The adblocking revolution is months away (with iOS 9) – with trouble for advertisers, publishers and Google

The thing about print adverts was that they stayed where they were. Photo by Bethan on Flickr.

TL:DR: when Apple’s iOS 9 comes out in September, there’s going to be a dramatic uptake of ad blockers on iOS – and it’s going to have far-reaching effects not just on websites and advertisers, but potentially also on the balance in mobile platforms and even on Google’s revenues.

Now, the longer version.

Remember newspapers?

In the old days, adverts appeared in print, on the radio and on the TV. Most ad-supported news organisations that have shifted to the internet began in print.

Ads in print were straightforward. Advertisers bought space, and editors could turn them down, or sometimes decide not to run them if a story broke that would bring about an awkward juxtaposition of, say, the advert for a shoe store on page 3 and the big breaking story now being placed on page 3 about people having feet crushed by a runaway steamroller. (The ad would get moved to another page.) Print ads were hard for advertisers to track, though they could use codes and so on that would clue them in to where someone had seen one if they responded directly.

Then came the internet, and the promise of measuring which adverts people had seen, and which they had clicked, followed swiftly by the realisation that you’d be able to follow what adverts people had seen between different sites by use of tracking cookies and scripts.

Now we have the situation where news websites are plentiful (some just rewriting, sometimes by machine, sometimes not) and adverts even more so: the attempt by The Verge’s Nilay Patel to pin the blame on mobile browsers’ lack of capability has been effectively shot down by Les Orchard, who pointed out the colossal amount of data that a simple page requires.

That’s where we’re at: websites are getting overloaded with ads, beacons, trackers and scripts that are all scrambling over each other in their attempt to squeeze the last bit of information about us from every page.

But nobody asked us, the readers, along the way whether that was OK. And now, people are deciding that it’s not OK.

Block that ad!

The uptake of AdBlock and its commercial sibling Adblock Plus has been gradual, but has now reached more than 150m users, and it’s accelerating. People are getting pissed off with the huge data loads pages impose without their consent, and the idea that they’re being tracked without their consent. In this post-Snowden age, the latter particularly bugs people. Fine, I came to your site; record the fact. But you’re watching me wherever I go online? That’s not acceptable.

People are also pissed off about what can happen when they view an advert online. In all the years I’ve viewed print adverts, I’ve never had one that:
• filled the page I was trying to read and insisted I either wait or click on a particular point on the page to read the article I came for;
• moved up from off the page to insert itself in front of the article I was reading and ask me to sign up for a mailing list;
• started automatically playing a video advert while I was reading some text;
• infected my computer with malware inserted in the ad;
• ran a Javascript script that pretended I need to pay a ransom, or otherwise blocked any interaction unless I pressed a button saying “OK”;
• turned me away from the page I was reading to a completely different one demanding I download an unrelated app.

You may well have other examples. (I’ve not had the malware/Javascript experience online, but other people certainly have.)

Apple: bite me

Into this comes Apple, which guards the user experience on the iOS platform, its biggest moneymaker, very jealously. Apple’s executives and staff aren’t blind to the things that are going on; they use their phones, and they get the same experiences. User experience is what Apple puts above pretty much everything else, and they’ve decided that they don’t like the experience available through the ad-supported web, and so they’re going to do something about it. Hence content blockers for Safari (and all web views) on iOS 9, which wasn’t announced onstage at WWDC but was one of those “Whoa!” moments on browsing through the Settings in the first iOS 9 beta. (Do read the link in the previous sentence, which explains what iOS 9 content blockers are, and are not.) Hence also Apple News, which is basically “all those sites but with the crap taken out”.

The ad intrusion situation on mobile is arguably worse than on desktop, since people are more sensitive about the amount of data they download on mobile, and their phones are less powerful so that complex layouts take longer.

You can get some adblockers for Android (though reviews for the main one are mixed), though you can’t get AdBlock Plus. You can get Ghostery (which shows you what you’re being tracked by) for Android. But there’s nothing like either presently for iOS.

That’s going to change, and I think the advent of iOS 9 and content blocking extensions will touch off a firestorm.

