mozilla.org WONTFIX Mozilla: will you?
Posted 8 May 2000 at 23:32 UTC by dmarti
AOL management has ordered the Mozilla team to remove a
configuration option that can be used to block ads.
Note added by raph: looks like this was a false alarm. Read below for the full story (and some interesting discussion), but basically the feature was not removed, only the default changed. Conspiracy enthusiasts will want to look elsewhere :)
Wouldn't it be neato if you could configure your web browser to show
images originating from the same site as the page you were viewing?
You'd wipe out most of those annoying counters and
banner ads without even a lick of work.
The Mozilla developers did it, and it worked great. Until now.
The feature "went the way of management decree." Ben
Woodard recently posted to linux-elitists
with a link to the relevant bugzilla
Advertising seems to be fundamentally flawed as a business model to
support free software development. The amount of effort required to
work around the ads is vanishingly small compared to the amount of time
saved by not seeing the ads.
Youch, posted 9 May 2000 at 01:14 UTC by julian »
I certainly hope it doesn't become AOL policy to tell Netscape
developers to remove whatever they dislike.
Are they technically even allowed to do that? I guess so, but it just
doesn't seem right...
Well, "only images originating from the same site" is a pretty poor
solution, IMHO. But it sounds like they did have something more
sophisticated than that, and I admit that being able to simply click on
an image and say "Don't show me these" would be a feature I'd
As it is, I have to "Copy image location", open vi, and paste the
line into /etc/junkbuster/blockfile. But if Mozilla is as pluggable as
the hype, shouldn't it be short work to make a 3rd party mozilla-thingie
(chrome, skin, whatever) be a front-end to /etc/junkbuster/blockfile and
add an entry to the image pop-up menu?
Note: Junkbuster is loads
lighter and easier to install than the BIND silliness referenced above,
has source code as well as win32 binaries available, can be patched to show
transparent images instead of "broken" icons, and ready-made blocklists can be
So I think the interesting story here is "someone with pointy hair
at AOL/Time-Warner has control over Mozilla," not anything about ad
Netscape builds, posted 9 May 2000 at 01:39 UTC by julian »
After talking to a few people, I've reached the conclusion that AOL
probably will just end up removing it from official Netscape builds, not
mozilla itself. (If it gets re-added.)
It'll get interesting as more and more things are added which AOL
doesn't like. :)
Nice to know that the alarmists are hard at work. Keeps my life
From reading the comments in the bug it looks like the feature was
breaking things pretty badly. It was a poor technical solution to a
pretty generic problem. There are better options than just turning all
images from foreign sites. Shaver has been
working on implementing a generic content
I'm following up with the right people to find out what happened.
This note by Steve Morse (the NS chap "credited" with ordering its
removal) is now in the BugZilla entry:
Let me clarify something here. Contrary to popular opinion, this
never "yanked" from the product! It's still there, alive and well, and
compiled into every build. It's all under control of a pref
(imageblocker.enabled). The pref is currently defaulted to "false" (in
but an implementation is free to change that if it chooses to do so.
Please don't go attributing any other quotes to me -- they just aren't
I installed a build from yesterday and added user_pref
("imageblocker.enabled", true); to my prefs.js, and it's back.
Let's all take a deep breath, and relax...
The concept of ad filtering is bad. The ads, and at least half the time
the actual ad impressions is what is generating the revenue to
support creating the content you are viewing. Deliberately disabling
the ads without the concent of the site is a form of theft.
You can bet that if the medium wasn't structured so this was impossible,
the ads would be inline in the actual page, as in a magazine.
If you don't want ads, lobby to get the sites you visit to accept
payment for 'clean pages' - but don't steal their content. Use
this as a chance to promote digital cash, not as a chance to steal.
Arguing that this is similar to (De)CSS is bogus - we are not talking
about anything blocking access to anything you've paid for, only
something making access to something you are getting (by paying with
that inconvenience) for free.
This theft is arguably worse than with illegally copied mp3s - because
in this case, secondary revenue is not available. For most sites, ads
are it. No ads, no money.
Theft, posted 9 May 2000 at 10:47 UTC by sneakums »
I pay for my dial-up access by the minute. By forcing me to download
advertising banners, those sites are stealing from me.
Ad impressions, posted 9 May 2000 at 11:54 UTC by Iain »
Ad click through rates are halving each year (I believe that was the
statistic I read), but as someone else said, I pay for my connection, so
I'm allowed to decide what coming through it.
This is a ludicrous concept at best. Actually, I'd argue that the ability to filter ads is a step in the right direction for what the
web was supposed to be about in the first place, namely structured, hyperlinked information which could be presented in a
variety of ways. CSS, XML, HTML 4.0, all these are designed with one unifying goal: To place the management of presentation
and content filtering/emphasis into the hands of the user. I'd say being able to choose to filter ads fits reasonably well in there.
As for this being a source of revenue for most sites, hey, tough. Banners are starting to pop up in a lot of places where they
shouldn't these days, such as on company sites (I can't remember actual examples, but I do remember seeing ad banners for
other companies on several largish company sites I've visited lately, I'd be happy to get some pointers), much like advertising
has snuck into rental video tapes.
And one last thing: If banner advertising is the optimal way to make it profitable to run a web site, then we're doomed. Or
rather, the commercial web industry, new economy, etc., etc. is as doomed as it would seem to be at first glance. Banner
advertising pays diddly. It can be used to maintain a site run by one or two enthusiasts who don't care about salaries, but can't
really afford ISP charges, sure. But for the large-scale, high-quality stuff, you need either a really strong community, in which
case banners are of little relevance (Advogato, for instance), or you need a better revenue model, or a mother company which
is willing to back you. But banners mean nothing in the greater scheme of things. Take it from someone who has worked with
large content providers, and seen their accounting.
Content theft ??, posted 9 May 2000 at 13:31 UTC by scottyo »
...we are not talking about anything blocking access to anything
you've paid for, only something making access to something you are
getting (by paying with that inconvenience) for free. This theft is
arguably worse than with illegally copied mp3s - because in this case,
secondary revenue is not available.
So, I guess you don't ever get up and go to the bathroom or refrigerator
during a television commercial. You do?! Theif!!!
This is an irrational argument, and it is one that is already
addressed. This is the same argument as saying "I have a limited amount
of cash. By forcing me to pay for my burger (if I want one), MacDonalds
is stealing from me."
