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back to article German freemail firms defend AdBlock-nobbling campaign

German freemail sites deny attempting to "trick" Firefox and Chrome users into disabling AdBlock, the popular ad blocking browser add-on. Last week security blogger Michael Büker accused web.de and gmx.net of using what he claimed were "deceptive techniques" in order to hoodwink Firefox and Chrome users into removing AdBlock and …

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Re: "Merely...make money"

The issue was more subtle:

the message shown on top of the page was made to look exactly like a warning from within the browser, screenshots here:

http://heise.de/-2125592

...which is what was bemoaned.

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Mushroom

Re: "Merely...make money"

Don't give me that tough-luck story! It's not like people who rip-off movies and music, they are genuinely doing something illegal and businesses do suffer, although the jury is still out about the true cost on that one.

An ad-blocker is not illegal any more than wearing blinkers while walking down the street to avoid seeing billboards or switching off your TV when you know the ads are coming. If they don't like people using them then they can organise a class action and get an injunction banning them from being offered. Otherwise they can either charge more for the service they want to offer, to cover the bills or get out of the business in question.

These websites sign up to ad services and they simply leave a place-holder in the page with no idea what ads are being pushed through that slot! I'm sure they have a choice of adult/non-adult adverts other than that do you really think they give a shit about about what's being sold through that slot? Give me a break, I have no sympathy for advertising agencies their whole existence is to make you buy stuff. They don't care how they do it and they don't care if you can afford it or even if you need it. They don't care if it screws the planet when it's no longer wanted, they just want you to buy the latest piece if plastic garbage from "Shiity Products Ltd ( tm)", once they have your money they couldn't care less about you! So guess what? I don't care about them, hence why I block adverts at every opportunity.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

I'll accept this just as soon as I get a refund for ad providers that notice I am using an Android phone and push a ~400K .apk with each page I looked at. When I noticed, I'd burned through a meg and a half. So I'm paying for your crappy adverts... Thanks, but given a choice I'd block this rubbish.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

"An ad-blocker is not illegal"

It's actually a breach of copyright as you are creating a derivative work of the page (deliberately not loading content) without permission from the copyright holder.

If you don't want adverts on your web pages, start *PAYING* for the services you use.

FFS "The H Online" shut down because of assholes refusing to pay (either in cash, or by having ads served).

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Coat

Re: "Merely...make money"

"It's actually a breach of copyright as you are creating a derivative work of the page "

<sarc mode>

At last we can get IE6 banned because it does not render pages properly, and is therefore unlawfully infringing copyright.

</sarc mode>

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Re: "Merely...make money"

Don't mind ads per se (except ones which flash annoyingly).

Do mind the pause while the bloody ad server delivers the ad.

Websites who don't want people to use ad blockers should insist that advertisers have hardware and connections which are up to speed.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

If you had read, for example, this blog:

http://labs.bromium.com/2014/02/21/the-wild-wild-web-youtube-ads-serving-malware/

You will see how an advert could have installed something nasty on one's machine. The malware clearly came from doubleclick.net so this one case is justification alone to block adverts.

There are other good and valid reasons; as someone else has commented above me that the downloading of the real content is delayed until the blasted adverts are delivered. If the adverts arrived after the information that one wishes to see then it wouldn't be so bad.

Thirdly, some sites charge a fee for access and they still load it up with adverts. The financial site ADVFN, for example, is almost unreadable without an ad-blocker and I have paid my subscription fee.

So, no. Until the advertising business starts to behave and deliver adverts that I can trust and after the main page's content then there is no reason to have the adverts delivered. And, anyway, I refuse to click on an advert served to me so I am not 'stealing' from anyone.

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Gav

Re: "Merely...make money"

"a breach of copyright as you are creating a derivative work of the page"

So if I rip a newspaper page in two, I've breached copyright? Or if I clip an article out of a magazine, for my own use, I've breached copyright?

How about if I take a black marker and score out the bits in a newspaper I don't want to read ? Or how about if I hold my hand over those bits so I don't see them?

