In Defense of Defense: Why Ad Blockers Are Essential (Op-Ed)

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ssddx

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nice write-up expressing an understanding for both sides of the equation and one i can certainly get behind. i agree completely that ads are necessary and support the content we love and also agree that they are generally not handled in quite the right way and that internet safety is paramount so white-listing a site should be a big deal.
 

jackwhitter

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This argument relies on the assumption that all ads/advertisers have trustworthy ads regardless of their relevancy. I used to advise avoiding adblockers to help sites we like earn revenue, however, i now recommend to all my clients, family, and friends to install ad blockers as many attacks occur through rotating ads. unless the website or advertising company wants to take responsibility for malicious ads and cover the costs of repair for infected machines.
 

jpishgar

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Thanks ssddx!

I do feel that white-listing should be a matter of established trust, rather than something one is guilted into. Have seen a lot of vapid attempts at soliciting users to white-list a site on moral grounds, and it always seems to fall flat.

Now, I will say, the best way I've seen monetization done is on the links to products being recommended in the forums by other users, or being cited in articles. A link to Newegg, or Amazon, or wherever, that contains a referral code that provides the originating site a small commission for sending that traffic (and potential purchase) their way is the least obtrusive and doesn't affect the user in the least.

Community reviews are also great ways to do ads - where companies pay a flat rate to have a site's user community receive a free sample of their product, and then provide reviews of that product, allowing the company to directly address any issues that arise. Typically it gets the product in the hands of top-tier influencers, promotes word of mouth, and provides some pretty solid community-driven editorial style content which most savvy marketers would take any day over a banner ad.

As a side note on the op-ed piece, I was tempted to take a poll of the Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide editorial teams to see who used ad blocking software at work - but I thought better of it. :p

-JP
 

jpishgar

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This argument relies on the assumption that all ads/advertisers have trustworthy ads regardless of their relevancy.
A lot of them don't. The core component in the decision is trust in the site itself. Though, for what it's worth, even that may not be enough.

Case in point, there's been a few issues where even Google and the behemoth ad algorithm and human army of eyeballs reviewing ads let some crap ads through their gauntlet. So a site you trust, using Google's own ad program, could potentially show deceptive or malware style ads. What I'd hoped to convey was that there's a middle ground between tolerance of ads on a site you love and rely on, and a zero-tolerance policy that while self-preserving, could potentially end up destructive on larger level. I can count the number of sites I personally white-list on two hands. But I'd be lost on the internet (or missing out bigtime at least) if those sites went defunct because the ad revenue dried up, or they fell into the awful cycle of lost revenue -> more egregious/disruptive ads -> more adblocker installs, less ad revenue.

-JP
 

Nuckles_56

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As a side note on the op-ed piece, I was tempted to take a poll of the Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide editorial teams to see who used ad blocking software at work - but I thought better of it. :p
I wouldn't be surprised if most (if not all) of them did have one installed
 

Grognak

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If one the smartest, most professional members calls 90% of the readers thieves because they don't like being subjected permanently to an obnoxious deluge of ads, I can't imagine what someone with less "talent" would call us.

 

f-14

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this article is half finished, there is no mention of the amount of broadband you just sucked away from my netflix or download speed, not to mention in a world where ADs eat up GB of data in your limited cap i am not paying $50 to go over my cap for a pitch of silky underwear, mortgage refinancing or penis-enlargement pills or a hijacking of my browser only to have to reload the page to stay with the content i came to see.

ads are not some free vacation i was given to a florida resort to watch sales pitches for timeshares 90% of the time

ads are leaches sucking the lifeblood of time and money out of my life so any cries of claims to websites who illegally try to harvest either of those from me can suck on the end of a spaz 12 shotgun while i hold the trigger down, i did not give you permission to steal my money, my time or my effort, all of which is the very definition of being a paid employee FOR WHICH I AM NOT BEING PAID NOR CONSENTING TO YOUR FREE RIDE AT MY EXPENSE FOR SOME INTRUSIVE SPYING EXPLOIT THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE, but that microsoft made possible as another way to suck out free money from me that they can profit at despite the fact we already paid them a front end fee for their operating system to start with, hidden fees and security exploits and back doors into our homes, our lives and our privacy are not something we should tolerate, it's something we should violently rebel and obliterate!
 

cats_Paw

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Seems like the heat on avram post forced tom to use some form of damage control.
Personally Im not falling for it. I think its just an article written to take the heat off from the previous article on this subject.

There is a chance that the previous article was somewhat "Testing the waters" to see if people would go along with such a view like sheep or if it was too much of a push.

