Ad blocking and Jack Lewis

Danny Carlton has an interesting battle going on over on his website, jacklewis.net/weblog/

You’ll notice, if you try and go to his website in Firefox, that he’s blocking all Firefox users. Why? See for yourself.

Below is my response to Danny Carlton. Please understand that I do not wish to disrespect him in anyway, shape, or form. I only wish to question his idea.

Danny,

You are fighting an interesting battle. People who block ads wouldn’t click on them anyway, so essentially you’re wasting a whole lot of time trying to prove a point to a bunch of people who will never agree with you anyway.

To claim ad blocking as theft is incredibly disingenuous to people who, like me, are blocking ads in order to be *more* honest. In the 12+ years I’ve been using the internet I’ve probably clicked on 10 ads on purpose, and many more than that on *accident*, causing advertisers to pay out for an accidental click-through.

Also, there are those who (again, like me), are trying to protect themselves and their families from as much of the filth and garbage on the internet as possible. There have been several large websites (Tom’s Hardware, MySpace, and others) who have unknowingly distributed viruses through their advertising (via JPEG security vulnerabilities). (described in twit.tv’s Security Now Episode #102)

I understand, as you’ve stated, that your site doesn’t have super annoying or dirty ads. I will not, however, take the time to selectively block ads from different sources (besides, what is a “trusted ad source” when previously trusted ad sources such as those found on Tom’s Hardware had a huge virus problem?). I respect your decision to try and maintain control of your website’s content. I ask you to respect my decision to choose to protect myself in a way that keeps a little bit of accidental revenue from heading your direction.

I also invite you to take a moment to consider the unintended consequences that this statement could have:

“You shouldn’t have the freedom to block [ads], when I specifically don’t want that, and have attempted to prevent it.” (part of one of his comment’s in his “Hectic weekend” post)

What would it require to take that freedom away from me? What kind of legislation would have to be passed? What kind of software would have to be installed on our computers? Would you really be better off with that freedom taken away? I dare say you would not.

Lastly, I do not think this kind of battle does the rest of your opinions any credit. I haven’t read much of your site so I’m not claiming to either agree or disagree with you on your opinions, but you might consider how this battle will effect all these silly people. You stated that many of these Firefox users probably wouldn’t have ever visited your site anyway, so there’s been no harm done. But you’re missing something. Sure, there’s no significant harm done to your readership, but what of all the people who have visited, skimmed your posts and written you off as crazy? They’re not just writing you off as crazy, but your ideas too. When they read the same or similar ideas from other people, they are now more likely to write them off as crazy as well.

I do not think that one should compromise beliefs in order to gain popularity, but I do think that one must determine whether or not a battle is firmly based in truth, or just a pet peeve. To me, your argument about ad blocking feels like your pet peeve, and has too little basis in truth to be really meaningful.

Mozilla, Technology

Comments

  1. Adam Findley I agree this is completely ridiculous. While I enjoy the ad-block plugin, I use a host file for most of my ad-block-ing. I grab the list from this site: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm. What’s great about host file blocking is that the request for the ad doesn’t go any farther than your local computer and it blocks ads for every browser. I still use ad-block when sites put skany girls on their articles or what-not, but the hosts file is a pretty great solution.
  2. Ryan Yes, the hosts file is great, much better than adblock plus. The pet peeve I have with adblock plus is that I use Google adsense on this site and I’d like those to show, but because my filter updater (Filterset.G) doesn’t seem to let me create a permanent allow filter for it I don’t see them in Firefox. Oh well, one must sacrifice to keep the skanky girls off articles and what-not.

    That reminds me, I should probably update my hosts file. It’s been a while.

  3. Ryan Oh hello, I just figured out how to make Adblock show google ads (text ones only), even with Filterset.G. That was easy, I guess I never actually tried before. haha
  4. Beth I don’t really think it merits “infrigement” until people no longer have a choice. Like maybe someday Mozilla will own the whole internet. He just sounds bitter that somewhere in his life he has had to pay in someway for advertising and it still doesn’t get him all the attention or patronage that he wants.
  5. Ryan I agree. As long as we still have a choice, there is no infringement. I hope we always have that choice as the alternative is less free, not more free as he’d have us believe.
  6. Danny Carlton To say ad block users do not click on ads when they are shown ignores marketing trends. they do. Publishers are simply asking that in exchange for viewing their site, you allow the ads to be present, in case one might interest you.

    But that’s not the real problem, and never was.

    The developer of AdBlock Plus has intentionally made it impossible to detect it, and therefore screen visitors to a site to allow only those viewing ads. THAT HAS BEEN THE ISSUE ALL ALONG!!!! I would never have started blocking Firefox if I had simply been allowed to control my site to allow only those not using ad blocking software.

