An approach to fair ad blocking

An approach to fair ad blocking

The creator of Ad Block plus floats a fairly decent suggestion on allowing content publishers request that their visitors white-list their site if the reader visits fairly often (and chooses to support the site). I think the idea is OK.

Some sites, like Ars Technica—my employer for those unaware—, actually do a really good job at reigning in our ad departments and keeping things clean and unobtrusive, not the mention as relevant as possible to our readers. A lot of people who use Adblock Plus and similar systems will never know that though, assuming we participate in the same annoying practices as everyone out there:

As I stated many times before, my goal with Adblock Plus isn’t to destroy the advertising industry. In the end, the Internet does need money to run and ads are still the most universal way to distribute that money. The only problem is that ads are becoming increasingly intrusive and annoying as webmasters try to maximize their profits which is the main reason people install Adblock Plus. So the idea is to give control back to the users by allowing them to block annoying ads. Since the non-intrusive ads would be blocked less often it would encourage webmasters to use such ads, balance restored.

Now it isn’t a secret that Adblock Plus hasn’t been performing particularly well towards that goal. While users can theoretically choose not to block ads on some sites, most users simply install Adblock Plus, choose a filter subscription (which will block all ads without exceptions) and forget about Adblock Plus. Which is totally understandable — everything works so why should they do anything now? Currently only a tiny minority of users has Adblock Plus installed (somewhere around 5% of Firefox users) but the current trend discriminates webmasters in favor of users instead of restoring the balance.

Check out the process that would be exposed to the reader upon the placement of a meta tag in the page’s source. It would essentially throw down a little “decision bar” stating:

“It seems that you are a frequent visitor to example.com. The owner of this website indicated that no annoying advertising is used here. Would you like to disable Adblock Plus on example.com to support it?”

I like that language. The user also gets the options to see what the site would looks like with ad blocking disabled, the ability to ignore forever the wishes of the site operator (for example if they were lying about the annoying bit), and to “ask again later.” I think these are OK, but I think there should also be a button with language like “Yes! I would like to support example.com by disabling ad-blocking on this site.” Obviously that’s a little verbose, but someone could work to distill it down to 2-4 words.