course, many of the blocklists that block GA also block self-hosted Piwik anyway.

There's sympathy for ad-supported sites because that's the vast majority of the internet's content. And micropayments, paid memberships, etc have almost universally failed with the exception of a few very large publishers and a few very specific niche publishers.


> Why is there so much sympathy for ad-supported sites on HN but when other industries with obsolete business models are brought up (like record companies) it's all about "disrupting" them? Have we given up on finding better ways to support content online?

Because there are a lot of users here who run websites and see the business model 'from the other side'... and almost none who work for record companies.

There are other reasons, but that's a big one.


I have no problem with ads per se, only with: 1. any form of tracking across sites, and 2. any unnecessary animation or other movement on the page,[0] and 3. malware. I will do anything to block these things, ruthlessly.

For #2, I actually still have to use ABP, although most are already blocked by RequestPolicy or NoScript, which I use (combined) for #1 and #3 (combined).

[0] In my opinion, even animation necessary for the main content should be click-to-start, but I cannot currently completely achieve this. But disabling GIF animation plus click-to-activate for plugins gives me most of what I want. NoScript also helps.


Some people just use adblockers to reduce the annoyance of looking at ads.


No, its main purpose is blocking ads. Those visibly (and sometimes audibly) annoying flashy things. It's in the name.


> No, its main purpose is blocking ads

I am well placed to speak about the main purpose of uBlock Origin. Here, from front page of the project:

> uBlock Origin (or uBlock₀) is not an ad blocker; it's a general-purpose blocker [...] Ads, "unintrusive" or not, are just the visible portions of privacy-invading apparatus entering your browser when you visit most sites nowadays. uBlock₀'s main goal is to help users neutralize such privacy-invading apparatus [...]


Well that's what we exactly discuss, no? The adblocker who thinks it is something else.


But it's not an adblocker. It's a generic blocking plugin that also supports blocking ads.


I use it for default browsing, if anything doesn't work I open it in an incognito window. Can't complain.


An incognito window doesn't use add-ins?


You can enable it per extension in Chrome, so if you want an ad blocker to work in an incognito window just go to chrome://extensions and check the box that says "Allow in incognito" (though allowing an ad blocker to work in incognito mode defeats the purpose of using that mode, at least in the context of this discussion).


In chrome, no. Firefox does.


I enjoy how efficient Chrome has become as a result of uBlock, but it has a couple niggling issues. The most prominent of which is that embedded videos on a page (like those made on Reddit comment threads via RES) will display the ads, and there's nothing I can really do about it.

Still spiffy fast, at least.


If I remember correctly, EasyPrivacy got removed from the default selection quite a while ago. But it was in it when that addon was first presented here, probably where that memory stems from.


EasyPrivacy is enabled by default in current installs of uBlock on Firefox.


Any script blocker should by default block any third-party script.


Honest question, what's AMO?


Addons.Mozilla.Org


addons.mozilla.org


Others already told the url it refers to. In other words, it is the term used for Mozilla's add on store in the absence of a suitable name.


> When ABP added "acceptable ads" in their fork, they also created a demand for a version uncompromised by the "acceptable ads" principle, hence ABE happened.

I wish they'll go one step further and add the "Please remove us from your adblock" notices to default blocking list


You might like these options: https://cloudup.com/cJeKg7Zljwa


Maybe a little ironic that this linked page doesn't work unless cookies are enabled. For those unwilling to click, the screen shot contains a snippet of the Adblock filter selection, and "Adblock Warning Removal List"; "Anti-Adblock Killer I Reek"; and "EasyList" are checked.


"Edit (2015-06-15): Somewhere toward the end of May, I decided I will not contribute code anymore to https://github.com/chrisaljoudi/uBlock anymore. See top of README."


Is there a good ad blocker that can be set to NOT block by default, and that provides an easy, one button or so, interface to turn blocking on for the site currently being viewed? I want to operate under a policy of giving new sites I visit a chance to show me that they can advertise responsibly and blacklist them if they show that the cannot.