Update: just to clarify: content blocking extensions aren’t built in to iOS 9; only the capability to use them. But people are already working on them. You’ll have to download them and install them, rather like third-party keyboards.

Here’s a video of one presently being developed by Chris Aljoidi:


These blocking extensions will be paid for (at least initially), but the effect of people tweeting and updating Facebook about how much they enjoy the ad-free web will be hard to ignore. As Carl Howe observes, “Like it or not, once Apple supports ad-blocking in its browsers, it will become the default for people who don’t want tracking.” That also plays into Apple’s other general message, about how it doesn’t track what you do when you’re using its products.

Once this begins happening on mobile, it’s going to sweep back on to the desktop. “How do I do this on my PC?” will become quite a common question. People will load up with adblockers. That’s when websites will begin to face a real problem.

The moral conundrum

Of course, at this point we should step back and ask “why were the adverts there in the first place?” Oh yes, because they help pay for the content. In some – well, many, almost all – cases, they pay for all of the content. As Rene Ritchie of iMore explains, these days sites have to rely on getting ad inventory from all over to fill space; multiple networks vie to fill the space with the most apposite ad for the lowest price (to the advertiser) that the publisher will accept.

It’s worth considering what Ritchie wrote at length:

While we sell premium ads directly to advertisers, that only fills a small subset of the required “inventory” to support the network. Some 85% of ads we served last month were “programmatic”—provided by ad exchanges like Google Adx and Appnexus. Those exchanges are pretty much black boxes. We get a tag, we insert it, and ads appear.

Each ad gets its own iframe, so load is asynchronous and, if one fails, it doesn’t kill the entire site. Unfortunately, that also means each one fires its own trackers, even if those trackers are identical across ads. It’s terribly inefficient.

We’ve tried to find or figure out a way to streamline them, but haven’t been able to. They’re built into the foundations of all the major networks, ad and social, ostensibly to provide more “relevant” content.

When we do get good ads, as soon as they finish their allotted impressions, they go away, and the ad spot gets back-filled with “remnants” which get progressively worse and worse the more we refresh the site.

We also have no ability to screen ad exchange ads ahead of time; we get what they give us. We can and have set policies, for example, to disallow autoplay video or audio ads. But we get them anyway, even from Google. Whether advertisers make mistakes or try to sneak around the restrictions and don’t get caught, we can’t tell. It happens, though, all the time.

So ads are out of control even for sites. That’s so removed from the world of print, where an editor could veto or move an ad, that it’s boggling.

It’s this lack of control – the mad desire and demand by advertisers to get everything, indifferent to the effect of the user experience on the reader – that is driving people to adblockers. It’s a variant of the tragedy of the commons.

People don’t like it; here’s what a recent survey for Reuters shows. (What it doesn’t show is how many of those who don’t block ads know of the capability for doing it.)

Attitudes to advertising and use of adblocking

Not very legible; adblocking is the lower bars. People aren’t happy.

But wait, what about the moral dimension? The fact that if you block the ads, the sites lose their income?

I’ve previously written that the two sides on this are far apart; that adblocking is the new speeding: those who do it can justify why to themselves, while those who think it’s wrong are stern in their disapproval.

Entertainingly, when I noted on Twitter how many trackers I’d blocked using Ghostery (as part of an experiment using Ghostery, AdBlock, Javascript Blocker and uBlock to see how it changed my browsing experience), I was at once the object of finger-wagging and the accusation of the destruction of journalism:

Have I any responsibility to them? Well, not really. Certainly as a standard reader, here’s what happened: I accepted an invitation to read an article, but I don’t think that we quite got things straight at the top of the page over the extent to which I’d be tracked, and how multiple ad networks would profile me, and suck up my data allowance, and interfere with the reading experience. Don’t I get any say in the last two, at least?

Hence my response:

(You can view the entire conversation if you’re logged in to Twitter.)

Print evolved. Now it’s the web advertisers’ turn

This is the part of the debate that so interests (and, frankly, entertains) me. Print-based organisations were told they needed to evolve, and stop being such dinosaurs, because the web was where it was at: advertising was moving, and if they didn’t move too, they’d just die.

