Ad Blockers: A Blessing or a Curse?


Do you utilize ad blocking software? What follows is my take on the possible consequences of this expanding practice and how it might all eventually impact on the web’s fundamental infrastructure. Agree or disagree? Either way, have your say via the comments.

block-adsThe internet is a wondrous thing, a veritable goldmine of free information and services, and one of very few remaining areas which hasn’t suffered from the constraints inflicted by corporate monopolization. The World Wide Web consists of millions of independent sites, creating an environment which epitomizes the doctrines of competition and freedom of choice. But is that situation destined for change?

The saying that ‘nothing in life is free’ is clearly demonstrated in all walks of life, there is almost always some kind of quid pro quo involved – in the internet world the quid pro quo is often adverts. It’s strange how our expectations differ from the real world to the internet world. In the real world we fully expect to pay for most things yet in the internet world the exact opposite applies… we expect to pay for nothing, or at least, for very little. Fortunately for us, this has been largely achievable, and in no small way thanks to the revenue generated via advertizing.

A vast majority of sites are run and administered by ordinary folk with ordinary jobs who rely solely on ad revenue to help cover the overheads involved. Most are happy if revenue from advertizing even partially covers the costs, ecstatic if it wholly covers the costs, “profit” is not even a consideration. Take away or severely diminish that source of income and you create a recipe for dramatic change. Those affected sites will ultimately need to either find an alternate avenue for generating revenue, or close down altogether.

I am not going to bore you with statistics, suffice to say that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that ad blocking browser extensions, such as Adblock Plus, are having a serious negative impactadblock on advertizing revenue. If the trend toward ad blocking, and by natural consequence the diminishing associated revenue, continue to snowball, we are bound to see more and more independent ‘little’ sites biting the dust. Ultimately, the emergence of ad blocking software may well be viewed as the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it –  another victory for corporate monopolies and a big smack in the face for freedom of choice.


Its’ all about priorities; would we rather have our favorite sites available for free and including ads, or have to pay some sort of subscription or fee? Or, worst case scenario, no site at all?

So what’s the answer?

This is one instance where I believe the silent minority can do its bit, and with a minimum of effort. Sure, ads can be irritating but we also need to bear in mind that many of the sites we like and appreciate are probably relying on those ads for their very survival. Most ad blocking can be disabled for a specific site, or sites. Running the Adblock Plus add-on in Firefox for example, users can easily specify sites where they want to allow adverts to be displayed:

With the particular site open in Firefox, simply right click the Adblock Plus icon and select “Disable on <name of site>”.

adblock plus - disable for specific sites

Ads will still be blocked for casual surfing and on those sites which are visited only occasionally, while giving just a little back to favorite sites in return for all their time and effort.

So, as I see it, the answer is not necessarily abandoning ad blocking software altogether, rather to use it more discriminately, or selectively.


I trust you don’t find this article overly preachy, I don’t mean to sermonize. I firmly believe that we (Mr. and Mrs. general public) need to be more proactive in helping maintain the net’s status quo and preserve freedom of choice. The net has grown into an immensely powerful medium and with governments, corporations, and associations all constantly trying to exert their influence, there is genuine cause for concern. Removing the ‘little man’ from the equation can only aid and abet those looking to control what should essentially be a free and open domain.

 

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

36 Comments

  1. My vote?

    Ad blockers are a blessing. I never look at or click on ads anyway, so why load them and clutter up the site?

  2. This is a very one sided point of view.
    Its clearly pushing your situation.
    I happen to work with clients to make profitable advertising and selling systems for them.
    If the advertisements and marketing you make are done the right way, using the appropriate medium, people will read them. If not, they will ad block, by Chanel flipping, adblocking, turning the page or ignoring! Sell something that gives me something that I want and I will pay. You can’t force me to read your stuff, you can only make me want to read it. So, what are you doing wrong?

    • This is a very one sided point of view. Its clearly pushing your situation.

      Absolutely Peter, guilty as charged. But that doesn’t alter the fact that ad blocking is seriously impacting on millions of sites’ ability to generate income.