All the ones I've tried so far (AB, ABP, uBlock) are strongly oriented toward blocking everywhere by default and whitelisting sites that you do not want to block on.

I suspect that most people who use an ad blocker do so not because of some moral objection to the very concept of advertising to pay the bills so that a site can provide free content to the general public. They use an ad blocker because they got tired of sites whose ads do obnoxious things like block the content, move the content around [1], make noise, put distracting animation in your peripheral vision, and so on.

By blocking all ads by default, the current ad blockers break the feedback loop that should be pushing sites toward ads that don't have the problems mentioned in the previous paragraph.

[1] moving the content around is what got me to install an ad blocker. Gocomics.com started doing ads that slide in from the left side, pushing the comic you are reading to the right. If you have zoomed in to make the comic more readable, this could push the right panel of the comic off the screen. Since the slide in ads did not run on every page (and when they did run, it was with a delay of a few seconds), you could not anticipate them and position the zoomed comic appropriately.


This is how I use uBlock, by disabling all the built-in filter selections and blocking ad providers when I notice them doing something shady/annoying, or going down in a way that hangs site loads.

Spoiler alert: you wind up blocking all ads anyway. There aren't any ad networks that have anything approaching the standards and practices of late night cable. If you don't believe me please run this experiment yourself.


What about removing the default filtering lists from ublock and then building it back up as you go using the "picker" ui?


I just found out how to do this exact thing with uBlock today, take a look at: https://github.com/chrisaljoudi/uBlock/wiki/Dynamic-filterin...

It's not as easy as AdBlock but that's not too complicated when you understand how it works.

It seems that they changed the ordering of columns in the last versions (the global column is the second, not the first).


uBlock has a big on/off button. You can just leave it off until you want it on.


Honest question - what business model for free content do you see other than ads? I understand all the privacy and distraction issues related, but increasingly many news sites I read feature only paid content. I suppose it's connected to the rise of ad blocking.

At the moment I'm not hosting any content of such kind myself, but I wanted to publish a game and I'm facing the same question. Should I sell my soul to the devil and work on freemium, coins, exploit OCD and rich-parents kids, or host ads and risk not earning a dime because every single gamer I know is tech savvy enough to have an ad blocker?


The whole point of a business is to come up with a plan to get people to give it money for a service. If your entire business plan is to get someone else to give you money because people completely unrelated to and uninterested in it happen to be using your service, it's not really a good plan.

I'm ecstatic about the seemingly new increase in paid-for content. If it means the long dark era of scatter-shot shotgun creation of incredibly lousy and shallow information in mass quantities only to garner advertising payments comes to an end (or even decreases slightly), I think the web and software in general will be a better place.


Would you like to go back to Internet stoneage where you had to pay per page view in Microsoft Network '95 (MSN v1) or Germany's BTX from 1980s.

Would you like to subscribe on hundreds of websites to access their paywall?

The WWW got popular because it's friction-free and many sites are paid by advertisement money. At the moment many ad networks are just stubborn (bad ads) and greedy taking big chunk of the ads money away, instead of sending it to the website owner who is doing the majority of work. So there is definitely a place for a new ad network that disrupt the Web ads that don't suck and with a smaller cut so that the website owner get again a bit more money.


Would you like to subscribe on hundreds of websites to access their paywall?

I don't rely on hundreds of ad-supported websites now. If all the ad-supported websites I use went behind paywalls, I'd be fine with that.

I'd pay for google and one or two more news orgs in addition to the ones I'm subscribed to. The rest of the websites I depend on and don't pay for are non-profits and/or don't run ads in the first place.

The WWW got popular because it's friction-free and many sites are paid by advertisement money.

Yes, and I guess I don't care. I was online before then, we can go back to that small world again. The web's popularity is largely an explosion in the equivalent of cable TV networks. If adblockers push them out, oh well.


> I don't rely on hundreds of ad-supported websites now.