Now we’re all online, but somehow we’re meant to accept that web advertising is how it is, and never question or deviate from it? Nuh-uh. Why should web advertisers be immune from evolutionary or revolutionary change in user habits? What’s sauce for the print goose is sauce for the online gander. I don’t recall the people who scolded me for using tracking detectors previously saying that everyone had to stick with print adverts because they made more money (which those ads still do).

Furthermore, any argument that tries to put a moral dam in front of a technological river is doomed. Napster; Bittorrent; now adblocking.

Which quickly leads to…

If any significant number of users shift to using adblockers, web advertisers are going to have to move quickly to deal with that new reality. Web publishers too.

(Though I have to say I have very little sympathy for a lot of web “publishers”. Back in the early days of the web, the Guardian ran a brilliant ad which asked “Ever wondered how every day there’s just enough news to fit in the newspaper?” It was advertising the Guardian website, and the fact there was more there than you’d find in the paper.

Now? There are a gazillion websites – but tons of them are simple copies, monetised by adverts from Google or whoever, which leach from the originating sites by copying their content. We’ve now established the limits of how much news is generated each day: it’s more than fits in newspapers, but less than fits on all the websites currently dedicated to “news”. If adblocking puts some of the copiers on the skids, I won’t weep. That’s not journalism; it’s a sort of horrible stenography, even worse than some of the stenography that does pass for journalism at some bigger sites. Good journalism, and worthwhile sites, will survive. Or good journalists will.)

What form will the evolution take? Well, look at sites like Buzzfeed, and their use of native content. If the site generates the ad, it’s suddenly a lot harder to block. We’re back, in a way, in the land of print, where the printing of the editorial and the ads happened in the same place.

Ecosystem fights

Beyond all this, there’s a longer-term potential effect. I don’t think Apple was gleefully thinking of ways to nobble Google when it decided to introduce content blocking, but this could have quite an effect.

Consider: iOS 9 arrives, and lots of happy iOS users say how delighted they are to be blocking those annoying ads. (Don’t underestimate how quickly iOS 9 will be taken up: it’s going to be available for devices going back to the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 and will use less storage than iOS 8. Even iOS 8 was on half of iOS devices within two months of release.) Meanwhile Android users won’t be able to follow suit (to anything like the same extent). At least one of two things will happen:
• some Android users begin considering switching to iPhones
• Google comes under pressure to allow adblockers on the Play Store to prevent Android switching.

Neither of these is good for Google. The loss of Android users is probably more tolerable in the short term. Adblocking could pose an existential risk to Google (which is why it pays Adblock Plus’s makers to not block Google ads).

It’s unlikely that adblocking could ever reach a pitch where it really offers a grave threat to Google. But as more and more people from developing countries come online, paying for every kilobyte of data, they might want adblocking too. India in particular is a generally tech-savvy country where data prices are high; and it has embraced Android enthusiastically. Consider for a moment how that could play out.

Relevantly, Global Web Index has a survey of adblocking use which found that 27% of users aged 16-64 globally in its 33-country survey had used an adblocker, and 15% had blocked tracking.

Adblocking by region

Adblocking by region. Source: GlobalWebIndex.

Statista also had detail about European use:

Adblocking by country in the EU

Adblocking has relatively low use – but what happens when it arrives on mobile?

Consider: hardly any of that is mobile yet. Mobile is the biggest platform. Adblocking is coming to a key mobile platform in September.

Things could get ugly quite suddenly.

Update: there’s a discussion of this post on Hacker News. You don’t need root to read it.

Like this? Other analysis I’ve done you might like:
How Gresham’s Law explains why sites are turning off comments
The death of “Others”: how the PC market’s implosion is squeezing smaller players
Android (and Apple, and BlackBerry, and Microsoft Mobile) handset profitability – the Q1 scorecard (updated)
BlackBerry might have no BB7 users left by February 2016 – and that’s a big, bad problem


123 thoughts on “The adblocking revolution is months away (with iOS 9) – with trouble for advertisers, publishers and Google

    • The concern would be if there was MORE content cloning caused by an adblock war. If publishers find technical ways to force through ads (which they are trying to do), the next step would be to clone the content and display it ad-free elsewhere.