You've got a fair point regarding ads, but the "breach of copyright" angle just isn't going to fly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

> If you had read, for example, this blog:

Web pages also have drive-by download malware. Do you block the Internet? No. You just don't want to pay a fair price. You are a freeloader. That is why companies are going to the all.

> content is delayed until the blasted adverts are delivered.

Nothing wrong with that, the advert is PAYING for the content because you don't!

> Thirdly, some sites charge a fee for access and they still load it up with adverts.

Don't use those sites then, or pay more.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

> So if I rip a newspaper page in two, I've breached copyright? Or if I clip an article out of a magazine, for my own use, I've breached copyright?

Of course not because you have created an additional copy, have you? The clue is in the name "copyright" and in "the right to make copies".

The act of viewing something on a computer screen is publishing (i.e. making a copy). Technical issues/limitations to one side, you should see the content as the creator intended. DELIBERATELY altering that content is creating a derivative work without license and against the law. This is the same reason why PVRs that can auto-skip adverts (the things that PAY for the content) are not available - breach of copyright.

Don't like the adverts on a site? Either pay for an advert-free version or stop using the site.

Simple.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"It's actually a breach of copyright"

Wha'evvuh. Is this face bothered?

"If you don't want adverts on your web pages, start *PAYING*"

Sure. Just as soon as the tat promoters start paying me for the computing resources (CPU, disk cache and memory) their unwanted crap is consuming.

Because it's my system, I'm the admin and I say what goes on it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

You sir are an idiot.

Nothing is being created only certains parts are being seen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

Viewing something on a screen is not publishing, you are quite wrong. Secondly, no one has made any copies, changes or derivatives, simply viewed only part of the content.

As a website operator you can send all the adverts you want, people are under no obligation to view them.

Simple.

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WTF?

Re: "Merely...make money"

Quote: "you should see the content as the creator intended. DELIBERATELY altering that content is creating a derivative work without license and against the law."

Nonsense, the whole point of HTML is that the pages are rendered how the user wants to see the page, not how the author wanted it to be viewed. While the author does have some control, (colours, text scale etc.) the user has control over what font to use, what size, whether to load images or not. These are all standard settings within any Web Browser, and any author of a web page knows this (or should). Just because most people leave the settings at their default, does not remove their right to change these if they so desire.

If the author wants their content to be viewed in a specific way, then they need use a format suitable for that, such as an image (JPEG etc.), PDF, or a <shudder> Flash site etc.

If an author chooses to use HTML, then expect your content not to look the same from one user to the next, based on their local user preferences.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

@ BongoJoe

Hence why the following is always added to the hosts file of all my PCs, home and work:

127.0.0.1 doubleclick.net

Speeded up loading times no end :-D

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

I think I might have come across your website - is it that one that if it detects Adblock it brings up a message telling me that I'm breaking the law by stealing your content and its breach of copyright?

If so then you really do need to get out and get a life and understand how the real world works.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

> The act of viewing something on a computer screen is publishing (i.e. making a copy).

No. You are wrong. It is the web site(s) that is publishing (ie creating a copy that it sends to your screen). In the case where ads are coming from different sites (eg doubleclick) the several sites are 'publishing' and each site has its own copyright (or license) to publish those copies.

As the primary site has no idea what the ad sites will send there is no overall copyright on the whole page. So blocking ad sites may breach some terms of trade, if it can be shown that you actually agreed, but nothing to do with copyright.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

> Nothing wrong with that, the advert is PAYING for the content because you don't!

You make little sense.. I have paid the going rate for the subscription sites because that is the rate charged by the vendor. Therefore, you are contradicting yourself - if I am paying the going rate for the data then why aren't I getting what I want first?

> Web pages also have drive-by download malware. Do you block the Internet?

Not every web page. Perhaps I don't go onto the sites which contain these items of malware but that doesn't mean that the advertising agencies on those sites have the right to dish out malware.