I don't know if I do but I might do. The reason I don't know it is that I use AdBlock but whenever I google something I go to a few well known sites and to hundreds of random blogs. If I had to pay for each of them I'll probably use the Internet very differently.


I think the fairest thing is for both users to decide if they want to block ads and for site owners to decide if they want to block users who block ads.

Let's see how that pans out. I predict we'd end up mostly back where we are.

My ideal scenario would be 'informed curated blocking' where the worst offenders (ad networks that don't have sufficient safeguards against malware, genuinely abuse privacy controls or push the envelope for instrusive ads) are forced out of the market.


Go ahead and try to block users who block ads. People and companies have already tried that.

In the end it's a game of cat and mouse with the AdBlockers finding a way to circumvent whatever detection the adblock-blockers are using.


It's called paywalls. Adblock will not get you around that.


Paywalls don't specifically block people who block ads. They're a completely different revenue strategy.


That was my point, there's no way to perfectly stop adblockers since they are part of the client. The only way to stop them is to paywall, which will start to become more common.


I think you might have lost track of the conversation. Paywalls were already suggested, and this subthread was talking about the problems of paywalls — e.g. they segment the Internet into inaccessible walled gardens, they're inconvenient, they exclude a large chunk of the world's population, they kill your readership. Somebody suggested that he thought the best approach was to just do ads, and if you really can't stand having your ads blocked, just block users who are running ad blockers. Then it was pointed out that this is a Sisyphean task, and you replied talking about paywalls as the solution. So bringing up paywalls doesn't really seem to have a point here, unless you have a new insight into how to get around their many and numerous drawbacks.


Those drawbacks to paywalls are only when compared to the ease and free approach of the ad model. When the ad model stops working, there wont be anything left but paywalls and they wont be "inconvenient" because there is no other way that is convenient.

The simple truth is that publishers need to make money to produce content. Ads were a way to allow free access while making revenue. If users keep using this blunt approach and taking just the content without letting the publishers recoup costs, there is an absolutely inevitable future ahead of paywalls and walled gardens everywhere.

We're already seeing it now where the open web is being destroyed by adblockers on desktop and now mobile, while Facebook has instant articles and Apple now has their official news app.

Everyone who uses adblock today better be prepared to have their content either funneled through certain major silos or pay up for their favorite sites.


So ignoring the transparent featured-posts/content model (ie: used by CSS Tricks) which AdBlockers don't have a way to block, there's also the donation model (doesn't scale well, usually).

I've donated to many sites that use donations as their primary means of staying afloat and many of these sites have lasted years with this as their model of revenue. The users of the site understand that the site might live on a month-to-month basis (although surplus from one month is generally put into savings in case a month falls short) and if they wish for the site to stick up, someone's gotta be forking over some money. My favorite local FM radio station also runs off of donations/sponsorships and does not play ads between songs. They've been in the radio business for well over 40 years. It can work if enough value is provided that people are willing to donate money.

Quite frankly - there isn't a strong business in presenting information, because on the internet, everyone has the means to present information with many being specialists in their field and doing it for free because they enjoy educating others about what they do.

Sure, I can pay for some write up on the recent CERN study from a journalist from some well-known publisher with at least some level of professional journalism. Or I can get it from one of the CERN scientists who wrote about the impacts of their findings for the "general layman" in one of their personal blogs for free.

I have a pretty high level of respect for (truly) professional journalists. The kind that risk their lives to get news that otherwise wouldn't be reported on. But many of those journalists aren't exactly in it for the well-paid job, but because they believe this information is important for people to know about. For example, the ones who report for War is Boring (especialy David Axe, who I enjoy reading)

https://medium.com/war-is-boring/about


Would you like to go back to the AOL model, where sites got a proportion of the user's AOL subscription?


In fact, this exists. It's called Flattr.


Flattr is a donation model, not a subscription model. Donation models are much less lucrative in general than nearly anything else because you can just forget to donate after reading. This is why Exhibit A for the donation revenue model is non-profits.