Banner ads is not ideal - I would personally strongly prefer
micropayments for most browsing. However, "I pay for my connection,
so I decide what comes through" is just a slogan - it is perfectly
irrelevant to the intertwining of content and payment (in the form of
the inconvenience of banner ads) for that content. You are perfectly
entitled to not view that content, which is a legitimate way of
deciding that you do not want to downloads ads. Saying "I will download
the content and, due to limitations of the medium, stop the download of
the advertising that pays for this." is not a legitimate way - then you
are grabbing the content while not paying the cost (which is extracted
in the form of inconvenience) for it.
There is a difference between the ability to filter ads (perl gives
me that in 10 lines of code), and the choice of filtering ads. I don't
mind the fact that tools have the ability to filter ads, but I do
mind tools that are made to filter ads and I do mind if a large
fraction of the userbase filter ads without looking at legitimate
I disagree with your assertion that banner ads are 'of little
relevance' for sites with a strong community: It is of relevance for all
sites that need development or editorial work of reasonable scale, and
do not cater mainly to programmers. I have worked for such sites (no,
they do not pay my salary as of now, and have never paid a significant
amount of my salary - I've lost money on them compared to taking other
Sites that have large expenses for their content (for instance, standard
style news sites) cannot be financed by this - though luck. We need
several types of revenue to run different kind of information
businesses. However, closing down one of those revenue streams blocks
a lot of opportunities, and doing it because it is possible to steal
(rather than because that way of generating revenue is so bad that it
does not overall make revenue) is IMHO unethical.
There is a significant difference between machine-based filtering of all
ads with no impact on the rest of the content, and manual filtering
based on attention. I really hope you are able to see this.
I can see that I've stirred up a lot of emotions here. Try to split
down the different scenarios into different economic transactions, and
see which of the transactions you consider to be fair and unfair. In
particular, the following transaction:
- www.somesite.com create content, expecting to be paid through
- www.somesite.com pay for bandwidth
- You download the content, increasing the bandwidth costs of
- You filter the content, specifically changing it so the method of
payment is deactivated, while to the best of your ability retaining all
other aspects of the content.
I cannot see any way you can argue that this is fair. That it is
convenient, sure - that it doesn't hurt them much, sure - but fair?
[by filtering advertising from content before viewing it]
you are grabbing the content while not paying the cost (which is
extracted in the form of inconvenience) for it.
Eh? The only parties involved anywhere in this who care about my
inconvenience are me (who wishes to minimise it) and possibly my phone
company (who may want me to stay online for longer). Nobody else is
profiting from it.
As you say, I am perfectly entitled to not view that content. The
only difference between ignoring it and blocking its download is
whether it counts as an `impression' - and if there were anything
intrinsically valuable about banner impressions, libwww-perl (or
apachebench, season to taste) would be making us all very rich.
Compromise..., posted 9 May 2000 at 16:00 UTC by mojotoad »
Clearly there is a compromise here.
Have another option in the browser: call it "hide ads" or whatever:
after downloading the content of the site in question, have the browser
go ahead and download the ad images in the background without displaying
This accomplishes two things. a) the advertisers retain the illusion
that their market penetration is effective, and b) the end user can
ignore the ads as usual.
Of course it comes with the small price of bandwidth, but if you believe
in supporting sites through merely loading advert images, there you go.
Click-thru revenues would remain unaffected, as it is unlikely that
someone interested in blocking the ads in the first place would be
Obviously this solution, were it widely known, would cause advertisers
to froth at the mouth; probably at least as much as realistic metrics on
the effectiveness of their technique.
sorry, uh... you're kidding me, right? you want people to, say, be
automatically charged, like with the old, out-of-date
bulletin-board-services [such as aol - sorry ppl, i intensely dislike
aol], when you click on a certain site?
and what happens when this gets abused, by people throwing stupid
java-banners at you, and then *charge you for the privilege*? and what
about obtaining someone else's cookies, or other-security-related-info
and using that to access sites as that person, and their account ends up
unfortunately, i think you are right: it will happen: e.g.
http$://aol.com. *just* similar enough to http and https so that it's
possible for people to make an easy mistake and end up being billed for
the "privilege". after all, if microsoft and aol are involved, the
default will of *course* be "allow access to http$://* without warning
eivind, sorry for criticising your idea of micropayments, on a public
Please go read the new content on the bugzilla
before following up here. Much more detailed response from Blake Ross.
One line in preferences.js will enable this feature.
The main reason for ad blocking isn't speed or aesthetics. It's
privacy. Traffic analysis,
as performed out by doubleclick.net and others, is a security issue.
If you are a system administrator, you have the
responsibility to prevent doubleclick.net from seeing Joe User's web
habits, just as you have the responsibility to prevent outsiders from
seeing his mail log. If Joe wants to be tracked at home, that's fine --
just like he has the right to point a webcam at himself and go naked.
But he shouldn't
be tracked at work, any more than he should hand out a photocopied
list of all the phone numbers he called every week.
tweak is not the right solution for the long run. But if enough
it, web sites will be more likely to bring advertising in-house, which
will make tracking users
across sites much more difficult.
This is an irrational argument, and it is one that is already addressed.
This is the same argument as saying "I have a limited amount of cash. By
forcing me to pay for my burger (if I want one), MacDonalds is stealing
Assuming that I would ever voluntarily enter a MacDonald's it would
be because I am hungry, and I want to satisy that hunger. I do that by
purchasing a burger. If I don't have money, I can't purchase a burger.
End of story.
Many sites are run under the assumption that when I go there to look
at their articles, I will be happy to look at gratuitious flashy junk
advertising things I don't want or need. That assumption is false. If
the drop in ad impressions caused by my not downloading their ads causes
the site to fold, then so be it; I am not responsible for a flawed
revenue model. There no site I cannot live without.
Side note: whatever happened to the concept of click-throughs
generating revenue? Is the move from pay-per-click to pay-per-
impression indicative of the fact that banner advertising does not
Most sites with ad banners put them there to pay for the site's
existance. Those sites that have 5-6 banners per page are kinda
rediculous but I have never seen a site with pages like that I wanted to
actually go to.
On the other hand,. not loading offsite images is a very good idea if
you're having routing problems. I think it's a useful feature for what
it can do to save me time and effort and I would probably put it under
some quick toggles menu most likely. The question is though, should a
company put pressure on a supposedly free software project to make
certain features they don't like harder to get at?
I think this must be evaluated on a case by case basis as there can
be no always correct answer. In this case, I think AOL is probably not
doing themselves any favors with the people they need favors with right
now. Still, it would kinda suck for the underdog web browser to start
sporting features which will obviously piss off web designers. They
can't win on this one I suspect.
I think that most people agree that these days, banner ads are a
suboptimal way to accrue revenue if you're a content provider.
However, most commercial sites do still hope and expect to finance
their ongoing operations in this way.
If enough people block the banner ads from sites that are supported
through advertising, then those sites will go out of business. That's
pretty simple. I think there's a very sound ethical argument to be
made in saying that viewing content on an advertising supported site
without downloading the ads is theft.
The site isn't stealing from you by making you download banner ads.
You choose to download banner ads when you view articles at that
site. If you don't want to download the ads (because you pay per
minute to connect to the Internet), then don't visit advertising
supported sites. If you do visit sites that are supported by
advertising, then download the ads. It's pretty simple, really.
The privacy violations by DoubleClick and others are a big problem. If
you think so too, then don't go to sites that run DoubleClick ads.
Taking the content without "paying" for it (by downloading the ads) is
ad blocking, posted 9 May 2000 at 20:10 UTC by maphew »
- www.somesite.com create content, expecting to be paid through
- www.somesite.com pay for bandwidth
- You download the content, increasing the bandwidth costs of
Sorry that doesn't wash. Somesite is increasing their own bandwidth:
14417 May 9 12:25 stat-test.html /* results saved as html page
686 May 9 12:25 yahoo_88x31att2.gif /* yahoo logo
12528 May 9 12:25 groceries_1L.gif /* banner ad
1103 May 9 12:25 ink4.gif /* inktomi ad
1222 May 9 12:25 whitenewlogo.gif /* amazon ad
Total Content: 15,103 | 50.4%
Total Ad: 14,853 | 49.6%
Total Page: 29,956 | 100%
- You filter the content, specifically changing it so the method of
payment is deactivated, while to the best of your ability retaining all
other aspects of the content.
Damn straight I do. I spend more time on the net than watching TV and
listening to the radio precisely because I have the ability to filter
and control the incoming stream, blocking what I don't want or consider
irrelevant. Granted if/when ad blockers become predominant ads will be
integrated more thoroughly with content. A current example is the
practice of search engines accepting money in order to place sponsors
higher in the results list.
Micropayment is an interesting model and I see hope for it, but only if
it is a voluntary system. I will quite happily make
micropayments to sites I regularily visit (ergo I find them worthwhile
and helpful). I have absolutely no interest in funding sites which
don't help me; I won't know if they help until after I've downloaded
What about people who use Lynx?
They don't download the banner images, are they stealing from the site?
Anyway, I was always under the impression that banner impressions were worthless, it was the click throughs that they generate that
There is a significant difference between machine-based filtering of
all ads with no impact on the rest of the content, and manual filtering
based on attention. I really hope you are able to see this.
I agree there is a significant difference. But the difference has
nothing to do with how ludicrous your argument is. Although not meant
to be *completely* analogous, the only *real* difference
between your argument and mine (below) would be who is being "stolen
- In order to sell more items to increase its revenue, Somecompany,
Inc. decides to sponsor "Sitcom Spectacle" which is a new show playing
on UBC TV .
- Somecompany, Inc. pays UBC TV to run its advertisements during
"Sitcom Spectacle" at a rate determined by the number of viewers.
- More and more people (including you) start watching "Sitcom
Spectacle", which in turn increases the advertising rate charged to
- You get up and go to the bathroom during each commercial, while to
the best of your ability, hurrying back to not miss any of the content
of "Sitcom Spectacle".
I hope you see that to use this to justify the assertion that you are
stealing from Somecompany, Inc. is just plain ludicrous. I really
don't find it any any less ludicrous to call ad-filtering "stealing".
(Argument *is* sort of fun, though ;)
Hmmm. I don't think a case can be made that when I choose to view a
site, I choose to read the banners. The only case that can be made is
that while I can choose whether to read the banners, the unsophisticated
user is stuck reading them.
Perhaps the model here is "state lotteries" in the US. Undereducated
people tend to participate more, possibly because they don't understand
how unlikely it is they will win anything substantial. State
governments that want to institute lotteries usually make some provision
to have a portion of the revenue go to education, as a way to cause
uneducated people to pay for their own education.
It doesn't actually work, though. Money is fungible and state
legislatures generally end up, over time, reducing their education
budgets by the estimated value of contributions from the lotteries.
On the other hand, the Internet is a wonderful tool for learning about
programming and free software. Perhaps we should regard banner ads as
partly a way to get people to pay for their own computer
I obviously wasn't being clear enough - I meant that the main cost
to the user is through the inconvenience of a bunch of banners that are
mostly uninteresting and takes time to download. The benefit to the
advertiser obviously isn't in the banner ads you are not interested in.
The benefit to the site hosting the advertising is in the banners you
are seeing in the case of impression-based advertising, and in the
banners you click on for click-through based advertising (and in the
actual stuff you purchase in pay-per-order advertising.)
I don't think that is appropriate, either - fooling the advertisers
WRT how many times their ad is displayed does not, in the long term,
help any. And I don't think the set of people that would block ads is
identical to the set of people that do not click on ads - I know that I
would block ads if I didn't have an ethical problem with it, as ads are
(slightly) annoying - they increase the time to download and display,
even over a fast link. I click on somewhere in the range of 1% to 0.1%
of the ads shown to me (guesstimate).
I'm perfectly willing to have my ideas criticized in public :) If
my ideas suck, I'd like people to know about it immediately, rather than
having them pick up bad memes.
Back to micropayments: That's not the kind of micropayments I think
would be positive. What I'm thinking of is something based on digital
cash, where a site could offer a version without banner ads in return
for a micropayment per displayed page. For example, Slashdot could
provide a link from the frontpage "View Slashdot without ads", and when
you clicked on this, you would be presented with a requester saying
"Slashdot (http://slashdot.org/) offers an ad-less version for the price
of $.002 (0.02 cents) per page viewed. Do you want to accept this?
[Accept for this session] [Accept for this month] [Accept forever]".