      I’m certainly not an advocate of this, and believe there will be a shift to a new equilibrium where publishers will revalue their content, brands will find new ways to advertise to consumers, and web users will put a price on their own privacy.

  1. “You can get some adblockers for Android, though you can’t get AdBlock Plus.”

    I have ABP on Android. i got it from the developer, but I have it. Another option would be Firefox on Android, which can take an ABP plugin, or the Maxthon browser, which is available with ABP built in.

    There are also currently options for iOS, including web browsers which use a proxy to block adverts.

    I’m not going to spam you with links but I have been blogging about this.

    I’ve noticed a couple details over the past few months that most people seem to have missed.

    The first is that adverts and native adverts aren’t the only to fund news sites. There’s also affiliate fees, merchandising, donations, events, etc (I have a post on this). Sidenote: the alternate business models are already being used by artists and performers; the journalism industry is coming late to the game. Go look up things like Techdirt’s “connect with fans, reason to buy” model if you want more info.

    The other detail I’ve noticed is that no one seems to be seeing ad blocking as a disruptive innovation in the classic meaning of the word (I have a blog post on this as well).

    With malvertising, trackers, bloated adverts, etc, the advertising industry is giving web users a terrible online experience.

    Ad blockers are disrupting the advert industry by giving users a better experience. Users are not going to give up that better experience, so the news media that relies on the advertising industry is going to have to adapt or die.

    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t think adblocking is disruptive in the Christensen sense of the word. It’s not a low-cost less-featured alternative (Google Adwords was a better example of that). It’s a complete displacement of some users from the whole market.

      • ABP takes the approach of whitelisting non-intrusive text ads. I don’t agree with it personally, but it is an approach worth looking at. Some of the ads are just out of control. When I play iOS games, some ads can’t be closed. A few bad advertisers just give the whole industry a bad name… and well, I’m not ruining my experience so I can let the rest of you advertise on.

      • But that’s not the Google Play store, which is where the vast majority of Android downloads happen.

      • I am just disappointed to read this comment. Do you consider that 100 million download from Google play as a not significant? TBH I feel a little bit insulted to be “hardly anyone”.

        Also I think your deductions are quite bold. If people do not know that there ARE other free/paid web browsers with ad block ability (both on iOS and android), will they enable or even know there is ad blocker (to be) avaliable on safari?

        And for android users, I am not sure but I think people would do a little bit research before spending money on iPhone just for ad blocking, and then they will notice there are actually some browsers on Google Play that have such functions.

  2. Content makers will have to make their ads resemble newspaper pages by composing content pages with ads composited into the page as an entire pdf entity, with clickable zones.
    That way the ads would pay per click and adbloc could not blobk them

  3. Yes, yes and yes. A wonderfully illustrative read. The fact that the web is nothing if not print and Broadcadt journalism on steroids is not only enlightening but convincky so. Technology is still only as useful as we make it. Little disappointed that you didn’t consider Apple’s intent to move the reader into their dubious sphere of influence. Since we Felton mobile almost exclusively where will advertisers go with the big money? Apple of course! Siri might make all the wrong suggestions for all of the right reasons.

  4. Yes, yes and yes. A wonderfully illustrative read. The fact that the web is nothing if not print and Broadcast journalism on steroids is not only enlightening but convincingly so. Technology is still only as useful as we make it. Little disappointed that you didn’t consider Apple’s intent to move the reader into their dubious sphere of influence. Since we rely on mobile almost exclusively where will advertisers go with the big money? Apple of course! Siri might make all the wrong suggestions for all of the right reasons, for instance.

  5. Well thought out.

    Since there isn’t yet an alternative business model, there’s a lot of money to be made in advertising, and advertising can provide some mutually beneficial functions connecting buyers with sellers, might Apple innovate a different mode of advertising which provides a better user experience–less distracting, less prone to malware, and more respectful of privacy? While they’re at it, perhaps they could also better prevent “awkward juxtapositions” (e.g. adult game ads on a children’s site) and provide better end-to-end metrics (e.g. cost ads against actual purchases). This is quite a challenge, but since it could enhance user experience, reduces revenue to competitors, and creates a platform/ecosystem with high barrier to entry, there are ample incentives.

