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By oneandoneis2 at 2006-07-03 03:50
If you want to get a heated debate going, go to a forum with both webmasters and end-users and ask about the ethics of adblocking. Then stand well back.

However, there are more ways of dealing with unpleasant advertising than simply blocking it. This article attempts to give an overview of these methods.

The first point to consider is that by blocking all adverts, indiscriminately, you effectively remove yourself from the advertising statistics. If, for example, you find pop-ups especially annoying and block them, but block all banner ads as well, you can't expect advertisers to interpret this as "We should stop using pop-ups".

Advertisers do not use pop-up (and -under) adverts because they enjoy irritating customers. They do so because, being a very intrusive means of advertising, pop-ups demand more attention, and thus people click on them more often. In contrast, a banner ad is more easily ignored or overlooked. Thus, advertisers invest more in pop-ups.

If, however, everybody who saw pop-ups refused to click on them, then pop-ups would not be used. So the first strategy in reducing undesirable adverts is very simple: Refuse to click on them, and try to encourage others to do the same. Most pop-ups are annoying enough to be closed instantly. If, by some miracle, they should show something you really want to find out more about, resist the urge to click on them "just this once": Every time you click a pop-up, you are asking for more pop-ups. Ignore all pop-up content, without exception. If it shows you something that looks really interesting, check the host website for a banner ad leading to the same site: That skews that statistics back towards using banners. Failing that, there's always Google.

Even the most demanding webmaster, however bitter he might be about adblocks, can't insist that you have to click on the adverts on his site. So your first strategy is to simply remove the incentive for advertisers to use "bad" adverts, by not rewarding them with clicks.

Secondly, you have to face the fact that websites cost money to run, and webmasters need an income from somewhere. It's not fair to website to regularly enjoy its content and not contribute anything to the cost of supplying it. More selfishly, it's not likely a commercial website will stay in existence if it costs its owner more than it earns, so if you like a site, support its upkeep. Many websites have an option of paying for an ad-free experience. If a site you like has no such option, suggest that they implement it. Paying members offer a more reliable income than adverts.

Those two strategies are good for sites you visit regularly, and if you take the long view. If you're more worried about pesky ads that show up every time you browse the web today, you'll want something a bit more immediate. So, let's start with the more passive methods.

To begin with, many adverts rely on flash or java functionality. You're not actually obliged to have support for either in your browser. You could consider disabling such functionality unless you specifically want it.

Even more extreme, if your dislike of adverts is related to the amount of bandwidth they consume, you could consider a text-only browser. Linux offers several, such as lynx and links. Both are immune to pop-up windows, flash, java, banners, and in fact anything other than a plain-text advert. And you're not actually blocking anything: You're just not using a browser with support for the majority of advertising methods. It's not your fault if advertisers insist on using flashy graphical adverts rather than simple text, any more than TV advertisers can complain you don't see their ads when you listen to the radio.

For those sites where you just can't do pure text (webcomics, for starters), but can't face being bombarded with adverts, you'll need to start getting more active than the fairly passive approaches above. Start with eliminating the most obnoxious type: Get a pop-up blocker.

Most decent browsers have these built-in these days. If you're not using one of them, there are plenty of downloads available that will fix this. They won't stop all popups, but they'll catch the majority.

If after this you're still not happy with the quality of your web surfing, it's time to stop pussyfooting around and start actively blocking adverts. However, there are two different ways of doing this: You can allow ads to be downloaded, but block them from being displayed, or you can block them from ever being downloaded.

The advantage of the first approach is that webmasters still get money from pay-per-view adverts, whilst the advantage of the second is obviously that you don't waste time & bandwidth downloading an advert you’re not even going to see.

Exactly how you accomplish either of the two methods is browser-dependant. If you use Firefox, you accomplish the first by putting some rules in your userContent.css file. For example:

display: none !important;

This will download, but stop you from seeing, all "" content. Expand the list as you see fit, or download a pre-existing ruleset such as can be found at

This works perfectly, but changes made to the CSS file only take effect after Firefox is restarted, and it's a bit laborious to manually insert every objectionable advert server. When it comes to dynamically selecting websites to block the downloading of content, you need to install an adblocking extension, also readily downloadable from Mozilla's website.