If you click on accept, Slashdot will "magically" appear without ads for
the period of time you selected, and you will instead be charged per
page viewed, spending from the digital cash you've loaded up on your
machine. (I'm pretty sure this can be done using several forms of
choiceless digital cash without increasing latency, at the cost of
risking that the first packet or two from a page could reach a
I agree that the way you envision it would be bad; micropayments need
And if you download content, it is because you want that content -
you want to satify an itch for that content. I, at least, don't assume
that you are happy to view the ads - I know I am not. However, this
does not change in the least the fact that the ads is the form of
payment used for the content, and that you are taking a service without
paying for it.
To twist your words a little: "Many junk food places are run under the
assumption that when I go there to get a hamburger, I will be happy to
pay money I don't want or need to part with. That assumption is false.
If the drop in revenue caused by me running off with the burger without
paying causes the place to fold, then so be it; I am not repsonsible for
a flawed revenue model. There is no fast-food place I cannot live
There isn't a move from pay-per-click to pay-per-impression; those
models have been competing for a long while. If anything, the move is
towards pay-per-click or pay-per-purchase - but AFAIK, it is far from
complete (and in my opinion, pay-per-click is also unfair towards the
sites - brand-building has value without clicks.)
Somesite is increasing their own bandwidth through banner ads, sure,
but this is irrelevant as long as the banner ads pay more than that
increased bandwidth cost. You are directly increasing their bandwidth
cost by downloading, without having any chance of generating any
additional revenue. If you want to argue that that is a fair trade,
please do so - I would be interested in seeing an argument in favour of
that. However, please stay away from the straw man arguments.
People that do lynx do not usually do so specifically to block the
artifacts that are generating revenue to the sites. Thus, I see lynx
as a quite different case than specific ad filtering.
There is a difference in whether you can make a close-to-perfect
filter, and whether the advertisers can expect this filtering or not.
You are deliberately turning the transaction into a 99.99%+ one-side
beneficial transaction. I would like to see you argue why this is a
fair deal. You are the one that should be defensive here; I know that
my position (avoid 'sneaking' to get content) is ethically OK - can you
argue that yours is?
The television analogy does not hold; the revenue model for television
works even with people going to the bathroom during commercials. The
revenue model for web sites does not hold with ad filters in place, and
I cannot see any good replacement on the near horizon.
Do you think a case can be made that when you get into a taxi to go
somewhere, you choose (at the time of getting in) to pay the fare? If
you believe you can: Go through your arguments to the bottom, reducing
them to basics. Look at the interactions involved, the expectations of
each of the players. Can you find serious differences that are not
just one of scale (the loss to the web-site is small compared to the cab
Ad-blocking is accepted because it is obvious how to technically do it,
the economic interactions are non-obvious, and each individual loss is
small. That does, in my opinion, neither make it good nor make it
ethically OK. I would like to see people argue why their choice make
for an OK deal for the content providers, and why it make for a better
society. Especially if they think that this should be easy and
available as a direct option in the end-user browsers.
And if you download content, it is because you want that
content - you want to
satify an itch for that content. I, at least, don't assume
that you are happy to view
the ads - I know I am not. However, this does not change in
the least the fact that
the ads is the form of payment used for the content, and
that you are taking a
service without paying for it.
But there is no contract between the web-site and the person reading
it that says "In exchange for this 'content', you must look at our
ads". An assumption is made, and they do not have the right to crib or
whinge on ethical or economic grounds when it turns out that they made a
wrong assumption. There is no sale involved.
I know that my position (avoid 'sneaking' to get content) is
ethically OK - can you argue that yours is?
I've not taken a position here, other than to point out the fallicies in
The television analogy does not hold; the revenue model for
television works even with people going to the bathroom during
commercials. The revenue model for web sites does not hold with ad
filters in place, and I cannot see any good replacement on the near
So are you arguing that going to the bathroom during commercials is not
unfair? If I were as judgemental as you (which I may be) , I couldn't
condemn ad-filtering without also condemning skipping TV commercials.
If I follow your arguments, then since the Banking revenue model works
even with people robbing the bank, then it is not unethical to rob a
My point is that if anything is broken here, it is not necessarily the
ethics of people who might use ad-filtering. Fix what's broken: not
what's not. Now, I've taken a position.
ad blocking, posted 10 May 2000 at 01:40 UTC by jamesh »
I have always thought it would be interesting to see what would
happen if someone wrote a bit of software that both blocked ads and
simultaneously followed the ad link (only to the ad company -- not
following the final redirect to the company who produced the
advertisment. This way you don't have to look at the ads and the
content providers get their click throughs. All this, and it probably
adds up to less downloads than the actual banner images.
A better ad blocker than Junkbuster is squid-redir. Relying on squid, it
makes it a bit heavier than Junkbuster. The big advantage over
Junkbuster is that it automatically closes those annoying popups (JB
only replaces the graphics with 1x1 replacements) and replaces
On the ethical argument, I'm a writer who gets paid at least partly
from the proceeds of advertising. Yet I block out ads.
The reason? As a writer I want people to be able to read what I
write. With a big animated chunk of crap going off at the top of the
page, that gets very very difficult. Magazine advertising is static, no
animation. Webvertising used to be the same and I didn't mind it then.
When advertising gets in the way of content, it's time to change.
Next step: getting rid of Flash animations!
why I block ads, posted 10 May 2000 at 05:36 UTC by maphew »
I block web page ads because I am inundated with them everywhere I look and listen: TV, Radio, cereal boxes, sweatsirts, shoes,
billboards, video games, ... There is no (easily accessible) environment in my life where I can be completely free from advertising. I'm sick
of it. I'm tired of (attempting to) maintain a constant guard on my primary sense streams and evaluating the truthfulness of the
messages coming through.
It may be unfair to single out web sites for ad blocking when the source of my frustration is much wider than the net. However it remains
the only realm where I (for the time being) possess a modicum of control and while I can I will exercise it. It's my own sense of self and
equilibrium at stake and I will protect it where I am able.
If ads didn't so often walk so close to outright falsification, if ads showed a propensity for at least trying to match the host's "look and
feel" (animated ads do not belong on a page where the content is primarily textual), in short, if ads could be *trusted* I wouldn't feel the
need to block them. I do feel a smidgen of guilt for denying a website I enjoy their ad impressions, but that smidgen is easily drowned in
the wave of relief I feel noticing blank boxes where an ad would have been.