Tomshardware is forgetting that almost every user that frequents toms hardware (those who post comments most likely do) know everything about Internet ads, how the work, their revenue models, the danger they pose and even the history of their evolution (we where there after all to see it when the first pop up ads meant that your brand new WinXP machine would get 20 pop ups when connecting to the internet).

In terms of good content+some ads vs not reading that content:
Ads that are automatically shown on the site have no impact, ads that are personalized have no impact, even social media organized events will have no impact if your product sucks.

The quality of the product determines the future reputation of the company. You can get away by selling crap with good ads, the right actor backing up the company in their ads and so on, but you will do that once.

Good products dont even need ads. How many ads on toilet paper do you see? 1? 2?
Personally I can only recall scotex, and I dont buy it because its overpriced.
How many ads can you recall on pens? Yet we all buy them when we need them and usually we know what is best for our needs.

The worst part of this article is that Toms hardware has LONG ago changed from being a site that reviews and checks hardware to a site that promotes new products for various brands (for those who dont know, when tomshardware received a massive overhaul a few years back, that was when the site went from good to propaganda).

Look at the "latest news" in toms mainpage. How many are "news" about a new product coming out?
Since when is a company selling something new "news"?
So we are supposed to turn off addblock to be able to see adds in a site that has 50%+ of its news as ads?

Someone insert "we hear you like ads" meme here.
 

stubbies2003

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Nevermind that several of those sites with "news" or "stories" are SOO overloaded with ads that the page either doesn't load correctly or it will take forever. Then to add insult to injury they will spread a single page story across several pages (because god forbid they don't have 30 ads on the page and only had room for 20) just to max out the annoyance factor. Well for those who write such pages I have some news for you. Regardless of how interesting the story might have been I refuse to go along with that crap and the moment I see a page full of ads and a small story I am gone.
 

plwww

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I want to say I feel bad when I use ad-blocker on sites I regularly use...I really do. I know how important stable revenue is to providing good content and services, and how little I would enjoy subscription fees to every site I regularly visit. I also know how much I benefit from the wealth of sites that I don't regularly visit, but are available for free for those random subjects I find myself needing or wanting to explore.

At the same time, I also think there's a lot of room for innovation in revenue: that it's not just a choice between subscription or advertising. For example, many projects have attempted things like micropayments or user credit for viewed ads. These projects largely seemed to fail due to a pure lack of interest from both consumers and content distributors. But if the ad option went away entirely(due to adblock adoption eliminating revenues), there would then be a mass of users and producers looking for a new solution. I'll leave out the philosophical, moral, and efficiency arguments for why most advertising is pointless or even bad(ok, I actually typed some of those arguments and deleted them...you're welcome :) ), but I almost want to just say, "sorry for killing your ads", and let it burn anyway. I would love to see what creative people do with the ashes of the advertising industry.
 

Marcus52

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I try to whitelist as much as I can using NoScript. That being said, there are some advertising systems I simply don't like. Google's is one of them, because they don't take responsibility for the kind of ads they run. As an example, selling World of Warcraft gold for real money is illegal and I don't want to see any ads for an activity I believe harms the game, and some of the sites that rotate ads do nothing to stop such things from being displayed.

And, there is the quantity of ads, too. I block about half of the servers that try to connect to my computer on Tomshardware, for example. 20+ different servers is simply too many for me to allow regardless of their purpose.

Tracking. Many, if not most, sites that push ads ignore the "Do Not Track" request from users. I don't want to be tracked, and, frankly, I don't care if a site shuts down because it doesn't make enough money on tracking people. I consider it to be an activity that should be illegal in the first place.

There is no respect for me as an individual from most of the people that sell through advertising. They are no better than the stereotypical circus gypsy that considers everyone outside of his clan a "mark" that should be separated from his money. Well, if that's the way you think of me, than that's the way I'm going to think of you - and why should I care if you and your children starve if I don't allow you to stick your hand in my pocket and pull out a wad of my money?

I give any person a certain level of respect, out of a sense of courtesy and a natural tendency to like everyone I meet, up until the point he proves he doesn't respect me. Then - I don't care about him. The world would be a better place if he just ceased to exist.

Money aside, there is the invasion of my space and my time. I only have so much energy and many advertisers don't care about thrusting their crap in my face through their ads (television is the worst; it's no wonder the audience in that media is shrinking. And, frankly, I'm not all that interested in viewing so many ads that Dave Letterman can get paid $25,000,000 a year (his STARTING salary when he moved to CBS).

NO ONE should use pop-ups of any kind. I don't give a dang about your freakin recommendations for what I "might be" interested in on your site. You just sapped one more little bit of energy from me by sticking your annoying interruption into my day and I don't appreciate it one bit.