    There are various approaches being considered:
    * I participated on this privacy-compatible advertising patent (, which could be a piece of the overall puzzle.
    * Firefox is trying to place ads in what would otherwise be blank space using browsing history:

    • I don’t think Apple is into creating different modes of advertising just at the moment. Though I’m sure they’d be really happy to avoid bad juxtapositions – the “adult ads in kids’ apps/viewing” is a particularly notable one, which I’ve heard about from someone else today.

  6. Wow. This was a great read for something that I had never even thought of before. Seems good to get less adds on wordpress and other sites and include more (and hopefully higher quality) affiliate marketing and native advertisements.

  7. Pingback: The Adblocking Revolution Is Not Months Away - It's Happening Right Now | The Digital Reader

  8. As I argued on twitter, the out-of-control ad+tracker situation exemplified above may actually cost users MORE for the ads’ data than a direct payment — if it could be negotiated — does. Site owners could receive more; users pay less.

    So there’s another interested party here: telcos who charge the same net-neutral fee for content as for ads. Perhaps they have been holding back on capacity investments due to predicting a collapse in traffic from blocking.

    The next stage in the arms’ race will naturally seek the low-hanging fruit. I imagine sites will combine a “no crappy ads and no tracking” pledge with a policy of showing only that notice for visitors with browsers set to “block.” They’ll lose revenue in the short term, but perhaps gain readers from all the crap-festooned sites. The ad networks will work with sites such as iMore to ensure sites maintain their standards. Technology to make ads appear to be native content will up the ads’ response, and blockers will get savvier.

    • This is what I don’t understand in this article. Once you start blocking ad content, how does it force websites to improve advertising quality? Websites could pledge only relevant ads, pledge to not send your data elsewhere, but if you’re blocking, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing as a site?

      Your rev stream just dried up? Nothing qualititative you can do about it?

      • Good question. I think the answer may be: do what the ones that aren’t losing revenue to adblockers do. Which may be native ads, or whatever. It’ll be pretty clear that they’re losing revenue from unserved ads, so the onus is then to find a model that works. It might be that “advertising quality” is the wrong metric. We don’t want better display ads. We want something else altogether (if indeed we want anything advertising-based.

      • Unless I’m misunderstanding, ad blockers block everything indiscriminately (or it wouldn’t be long before one did)? That doesn’t allow you the site by site chance to prove your editorial control on ad quality? Not that, that would stop users just hitting “the block button” every time in any case?

        I’m no website designer/marketer, but I struggle to see this as much else other than a move from Apple to hit Google where it hurts under a banner of “better user experience”? I can’t see an avenue where you don’t essentially erode the whole funding base for the free to view web, rather than force it to improve?

        Ads are out of control, that’s not in dispute, but you’re either 1) visiting a site and exchanging money for content, or 2) you’re having someone else who thinks they can extract money funding the content on your behalf. I can’t see how Apple are able to force a better experience or design out of the web without indiscriminately removing the ability to see ads altogether?

  9. This reminds me of the day Apple added Reader to Safari on the Mac. Prior to that, large percentage of websites had really crappy layouts and really hard to read, especially for Mac users who somehow got tiny fonts and had to zoom in most times.

    Once users had the capability to reformat any site and make it easier to read (getting rid of the ads on the way), all sites scrambled for better layout so that their readers aren’t compelled to use Reader.

    That lead to the proliferation of well designed sites.

    Hopefully, contents blockers for iOS will prompt advertiser to behave better and everybody will have a better experience.

    • Agreed, this was a change that raised the bar on quality. How does completely removing ads in any and every case change quality though?

      Readable text is not a hard thing to define as good/bad. The bar was raised, and everyone had to catch up or be left behind.

      What constitutes a less aggressive/intrusive ad is much harder to define, and program in to an ad blocker though?

