The Advertising Bubble

HT12Zt5FJhXXXagOFbX4Awhile back I wrote about how Java now requires Terminal skills to install without adding the Ask toolbar to your system. As much as I’m pro anything that encourages people to learn CLI, this pissed me off. Then this morning I was doing my standard reading and heard how iOS is now seemingly going to allow extensions, to which someone reacted saying that it will be possible to block ads in Safari on both OS X and iOS.

Let’s start off by getting this out of the way: I block ads. I do it all the time unless I have a specific reason not to, and I advise everyone I know to do the same. As you can plainly see my site is ad-free, as are all sites I operate (this is less obvious to you fellow ad blockers but trust me, there’s nothing there.)

As a producer of free content in many forms I often come up against an elephant in the room: the astonishing number of ads on the Internet today are what is funding the free content we all enjoy. I understand this, as long as we exclude the fact that so many users block ads and that the typical banner ad has a click through rate of 0.07%. Much like HBO’s business model this concept does elude me.

Anyway, conceptually it’s stealing. The “price” of getting the content you’re reading is supposed to be you look at all the ads, or at least we assume you look at all the ads. Again with the above points I don’t know how anyone assumes those things. Now I’m no advertising fan, but I constantly allow ads to pervade my life without complaint. I don’t mind. So why do I block ads?


The simple fact is that ads on computers and mobile devices are getting increasingly dangerous. I’ve cleaned out two computers in the last week from people who I know cruise only legit websites, one of which was my mother, who had gotten infections. Do I know for certain those infections came courtesy of ads? No, but no other answer makes sense. My mom is a smart lady; she doesn’t install packs of cursors or emoticon packs or any of that crap, and really doesn’t install anything at all other than The Sims.

Ads have been a security risk on Windows machines for a long time, nothing new there. Google Adsense is better than most, their review process seems to do a pretty good job of catching nefarious and destructive code before it lands on people’s computers. But they are the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of these ad networks idle and shady and rev all the way up to Bond villain levels of evil. As long as they’re getting paid they don’t seem to care one damn bit what their servers are pushing, and why would they?


Ad. Servers. Are. Slow. Unbelievably so in many cases, the servers that spew ads all day are occasionally unforgivingly slow. Usually it doesn’t matter, but in isolated cases (such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes) when you click an article to open it, you’re directed through an ad page that makes you wait some arbitrary amount of time before you’re allowed to continue. That’s fine, except that it’s also tied to how long the ad takes to load. This is backwards on YouTube of course, where the servers putting up the ads always stream in 1080p, 60fps and the ones handling the actual content seem to be running on an x86.

Also, many times on many websites where I read interesting things, the loading of an ad triggers a re-layout on the page. This is more a sign of crummy web development than the ads themselves being bad, but the developers are responsible for all of that experience, not just the portions that they find fun.

A special example is on one of my favorite comedy sites when their ads load they cause the whole page to snap to the top, which is just great on a mobile device on a slow connection.


This is a big part of why I don’t go to SourceForge anymore: Open any big time SourceForge project and try to download it. Without your ad blocker, you’ll see between two and four download buttons. By the way, this page auto-downloads the file, you don’t actually need to click a download button. I don’t want to think how many even fairly savvy users this has snared. It’s deliberate, malicious, outright deception and screw you and everything you stand for if you do this. This is literally like sticking a cheap ass Asus tablet in an iPad box and charging $500 for it, except the Asus tablet also will come to life and try to steal your wallet and knife you in your sleep.

So what now?

I don’t know. I’m not claiming to have a solution here, I’m just complaining to the wind. If the ad companies are reading this and want to know why Ad Blockers are on the rise, and why no one will allow them to do business anymore, well guys, you fucked that relationship. You got greedy and stupid and took advantage of people, and now that the common user is going to have the power to shut you out of our experience for good I don’t think you have long to figure out a new business to be in.

Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. You won’t be missed.