Do you really revel in all that crap these advertisers send to you? Perhaps it makes you feel important that these people are sending you pop-up adverts, pop-under adverts and obstructive adverts that generally get in the way; I don't. I find it clogs the bandwidth, slows down the browser because of another poorly written Flash advert shows the brower to a near terminal halt and, quite simply, the advertiers have gone too far.

Do you also read all the blow-in rubbish that you get in magazines? Do you read with enthusiasm the latest offer from Micheal Parkinson on a funeral fund, or perhaps you delight in hearing about the new Thora Hird 'Stairway to Heaven' stairlift before filling in the latest in somewhat uncertain lotteries which you have managed to win a cruise to the Bahamas or was that a banana?

I run a website which charges a subscription fee. And guess how many adverts I have on there? None. There's a good reason for this; I charge the going rate which I have determined and, as a consequnce, I don't feel it is right or appropriate to pester the members with unwanted adverts.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

Boothy, absolutely.

I have a rather extensive HOSTS file which I share out to chums. As you say, it makes loading times a lot easier and it allows me to get the data for which I ask.

And as I say; if the advertisers wish me to see their adverts then all they have to do is to rein in their wares to a respectable volume, don't dish out Flash and no malware.

I've been over to the US a few times and have had the misfortune to try to watch their television shows as they are broadcast. Open show for a few minutes, advert, title credits, adverts and then a series of adverts interrupted by programme. I am not condoning the practise; but this is why people download programmes because an hour show there can be 21 minutes of 'stuff'.

Some adverts? Fine. Too many and you spoil it for yourselves and everyone else.

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Stop

Re: "Merely...make money"

"The act of viewing something on a computer screen is publishing (i.e. making a copy)."

If that is true, it is just one of the things wrong with copyright law as presently constituted. The notion that I should be prohibited by law from installing on my equipment a program to pick and choose what things to display on my screen is simply perverse, much like the idiotic notion that maintaining a copyright beyond 10 - 20 years from the initial creation date provides a meaningful incentive to create new works rather than a disincentive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

> Viewing something on a screen is not publishing, you are quite wrong.

Actually I'm quite right. Various states use such a defintion to enforce a variety of laws (everything from copyright to child protection). Hardly my fault if you are clueless.

"Secondly, no one has made any copies, changes or derivatives, simply viewed only part of the content."

So only one person can view an image at one time? Wrong. Copies have been made. As for partial content viewing, the courts have already ruled on that and once again, you are wrong.

Three strikes, yer outta here!

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Re: "Merely...make money"

Explain to me how you would provide a free email service without ads, and then we can have a sensible discussion. Ranting about advertising agencies is not an argument, it's just a rant.

I wouldn't. I pay for my eMail seperate from my web hosting which is seperate again from my internet connection.

Or if I had to then I would make sure that the adverts were appropriate, non malicious, non obtrusive and generally didn't get in the way of the site. I have done this before in the past for sites which were free and I wanted to serve specific adverts to the viewer.

I did this with an .asp add-in on to the page and because I did it properly I had no complaints.

But the point is it doesn't matter what the service is: the adverts quite simply get in the way. If there were a reasonable number of adverts then we wouldn't need Ad Blocker. The advertisers have spoiled it for everyone.

I guess that you're in the advertising trade then, AC?

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"The act of viewing something on a computer screen is publishing (i.e. making a copy). Technical issues/limitations to one side, you should see the content as the creator intended. DELIBERATELY altering that content is creating a derivative work without license and against the law. This is the same reason why PVRs that can auto-skip adverts (the things that PAY for the content) are not available - breach of copyright."

It's already been decided that an in-memory, working copy of whatever does not count as a "copy" for copyright purposes. Otherwise, just playing back a DVD would require special permission of the copyright holder. Also, you seem to have a grave misunderstanding of copyright law. Nobody here is altering the content, they are refusing to load 3rd-party content that is unrelated to the page being displayed. Also, you do not need a license to create a derivative use for private use, as you are not actually distributing any copyrighted work at that point.

