Did you know that you don’t absolutely have to look at ads on the internet? There are programs that block them completely, ranging from free to paid-for, and they simply work as plugins to your favourite browser. All you do, is download and install them and browse your favourite websites as you normally do, and your viewing experience will be 100% ad-free.
One of the favourites here at the HTXT offices is a free app called Adblock, a small program designed specifically for Google’s Chrome browser. It was created by a one-man team, and it blocks everything from banner ads to those annoying video ads that run on popular sites like YouTube and Gamespot before you get to what you actually clicked on. The beauty of it is, it’s completely free. The author does request that if you like it to donate a small something so he can cover his expenses, and honestly it proved so effective, I personally gave the guy a little something-something for his time and effort. That and Start8 from Stardock were the best online purchases I’ve ever made.
So that’s good, right? Well, it would be if I hadn’t come across the news that Google is trying to stop this sort of app from damaging its ad business this weekend. The gist of the story is that some of the biggest companies – Google included – whose revenue is derived directly from internet advertising are paying to have their ads “whitelisted” by one of the more popular ad-blocking apps, Adblock Plus. Even though the people at AdBlock Plus don’t think they’re doing anything wrong by having Google’s ads whitelisted under their “Acceptable Ads” initiative, I think they’re exploiting a loophole to ensure paying clients don’t have their revenue streams damaged by software that blocks what they’re peddling. Call me cynical, but to me that’s unethical and I don’t like it one bit.
Worse, it may be an indication that other ad-blocking services will soon get the same treatment, and I don’t look forward to living in a world where my eyelids are essentially being held open so that advertising can be broadcast directly into my brain. If you read my rant on the Xbox One being designed around ad-delivery that was posted over the weekend, you’ll understand that this concern isn’t exactly unfounded.
On the other hand, I understand why it’s being done: advertising is big money, and Google et al don’t want the internet as a whole to cotton on to the fact that their advertising strategies are 100% blockable. I, however, like the freedom to choose whether I want to see ads or not, and I don’t like the idea that companies are circumventing that choice.
I might be deluded in thinking I have much control over how advertising affects me personally, but with services like Adblock I feel I have at least a modicum of control over what I do and don’t see, and I’d like to keep it that way.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, either.