I would like that the Web stays at it is.


But you seem to argue against the culture of the web the way it currently is, which, whatever the morality of it (I use blockers with abandon!), includes both pushy, aggressive ads and ad blockers.


Speaking for myself, ads don't bother me so much. Tracking does. And serving me ads on content I have already paid for really fucking does.

Like purchasing a movie dvd and being coerced to watch previews for other movies before getting to the one I want. grrrrr.


Actually, if you paid for content or made a purchase driven by an ad, this makes you a "high value" lead for advertisers based on their estimation of your disposable income and therefore you are more likely to be targeted with more ads from them to make even more big-ticket purchases.

You can't really escape those pesky advertisers.


An internet full of paid content is an internet that excludes many children and people in third-world countries, and in general more hostile to the poor than the wealthy. It's also an Internet that incentivizes sticking to a few sites you're used to rather than exploration of new things.

Is that really the internet you want?


That seems incredibly dismissive of all the content out there. Just because something is "shallow" to you does not mean others don't enjoy it.

There is no such thing as "quality", its all subjective and the reason why there's so much gossip news and stuff is because so many people like to read it. BuzzFeed didnt get this big because nobody comes back to read their articles. That's the simple truth.

And nobody wants to pay for content when it's so easy to get things for free. Micropayments are not some easy answer (very hard to pull off) and they are no less private, in fact they will require even more tracking and even more data, down to your real identity and billing details.


Good grief, we had an Internet full of fantastic content before the ads showed up. Universities, libraries, Governments and NGOs, donation- and government-funded organizations like many news/media agencies, stores/businesses, and just real people -- amateur and professional.


Disclaimer: I'm a founder at Stands and we work on a product that addresses this issue specifically

From a wider perspective - I believe that the ideal is a fair ad based model which funds a free web and promotes equality and democracy, but it needs to put us - the citizens of the web - on an equal playing field in the ad/data business, and respect us (our privacy and experience). We wrote a post about it here: http://blog.standsapp.org/how-to-fund-a-free-web/

In short: - It blocks obtrusive ads - Protects your privacy by blocking tracking companies - Shows only standard banner ads and the revenue from these ads split between the site and the charity you choose - Provides you with the ability to control your online experience by limiting the amount of ads and other capabilities - Ads load after content loads

We're working on a product publishers can use to convert ad block users to Stands, let me know if and when you are interested to work with us on the beta.


If you only see a choice between "Free to Play" or hosting Ads then you have a problem greater than choosing your business model. You don't value your work enough to consider it valuable enough to pay for outright. First, ponder why that is, then address that issue.


One more: because its value depends on network effects. For example, it might be a communication service, a community forum or a multiplayer game.

Free (of cost) results in more users, which makes the service more valuable for every user. Unfortunately, it also prevents the developer from capturing this value directly.

In some cases, user segmentation and price discrimination is possible (ancillary paid features) but they come with extra design and development cost.


Because:

* it's not what I want - I prefer to deliver it for free and do not plan for it to become any source of income, just to not have costs scaling with popularity

* I don't need to sell it - I'm reasonably wealthy, with a good 40h/week job and salary. This is a side project and will loose it's charm when I convert it to a business project.

* it's hard - I work on a browser-based game (no easy to implement payment options)

In other words, it needs to be free for users and possibly earning just enough to not cost me anything.


What costs? Is hosting really so expensive, or is it something else? Obviously you have invested a lot of time. Personally, I wouldn't think twice about spending, say, $10 per month to publish something where I have invested the equivalent of $100000 in unpaid developer time (and yes, I have done that, although it's strange thinking of it in money when I did it for the challenge). Maybe it's more a psychological issue (pay for giving something away) rather than the actual cost?


Oh, I hadn't figured you were making a web game. I've thought of working on one myself (that's as far as that goes however). I would consider myself lucky to have made a web game popular enough to be concerned about the cost of running it.


Please... it's so easy to just dismiss these problems as "hey you should find a better business model" when lots of very smart people have been trying for a very long time.

Free + ads vs Paid access are the only viable models today. Anything else is an offshoot of less ads with more donations or merchandise or something else but there's no real 3rd option. If there was, we would have figured it out by now dont you think?


The OP was asking for a alternative business model for his game. I suggested he had more important things to be concerned about. Did you reply to the wrong comment?


I dont think OP's question was serious, there really isnt any other business model. And how is saying there are more important things to be worried about giving an answer to his question? Obviously not everything is worth an upfront payment and sometimes freemium is the best way to gain users and sales. Why is that somehow an "issue"?


I've preached this for years, and its my ongoing pet project, but patronage really is the endgame for information content.

Pretty much any freelance animator online is already using patreon. Writers, artists, and comedians are using it. I'm surprised its taken this long for news companies to start trying it.

Fundamentally, the information created is not scarce. It is knowledge. It deserves to be free. But the work to create the information is scarce. Valuable. Some might even say worthy of compensation.

There are so many ways you can present patronage to your audience. Hell, advertising honestly is a kind of patronage - your viewership translates into third parties valuing your work enough to pay you for it, so their ads can go along for the ride. But on the other extreme, you could be a writer or animator or comic artist who says "next episode costs $XXXX, when I get that much money I'll produce it / release it". And there is an entire range of other options in between those two, and its really stifling how content creators are still so limited in their options.


Donations. You can also do freemium without doing evil stuff: it doesn't optimize your income, of course, but it's better than nothing?

I also don't really think it's that important to have free content. I'm happy to pay for entertainment, and for other stuff most content isn't really produced with income in mind - stuff like blog posts etc don't have to make money, people will write them anyway


I run a free website and every year I do a one week fund raising for the costs. I don't have customers but a more or less dedicated community (some people are around for years, others come and go). The community always exceeds the amount I ask for.


This is a fantastic idea. "Hey, you guys obviously get a kick out of my website. Not asking for much - just enough that I can keep the site running and still awesome." I'd definitely pitch in $20 a year to a site that has entertained me for years.

The most immediate example that comes to mind is Wikipedia.


It works every time I see a site like mine try it. People are attached to the site over the years plus I am fully open about all the costs and expenses. The yearly amount is less than 20% of typical monthly income though, it is just hobbyists financing one part of their hobby. I don't think you could finance an actual job through this. But I think labour of love creates better websites than money-oriented endeavours anyways.

The key is making it very focused and short-time. People won't engage if you have a random donate button (I do, zero donations over 3 years). People love immediate motivation to participate in a common fundraising I guess.


This might very well lead to better content on news sites. Content that at least some users are willing to pay for, instead of link bait bullshit.

Premium user systems that offer full HD videos and other extra content to paying users seem to work well enough if the content is good.


I believe short term sponsoring should be worked on. Your game needs a good mouse and Logitech wants to increase its presence on the gamer market? You feature an ad from them.

The way ads are served usually today is so terrible that it encourages the use of ad blockers. Get the control back on them. Integrate them in your contents - on your terms and transparently - and the Web will probably be better for everyone.

The problem is that it's a lot of work and you have better things to do. I've heard of proxy companies that to do the boring stuff (hunting announcers, contract negotiation, etc.) for YT streamers.


See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9716430, particularly Freditup, the_af & my comment discussing Emily Greer's rationale that players "pay-to-win" with large sums in physical sports games.

Also, https://badgeville.com/wiki/Game_Mechanics for a list of "engagement mechanics"


In terms of business models for free content: I'm a big fan of Patreon, and I use it to actively pay for a half-dozen sites and authors I enjoy. There are many more sites and authors I'd pay if they offered the option.

On the other hand, consider actually charging for your game. Or, alternatively, give the game away but charge a nominal amount for access to multiplayer servers, since that's a significant source of your costs.


How much do you think you'll make from ads? Chances are, much, much less than you expect. There are exceptions (e.g. plentyoffish.com), but people I know who run popular niche sites (in the low millions of page views per month, a few tens-of-thousands unique) are happy when they manage to make $1,000/month from ads.


Actually I have no idea. Never made any money from ads, but $1k/month sounds like the kind of money I could use to improve/market the game I'm working on.

There is also another question with the same roots - how much money do the sites I read need to make in order to work and maintain the same quality. I'd be glad to pay something like an equivalent of what I'm worth as an advertisement target. There was Google Contributor (https://www.google.com/contributor/welcome/) project but I don't know the current status.

Anyway, I have recently deleted my adblock. Not having it, ads are super annoying on some sites and I miss it, but I see no other way to discourage paywalling good, free content.


The reality is that a large quantity of people will continue blocking ads, so your contribution will amount to nil, unless you can get a non-blocking movement going.

The unfortunate thing is no matter how much we decide to not block ads, the ad companies will continue to take advantage of us with extremely intrusive, unvetted (for safety) ads. You give them an inch, they take a mile. I'm not willing to give them that inch. They will not reciprocate.

If all ad networks were tidy and nice, like The Deck network, I probably wouldn't block ads. But my pre-adblock experience WITH ads is what caused me to block them.

The advertisers had their chance and they blew it. I could care less if all ad-supported sites go away now. You're in bed with ad company scum, you deserve what you get.

If they want to ruin the user experience. I will force the user experience to be better with an ad-blocker.

I understand some content (especially content available for those that are underprivileged) may go away if ad-blocking continues to grow. I don't know the solution, but the solution isn't more ads or not blocking them. Maybe there's some other way... shrug


How about the worst of both worlds? I subscribe to the NYT and log into their site with a paid-for account to get around the paywall and still see ads everywhere.


The incentives set up by Google Contributor are to increase ads. It's about getting a micro-donation system that excludes sites that don't use Google Ads, so the idea is to force sites to show more ads in order to participate with Google Contributor and to punish sites for not showing ads.


I support your arguments of free content, but there are some sites on the internet that will serve you spam if you don't use a ad blocking software.

I unblock ads on the free websites that I use frequently which present ads in a nice way.

Some websites do show a popup that they earn from ads and it would be great if you could turn off your ad blocker and I mostly comply with that. The reason for this is that these sites know when and where to show ads.


You probably wanted to reply to GGP. I am of the opinion content should be free or paid. I let ads through only if they come from the same website.

My problem with the non-annoying ads is that they still enable tracking and lrofiling which I do not like.

I think I've had Adblock+request policy/policeman running since forever - recently switched to ublockO+umatrix


I think we're ripe for some new business models becoming mainstream.

As I see it, ads just suck. I don't just mean suck as in "I just don't like them"; they're also just terrible at accomplishing what they want to accomplish, and they're getting more terrible, and because of this there's getting to be more and more of them everywhere. I get the impression (just an impression) that society is sort of 'wising up to' ads. (Admittedly, this may be because I've grown up and have personally wised up.) I personally have not clicked on an online ad in .. it's got to be at least a few years.. and I long for a day when everyone has wised up to the point where the model falls apart. (but I'm aware that ads can affect you by other means than having you click on them, such as by planting ideas in your head or making you gradually accustomed to company or product names.)

My big complaint is simply that I just hate having every second of my day filled with people trying to sell me crap! And more than anything, I hate when content is also an ad, or disguised as ads. I loathe product placements in movies and 'sponsored by' sections that play the company's commercials. I especially loathe when huge boardroom corporations task a bunch of advertisers to come up with an ads that will appeal to an 18-25 audience, and they crack their heads together and come up with a cute, ukelele-filled, animated skit that (literally) begs you to hashtag it. I want people to stop taking culture and trying to figure out how to manipulate it to sell their crap.

Like, it seems obvious that the fact that, in order to watch a TV show, you have to spend a quarter of your time watching (or ignoring, or muting and browsing the internet during) ads, is a completely terrible user experience! Imagine if every fourth page of a novel was an ad. Or if a fourth of popular websites were ads - oh wait, they are.

It's all monstrously unpleasant. I sometimes torrent movies and TV not because I couldn't pay for them, but because even if I use the right channels, the experience is awful (among other reasons). It's crazy to me that there's not yet an option to just pay more to disable all ads on TV. I guess it was technically infeasible for a long time, but, still.

Netflix is an example of someone figuring out how to take ad-supported things and turn them into a new model. That's a good thing. (Though I suspect a huge portion of their profits comes from it being so easy to ignore their bill because you sign up once and never get notifications about it?)

Ultimately I'd like to just pay for what I consume. I like Netflix because I give them money and I get service. I give Spotify money and I get service. I wouldn't mind a service that (via browser extension or something) allowed me to specify donations per month to various sites on the Internet that I visit - so I insert 100$ a month and it gets divvied up, and in exchange I have no ads. (With the caveat that if a site shows ads anyway, or tries to bait me into reading it, or is bullshit in some other way, I can revoke their piece of my payment..).

For creative work I think patronage is an underrated business model, largely because there's a high barrier to actually giving money to something. I'd love to just be able to say, I have 50$ a month for bloggers whose blogs I read - I don't want to push to "donate via paypal" button on every site; I just want it to get sent out by virtue of my being there and liking it. [Note: what doesn't work is paying proportionally to time spent on a website. That's how you get mindless Buzzfeed clickbait everywhere. Gotta figure out something else.] Twitch figured out how to get its users to actual donate money with minimal friction and that seems to be working well for them (though they're hosting a lot more ads lately, which is very tedious).

I'd also love to see a return of the renaissance style patronage of "rich people funding artists". Seems like funding happens mostly through grants and scholarships these days, instead of people just funding specific people who can do things they want to see in the world.

For your game, if it's multiplayer, the "cosmetics cost real money' model seems to work pretty well, and avoids you being resented requiring money just to access the whole game. As does just having the game cost money up front, but, that tends to lower demand. If you want to add content to the game after it's released, I think "expansions" are treated much more favorably by the public than "DLC" is: we feel cheated when we pay half as much as the game itself and get a single, probably crappy level. It's a lot nicer to get a large chunk of content with new mechanics and new stories that isn't just a tacked-in moneymaker level like a lot of games are doing.



That's neat. I think I'd seen that but forgotten about it since it has remained mostly irrelevant.

I'm excited about the idea, but I'm also pretty skeptical of this infrastructure even being run by Google. I'd rather it be open source. The project could fund itself through the same donations it enables for others, which is more concrete of a fundamental than a lot of other projects.


s/fundamental/funding model


is a way to promote more ads by excluding sites that respect their audience and don't show ads. You have to be already showing Google ads in order to have Contributor as a way to turn them off. So, the incentive pushes toward net increase in ads.


I hoped a flattr-like solution would work, but it would need to be more automatic.

How much is all the longform article content you consume in a month worth to you? $5/mo? 20? 100? Take that, and split it up between all the sites you read news from. Multiply by 100k readers, boom! viable business model. Now the question is how you split it up. It needs to be thoughtless and as fine-grained as possible: maybe number of articles read or minutes spent reading.

This keeps the open internet: sites still compete on merit not on the inertia of subscription since the money follows the user's reading habits closely.


Set up code on your site that detects that I'm using adblocker(s) and I won't visit your site.

It really is that simple. Either you bite the bullet and accept that some of us don't want random 3rd party code running on our browsers or you gate us away. We won't hold it against you.

I would prefer to have option in uBlock that notified me if I was about to enter a site that didn't want me viewing their content if I had adblock enabled, so I could avoid those sites.

As for games free with buyable skins seems to be working well with many games.


"I would prefer to have option in uBlock that notified me if I was about to enter a site that didn't want me viewing their content if I had adblock enabled, so I could avoid those sites."

