Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why I block web ads

I use Firefox. I also use Adblock Plus, Adblock Filterset.G, and NoScript with Firefox to control what gets displayed to me in my browser. Because I use these, if I view a page that is supported in part by advertising, then I am engaged in freeloading when I visit that page. It is unethical. Whether it is immoral or illegal is open to interpretation, but it is wrong and I admit to doing wrong.

Will I change? No.

I was driven to use these tools because of the increasing use of ever larger and more elaborate banner ads, culminating in the use of Flash ads complete with video and sound. All of that unwanted content delivered to my computer chews up processing, slows down my browser and gets in the way of my ability to just read the page. I got so tired of it I installed Adblock and NoScript to cut down on the computer resource consumption and adverse performance hits that a lot of these ads have on a web page.

Web owners point out that their ads are no different than print ads. I strongly beg to differ. I put up with print ads because I can ignore and/or skip them as I read the printed page they share. Print ads don't (yet) leap about the page or stream blaring multimedia content when they're exposed like web ads do. That doesn't mean I can block all web ads. Some cleverly written ad hacks do bleed through. Those that do are so obnoxious that I stop visiting the web site completely, which is what I suppose the site's owners wanted all along. Accept our content, crappy ads and all, or get out. I choose to get out.

At home I pay lots of good money for lots of bad cable content. That bad content, composed of bad ads and bad programs, have pretty much driven me away from TV (the absolute worse example being the Sci-Fi channel). I seldom take the time to watch TV for any appreciable length of time, and if I do, it's so that I can watch a DVD or tape. If I watch cable TV I surf the various channels, looking more for the latest news than anything else. Which, besides my internet connectivity, is why I keep paying $100/month for cable. I keep hoping for the day when I can cut my TV cable back to basic TV services and save nearly $50, and I think that day is very close.

If the web/digital side keeps heading down the same path as the TV side, then it won't be much longer before the same effect will be repeated. It's pretty much happened already. I don't visit any of the TV sites (NBC, CBS, ABC) except for CNN. If I do head to a site on a regular basis it's one that has little if any advertising content. For those sites that I know I'm blocking (OSNews and slashdot, for example) it's just to skim the headlines.

I want to read. News, opinion, technical information, what have you. I just want to read the page and I don't want to have to consciously ignore the over-the-top ads that cling all over the page and intrude into the printed information (the grossest example of this being TheInquirer). Too many sites make this all but impossible, and so I shield myself with these tools. I know it's wrong, but I won't be stopping any time soon, if ever. And if it ever comes down to a choice between viewing the ads or not viewing the content, then I'll choose to not view the content. Every time.

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