    If ad block software makers would allow sites to choose to detect and control access, the whole arguement about ad blocking would be virtually moot, since power would still be within the grasp of any site owner who wanted to exercise that option. So far AdBlock Plus is the only ad blocking software that denies site owners that right.

    I see no difference between Wladimer Palanets actions in making AdBlock Plus undetectable and someone who intentionally knocks down the fence on someone else’s property. No one is forced to visit my site, so by choosing to do so, you assume the limitation I have intended and made clear in viewing it. By adding scripts to limit access, I made a fence. By making AdBlock Plus undectable (and he rushed out an update just this past weekend to bypass the most recent method of detecting AdBlock Plus) he is knocking down the fence on my property.

    How can you honestly defend his actions?

  7. Ryan I hadn’t thought of it like that before. That caused me to think about it more like cracking/stealing software, which I’m against. So no, I guess I can’t defend his actions.

    I think what I really don’t like about the idea of blocking users who block ads is that I remember all too well the days of extremely obtrusive advertising (I wrote the first popup blocker). I fear that if enough websites blocked users with ad-blockers that the internet might turn back into what it once was (would browsers that block popups be banned too? where does it stop?). It’s also conceivable that more viruses and porn would be spread through advertising, though that’s probably too speculative.

  8. Ryan Oh, I meant to add to that:

    Just as people always find ways around music DRM, DVD DRM, and around purchasing software, so too will they always find a way to block ads. Back when I was more involved in the software shareware industry I remember reading about how to protect software against cracks. It basically came down to “do what you can to keep the honest people honest, but don’t bog down your software with so much protection that it hurts the honest users.” I think the same concept applies to ad blocking. Do what you can to keep people honest when visiting your website, but perhaps one shouldn’t spend so much effort on it that it hurts the honest users. I won’t dare to claim I know what that means for anyone but myself, so do what you feel is right.

  9. Michael I would just like to ad that Danny is fundamentally incorrect on his “blocking all ads is theft” argument. Inflicting ads on users who do not want them is ALSO theft.

    Advertising on the web is unlike advertising on any other medium, because it requires the audience to sacrifice some of their own resources in order to accomodate the ads.

    Unlike newspapers, unlike television, unlike radio, unlike magazines, unlike highway billboards, when Danny Carlton insists on his right to place an advertisement on his site for my browser to pick up, he is insisting on his right to

    1. use MY RAM for his purposes, denying to to me for anything else I may want it for at that moment

    2. use MY DISK SPACE to cache his ad, denying it to me for any other use I may have at that moment

    3. use MY PROCESSOR SPACE which I may or may not have dedicated to something else

    4. use MY NETWORK BANDWIDTH CONNECTION which can slow me down, since I cannot download his ad and whatever else I want simultaneously.

    Danny’s stance, to me, has no more credibility than if he were to allow other people to park their cars in my driveway for a fee, then accuse me of theft for installing a security gate to prevent him from taking over my driveway space with other peoples’ cars.

    And yes, there are plenty of ways to block ads without adblock plugins. Firewall blockage, using .hosts to resolve the advertisers domains to 0.0.0.0 - there are many ways, pretty much all of them undetectable since they sit between the browser and the actual site.

  10. Stuart Wright In response to your points. —— quote —— People who block ads wouldn’t click on them anyway, so essentially you’re wasting a whole lot of time trying to prove a point to a bunch of people who will never agree with you anyway. —— /quote —— They might. How do you know? It makes no sense to be carrying advertising which is not relevant to the website. And if it is relevant to the site, it is relevant to the people reading it. The point is that the adverts are served and then blocked by the ad blocker. So the website publisher pays for those ads to be delivered to viewers even if they are not viewed. If people block adverts, they don’t give the published a chance to show them something potentially useful. —— quote —— To claim ad blocking as theft is incredibly disingenuous to people who, like me, are blocking ads in order to be more honest. In the 12+ years I’ve been using the internet I’ve probably clicked on 10 ads on purpose, and many more than that on accident, causing advertisers to pay out for an accidental click-through. —— /quote —— Most (non-Google) adverts are placed on a CPM basis - cost per 1,000 impressions - not on a per click basis. So accidentally clicking an advert does no significant harm to the advertisers. Blocking adverts absolutely is theft because it is robbingthe publishedof the chance to show you something you may be interested in. A good publisher (like me) tries to show their visitors adverts which are as close to ‘content’ as possible. Websites like mine are free to view on the condition that the viewer receives adverts (it’s in our T&Cs). If you visit my website with ad blocking software you are breaking our T&Cs and stealing our bandwidth. As soon as I can find a reliable anti-ad blocking script I will use it to nag people like you into switching ads back on.
  11. Michael In response to Stuart: “Blocking adverts absolutely is theft because it is robbingthe publishedof the chance to show you something you may be interested in…Websites like mine are free to view on the condition that the viewer receives adverts (it’s in our T&Cs). If you visit my website with ad blocking software you are breaking our T&Cs and stealing our bandwidth.”