I suspect such a feature would do serious harm to the adblocking business. They do not want to surface the latent discontent that writers and publishers feel.

If it were as simple as the publisher pushing a button and blocking adblockers, and for adblock users it was as simple as pushing a button to notify you that you are heading to a site that had such anti-adblock penalites, the result across the web would be pretty uniform: you wouldn't get to go to any high quality websites.

They'd flip the switch, and 90% of adblock users will whitelist what they really do want to see --- whether it's The Economist, The New York Times, or whatever. Surfacing the idea of publishers implementing anti-adblock measures could actually reduce the adblocking footprint.


Since any code that sites install will just get circumvented by these adblockers (as they already do if you check the filters) what we're headed towards are hard paywalls where you have to login to access any content.


Speaking for myself, I tend to purchase games. I avoid in-game purchases like the plague. I might download an ad supported game if the ads stay out of the way. If I continue to play an ad supported game and there's an ad-free, payed for version, then I'll upgrade.


The vast majority of games on either platform won't make enough money to matter either way at this point due to oversaturation. There's still a small chance for a moonshot with the right game and the right marketing and some luck.


I feel like I'm not missing out on anything from those news sites. I just don't visit them after I hit my 5/month limit. No big deal.


>Should I sell my soul to the devil and work on freemium, coins, exploit OCD and rich-parents kids,

You can do freemium without selling your soul. Look at LoL or Path of Exile for the best examples. Others would be Bloons TD 5 or Bloons City, where coins allow you to skip ahead, but slow downs are not purposefully added. Only when you add something that basically drains the fun out of the game unless money is spent are you selling your soul.


I never played those games you mentioned but I don't get "allow you to skip ahead, but slow downs are not purposefully added".

If you can skip ahead by putting money on it you have slowed down who didn't (right?)


It is an issue of a fun gameplay mechanic. Slowing it down destroys the fun. Allowing it to be skipped doesn't destroy the fun, but does allow those not interested in it to skip it.

Consider a Mario game. Speeding up would be selling gems that let you skip a level. Slowing it down is saying you only get 3 lives ever 30 minutes unless you spend gems.

Or think of WoW. The leveling up is a fun part of the game, but after the second or third character, it gets far more boring and people are willing to pay to skip it. As more expansions came out, WoW actually made leveling easier. Then recently they added an option to skip the majority of the leveling and get straight to the end game. That is paying to speed it up.

Now consider Candy Crush. A fun game at the core, with levels that get harder and introduce new game play. All well and good. But then they added extreme cooldowns on everything. 1 life every 30 minutes with a max of 5 at a time. Periods where you have to wait 24 hours to go to the next section. Other powerups limited to once a day. That is purposefully slowing it down.


League of Legends is not a great example IMO. That game has a huge grindwall. Gaining access to just the gameplay-affecting elements of the game — not even looking at the cosmetic items — would cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars and take huge amounts of play time on top of that.


Unless it has drastically changed, I was able to boot it up and play for fun right off the bat. There were no slowdowns in any matches. While some abilities were off limit to me, these were off limit to the people I was paired with as well. The only issue I've ever noticed is that heroes aren't perfectly balanced and as such it may be possible for someone to buy access to a stronger one that the rest have, but that has not ever been a noticeable problem.

That it takes 1000 hours to unlock X does not count against it when the game is quite fun without X and where X has minimal impact on the game even when someone else has X but I do not.

Think of single player RPGs where unlocking the ultimate weapons/secret characters take dozens of hours of grinding outside of the main gameplay. That does not make the RPG a grindfest. Compare this to an RPG where 2 hours have to be spent grinding for every 45 minutes of progress through the main game. That is a grindfest.


Fairness is irrelevant - we take what we can as long as we can rationalize it.(surprisingly easy to do). Look at all the comments under you blaming you for not wanting to publish content without compensation.

Do what you must to be successful, because few will pay for things they don't have to pay for.


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