Ad-Blockers aren’t by any means new news. They’ve been around for years however they’ve been flooding the tech-feeds all week. This mainly due to the iOS 9 adoption of content blockers in Safari & developers app pouring into the app-store, namely the top paid apps for blocking ads. The case for blocking ads provides a cleaner web & performance enhancements on the mobile end.
So whats the big controversy surrounding ad-blockers? Well theres multiple stances here regarding the ethics of ad-blockers, should you use them, who do they effect, what should they block by default. The list goes on. First lets start by explaining what ad-blockers are for those who aren’t aware.
What are ad-blockers?
Well to state the obvious they block advertisements. Now not all advertisements are measured the same. In the modern web we have a more traditional view of ads.
These are the main assortment of advertisements you’ll see on the web. The skyscraper ad on the sides, between slideshows, on the homepage of sites, etc. These can vary from flashing images to static ads that either are obtrusive or subtle & in place such as adverts served via the deck. Google’s Adsense is common example of the what you’ll see across the web.
These are form of adverts that some services are starting to block & or allow you to enable/disable. Trackers are scripts that essentially gather data about users in order to pass along information about the browser. It’s the reason that you see “watches” all over the web after looking up things such as Rolexes, Panerai, Swatch. While these can be helpful in providing meaningful ads it can also lead to an intrusion of privacy.
Of course there are various other forms of adverts nowadays in-video/pre-roll based ads & so on that are also detected & blocked by ad-blockers. While blocking has been common on desktop browsers we haven’t seen great implementation on the mobile end. That is until a popular OS like iOS 9 has adopted the content blockers to allow developers to setup apps to block specific content on Safari.
Why are people blocking ads?
The answer to this is obviously subjective but the main reasons are pretty clear.
Let’s be honest advertisements can be plain annoying. Ruining our browsing experience & in extreme cases interrupting us from viewing our content. We’re pretty far along from the pop-up days however some adverts depending on sites implement them can be just as annoying & obtrusive. From preventing you from viewing content, timers, and much more these are just some of reasons people block ads.
More so on the mobile end we experience a slower web experience due to the amount of ads & trackers running on sites. This can in some cases break the web viewing experience for the user (however the same can be said for blockers). A good example was displayed in Khoi Vinh’s blog post showcasing how ads were preventing something as common as scrolling down the web page on an iPad.
iOS 9 blockers have already showed that their blocking has significantly boosted browsing speeds for iPhones & iPads while also cleaning up the sites a bit.
Furthermore we live now in a society where people want their content now. We’ve grown tired of commercials, ad-breaks, and things that don’t pertain to us in general. We just want our content & more so we want it free. Studies are already showing people are more willing to pay for ad-blockers than the content itself since its already free.
Now personally I can’t judge anyone for using or not using ad-blockers be it Ad-block Plus or on iOS 9. I feel the way people choose to browse the web is their own personal preference much like the way people watch television. There’s netflix, cable, downloading torrents and what have you. If people prefer to browse my site with an ad-blocker on then so be it. I personally use Ad-block plus via Chrome to selectively block what I qualify as obtrusive ads. Obtrusive ads in my opinion are those that interrupt & or require actions to jump through the content itself. Those pesky slideshows that people use to get more views & in between every slide is an ad that you either have to wait to skip or jump through some hoop to move forward. If people have to jump through hoops to get to the main content then your doing it wrong.
The cases for & against ad-blockers
From the perspective of a web viewer & someone who also consumes content on a daily basis both from big networks & independent creators.
People simply want less friction & annoyance when it comes to browsing the web. They simply want to view their content & not be interrupted by flashing banners or what have you. Those who’ve also got a taste for how smooth the web can run without ads are also in favor of the performance boost. On the privacy end there are advertising networks out there that are doing some scummy stuff to gather data about users & people should be entitled to block or disable said trackers & ads that violate said privacy without their knowing. Then again this leads into a whole other argument around privacy. More than anything it coms back to the first point people don’t want to be annoyed by ads that typically aren’t relevant to them or what they’re consuming.
As a content creator & someone who makes a living via the content creation business I can also see the case against blockers from some perspective. Advertising still is the dominant method of revenue for most networks & more importantly independent creators. Sponsorships & ad-networks make up a majority of sites revenues. So when your blocking their ads your essentially blocking their revenue streams. Now this in itself is a hard thing to pin point as it also exposes the flaws in advertising. Most advertising networks still depend highly on views, impressions, and clicks so when viewers block their ads they’re void of these. However what ad networks don’t take into account are the value of said viewers. I’ll take 100 people who value my sponsors versus 1,000 impressions that don’t convert any day.
It’s hard to find a sort of middle ground here. I do believe & personally use ad-blockers to clean up certain parts of the webs but also feature adverts/sponsors on the very site your reading. However I try to follow some principles when it comes to advertising in order to provide readers a seamless experience. DigitalDojos itself has omitted Google Adsense in place of native advertisements. I feel this way users are presented with advertisements that are related to the content your reading & sites overall theme. The talk about moral arbitration of which ads are good & obtrusive is also subjective. Cause while I don’t mind whitelisting the creators I support it’s hard to determine what advertisements should & shouldn’t be allowed. Cause advertisements in the traditional sense don’t bother me. I as consumer don’t mind viewing lets say a 10+ minute video & sitting through a 30-second advertisement. We tend to forget that creators in the modern web tend to put out 99% of their content for free. So when they try to implement a paid model or sponsorship/advert people tend to have retaliation.
This is just part of the problem of how we perceive advertisements & paid content. It’s easy to say networks & creators should find alternative sources to typical adverts but much harder to implement. If anything these ad-blockers are getting the questions to the forefront & making us rethink how we see the future of the web. As Ad-blockers become more popular both on the desktop & mobile most people can’t fight how people browse the web. Despite certain sites trying to implement ad-blocker blockers (yes thats a thing) in order for you to view their content. CNET is good example of this.
While I hate playing devils advocate on this topic, the thing is there is no right answer of now. Rather the discussion brings up the point of adaptation. Both in business & consumer sense. We need to adapt to the technology changes at hand & how many people are adopting such things as ad-blockers. While we can fight back & complain we can also look to how we can find alternatives to still provide great content & pay the bills.
As Jon Gruber of DaringFireball stated
Better advertisements & transparency is a start. If anything this will hopefully rid of the disgusting & obtrusive things some ad-networks are doing to their viewers & force their hand to implement subtle & ethical data gathering methods.
What is your stance on Ad-blockers? Do you use them & if so why, if not why are you against them. Add onto the discussion by commenting down below!