That said, I *only* block pop-ups, they are illegitimate in that they load content outside the scope of the page responsible (i.e. in a different tab or window.) Other adverts? No, I don't block them. If a site is too ad-heavy I just don't go to it any more (I haven't had to leave a site for this reason in a while though; I think site operators now realize if they go too crazy with the ads they'll lose too many viewers, and porn and pirate sites have "valuable" enough content that viewers put up with excessive ads.)

Also, I have a PVR that will automatically skip ads. Why aren't many on the market? Some kind of gentleman's agreement, as near as I can tell.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

>> Viewing something on a screen is not publishing, you are quite wrong.

> Actually I'm quite right. Various states use such a defintion to enforce a variety of laws (everything from copyright to child protection). Hardly my fault if you are clueless.

No, it is you that is clueless. Whether various states do any such thing is irrelevant as I do not live in those states and therefore those laws do not apply.

"""To publish is to make content available to the general public."""

The web site makes web pages available to the public, viewing them on your computer does not. Even if several family and friends are watching that is _not_ 'the general public'.

"""In the United States, publication is defined as:

the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

To perform or display a work "publicly" means –

(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

—17 USC 101 """

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Re: "Merely...make money"

> an hour show there can be 21 minutes of 'stuff'.

If it wasn't for the adverts people would starve to death.

ps: I recall that when particular programs have been on the electricity distributors could tell when an ad break started and many switched on the kettles at the same time.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"..something on a computer screen is publishing.."

You won't stop, right? :(

By reading El Reg, are you showing your computer screen to everyone in your neighborhood? If not, then how is publishing and not consuming.

A consumer has every right to consume the product delivered to it in ways he wants, unless he's not spreading it further.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"".. free email service without ads.."

You serve just the images and texts and I am fine with the ads. Even AdBlock allows them. When it came to your mind that advertising cannot be done without strip-searching you?

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"If you don't want adverts on your web pages, start *PAYING* for the services you use."

To start: fuck you. With a bronzed goat. Sideways. Covered in a lovely capsaicin and piperine salve. Just so that I can set the tone of my complete and utter contempt for your position.

When and where the opportunity to pay for a service is offered, I'll gladly do so. I will not allow advertisements through. If a website has a problem with that they can offer me the option of paying a subscription or of simply denying service altogether to those who use privacy and anti-malware defenses such as adblock, noscript and so forth.

The information has been published. I am within my right to make a derivative work. Just like I'm within my right to cut up TIME magazine, apply some glue and glitter and make art. The difference is merely one of result: Instead of arts and crafts I am protecting my privacy and preventing my system from getting pwned by malware. It has the added benefit of protecting myself from the increasingly sophisticated psyops that is modern marketing.

My rights to privacy, security and independence of thought come before the highly dubious and outright outrageous "rights" of commercial entities to claim copyright on the rendered output of a webpage.

If you want me to stop you are going to have to kill me, because that is the only way I will cease and desist using privacy and security protections on the internet. You can send men with guns to my house to attempt to drag me away on trumped up charges. I will not comply.

I do not recognize the authority of any entity - neither person nor government - to tell me that I must suborn my privacy, security and independence of thought to the "right" of a corporation to make money. It is so completely unethical that standing up against that concept is something I consider worth dying for.

A world where law can dictate what people must see? A world where the individual is tracked by government and corporation through every interaction of their life? A world where it is legal for corporations and governments to spend billions on researching and developing the most complex models and techniques for individual and group manipulation that has ever been developed and where it is illegal for an individual to defend themselves against this manipulation?

That's a fucking dystopia. One I refuse to help build. It is a world I absolutely do not countenance and one I will fight against with every tool at my disposal.

Fortunately, the best way to fight against this particular psypocalype is to spread knowledge. The free flow of information, tools, techniques and technologies are the greatest threat to the clowns who believe they have the right to tell the rest of the world what to think, what to say, what to do and what to believe.

If you want to get paid, put a script on the site that detects adblock and throws up a paywall to those users. You offer a good or service and you receive money in return. That's fair and just. Demanding our privacy, security and independence of thought as payment for anything is neither.