I don't call it theft. I call it maintaining my sanity.
Let me ask this: do you think it's unethical to visit ad-supported
sites with a text only browser? Does it make a difference if you have
the choice of using a graphical browser, but prefer text mode (for
First of all, I would like to commend you for sticking to your guns in
what appears to be you vs most of the other posters here. I personally
just find this an extremely interesting discussion, and feel no ill will
towards you for your opinions.
Mostly my motive for my last post, though perhaps not explicitly stated,
to suggest that the models advertisers use for their calculations are
Hypothetical: As a benificiary of ad revenue, let's assume that you are
dealing with a potential audience composed of the following
captive audience, who has no control over the nature of
the content they choose (or not) to see (these numbers are arbitrary,
change them as you like):
- 20% non viewers who would otherwise have viewed
if it weren't for advertising beefs
- 20% ad negative, non swayed, possibly harboring
- 20% ad neutral, possibly swayed
- 20% ad positive, possibly swayed
- 20% ad irrelevant due to disability (blindness,
The problem centers around the middle group, that of the "ad neutrals".
If you make it easy to block your ads, this is the only group
affected by that ability.
One of two things is happening here. The market penetration models that
advertisers use to estimate potential targets either a) already account
for this, or b) are blind to the fact that a segment of their target
audience will never be swayed by the ad, regardless of how
large the overall audience is.
What exactly are advertisers choking on here? If customers they
never would have won
over choose to block the ads, then who cares? Do we really know
that the "swing base" of the population, that particular segment that is
"ad neutral" is such a large proportion? And how many of those "ad
neutral" types would you
lose to voluntary ad filtering? I don't have the answers to what
proportion that is in hard numbers, but I can't escape the suspicion
that advertisers are more comfortable wiring all of the above
groups eyes open rather than constructing a more accurate model of their
I have been enjoying the various
analogies that have been flying around -- you point out a decent number
of differences with
"going to the restroom during the tv commercial", but I would like to
extend it. What if there was a (wonderful) VCR that automatically
What about listener-sponsored radio? Tax funded grants aside, am I
I listen but do not contribute? How is that any different from relying
on the "ad positive" and swayable crowds in the advertising realm of
Another analogy for which I am curious as to your opinion: how about the
silly ads they cram into your credit card bill? I don't recall ever
having agreed to that when I signed on to the card. That aside, don't I
have the right to toss them sight unseen, extracting only the bill and
the envelope (which usually takes a bit of extra effort to rip the ad
off of the perforated edge)? If I understand your position correctly,
that is all fine, but a magic raygun that purged the envelope of such
ads before opening would be unethical. And while we're on the topic,
about junk mail in general (snail mail)? What about spam (email),
especially that generated from registering on a site? Is that part of
the click-thru agreement for using that site?
And what about click-thru licensing (i.e., shrink-wrap, and therefore
the dreaded UCITA)? Isn't that what we're really
talking about here?
Gads, I know that's a storm of questions. My most pressing question is
that pertaining to accurate modelling of your target audience on the
part of the advertisers. Beyond that, the questions are an attempt to
"grey the line" and find out where you draw it.
Thanks for the tasty conversation!
P.S. As for the "ad positive" crowd in my breakdown above, the
"guaranteed audience" for advertisers...I don't understand these people,
but apparently they exist. Did you know there is a number you can call
to get more junk mail? Crazy, but there. How they rank in
consumerism I have no idea, other than consuming adverts.
Another re-phrase: 'But there is no contract between the burger-shop
and the person getting a burger that says "In exchange for this
'burger', you must pay money." An assumption is made, and they do not
have the right to crib or whinge on ehtical or economic grounds when it
turns out that they made a wrong assumption." This would be based on
ignoring the implied contract that is considered part of a 'fair trade'
in the real world - just as your statement (including "There is no sale
involved.") ignores the implied contract of a fair trade in the
information space. The cost in the information space is lower, and
dropping ads is more socially accepted than not paying money that is
implict in a transaction - but is, in my opinion, and along most axes,
not the ultimate test for whether something is ethically OK. Most
members of society is not doing continual strong ethical evaluations nor
do they have complete information.
My ethical evaluations involve a lot of axes - whether a revenue
model works or not is far from the complete picture, and revenue models
seldom even enter into it. It do enter into it in the case of
advertising, because I consider advertising to be, used properly, a fair
way of paying for services. (Note that I am not certain I consider the
way TV advertising is used in some parts of the world, e.g. the US, as
fair practice towards the consumers, due to the intrusiveness and
excessiveness of it. I lack data and consideration to form an opinion
on this yet, though.)
As for judgemental - whether I'm judgemental isn't really for me to
judge. I try not to be. 'condemn' is a loaded word (as is 'theft' - I
just lack another succint word for 'obtaining services in violation of
higher level abstract ethics, most likely as the result of lack of deep
evaluation') - the use of it ('condemn') implies a stronger feedback
than I think is appropriate. Ad filtering for personal convenience is a
small crossing of the line, not a large one - and ad filtering may be OK
for other purposes (e.g, as a political statement, but I would prefer it
to be combined with other political work towards the same goal), but
applied completely (at least on a per-site basis, which is what counts
for the sites) and automatically for personal convenience only, I don't
see any other way to see it than as petty theft of content.
And I don't consider the ethics of the people who might use ad-filtering
broken - I consider the people to have done a too hasty evaluation of a
complex problem, and come to a decision that I believe to be bad. I am
trying to convince them to reverse that decision, or at least come to
the conclusion that this may not be smart, and they should not be
working for easy access to ad filtering for everyone.
I'm not sure what to think of that. My instincts say "This just
turn it into theft from the advertisers rather than the content
providers", but I'd have to do a more complete evaluation of how the
overall network effects would be before coming to a conclusion.
I agree that having the advertising destroy the content by clawing
for attention is a Bad Thing. I'm not sure how to handle it - perhaps
an ad blocker that only worked against animated gifs (or an option in
Netscape to automatically replace animated gifs with blank space) would
be a good thing? I know I'd love such an option...
