WONTFIX Mozilla: will you?

Posted 8 May 2000 at 23:32 UTC by dmarti Share This

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 only 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 entry.

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 » (Master)

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...

Where it's at, posted 9 May 2000 at 01:15 UTC by Acapnotic » (Master)

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 appreciate.

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 found.

So I think the interesting story here is "someone with pointy hair at AOL/Time-Warner has control over Mozilla," not anything about ad filtering...

Netscape builds, posted 9 May 2000 at 01:39 UTC by julian » (Master)

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. :)

A little alarmist, no?, posted 9 May 2000 at 01:48 UTC by blizzard » (Master)

Nice to know that the alarmists are hard at work. Keeps my life interesting.

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 filtering mechanism.

I'm following up with the right people to find out what happened.

Change it to NOFIXNEEDED, posted 9 May 2000 at 08:29 UTC by sneakums » (Journeyer)

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 feature was never "yanked" from the product! It's still there, alive and well, and getting compiled into every build. It's all under control of a pref (imageblocker.enabled). The pref is currently defaulted to "false" (in all.js) 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 true!!!

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...

Too bad it was implemented in the first place, posted 9 May 2000 at 10:40 UTC by eivind » (Master)

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 » (Journeyer)

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 » (Master)

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.

Filtering ads equal to theft?, posted 9 May 2000 at 12:18 UTC by Radagast » (Journeyer)

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 » (Apprentice)

...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!!!

Re: Banner filtering as theft., posted 9 May 2000 at 15:26 UTC by eivind » (Master)

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 alternatives.

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 jobs.)

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:

  1. create content, expecting to be paid through banner ads.
  2. pay for bandwidth
  3. You download the content, increasing the bandwidth costs of
  4. 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?

payment through penance?, posted 9 May 2000 at 15:49 UTC by dan » (Master)

[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 » (Journeyer)

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 them.

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 clicking them.

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.

[off-topic] micropayments???, posted 9 May 2000 at 16:04 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

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 being billed?

unfortunately, i think you are right: it will happen: e.g. http$:// *just* similar enough to http and https so that it's possible for people to make an easy mistake and end up being billed for the "privilege". after all, if microsoft and aol are involved, the default will of *course* be "allow access to http$://* without warning the user".

[off-topic] apology., posted 9 May 2000 at 17:27 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

eivind, sorry for criticising your idea of micropayments, on a public forum.

Wolf! Wolf...never mind., posted 9 May 2000 at 17:56 UTC by dmarti » (Master)

Please go read the new content on the bugzilla entry 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 and others, is a security issue. If you are a system administrator, you have the responsibility to prevent 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.

The DNS tweak is not the right solution for the long run. But if enough people use it, web sites will be more likely to bring advertising in-house, which will make tracking users across sites much more difficult.

Re: Banner filtering as theft (it isn't), posted 9 May 2000 at 18:07 UTC by sneakums » (Journeyer)

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."

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 work?

Eivind is partly right.., posted 9 May 2000 at 18:59 UTC by knghtbrd » (Master)

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.

The ethics of viewing banner ads ..., posted 9 May 2000 at 19:58 UTC by rafeco » (Journeyer)

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 unethical.

ad blocking, posted 9 May 2000 at 20:10 UTC by maphew » (Apprentice)

  1. create content, expecting to be paid through banner ads.
  2. pay for bandwidth
  3. You download the content, increasing the bandwidth costs of

Sorry that doesn't wash. Somesite is increasing their own bandwidth: p=ad+blocker&hc=0&hs=0

    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%

  1. 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 them.

Downloading banners, posted 9 May 2000 at 20:14 UTC by Iain » (Master)

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 paid.

Content Theft -another ludicrous argument, posted 9 May 2000 at 20:15 UTC by scottyo » (Apprentice)

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 from."

  1. 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 .
  2. Somecompany, Inc. pays UBC TV to run its advertisements during "Sitcom Spectacle" at a rate determined by the number of viewers.
  3. More and more people (including you) start watching "Sitcom Spectacle", which in turn increases the advertising rate charged to Somecompany, Inc.
  4. 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 ;)

Choosing to view a site == choosing to read banners?, posted 9 May 2000 at 20:21 UTC by lilo » (Master)

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 education.

Re: Banner filtering as theft, micropayments (continued discussion), posted 9 May 2000 at 22:37 UTC by eivind » (Master)

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 ( 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 non-payer.)

I agree that the way you envision it would be bad; micropayments need authorization, too.

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 without."

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 driver)?

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.

The burger thief responds, posted 9 May 2000 at 23:03 UTC by sneakums » (Journeyer)

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.

Bank robbing is not unethical, posted 10 May 2000 at 01:07 UTC by scottyo » (Apprentice)

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 your arguments.

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.

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 bank.

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 » (Master)

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.

Better than junkbuster, posted 10 May 2000 at 03:54 UTC by shermozle » (Apprentice)

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 Javascript ads with donothing.js :)

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 » (Apprentice)

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.

what about text-mode browsing?, posted 10 May 2000 at 05:37 UTC by zw » (Master)

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 whatever reason?

broken ethics vs broken models, posted 10 May 2000 at 05:54 UTC by mojotoad » (Journeyer)

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, was to suggest that the models advertisers use for their calculations are flawed.

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 lasting ire
  • 20% ad neutral, possibly swayed
  • 20% ad positive, possibly swayed
  • 20% ad irrelevant due to disability (blindness, lynx, etc)

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 audience.

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 filtered the commercials?

What about listener-sponsored radio? Tax funded grants aside, am I stealing if 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 things?

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, what 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.

Re: Continued ethics discussion, posted 10 May 2000 at 16:02 UTC by eivind » (Master)

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


scottyo's diary:
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)

mojotoad's diary:
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 » (Master)

In my comment to sneakamus, I was intending to write '- but social acceptance is, in my opinion, ...' not '- but is ...'


Not theft, change of environment, posted 10 May 2000 at 17:07 UTC by sengan » (Journeyer)

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?

It's rather like shockwave. I was taken aback by a Microsoft shockwave ad on 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 » (Journeyer)

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.

ad neegative, possibly swayed, posted 10 May 2000 at 18:22 UTC by mojotoad » (Journeyer)

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of your advertising friend from Norway, eivind.

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 semantics.

As for the category of "ad negative, non swayed" not 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" which case, the same people would be unlikely to respond to a survey, in which case that segment must be measured indirectly.


to advertise or not to advertise, posted 10 May 2000 at 18:40 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

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 make money...

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 that happen.

in the end, only people matter. make enough money, spend it, enjoy life.

web-as-we-knew-it (A very long response), posted 10 May 2000 at 23:22 UTC by scottyo » (Apprentice)

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 page, 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 ad-banners started.

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 content? Hmm... 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 the "content dealer" makes it clear that pay is expected and in a currency I have.

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. Thanks.

All this Banner stuff, posted 10 May 2000 at 23:58 UTC by jmg » (Master)

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 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 effective).

Banner ads.., posted 11 May 2000 at 04:23 UTC by darius » (Journeyer)

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 » (Master)

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 problem, at which point I will go elsewhere.

Anyway if you look at advertising revenue on the web its collapsing. Studies have 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.


Privacy by default, posted 12 May 2000 at 20:15 UTC by dmarti » (Master)

Alan, would you feel uncomfortable about blocking some adverts for other people by default? Let's say, for example, that you only block ads from companies you know to be under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission or the 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 administrator.

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. ( 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 without 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 » (Observer)

"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 is that 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 possible.

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