      BTW: Smaller sites have some control of numbers and placement of ads but very little over ad content.

      Cheers… Jim

  3. I agree that ad blockers CAN be a problem since they may cause advertisers to stop supporting smaller websites. However, another point of view is there are are many sites that are overrun with ads. It’s becoming harder and harder to go to a website that throws up an advertisement as a pop-up, pop-under or banner that you can’t avoid. It ruins the experience for the user just as much as never-ending trailers before you can play a dvd.

    • Agreed GD, some sites take advertizing too far. I also hate those types of popup ads which obfuscate page content, Trouble is, ad blocking software cannot discriminate and blocks all ads, including those which are unobtrusive.

      It’s the age old story; those who abuse the privilege spoil it for all the rest.

      Cheers… Jim

  4. Jim,

    You hit the nail on the head. Adds “can be irritating” and at time down right painful if they interrupt what one is viewing. You want me to look at your add, pique my interest. For the same reason I block most adds when surfing, I skip adds on TV by prerecording the show first. The adds are cheap boring mindless dribble aimed at getting the product name pounded into my brain. I am so turned off by some adds I purposely by the competition.

    Puzzle, how does one support their site without annoying the users? There is no easy answer, but apps/extensions like “Adblock Plus” sprung up because advertisers made their adds so annoying. Very little thought goes into making the advertisement interesting.

    I use Adblock Plus. I do turn it off for certain sites, like yours. Some site administers are their own worst enemy. They allow invasive and sometime down right dangerous adds to be on their site. When I find these, I block them. Now, if the site administer cleans up their act, I will never know and will never turn adds back on again. For my non-computer literate friends I recommend Adblock Plus so they stop clicking on dangerous adds and I can stop fixing their computer.

    • Tom, you make a good point about protecting less experienced users from risky ads.

      Puzzle, how does one support their site without annoying the users?

      And that, my friend, is the 64 million dollar question!

      Thanks for your input here,
      Cheers… Jim

  5. Disable for the little websites and enable for the big ones, mainly YouTube, Yahoo!, etc.
    Subscription fee for no ads sounds reasonable.

    • Hi Megaman,

      “Disable for the little websites and enable for the big ones, mainly YouTube, Yahoo!, etc.
      Subscription fee for no ads sounds reasonable.”

      I’m sorry to jump in here, my apologies to Jim, but I simply couldn’t resist.

      Unless I misunderstood, I think the opposite of what you suggest should be considered. It’s the little guy who needs it the most. The big guys are already established and don’t need the extra “help”.

      Contrary to popular belief, an advertisement does not need to be clicked in order to provide some small revenue for the web site. Simply being seen by the visitor is enough. Ad Blockers deny the little guy of even that small recompense.

      If the small web sites you visit on a regular basis are providing you with entertainment and/or information, why not suffer a few ads to help them out… It doesn’t cost you a penny out of pocket and may even allow them to continue pleasing you by doing their thing.

      Subscription fees don’t work. If I can use an Ad Blocker to get rid of ads for free on every site I visit, why should I pay for a subscription to get rid of them on a single site? It makes no sense to the common Internet user who expects everything for free to begin with.

      I don’t like ads any more than the next guy, but I have a personal understanding of why we little guys need them.

      You don’t need to click on the ads. In most cases you only need ‘see’ them,
      Richard

      • Disable AdBlock for the little sites.
        Enable AdBlock for the big sites.
        Yes, I did mean to say, “Let’s help the little sites by allowing ads.” 🙂

  6. Hi Jim,

    It takes a good idea to attract and hold the attention of consumers and get them to buy the product.
    Unless the advertising contains a good idea, is quietly informative and interesting, it will be swatted away like an annoying fly.

    I doubt if more than one advertisement in a hundred contains a good idea and holds one’s attention.

    Regards,

    Jonno

    • Hey Jonno – I think maybe some are getting the wrong idea. No goods have to be purchased, just allowing the ads to display generates income for a site, not very much but better than nothing. And if an ad is actually clicked on, then that generates slightly more income for the site.