With the extension installed, any time you see an advert you wish wasn't there, simply right-click it with your mouse and select the Adblock option. Before OKing it, however, bear in mind that the default is to only block that one, specific advert. If, for example, you click on the advert and block it, that's one of thousands blocked, but none of the others.

If you amend the adblock rule to* you've blocked every single advert that site can ever try to show you. Wildcards are your friend when it comes to adblocks.

But, as ever, indiscriminate blocking is not the best strategy. Don't ban every advert you ever see, just because you can: Apply some critical thought. Not all adverts are annoying, unwanted intrusions.
  • If it flashes rapidly in bright colors, ban it - these things are very distracting.
  • If it pretends to be a message from your computer, ban it - these are not adverts, they're phishing scams in a different format.
  • If it obscures the actual page content, ban it - you visit a page to view it, not to view its adverts.
  • If it's small, unobtrusive, and relevant to the page, leave it alone. Or, if it interests you, click on it. Don't ban it just because it's an advert.

by herd on Wed, 2006-07-26 01:16
Let me disagree.

Every ad costs bandwidth, distracts you from the content you are after, costing you money, time and attention span.

There is no such thing as a good ad.

Ads, scams and frauds use the same entry. Blocking them indiscriminately removes the nuisance together with the dangerous, so what? Lest the difference between an ad and a scam is only gradual, they all want your money one way or the other. You should be able to browse the net without getting hit into the face that someone wants to sell something to you each and every split second, shouldn't you?

Hosting gets so cheap these days that small range webmasters can easily afford to skip them, larger ones can employ other means of funding.

By not appearing on their statistics you also don't appear on their data mining facilities and get some privacy back. Perhaps you even attract less spam and that would be worth it alone.

I am so happy with Linux because if I install a printer driver or a virus scanner, it does not modify my PC to a corporate branded gadget.

I am so happy with FOSS because if I install some software, it does not need to pollute my system with some browser toolbars that are actually spyware pretending to be desktop search engines.

So, modifying the instructions you gave in your excellent article, let me add my own:

Take it personally.
Understand each ad as an attack on your privacy.
Handle each ad as a personal insult.
Block them all.
Put them out of business.
Take back the web.
Don't care about emptying webmasters pockets. This revenue costs too much. If you liked someone, donate.
Don't use freeware that comes bundled with adware or spyware, be it installable or browseable.

by oneandoneis2 on Wed, 2006-07-26 09:30
Let me disagree.

Every ad costs bandwidth, distracts you from the content you are after, costing you money, time and attention span.
Quite true. A slightly-less-tolerant blog post of mine on the topic of adblocking actually got linked from the AdBlock Plus website a while ago on pretty much that topic.

Blocking them indiscriminately removes the nuisance together with the dangerous, so what?
But this is where I disagree.

There are websites where you can go to download TV adverts - and they're very popular. Why? Because some TV adverts are genuinely funny/entertaining enough that people *want* to see them, enough so that they'll hunt them down and download them in order to do so. (My favourite example being this one)

And there are a few - just a few - adverts that I either don't mind, or positively enjoy seeing. Google's adverts when I do a search are often relevant enough that I click on them because they're actually more useful than most of the search results pages.

The UserFriendly comic occasionally has advertising drives to get people to upgrade to Paid Subscription - and although I have such a sub, I don't use the ad-free version of the page: The adverts take the form of an alternative strip, which is replaced by the real one after 30 seconds. That's like getting two strips in one day - I *benefit* from UF advertising.

Any advert that's annoying, intrusive, deceptive, or in any way undesireable gets adblocked mercilessly and permanently. But blocking the few types of advert that are actually enjoyable, useful, or otherwise worth seeing? No, such adverts should be encouraged, not blocked indiscriminately. Advertising online isn't going to go away, believing otherwise is wishful thinking.

So doing what we can to make sure that the ads are helpful, entertaining, or in some way worth seeing, rather than annoying, intrusive, or distracting, can only be to our benefit. I'd rather advertisers were busy thinking up new ways to make my web experience better, than be busy thinking up new ways to bypass my popup blocker.


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