So with that, I return to my original statement: fuck you. With a bronzed goat. Sideways. Covered in a lovely capsaicin and piperine salve. And that goes douuble for the rest of the entitled fucks who believe the same as you. Our privacy, security and minds are not your playthings...and you've no right to ask for them in payment for anything.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

@Fihart

Websites who don't want people to use ad blockers should serve the ads from their own web-site and leave out all the third party spyware.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

As most of you know, websites unfortunately have almost no control over the adverts served by the advertising service they use, no matter how much control they claim to offer. All they can do is encourage users to report objectionable ones.

And chasing up potential advertisers is far too much hassle for most websites, which is why very few host their own ads.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Merely...make money"

""It's actually a breach of copyright as you are creating a derivative work of the page ""

Nonsense. I make a derivative work of my TV picture during adverts by turning the sound off and reading something, must be a bad person.

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Re: "Merely...make money"

"So if I rip a newspaper page in two, I've breached copyright? Or if I clip an article out of a magazine, for my own use, I've breached copyright?"

Exactly.

Picture the scene; it's a Sunday afternoon and you're sitting in the lounge reading the Sunday papers with your spouse.

"Darling. Have you finished with the sports section?"

"Yes, shall I pass it over to you?"

"Oh, please darling. But only if you pass the main section, the news analysis section, the London theatre supplement even though we live hundreds of miles away. And don't forget the car adverts and the section which has the holidays and, oh is that the jobs sections too?"

"Yes, dear.. And there's also a broadsheet which appears to be an advertisement for frozen foods. Would you want that too?"

"Yes please, darling. I wouldn't want to get prosectured for breach of coyright by 'publishing' my own newspaper out of these parts here on the lounge coffee table."

"Oh, you are ever so clever and adorable. Aren't I fortunate to live with such a person who can guide me through the complexities of copyright law."

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Facepalm

Re: "Merely...make money"

Y'know what's really sad? It's that sometime sooner or later, some pissed-off Web ad-slinging outfit is going to hire a lawyer to try to obtain an injunction against the people who create utilities like FlashBlock, AdBlock and NoScript for just this reason... perhaps copyright nit-picking along with some weak-assed balloon juice about "restraint of trade".

(only using this icon because El Reg doesn't have an icon version of the classic Captain Picard "facepalm")

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Pint

Re: "...with a bronzed goat"

What a mental image that is.

I'm gobsmacked -- in a good way.

Sadly, I can only give this post one (1) upvote.

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/sigh

Its so much easier to just put up a message, like ITV has, saying "We need advertising revenue. Please dissable adblock to continue to use this page."

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JDX
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Re: /sigh

Or find how to trick Adblock rather than Adblock users.

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Re: /sigh

Ars Technica did that a while back as an experiment.

They changed their page so that if adblock was enabled, not only were adds removed, but so was all the content. Apparently the idea was to start a debate on pretty much this kind of topic. Users were given 3 options, pay subscription, whitelist the site, or deal with it. Apparently the 'deal with it' crowd were rather vocal.

However not long after they did this, adblock changed the extension so it worked around the content strip.

This brings about two thoughts for me personally

I actually somewhat approve of this system, it seems... fair. Either pay for ad free, or don't and deal with adverts. I'll agree that sites need to get funding from somewhere. But I can also see a level of potential abuse, namely getting the most annoying adverts ever, and effectively pushing people towards paying protection money, i mean subscriptions to avoid them.

I grabbed adblock personally because I was getting peeved going to sites which had those banner ads that popped out and covered half the screen (normally funnily enough right as you clicked on something) or the ones with audio. Right now I have adblock set to allow unobtrusive adverts and that works for me. I still don't generate any revenue because I never click the darn things, but still.

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Re: /sigh

I tend to just run flash-block rather than ad block (or if using chrome/opera set flash to 'ask me' in the settings). That gets rid of the most annoying and slow to load ads, while leaving static pictures and text in place.