  10. Great read, eloquently argued. I also wonder about the impact on CPM rates from increased ad blocking. The glut of ad inventory led to the race to the bottom on rates – can ad blocking reverse this trend by reducing volume? Seems reputable publishers have an opportunity to encourage whitelisting (I notice Wired do this already for example) and actually increase page yields …

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  14. You have a few of the reasons I use AdBlock but not all. Yes, I object to the bandwidth hogging video ads, the flash ads, the animated ads, popovers and popunders.

    Popovers in particular and animated ads in general are, basically, bloody rude. If you think otherwise just try this: You are having a serious conversation with little Johnny’s father. Little Johnny is leaping up and down yelling “lookatme, lookatme” and pulling a funny face. Do you a) think how wonderful little Johnny is and how comical he is or b) wish his dad would give him a thick ear and explain that its rude to interrupt people like that and that he should wait and ask politely for attention when the conversation finishes. I submit b)

    I also heartily detest targetted marketing – all that seems to do is tell me the place I just bought a widget from, sells lots of widgets. Hello guys, but I am all widgetted out and you’re only succeeding in pissing me off.

    I detest having some kind of subscription based “free” delivery platform forced down my throat. Hullo Amazon, thanks for that. Its why I now start shopping someplace else rather than suffer your Prime marketing.

    I’d also love an explanation of why I should be interested in what other people bought when I want to order a widget. Why the hell should I care?

    I also have a big problem with the gaudy splash ads at the sides of some online
    journals. Thank God AdBlock kills THOSE stone dead. – We are back to that little sod Johnny.

    Show me a “special offer” and I’ll start checking round. Funnily enough I can almost always do better than the “special offer”.

    Look at it this way: At ad time a company is trying to impress me with its product – that’s a given. It is also trying to impress me as being an outfit I want to do business with. Mindless ads that seem designed specifically to hack me off are scarcely going to make me want to do business. At best my interest will be in spite of the ads and even then I’d be looking for some place else to go. Think Darwin and survival of the fittest.

    It’s not as if minimal ads don’t work; Google seemed to be doing very nicely for a long while (although even they are now getting on my tits a bit with the mindlessley ad seeded “search results”

    In summary; as far as I am concerned there is one reason and one reason only driving my use of AdBlock. The stupid mindless actions of the advertisers (and their principals) themselves.

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  16. Charles,
    I’ve just visited ‘another place’. Somebody there pointed out that you seem to have changed your mind about adblocking. These are the examples they gave:
    “There really isn’t a middle ground. If you understand the economics, you’re being selfish. If you don’t understand the economics, you’re being wilfully ignorant these days.”
    “I don’t like the thinking behind ad blocking – which runs “I’m not going to pay for this content because the way you monetise it annoys me, but I want the content so I’m going to use technical means to circumvent your monetisation strategy”. (Its corollary is “because people aren’t paying for your content you’re having to use ever more desperate methods to monetise it, and that annoys me, so I’m circumventing it”. Rinse and repeat.)”
    … from this very blog just a couple of months ago.

    Care to tell us what made you change your opinion?

    • Were you chosen as the only sufficiently brave representative to come and ask?
      I’ve been thinking a lot about adblocking, and why people do it, and where it goes. The epiphany about speeding was one part. The rest follows.

      Further: I don’t actually need to have changed my mind about adblocking to have written this post. An actor doesn’t have to be a murderer to play a murderer. The failure to understand (or be capable of) that sort of mental flexibility is, sadly, quite common. Seems you found a group of people like that.

      • Hello again Charles
        I’m not part of that site – I’m not signed up to it, I just read it sometimes. I didn’t really think it was an act of bravery to come and post on your page.

        I don’t fully understand your reply – you made the case in your earlier post that using adblocking is selfish (for the record I disagree with that statement), and I don’t think you’ve explained why you think that is no longer the case.

      • Sorry, perhaps being over-ironic.
        I did explain in “adblocking is the new speeding” how the two sides each see the other side as unreasonable. Those in favour of ads see blocking as selfish. Those who don’t like what ads do see the advertisers/publishers as ignoring the users’ needs. You think that I should cleave to one view or the other, but the point I’m trying to make is that I’m standing aside from, or above, both points of view, and explaining how I think it will play out when such blocking becomes available to a platform that tends to drive certain changes in user behaviour. I don’t need to hold either view to suggest how market effects will change things.