      Also, most smaller sites have some control over numbers and placement of ads but very little control over actual ad content.

      Cheers… Jim

  7. Hey Jim, no disrespect to any opinions given, but I do kind of agree with my buddy Jonno.There’s a lot of flash out there but not too much substance, and that holds the attention of the user. Ad blockers are a good idea but I’m not sure if they are worth the time and trouble to keep blocking and allowing every site that comes along. That’s just my opinion.

  8. Well DCT, you guys certainly picked an excellent topic, since you do use ads, and plenty of ads, I must say. When I want to read without ads, I use Firefox, which is loaded with ad blocking software. But, when I want to support forums which rely on the revenue generated by ads, I use IE. It’s a topic which deserves patience, since there are frustrating times when users are over loaded with too much information, and are lost.

    Jim, I believe you might remember a site not that long ago, which you suggested, which some users could not find the Download button for a program. because there were so many for different programs, that you provided an updated link on the blog. This I believe is the key reason many dislike ads, its difficult to find the information one wants.

    Yes they aid in the funding of sites, so I try and grin when using, Mindblower! 🙂

  9. I normally accept adverts as a part of the internet, however, one persistent popup which blots the entire desktop and then adds insult by asking me to confirm that I want to leave the page has now resulted in a search and extra software installation as neither Windows or browser adblock appear to stop it. These are the people who are destroying their own and others businesses.

  10. Jim, I use Adblock Plus with great care,always disabled on your site and others such as Gizmo,Dottech,etc.
    After all,you “little guys” are the ones bringing me the type of info I’m interested in.We know how hard it is in any business to survive today’s economy.
    I would like to ask if you or any of our readers might take a moment to speak to a different aspect of ad-blockers.Specifically,page load speed
    I’m somewhat confused by conflicting information that I’ve gotten over the years.If,in theory,my request for a particular web page might be a tad faster because the ad-block extension in my browser supposedly prevents all those “stops along the way” at various ad servers (if this is indeed accurate info),why,when I look into filter settings,am I cautioned against choosing carefully (don’t use too many) as it might slow my web browsing?
    The only slow down I seem to experience is the actual presence of the extension itself in resect to the speed at which my browser(s) loads initially.
    So,maybe you could clarify the working principle of ad-blockers-“how they do what they do”,and maybe shed some light on their affect on page load speeds.Some test results from somewhere perhaps??
    Thanks a bunch!

  11. Hey Jim,
    ABP now disabled on this site.
    That didn’t hurt a bit.
    Now, disable No Script?
    that’s a little different.
    I’d certainly be willing to pay good sites
    a minimal fee of say… 5 bucks.
    Always enjoy your articles.
    Keep Smilin’…

  12. I never saw it that way before Jim, and feel a bit ashamed… I used Google Chrome for some time, and had Ad Block Pro (and Plus) enabled, but after Chrome’s repeated failures, I turned to Firefox, and very recently to IE 11 (I have never used IE before due to its ongoing security problems, but I am really impressed with IE 11). Having no ad blocker now, I see your ads for the first time, and find them totally unobtrusive, in good taste and gentle: worthy of DCT.

    What I object to is what previous posters have already said: it’s the “in your face” flashy, take-over ads, which I detest: such ads ruin one’s internet experience. The worst are the burgeoning number of deceptive ads, which attempt to con people into clicking on them when they are looking to download the program they visited the site for in the first place. Very often, it is hard to find the genuine download. The false downloads are usually in huge green displays these days. That is why I detest ads: its the misleading and dishonesty inherent in them. If I am forced to walk a maze in search for the genuine download, I simply depart. And good riddance if such sites fall by the wayside.

    But to ads displayed like DTC’s are, I really have no objection. In fact the kind of ads DCT displays, are in themselves ads for DTC, as they point to the web sites’ innate integrity.

    Cheers Jim. I take your point as instructive and well presented, mate!

    Bob.