This sort-of turn your ad blocking into a political statement rather
than a pure convenience issue - and it also implies 'I believe I can be
a better contributor to society if I get some ad-free space in my life',
both of which are IMO sound reasons to want to block ads (I'm undecided
on whether they are strong enough - I know they are not strong enough
for my own case, so I don't block ads in general - but for others, they
need to be evaluated in each specific case, and are almost only possible
to evaluate on a subjective basis by the individual affected.) As I
said above, I think the political side of this should preferrably be
backed by other political actions (e.g, arguing for access to
micropayments), but it isn't necesssary in all cases to have an
ethically sound ground for this.
As I said before, I believe both intentions and personal
inconvenience aquired by the chosen solution enter into this. I would
not normally consider text mode browsing to be bad - I do it myself,
from time to time (though not most of the time.)
Your category 20% ad negative, non swayed doesn't, according
to the statistics I've seen, exist. The non-swayed category is, AFAIK,
so small that it does not show up in statistics. I'll try to get hold
of one of my contacts that work with this (he was the founder of one of
the two largest ad research companies in Norway) to get some better
answers, and will try to get back with a comprehensive answer today or
tomorrow (I don't have time to give you a good answer right now.) There
is a large category missing, at least - ad negative, possibly
swayed, which is clearly of interest in an analysis.
Answers to diary entries
Could you detail why you see blanket ad-filtering as a great idea?
I'm looking for which improvements you see with this, where you see
society going as a result of it, and why you think this is a good
thing. I see the simple alternatives to having banner ads as worse:
- Subscription, with current payment models.
This implies either increased risk to the user (having to give up
his credit card number and identify himself), or strongly increased risk
to the sites (people just re-register for a free trial, grabbing all
content for free), both of which reduce flexibility in the system, thus
decreasing choice. It also implies a much larger risk for new sites (in
order to 'prove' their content before getting subscribers), thus further
decreasing choice. In short, I believe it will just about destroy the
web-as-we-know-it, replacing it with something more like AOL, controlled
by media giants that function as middle-men and take a large amount of
the revenue involved.
- More intrusive advertising.
Instead of banner ads, sometimes entire pages of advertising come up
on the site. This has already been tried, and as long as banner ads are
there as a less intrusive form of advertising, sites that use this tend
to be marginalized. With banner ads elminated, this state will not
continue, but more intrusive advertising will be the norm.
The future that I see as the best would be one where you could get
access by paying through banner ads (so you can visit a site once in a
while, without having to take any risk beyond the attention used while
visiting the site), but banner-free sites and potentially extended
services (e.g, faster servers) were available through micro-payments, as
described in a previous reply.
I'm not sure that this future will come about, mainly because of David
Chaum's and Stefan Brands' patents blocking free implementations of
digital cash (in the US, which is a large segment of the market), and
the governments waking up to what a threath digital cash is to their
power before it is deployed in enough places that it is unstoppable
(lack of digital cash is also the largest single threath I see to
personal freedom and privacy, but that is another discussion.)
I knew my position would be contrary to most of the readers, but it
wasn't intended as a troll - it was intended as a push towards people
thinking about their actions. I wasn't expecting that much discussion
about it, though with 20/20 hindsight, I should have. I was more
expecting "Hmm, that's an interesting stance, though I don't agree with
it." with people later thinking at least somewhat more about the issues,
instead of just feeling self-righteous with their ad-blocking.
Oops, posted 10 May 2000 at 16:33 UTC by eivind »
In my comment to sneakamus, I was intending to write '- but social
acceptance is, in my opinion, ...' not '- but is ...'
If this feature became popular, Advertisers would adapt & have text only
adverts. That would improve user experience, and might increase the
number of click-through ads -- If I'm pressed for time because the web
is so slow, why would I investigate even interesting looking ads?
rather like shockwave. I was taken aback by a Microsoft shockwave ad on
theregister.co.uk which moved sprites over the webpage. Apparently there
are enough shockwave users to warrant an advert for them. Therefore I
disagree that it's theft, it's evolution.
Mule, posted 10 May 2000 at 17:47 UTC by sneakums »
Hmm. I could take the view that I am doing the advertisers a service by
not downloading their ads and using their bandwidth, since I have never
in living memory clicked-though a banner ad or based a purchasing
decision on seeing one.
Of course, this impacts the host site's flawed revenue model,
so it's clearly still unethical.
I look forward to hearing the thoughts of your advertising friend from
As a quick aside, you stated that you felt "ad negative, possibly
swayed" should be a category. That's fair enough -- although I think
what you are talking about here is a "hard sell". In that case, I am
tempted to categorize the people that are swayed as "ad neutral, but
just don't know it, possibly swayed". But that's just a question of
As for the category of "ad negative, non swayed" not existing...it most
certainly does, because I am one of them (I'm talking about overt
advertising, here, not under-the-table advertising such as product
reviews which I seek out on my own).
When you talk to your friend in Norway, please find out how an
advertising agency accurately determines their non-audience...I mean,
you take surveys, so is the "non audience" just the overall population
minus those who actually responded? I'm just suspicious, and curious,
because my instincts tell me that being "ad negative" is a symptom of a
larger issue, that of "not wanting to be bothered"...in which case, the
same people would be unlikely to respond to a survey, in which case that
segment must be measured indirectly.
um... i really don't get this. would someone please explain, to a
person against whom advertising has the reverse effect from its intent
[i should make that clear at the start, i am in the "extreme" region of
the 20% mentioned earlier],
why it is unethical, immoral, doing a disservice, or otherwise *not* ok
to have my time wasted, my temper raised, my black book written in, by
someone that advertises at me?
it's as if, like, you *want* to be advertised at, or something. it's as
if, y'know, you're incapable of going out and doing a bit of research or
something, to find out for yourself what you need or want.
i really, _really_ don't get this thread. it's like, completely crystal
clear to me: a) use lynx b) if forced to use non-lynx, switch
*everything* off and every warning on [including, "do you really want to
post this?"]. c) do not waste time, do not waste bandwidth, do not
accept anything other than that *requested by me*.
maybe it's just because i am a complete self-control-freak, i dunno.
but to hear people on this site saying, "refusing to allow yourself to
be advertised at is unethical" is just... downright *weird*! it's like
being told, sorry, you have to have this little neural-jack inserted
into your head, it's the law, now, i'm afraid. it's so that we can
hard-wire adverts at you, directly into your brain. companies have got
so big, now, they write the laws, and they wanted to make sure they made
money, and i'm afraid it's unethical for you to refuse to allow them to
in the end, it really doesn't matter *what* the "outcome" is, of this.
companies live and die by the laws of economics. if enough people
decide that it's unethical to refuse to be advertised at, then that
*may* be sufficient to sustain the company [doing the advertising]. if
enough people decide that it is not ok, then the company either dies off
or changes its methods, and there's nothing "unethical" about letting
in the end, only people matter. make enough money, spend it, enjoy
Am I glad to get stuff for free? Yes!