  17. At Google’s June stockholders meeting, Larry Page went on record to say the best response to ad blocking is to make better ads:

    “Part of it is the industry needs to do better at producing ads that are less annoying, and that are quicker to load, and all those things. And I think we need to do a better job of that as an industry.”

    Adblock Plus is arguing the same thing with their Acceptable Ads definition (which is crowd-sourced, by the way), and their whitelist alternative for publishers who agree to display only reasonable ads.

    The economic engine that drives the Internet can still work if advertisers agree to behave themselves. Things will get ugly only if the advertising industry refuses to acknowledge that ultimately the Readers are in control.

  18. The real Adblock Plus from isn’t payed. It’s free open source software and there is no lower version of it called Adblock. That other version from in the play store is long standing crapware packaged with spyware.

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  20. All good points, but the problem with both online and print ads is that they are SPAM. They are hopeful messages aimed at a VERY few readers, and the rest of us suffer avoiding them. Ads don’t pay for the site content: a VERY VERY few people who buy the products advertised pay for it, and, despite the ability to track “clicks”, there is frightfully little data to directly link someone’s purchase of a product to the fact that they saw one ad, anywhere.

    Ads are garbage that everyone must wade through, that interrupt and cheapen the content around them, and that only a tiny portion of wading public pay attention to.

    • Often something I’ve wondered manksy.

      Does anyone really know, I mean REALLY know that the ad and the purchase truly linked unless it’s a direct click through? Very hard to prove surely, unless you’re a website with serious revenue to invest in the kind of tech and analysis that finds out what those ads are really worth.

      Ad funded web is now mature enough surely to answer the question at the bottom line for each business …. I paid for a load of web advertising, and it fed through to changed sales of $X

      Or not.

      You don’t need fancy cookies to tell you your top or bottom line figures changed when you started spamming.

  21. I wouldn’t even think of using adblockers if it weren’t for the pop-overs — it’s not just advertisers that use those, by the way; numerous websites use them to encourage you to ‘like’ or share their content. And very many of them aren’t mobile-aware, so the button to get rid of the pop-over is off the screen, so there’s no easy way of getting rid of it, especially if you can’t just scroll the text to the left. A further problem is that when a page is trying to pull in content from another site, which may be down, the user is just seeing a grey bar, not the content he originally wanted to read. So while blocking all adverts is unethical (and I run adverts on my site, though only old-style Google AdSpace ads and the revenue they brought in declined massively in 2008), the industry has brought this problem on itself by the use of invasive and irritating methods to make sure people see the ads.

    • It’s small, but heavily moneyed. “the next billion” (mostly Android) users to come to the web will further dilute the relevance of share of views to share of marketing income. Fact is the Apple user is, and will probably continue to be the person the web marketer needs in their life. They’re either western, or middle class far eastern, and they respond to marketing with purchases.

  22. Interesting article…….

    I also find it funny that I do have AdblockerPlus on my computer, and this article has 7 ads blocked on this page…..

    Thought it was funny

    • I long ago paid for the option not to have any ads on this site, so I don’t know where the ads that were blocked came from. But definitely not this site. You might want to look into that – sounds like your ISP or you system or your adblocker is distorting what you see.

      • I assume the trackers are things like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, WordPress – all fairly standard.

      • Ghostery blocked: Adobe Typekit, Twitter badge, gravatar, WordPress stats. and Doubleclick

        Really nothing worth mentioning. Two belong to Google, two are innocuous, and the last is benign.

      • OK, so I’m puzzled about where the Doubleclick one comes from, because there are no ads on this site as far as I’m concerned. It must be the YouTube embed. (Adobe Typekit is for fonts, I believe.)

  23. I avoid sites that I know are larded with ads and most videos because they’re usually front-loaded with an ad. However, if the ad had a button where I could simply click that I don’t want to see it again (because the product is irrelevant to me?) I wouldn’t mind so much seeing it once, provided that I knew I wouldn’t see the ad again on any site. Since the advertisers can track us so efficiently they can certainly implement this policy and avoid turning me against the product out of sheer annoyance.