  13. Use or not? Of course yes! But I would have chosen for this purpose quality paid software. For example Ad Muncher.

  14. Ads are getting more intrusive!!! For example I’d be on Bet365 site and I’d click on “history” to check on my bets and a popup would appear and then blink and an ad would show and I’d have to close this popup and reopen it to get my betting data. Very frustrating!!! I complained about this to them and they seem to be unaware of this and said the the issue seems to be coming from my end!!! More: I’d be on FaceBook site or Bet365 or some other site and strange trombone like music would emanate for a few minutes out of nowhere and for no purpose whatsoever and drown out the sounds from a video playing within the site or game sounds… WTF!!!

  15. I don’t mind the ads at all, as long as they do not block the content I am trying to read. I’ve run into several sites lately where the ad blocks all or some of the content and I can find no way to shut the ad or move it. I realize that the ads are necessary to help cover the costs of the site. Please, just keep them off the content.

  16. unfortunately I’m one of those that does use ad blockers… but for only one reason… I have no problem with ads in general, some can be useful.. its the flash ads that bother me, I hate moving/ flashing ads, they are too annoying . most of my internet usage is for researching problems or looking for particular software, I need something, I go find it, simple you would think.. don’t need bombarding with loads of flashing or moving ads and worst of all those that pop up in the middle of the page you’re reading, though thankfully not too many of those around.. bring back the static ads down the side of the page, then I wont need adblock and the site provider can make some money..

  17. For one, while I know people will get all grumpy/flamy with me, I don’t give a rip. I use Ad Blocker Plus with “extreme prejudice”. I have NO use for ads of any type, Flash or Static. They are a waste of my bandwidth as I wouldn’t click on them anyway. And sites that beg me to whitelist them because they detected I am running Ad Blocking software tend to annoy me on a good day or get me flipping them off on a bad day and wishing I could stop those intrusions into what I choose to run. It’s bad enough that sites are using HTML5 to display popover crap when I’m trying to read something…It’s like someone deciding that they have a right or reason to yank the book, magazine or newspaper out of my hands in a most RUDE fashion and those can’t be blocked.

    I get that sites “need” the revenue, they do NOT need or have a right to ask me to whitelist them because they see that I’m INTENTIONALLY blocking their ads. So, no, I will not whitelist them, I don’t care how many times they beg and plead. My response. “Bite my glorious golden a–!”

    If they want to bring their costs down, then, they can move to a more affordable solution then they don’t have to be saying “I see you’re running an ad blocker. Please let our intrusive, bandwidth wasting ads in by whitelisting us.”

    I know Ad Blocker Plus saves me a LOT of grief. No ads on Facebook to annoy me. No “Sponsored tweets” on Twitter. No Ads on any of the news sites I visit or anywhere else. And I’m NOT SORRY for any of it!

  18. Having ads pop up if they are static I can deal with but when they flash, obscure what I came to the website to view and not make it easy to get them out of my way, THEN I have a problem. Like a pushy salesperson, NO SALE.

  19. Yes I use Firefox with add block. I use them for one simple reason. The same reason I don’t have cable television. If you want to bombard me with adds give it to me for free or I don’t want it. When the internet was first born you had a choice between a paid for version and an unpaid version. The paid for version had no adds. If it wasn’t for add blockers I’d dump the Internet to. Won’t get the internet for my phone either. Why? Because the adds suck up your usage and you end up once again paying to see advertising which sucks up your bandwidth and frustrates the heck out of you. You want me to see your add, send me a flier.