Do I expect to get stuff for free? No.
Do I pay for stuff I want? Most definitely!
When I came to the internet, there were NO banner ads. I researched and
"surfed" and found more about topics I was interested in than I could
ever consume. All "Free". Now I was never under the illusion that
nobody was paying for this "free" information that I was
consuming. And I was/am grateful. When I think back on those
"good-ole-days," I think the attitude of most people was "wow, I want
to put my stuff out there too" (sharing for "free").
Then the ads started. Not served up banner-ads, but inline, part of the
bartered or paid-for-by-advertiser ad space (anyway that's what I
thought). Sort of like in a magazine. Now, this was still before
eek-commerce. If I remember right, ads usually just took you to a
business' web-site or to another "free" site.
At this point, when I say "free," the meaning is a site that offers
"content to view," but has no "physically-shippable item" to sell me.
Bear with me. Information was "free". These ads usually took to long
to download and I often just quit out of frustration, and besides I was
still finding lots of "free information" without the advertisements.
The "web-as-we-knew-it" was still OK. Even though I didn't use it, it
was nice to find out I could turn off graphics if I wanted to.
Then came eek-commerce. A trickle, a stream, then the damn broke.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE E-COMMERCE. I may have been the first
person to use his credit card over the internet. I have even had a
credit card number stolen and used by someone else and I still use the
internet to make purchases. It is a consumer's heaven. And I am a
consumer! Do I want e-commerce to go away. NO!!! But then the
rotating, animated-gif, click-the-box, smash-the-fucking-monkey
I may have clicked on two, maybe three banner ads in my life. But I
have NEVER made a purchase based on one of those clicks and have
probably never added a site to my "surf rotation" based on one of those
clicks. Would I like those banner ads to go away. DEFINITELY. They
are annoying and are of NO INTEREST AT ALL TO ME.
OK, to my second question. Do I expect to get stuff for free? I said
NO. Now by
"stuff," I usually mean of the "shipable item" type. How about
The internet started out where content was "free." Even when
advertising on the internet first started, I think it was accepted that
content was "freely" published, "freely" linked - "please." So, I have
been trained to believe that internet content is "free." Do I expect
content to be free? Well, I did.
Then came the (IMO evil) banner-ad server agencies. Companies could now
create an entire business around a revenue model that consisted of
offering content (what I had been previously trained was free)
plus advertising banners which the site owner was compensated for at a
"per-impression" rate. Only problem was, was I still didn't see myself
as a "consumer" (the paying kind) of the site information. Only a
possible consumer of the advertised "merchandise."
The banner ads are just plain irritating. Were they a good idea? Sure,
if you like irritating your consumers. If you don't like irritating
your consumers, then BANNER ADS ARE A BAD IDEA.
Do I think blanket ad-filtering is a good idea? Yes! I think
it's a great idea. When I have a choice to easily reduce my
irritation level, how could I not think it is a good idea? But
what about the content provider? Hey, you are the one who thought
banner-ads were a good idea, NOT ME. But don't you feel guilty? What,
because I was trained to think content on the internet was free and then
I find out that I'm expected to pay for it by viewing something that
irritates me? Sorry, I can't feel guilty about that.
But don't you see that the content is no longer "free?" Yes, I do.
Which brings me to my last question above. Do I pay for stuff I want?
Most definitely. Always have. I DON'T STEAL. So do I pay for
"content?" I do, and will if I know I want the content AND if
"content dealer" makes it clear that pay is expected and in a currency I
eilvisd is trying to convince me that content providers expect me
to pay with the irritation of viewing banner ads. Well, I have that
currency, but I find it rather sad that a provider treats a paying
customer like that. Like I said in my diary entry, the only
filtering I have enabled is for external-site cookies, and that is out
of privacy concerns, not general ad-filtering desires. I would much
rather pay "cash" for content that I really want. I hope that when
advogato needs to produce revenue that it chooses a subscription model
instead of banner-ads. I will be all too happy to sign up.
So, have I been convinced that ad-filtering is somehow unethical? NOT
AT ALL. I think the ad-banner based revenue model is terribly flawed.
I think that any site using it should consider the ethics of extracting
payment from their "consumers" in this manner. Will I use blanket
ad-filtering? If it's easy (and legal), probably yes. If there are
sites who just cannot come up with another model to keep from irritating
me, and I really, really, want their content, AND they ask nice and
acknowledge that its a pain in the butt, but... then I might turn
filtering off for those sites. But it takes more than a couple of
visits for me to decide that a site's content is worth the irritation.
I wouldn't feel a bit guilty about leaving the filtering on until I
decide that I will be a regular visitor.
I publically apologize to eivind for the overly harsh words
(judgemental, condemnation) above. I've thoroughly enjoyed the
discussion and have thought about issues that I had not
considered in depth before. Very worthwhile.
I hope people actually read all of this.
I happen to be in an interesting possition. I am thinking about
rolling out a free site and plan on paying ISP costs through banner
impressions/click throughs. Now admittadily I hadn't thought through
this completely, but this article has started me to thinking.
I happen to be one that is currently using the dns ad blocking
methods. This has actually posed a problem in that mapblast sends out
non-conformant urls that squid does not accept (or at least my version
of squid does not accept them). Which means that on some urls, I have
to turn off my proxy cache, and then of course, for some reason Win95
doesn't respond w/ a connection refused, and I have to wait for the
connection to time out before I get the page. Anoying? Yes, but that's
partly because of the method I'm using and the fact that I haven't
upgraded software to fix this yet either.
This article has made me think about how I will do adds, and I was
VERY disappointed that a site like www.register.co.uk would even
let a banner from Microsoft that includes flying boxes that
interfer w/ their own content on their site. It was enough to make me
think of not visiting their site. I haven't sent a mail in to them
complaining about it, but I do plan on it.
How do I plan on doing banners on the new site? Well, this made me
think of a couple things. First off, an add should be unintrusive.
