Ad blockers: The good guy for ads

Posted by kdow on Jul 10, 2017 9:35:34 AM

A few weeks ago I spoke at a conference in Amsterdam. One of the other speakers was a guy from an Adblock company (there are more than I thought on the market, as it turns out). To set the scene: we were in a beautiful theatre that typically plays host to ballet, opera and drama. In fact, in a few weeks the theatre would play host to a modern interpretation of Shakespear. But for two days, the hall would play host to a menagerie of sales & marketing speakers to an audience of about 500 business professionals.

What was interesting about the Adblock talk was that this was a talk during a mini-conference that featured a track specifically dedicated to how to best leverage ads. This guy, for all intents & purposes, was the enemy! But, he addressed this as swiftly as he could to assuage the audiences potential anger directed at him.

For the longest time, ad blockers were used by nerds like me as a way to get around banner advertisements on sites that relied heavily on said ads. This desire to remove ads dates back to the interruptive days of flash-based banners. Which were, for a time, the scurge of the internet. The ethos behind this was that advertisers were abusing our eyes to distract us from content by any means, while advertiser’s argued that they were the engine that powered all of that free content.

Today, the needle has shifted. It’s still true that I have no interest in having my eyes sullied by a flashing banner telling me I’m the 1000th visitor today. But almost as important, I don’t want tracking technology building a profile of what I’ve seen, clicked on or done online to benefit some remote corporation who’s sole intention is to hyper-target me with ads based on said history. The right to be forgotten is a wasted promise if it’s too easy to build that profile again.

Adblock Plus still does it’s ad blocking job, but it also allows users to pay site owners through it’s acquired platform; Flattr. This is the main way publishers can feel more comfortable with ad blocking. The utopian idea for users is that they can feel comfortable visiting a site without ads & tracking codes ruining the experience, while distributing a little cash to the content creators to keep them afloat.

Brave, the new browser by Mozilla’s founders, aims to do the same with BTC. By distributing some coins around to publishers, Brave can justify it’s position as a browser with content creators who are afraid of the anti-ads/tracking backbone behind Brave’s unique selling point.

Heck, even Three (a mobile operator in UK/I) partnered with a company to provide ad blocking solutions across the mobile network. They’ll pitch that as a nice way to protect users against nefarious tracking & ads, but it also usefully lowers the amount of bandwidth needed to serve sites/services to users.

But there is a flipside. Adblock, Rainbow (the ad blocker used by Three), Brave and the plethora of other similar services are just as capable of building a profile of you as Google or Facebook would be. Users need to be aware of this. Users need to pick their battles and choose who they trust, just as they would when it comes to any digital service. And that’s an important point. Just because a company blocks nefarious software doesn’t mean it’s as wholesome as the job it pertains to do.