I don't block all ads from internet sites, I block enough to try to keep my annoyance level to a reasonable level. I allow the sites themselves, and if they care enough to take responsibility for them by running them through their servers I even feel grateful. But I run NoScript because it affords me an extra level of security - and, so far, no advertiser can pay enough to be allowed through without my consent, unlike some of the other "ad blocking" addons. I only use Mozilla browsers because they are the only ones that fully support NoScript.

Part of the stress level for the average person that isn't a total hermit in this day and age is lying politicians and "news" sources. Another part is advertisers pushing their stuff in our faces every second they can get away with. It's no wonder that depression is an increasing problem across the "civilized" world. I think there should be strong laws that prevent more than a certain amount of advertising from impacting a person's life. I think there should be strong laws against lying to the public - and by lying I mean using ANY tactic that makes it hard to know the actual facts about an issue.

So, keep it reasonable, provide me with real and relevant content and I'm happy to let the ads through. Otherwise - no.

I have no interest in providing Avram a single dime because he clearly has no respect for me, and does not provide anything useful to me. If he doesn't want his children to starve, maybe he should find an alternate source of revenue.
 
May 29, 2015
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A very good article overall but you missed a very important part ( in my oppinion ). The mobile adds.
While adds on PCs, laptops or other have manageable content and ways to deal with them ( ways to block adds ). The mobile platform is a diffrent story.
You really can't navigate 3 pages without a image popup and if you are using a data plan... you can't do anithing about them, you pay money just for ignoring them. And adds on https can't be blocked by addblock.
 

McHenryB

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We seem to have two contradictory points here:

1. We should whitelist sites that we trust.

2. It is impossible for even the best sites to ensure that they do not serve offensive and/or dangerous advertisements. In other words, we can't truly trust any site.

We could reconcile the two if we had some ad-blocking software that blocked most advertisements but had the ability to let through advertisements from trusted advertisers. Oh wait ....

Trouble is, I guess, that some hack journalist would label this simple solution as "extortion".
 

Christopher1

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If they want us to stop using Ad Blockers, they are going to have to do a few things:
1. Ban flash ads. If you want a video ad on a website, go HTML5 or damned well nothing.
2. Ban large graphic ads. No reason to have half a dozen different ad sites loading ads on the same page (Tomshardware, I'm looking at you!).
 

razor512

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I would say put some of the understanding of the problems in ads and get rid of the IED minefield where waving your cursor past the wrong part of the article will cause an ad takeover advertising something shady or downright dangerous (tomshardware/ tomsguide still occasionally display ads for malware such as those registry cleaners).

It is understandable that it will not be easy but if you want people to trust your site to provide a safe ad experience, then you need to meat them half way and make sure that no ad is being displayed that you have not personally looked over and verified to not be harmful. (if it is software, then install it and verify that it is safe. If you are unwilling to do this then you should never expect users to unblock your ads.

For many people who I do computer repair for. They used to frequently get their sysrems infected to a point where It was simpler to just backup all of their data, (scan the backup with multiple scanners), then restore their data to a fresh install.

In response to thos issues, I began setting firefox or chrome as their main browser, but the infections did not stop (they were reduced but not stopped). Now at over a year later, the customers who I installed adblock for, have not had a single malware issue.

I do basic maintenance when ever they call me for other tasks, and their systems have remained clean. Most users, especially novice users, typically only have a small set of websites which they visit regularly, and they tend to not venture out. The problem is that they are also easily mislead by malicious ads which cause them to unknowingly install malware

If you are going to run a website, ask yourself, did you pack your packets yourself? If not, do you know exactly what is in the packets?

If you are running a website where you just give advertisers free reign over a div element or portion of your site, then apply your web decision to real life.

Go to an airport and if before scanning anything, a guard asks you something like "did you pack the bags yourself?", then tell them "No, I did not, but but this random guy that I met at the bar, packed them for me and told me to bring them to this airport". Tell me if their mood changes, or if you get treated any differently.
 

Mr5oh

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The worst part of this article is that Toms hardware has LONG ago changed from being a site that reviews and checks hardware to a site that promotes new products for various brands (for those who dont know, when tomshardware received a massive overhaul a few years back, that was when the site went from good to propaganda).
I agree with your entire post, however this section particularly. I can't remember the last time I used Tom's when researching my next purchase. I won't name names, but usually my tech research ends up on a couple of the other big sites. The only reason I really come here is when I'm bored, and spend some time answering questions on the forum. I wouldn't be surprised if the forum is what keeps Tom's afloat these days.
 
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