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Ad Blocking: the real issue

If you visited this blog with Firefox you probably saw a harsh redirect to the anti-firefox rant over at That was my intention.

If you said to yourself “what is John smoking?” then good. That, too, was my intention. If you linked to me for any reason, then thanks, that was a hoped-for bonus. But this was not so much link bait as discussion bait. I’d like to move the discussion along past the superficial rant stage. I’d like to focus the discussion on the current over dependence on Google and “ad revenue”.

I assume most of my readership is sophisticated enough about the web to recognize that anti-firefox site as an extremist rant. So FireFox enables plugins, and people are making an promoting great ad-blocking plug ins. I personally have used several of them. If Firefox didn’t open up to fabulous extensions like that, someone else would. The web will evolve. If that threatens you, then maybe you should spend your rant energies diversifying offline?

I use Greasemonkey quite a bit. It’s a system that enables me to inject javascript and inline HTML into the browser’s page rendering, in real time. I can of course block ads, but I can also number search listings, display page level meta data of my own design, swap design aspects. The web was built on the http protocol, and the web page is built on the document object model, and of course I should be able to manage that on the client side. It’s my computer and my view port. Of course corporations like Microsoft would like to lock me out of that, just as they would like to lock me out of the rest of my computer’s operating system if they could. Greasemonkey gives me some access. Firefox has no choice but support Greasemonkey – it’s built to fit in with Firefox’s open source code.

But to rant about ad blockers is to give them more attention, which will spur increased adoption of the ad blockers because they work really well. It will also cause more people to discover they can set their user agent to anything they like (you can! Really!), and that they can install all sorts of cool DOM-modifying plug-ins to their hearts’ content. Some may even finally install Opera.

I just read they are now planning to put ads on the backs of seats on airplanes. I’ve already experienced that quite a bit with Delta’s Song airline. It sucked. They left a screen brightness control so I could turn it off, but the current proposals are for ads you cannot turn off. Who wants that? I know a few psychologists who could make a legal case for a fatigue-related health concern if airlines keep you captive under FAA regulations, but force you to suffer constant visual distractions like that, with no option to turn them off. Who wants that? When ads become annoying, people will turn them off.

The issue is not ad blockers. The issue is fear. The fear that induced that anti-Firefox rant campaign. The fear of losing ad revenue (and control of ad revenue) when ad blockers are ubiquitous.

Just as we survived the destruction of pop-ups (hooray) and the throttling of email spam (sort of), we will survive the avoidance of javascript ads. A better question is, will the web survive the current over reliance on advertising?

I’ll remove the UA cloaking in a few days; thanks for switching to IE or whatever and coming in anyway.


  1. Neil wrote:

    Why I oughta… :) saved the day.

    Nice thoughtful and thought provoking post, as per usual.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2007 at 1:18 am | Permalink
  2. Good thing they won’t ever make a ad-blocker for IE then – ( :).

    The reason I use an ad blocker is not to “steal” from content developers, but so I can actually see content. I’ve been to too many sites that half of the site is all animated gif or flash ads you can can’t see the 2 paragraphs that you need to read and find the next button to move to the next 2 paragraphs on the next page with 10 different ads.

    There are some who believe ads to be stealing from the consumer. If they have to spend money per download/time on line, or even wait for content to be downloaded, it is imposing a cost the viewer.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2007 at 4:31 am | Permalink
  3. Mike wrote:

    If a site blocks Firefox, too bad for them. They’ll lose my business, because it’s my primary browser and I like it better than IE. I wouldn’t have bothered to install that ad blocker plugin before, but now I plan on it, as a matter of principle. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    Cheers, and best of luck to you on your crusade.


    Tuesday, September 4, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  4. Antonio wrote:

    For a moment you got me thinking you were actually out of your mind ;)

    Yep, I too think that those people are not only getting more people to adopt adblocker but they are also taking advantage of it by being the first ones to vocalize against it knowingly fairly well what the outcome would be. I even though it to be linkbait :)

    Wednesday, September 5, 2007 at 2:34 am | Permalink
  5. Blocking Firefox is just ignorant. Windows and Linux both have a “hosts” file that can redirect addresses (e.g. redirect to, and have all ads replaced with nothing, etc.), regardless of the browser.

    Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink