Why is there a debate about ad-blockers at all?



The opinions written here do not reflect those of my current employer, or any previous employers. These opinions are solely my own.

This started as a comment on Hacker News, but the thread it was in didn’t deserve such a rambling comment.

Figured my blog would be a better place to put it:

I don’t understand why there is a “debate” about ad blocking at all. No advertising company has the right to determine how I use my personal computer. Especially when most sites are not using EULAs or making the user aware of any contractual obligation to use the website unaltered.

Let me make this clear: if sites decided to make visible and prominent EULAs that specified that using ad blockers was a breach of contract, it would clearly demarcate those who were using ad blockers as breaking that contract (I have no idea how one would successfully enforce this, and am relatively sure it would be at worst impossible, and at best an annoyance/inconvenience for your users). Clearly stated contractual obligations should be followed.

Oh no, free content’s going to disappear? Yeah maybe, but I bet you the valuable content is going to be just fine. If someone told me I had to pay $1 a month to use Wikipedia, I’d pre-pay 20 years in advance. With the crazy amount of money they made using that, they could easily make Wikipedia available to less fortunate users (if they chose to) for free.

I don’t currently use an ad blocker, because I never really got into it (I actually don’t mind ads that much, most sites I hang out on are ad-free, and contain much better content anyway), but I don’t intend to shame people who do. Ads don’t really bother me too much (and they don’t visually degrade most of the sites I visit), either.

Trying to disable/enforce the removal of ad blockers is as futile as trying to stop people from modifying computers. That’s like asking people not to wipe the bloatware that comes with laptops these days. That software was only allowed to exist for as long as it has because many didn’t know how to take it off. Those that did, did it immediately, and companies that realized there was a gap (between people that knew and those that didn’t, like Geeksquad), charged people to “speed up” their computers by removing all that bloatware.

If your business/value relies on a large subset of your users not knowing how to do something, then you’re going to have a hard time as knowledge (and access to it) proliferates. If you build your business on a societal inefficiency, get ready for it to crumble (or leave before it does I guess), once society catches up and makes itself more efficient.

Is ad blocking killing the web? Nope. The web is still the web, it’s still HTTP, (usually) on top of TCP, on top of IP, it’s still where people share content. If your business model looks like it’s about to implode, find another one. Sink or swim.

Empathy for (theoretically soon to be affected in-the-near-future) people is one thing — Empathy for a broken system that breeds inefficiency is another. I have (almost) none of the latter.

Are all my views completely wrong? Did I miss some part of this “debate” that would completely change my opinions? Leave a comment! I’m glad to hear other opinions/facts on the issue — and as I am no longer a child, I am open to changing my views completely, given convincing evidence.