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Re: /sigh

The whole concept of creating a revenue from people using adblock is a bit stupid. Ads make money when people buy things. People install adblock because they made a conscious decision that they do not want see ir buy advertised wares. Forcing them to see ads generated zero income. (more views maybe, but less value per view)

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Re: /sigh

you mean.... like... being honest? from an advertiser?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: /sigh

The whole concept of creating a revenue from people using adblock is a bit stupid. Ads make money when people buy things. People install adblock because they made a conscious decision that they do not want see ir buy advertised wares. Forcing them to see ads generated zero income. (more views maybe, but less value per view)

I know people find this hard to believe, but no matter how advertising-savvy you actually are, the ads will have a measurable effect. At the very least they will increase awareness of a specific brand/product/category, and that will always have value to marketers.

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Re: /sigh

"Ads make money when people buy things."

True. But it's not just the click-thu's. Just seeing the ads is creating a brand awareness too and that's also valuable to the advertisers.

As someone else posted, I also use flashblock and a pop-upblocker. I don't mind ads, but when the cover the content or flash and jump to distract from the content, then I simply don't want to see it. That, in me, creates a negative brand awareness.

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Re: /sigh

"They changed their page so that if adblock was enabled, not only were adds removed, but so was all the content"

TuCows did the same thing many, many years ago. All the download links went via their ad server. If you blocked the ads you could no longer download any software from them. I used other sites instead. TuCows have gone.

I blocked the ads because they switched from static ads to pop-ups, pop-unders, noisy, animated and every other nasty trick to grab your attention away from the reason you were on the site in the first place. Adxvertising is like an arms race and the people they want to attract are the ones they are pissing off.

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Re: /sigh

sound is what got me, I run ad block solely for that. I do NOT want web page in a background tab making noise all the sudden at work. I feel kind of bad for it, but if networks won't limit themselves to reasonable ads, what else can I do?

Personally I always liked the project wonderful ads from a couple of web-comics I have been known to read. They are unobtrusive, and pay for the time they are on the the site, not per click.

All that said, considering Trevor_Potts response above, I'd kinda like to see his response to the Ars Technica "experiment."

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Re: /sigh

Go read the comments section of that article on Ars and you'll see my response. I was absolutely not fond of the fact that it came without warning, but I bought an Ars subscription and held it for quite some time. Their science reporting was the best on earth, and well worth the money.

When I eventually swore off Ars forever the reason was that I had - and have - some significant moral objections to how they handled the discovery that Snowden was one of their commenters. Their actions were not remotely "okay", a far greater moral issue for me than the concept that they want to be paid for their work.

To save you the trouble of hunting down my responses, my view on the issue is this:

Ars has a history of doing things that could under most circumstances be if not "cool", then at least justifiable...but executing them in such a godawful way as to alienate their own core readership.

How they handled subscriptions was a fantastic example. The rationale "we want to be paid for our work" was entirely understandable. The out of nowhere blocking with inclusion of nasty message was not. They could have engaged their readers over the period of a few weeks. Let us know what was coming down the pipe, eased us into the idea then initiated the block. That would have caused less of an explosive reaction.

It's like they get all the hard things right (science reporting) and screw up all the easy bits (applying the bast 150 years of science in group dynamics to manage a readership.) How you handle people matters. While I agree with Ars' reasoning, their approach in that instance was uncool.

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Security

Advertising is a big security risk. Even responsible advertisers are known to leak exploity flash adverts for our consumption. Then there's Java, not to mention all the false virus blocker and download ads. Ad blockers increase security, full stop.

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Re: Security

Exactly,

I have two problems with modern ads:

1) I am wasting cpu cycles and memory to have these things shown due to the hundreds or even thousands of lines of Javascript or Flash/ActionScript running from somewhere else, which brings me to:

2) All that code is hosted on a server that neither myself nor the organization running the website can control and the advertisers don't have much of an incentive to police so long as the money keeps rolling in.

I wouldn't mind advertisements that were just basic JPGs or GIFs hosted on the website itself. I also wouldn't mind if the website shipped its access logs off to the advertiser to analyze, they already end up with all that information and a lot more with the current ad systems.

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