That means not moving and static. With TV, it's fine as there is
nothing else going on, but how many movies have you seen where in the
future there are animated bill boards, 3d bill boards and what not?
This are actually a hazard as they may distract a person and then get
hit by a car, or cause accidents. On a web page this isn't much
different. There are actually people out there that can not read your
content on the page if there is an animated gif on the page. You can
always stop the animation by hitting stop on Netscape, but that requires
the user to go through an extra step.
I was also thinking of how to make it so that ads are not intrusive.
I was thinking that text/graphic adds that are actually more integrated
into the look and feel of a site would be more pleasing and useful too.
Of course, if the ad looks too much like your site, you will need to
make sure you mention that it is an advertisement section (you know
those Ads in mags that look like it's the magazine's content). This
would be relatively simple w/ something like Prymal (an cgi that allows
Python code to be embeded into HTML. I wrote it in less than 100 lines
including Makefile, and haven't gotten around to making a public release
of the code) where you can just do: <python>import
ad</python> where you want the ad. This would allow text ads as
well as graphical ones.
For me, I will have to do ads. The site I am interested in will be
bandwidth intense (tons of graphics) and will end up paying a ton for
it. Until there is a digital cash (and basing it off of a digital
credit card isn't that good) making a site like this ad free will be
hard. I was thinking about doing that, but the problem is that w/
digital cash, everyone can become a minter. The only easy way around it
is to do a digital "credit card" which isn't much different and
introduces the same problems as todays credit cards. This will have to
be thought out very carefully before it is even touched.
Viewing the content is copyrighted. If a site really
wants to get anal, they could actually make you say, yes, I will view
your site in an unadultered format (w/ Ads) otherwise you don't have
access to that. This will mean that if you decide to block ads, you
won't get content (easily enforcable). Now if you decide to get around
this by a proxy server or something, there are always ways to detect and
fix this. Only the people that are truely bent on getting ride of adds
will come up w/ a method around them.
evinid didn't say that ad negative, non swayed
didn't exist, he said that the numbers were so small that it is
insignificant. Also, I would also point out the phrase: "There is no
such thing as bad publicity." This applies to advertising all
to well. The worse the ad is, and more violent the reaction, the more
effective it is. The whole point behind advertising is to get your
a[d]ttention and for you to remeber it. You are more likely to remeber
a bad add that you hated than a decient add that you didn't mind, but it
didn't make an impression upon you. These are facts of advertising, and
that is why the screaming, anoying, radio ads are still on the air.
They wouldn't be if they were effective. (Don't forget effective is a
term based upon the outcome, if you spend $10 on the advert, and ended
up making over $10 on product sales, the ad is considered
Banner ads.., posted 11 May 2000 at 04:23 UTC by darius »
I don't like banner ads because they are usually the slowest thing to
load. I get really irritated waiting 30 seconds for an image to load
before Netscape will render the text I actually want to read. I don't
really mind paying for banner ads (per meg download cost for me) but I
DO mind the slowdown they cause, so I filter them out.
As for 'micropayments' I think its a GREAT idea.. Providing its
correctly implemented of course 8-)
Blocking Adverts, posted 12 May 2000 at 01:21 UTC by alan »
I block adverts. I always have done. I didnt ask for the advert and its
up to the
site to refuse to provide me with data without the advert if they have a
at which point I will go elsewhere.
Anyway if you look at advertising revenue on the web its collapsing.
shown people who regularly use the web cant name the adverts on a page
they saw 30 seconds ago - their brain filed it in trash instantly.
On the other hand, I would feel uncomfortable blocking adverts for other
people by default or by swapping them for local advertising (a practice
becoming popular) - you yank the header of the image from the original
advertiser, then you replace it with an equivalent sized local advert.
would you feel uncomfortable about blocking some
other people by default? Let's say, for example, that you only block
from companies you know to be
under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission
equivalent regulatory agency in their own country.
People who know about HTTP and cookies can make an informed decision
about the level of tracking that they're comfortable with. People who
don't can either be subjected to intrusive tracking without their
knowledge, or protected from intrusive tracking. The second choice is
more in keeping with the traditional responsibilities of a system
I think that even beginning Internet users have a fairly good intuitive
idea of what information should and should not be gathered from them.
For example, if a teenage boy reads a Web advice column for people who
think they might be gay, he shouldn't start getting brochures for gay
ocean cruises at the house where he lives with his parents.
(Doubleclick.net still plans to correlate web ad logs with
users' postal addresses.)
When a site tries to violate users' common-sense expectation of privacy,
it should be the system administrator's responsibility to protect the
user unless the user requests otherwise.
Eivind, you have some good points comparing viewing a page
paying by viewing ads to eating food without paying. But are you,
by any chance, posting from Europe, where customer privacy law isn't
written by lobbyists for the Direct Marketing Association? Give me ads
without tracking, or a tracking system that tells me what the
information will be used for and who it will be shared with, and I'll
reconsider ad blocking. But as far as I'm concerned, the only answer to
nasty sneaky tracking without notification is filtering.
Hunh?, posted 20 May 2000 at 07:01 UTC by kervalen »
"The concept of ad filtering is bad. The ads, and at least half the
time the actual ad impressions is what is generating the revenue to
support creating the content you are viewing. Deliberately disabling
the ads without the concent of the site is a form of theft. "
How the devil did you come to this conclusion? It is not theft in any
legal sense (as surely you know.) My personal take on the ethical issue
no prior agreement between me and the advertiser or web
publisher to that requires me to pay them with my time and attention
and, as if that isn't enough, it costs the net community real money to
carry their traffic.
Advertisers, like hustlers everwhere, take advantage of people who
can't avoid their advertising, and like the hustled everywhere, I
reserve my right to ignore their stuff.
What is the basis of the ethical position you have propounded?
"If you don't want ads, lobby to get the sites you visit to accept
payment for 'clean pages' - but don't steal their content. Use this as
a chance to promote digital cash, not as a chance to steal." Do you
know any sites that actually do this? I have a friend who runs an
ad-supported site and expresses opinions similar to yours. I have
lobbied him; his answer is that he's not willing to take the risk of
trying a new business model and may start refusing
browsers which don't accept the ads he carries. With a decent form of
digital cash, that is: one that doesn't allow the compilation of a
transaction dossier and doesn't put some financial intermediary in a
position where it is advantageous to them to delay payment as as