    Such a T&C is worthless, unenforceable, and against the HTTP protocol. There is no contract, inherent or implied, making it incumbent upon a web visitor to view content B in order to get content A. HTTP is a client-server data transfer protocol, and thats ALL it is. It doesn’t care what the data is, it’s just there to feed data. But even today there are plenty of people who use command lines and text-only browsers such as Lynx. There are others who, for various performance reasons, turn off JavaScript, Flash, and even images. No amount of T&C is going to force them to turn these on and possibly crash their old computers.

    Furthermore, what about people who have to pay for the bandwidth they receive? Yes, there are still ISPs with bandwidth limits, and a large majority of rural America is still on dialup because they have no DSL CoLo anywhere near their property. And don’t get me started on web browsers on cell phones!

    As I point out above, the web is unique in that anyone who feels that ad-blocking is theft is basically demanding that the web user donate his/her own resources and bandwidth to accommodate the ad. What makes this different from, say, wanting to eat a candy bar only to have the candy bar manufacturer insist on coming into your house and taking over part of your fridge or freezer space, and plastering your formal sitting room with ads for ChocoBliss - while charging rent for the “privilege”>

    It is blatant theft to force web ads onto the viewers who may well have to pay money to see them, as well as having quite possibly limited resources used up to the point of crashing their computers. We don’t all live in a GigaPentium 300gb 4G RAM world.

  12. Michael Again to Stuart:

    I spoke without visiting your site. I thought you were speaking of a general interest site, not a discussion forum. Of course you have the right to impose any T&C you want on those who would be posting members of the forum. (The T&C, of course, is not binding on the casual page visitor who is not interested in posting and is not signing the contract.)

    The original discussion was about a person who refuses to let Firefox users even VISIT his page. I had that concept in mind when replying to your post, unaware that this T&C of not running adblock software was a condition imposed upon forum members who wish to have a forum identity and posting priveleges, and a condition that must be accepted as part of membership.

    I apologize for misunderstanding and wish I could edit the original reply. This is an entirely different situation from requiring the viewing of ads just to access the site, which is what I thought you were saying.

    I’m off to go flog myself with some Belden balanced input cable…minus the XLR connections so it’s more painful…

  13. Vincent Danny: I can block ads with a HOSTS file. Are you going to block all computers next?

    Thing is Danny, you have absolutely no control over how I present your content on my computer. I can change the font. I can change the color of links. I can choose to not load images. I can create my own style sheet. I can write a greasemonkey script that replaces every instance of Jack Lewis with Dumb ***.

    But’s that is how http is supposed to work. You can suggest how the content should be presented, but the ultimate decision lies with the end user.

    The only thing you can do is block access to your site. But that kind of defeats the purpose of having content on the web in the first place.

    You state that those block ads are stealing your bandwidth. You know that is false. I know that I pay a monthly amount to my ISP. I think I’ll ask them for a small rebate since I shouldn’t have to pay for ‘your’ bandwidth since apparently you paid for it already.

    Besides, why is it okay for you to steal my bandwidth limit? Why is it okay for you to steal valuable milliseconds of my CPU? Why is it okay for you to steal my RAM to store your ads? Why is it okay for you steal my HD space? Why is it okay for you to steal my electricity to display your ads?

  14. Ryan Vincent,

    As you should know from my original post, I like to block ads because I don’t click them. I wish this guy’s argument wasn’t valid.

    But…

    Unfortunately, the argument that he’s stealing YOUR bandwidth holds no water whatsoever. He’s not stealing your bandwidth. You are the one who chooses to visit his site or not. You always have that choice.*

    You NEVER know how much bandwidth a website is going to take when you visit it. By claiming that visiting a website steals your bandwidth because it took more than some unexplainable preconceived amount is absolutely ridiculous.

    • Now, I absolutely agree that you have the right to block some HTTP connections via the hosts file or whatever. But if some guy wants to keep you off his site because of it? There’s nothing that says he can’t do that. Just as long as there’s no stupid laws passed I’m okay with whatever detection schemes may exist in the normal everyday internet stuff.
  15. Ryan Also, I posted another post about this.