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  25. Pingback: The adblocking revolution is months away

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  27. Pingback: What The Ad Blocker Debate Reveals | Monday Note

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  29. Just a quick correction: Ghostery is available in the iOS App Store; and there’s at least one ad-blocking browser available: iCab Mobile (which is probably too geeky for the average user, and gets slow if too many rules are enabled).

    • But on iOS both Ghostery and iCab (which I used to love back in the day when it started) are separate stand-alone browsers, and you can’t make a different browser the default on Safari. Ios9 content blocking applies to all web views, as I understand it.

  30. Pingback: How will ad-blocking software change the web-content industry? - Quartz

  31. There are already quite a few adblockers for iOS working since iOS 6 or even iOS 5 and having milions of users worldwide. Here are at least three solutions worth mentioning:,, The first to are capable of blocking ads not only on websites, but also in other apps. Third one is a browser alternative, that simply filter out ads. So it’s not like AdBlocking for iOS comes in iOS 9, it’s been here for couple of years now. If someone was interested in getting rid of the ads, they’re already gone. So I thing blocking feature introduced in iOS9 won’t make much impact.

    • There hasn’t been an extension that people could add simply that would do the job. Browser replacements don’t work because they don’t work for safari or other web views – where ioS9 content blockers will, as I understand it. I think this could take adblocking from an enthusiastic minority to “oh, how do I do that?”

    • Read the links in the article about what content blockers do and don’t do – you should be able to figure it out.

  32. On alternative income streams to ads, on Medium radio futurologist James Cridland, publisher of, reflects on his failed attempt to get readers to pay to read without ads:

    ‘Give me an alternative to ads, and I’ll pay’, James Cridland, Medium, Jul 31, 2015
    View at

    I have added my comments to his piece about why his approach may have failed.

    • I think the question should have been “give me an alternative to ads that don’t alienate”. Simple. Advertise responsibly.

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  35. Pingback: Why mobile ad blocking is ¯_(ツ)_/¯ | Fusion

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  37. I think the general consensus is that you advertisers and your principals are the ones ultimately responsible for the move towards Adblock and its ilk. Quite frankly, its a mess of your own creation. Quit whining and sort it.

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  44. There is one aspect of the current advertising model on the web that you neglect to mention and that is the security risk involved. Malvertising has increased exponentially over the last few years and not a single week pass by without a new malvertising scandal being detected.

    The latest one was Yahoo ad network that was found to be serving malicious ads only last week ( and then there was your previous employer that served up Cryptowall through infected ads to your readers (funny how that never made the news in that paper).

    Allowing 3rd parties to deliver untested and unreliable data to your customers should be subject to capital punishment IMHO. Until web sites understand that it is irresponsible to subject their own customers to security risks I advocate blocking of ALL ads and ALL other transmitted data capable of infecting the recipient computer.


    • I did mention it, but you missed it. It’s one of the “things print ads never did that online ads do” list.
      Trusting nothing from third-party sites makes using the web pretty tricky, and in effect goes against the whole idea of the web. Malvertising is definitely a problem though – and its effect is magnified by the use of insecure plugins such as Flash and to a much lesser extent Java and PDF. (Firefox had a PDF JavaScript vulnerability being exploited most recently.)

      The capital punishment idea is a bit extreme, though. But the “untested” nature of so many ads from programmatic exchanges is definitely at the core of the problem with malvertising.

      Quite why the Guardian didn’t write up the malvertising attack I honestly don’t recall.

      • “its effect is magnified by the use of insecure plugins such as Flash and……..”

        Which only serves to reinforce my point about the hideous animated ads. WHy use Flash in the first place? Not only is the advertiser trying to piss me off, he’s paying for extra coding to make even more cetain I am pissed to the maxiumum.

        Without wishing to repeat myself – hell yes, why not: I think the general consensus is that you advertisers and your principals are the ones ultimately responsible for the move towards Adblock and its ilk. Quite frankly, its a mess of your own creation. Quit whining and sort it.

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