  20. Several points here from a PC system builder: 1) Are you suggesting that you get paid for ads which are never clicked upon – as long as they remain visible? I wasn’t aware that was possible with flash technology, but if that’s the case, I can see how it would impact your bottom line.
    2) If they require a click, then the point is moot. I’d never click on a flash ad – and strongly advise all of our customers to avoid them like the plague. So you lose no more by having us block them. More malware is transmitted by flash technology than any other, except possibly email attachments. Those who insist upon using flash ads are the ones who are the problem, as it’s impossible to tell if the content has been compromised until after your click on them.
    3) In Australia, we pay for internet based upon downloads and uploads – bandwidth quantity. Those flash ads contribute significantly to my bandwidth – costing me money for every site that uses them. It all adds up – pun intended.
    4) My weapon of choice remains Opera and the “block content” feature. There are still many sites which it doesn’t render properly, and it doesn’t play nice with Microsoft. For those sites I revert back to IE10. Blocking that content saves my browser from having to load it, allowing me to surf and download more overall.
    5) Running a website is not expensive in itself. We ran and maintained one for our business for over a decade – cost roughly $300AUD/year for adequate bandwidth, domain registration and hosting. That’s peanuts, and we’d never consider taking money to put someone else’s ads on our site. It wreaks of unprofessionalism and greed.
    6) If everyone only put enough ads on their site to break even, this wouldn’t be an issue. But many sites make serious profit from running ads and load so much crap onto them that they aren’t stable experiences. Try loading nfl.com and see how long before it crashes every open instance of IE – forcing all (which rarely works correctly) pages/tabs to be recovered – which again soaks up my bandwidth and often causes me to find what I was looking at again, costing me time.
    7) Rather than blame those of us who block this content, your focus should be on the sites which abuse ads or have slack security and get hacked with malware. Hardly a week goes by that some major player doesn’t get hacked and spread malware from their websites.
    8) It’s ridiculous to insinuate that information and free software will stop because of ad-blocking. The way we get to it may change, but statistics show that information and free software have increased every year since Al Gore invented the internet (sarcasm), and ad-blockers/content blockers have been around for a very long time.

    Having said all that, this site is a very good example of how ads can be kept to a minimum and create problems for those who wish to visit.

  21. The nail on the head is the type of ads that get displayed. If there was a column on one side or the other of content that contained static ads, I would accept that.

    Of course there are other ways that one can support a site and still block adds. Especially for Open Source software. There is usually a little button somewhere with a Donate option. So give a bit back to these guys who produce excellent Open Source software that will usually display in my language ie English as opposed to American where as the big boys who demand payment (and often extortionate amounts) are too arrogant to provide an interface that doesn’t confuse young users about spelling in their language correctly.

    So basically, it the web site owners get it right, then those of us who tend to use Adblock would be a little more forgiving. Get it wrong and not so much.

  22. We have to use mifi to connect to the internet at our cabin in the Northwoods. What angers me is that we are charged $10 for each gigabyte used, so Flash ads are costing us money as well as noticeably slowing browsing.

  23. Really, it was a wonderful thought. I too have a small website for which i am constantly battling to generate revenue but i even myself never thought like that. As everyone, i used to believe “Ads may irritate your loyal visitors”. But in truth, all small publishers need something to meet the cost of hosting atleast.

    From my side, you got 10 out of 10 Jim 🙂

  24. I look at ad-blocking on the internet, like blocking an ad on TV – using a mute button or changing the channel or turning the TV off (when an ad turns up that I do not want). The people doing the ad on TV, in this example, for a $35,000 car (NZ dollars, not US), sell cars everyday – to someone. Maybe they do not sell a car to me. But they chose to sell cars, and they are successful doing this. They chose to spend money on advertising (TV and the Internet, even newspaper, and radio etc), and they chose to sell cars on the internet. Consequences of their actions. Are they going to stop as a business, just because I blocked their ad (TV or Internet)? No. Is the billboard of an ad for a car, going to peel off, just because I did not look at it, while walking down the street? Probably not. LOL. But I sometimes wonder if the trend of “Can I find it for FREE on the Internet, instead of paying for it?” may have caused the most-recent worldwide credit-crunch. One place I worked in, uses LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, to do their work – because it’s free (or they have misunderstood what free is, and to businesses, it is in fact PAID, and they have not paid [which is piracy]). Theoretically, Microsoft would not make any money from that. And if enough people did it, Microsoft, a large company would die as a business from people buying (or getting for free) someone else’s office software.