If adblocking is dead, the future is brandblocking--and less appetizing things, too

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/12/if-adblocking-is-dead-the-fut.html

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And it’s nowhere near over.


What’s to stop FB or anyone else from creating a browser within a browser to deactivate the ad blocker? Sort of like streaming Facebook or presenting it kind of like Google streetview rather than presenting it as a regular HTML page? Ultimately this comes down to whether the audience values the content or the freedom from ads more.

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This is the kind of talk that makes me gag every time ad-blocking is discussed. “The answer is better targeting, so we only serve people the ads they crave!”-- it’s like Facebook et al. microwave the part of their employees’ brains that recognises the basic reality that everyone despises ads, period.

The other favorite, of course, is “users signed an unwritten contract to see ads and now they’re STEALING FROM US”.

Both responses illustrate the problem, which is that the idea of funding stuff through advertising, in general, is fucking idiotic. You have to stand a long, long way back from reality before it seems to make sense. So instead of asking how advertising will work in 30 years’ time, we should be thinking about how to kill off this pathological business model root and branch.

If it’s driven by users-- if it has to get so bad that even teenagers won’t use ad-supported services-- then that’ll be a long and painful waste of our civilisation’s energy. It’d be far better if it were driven by businesses, like Netflix and Apple and the New York Times and Slack, who charge money for their services instead of being primarily whorish carnival barkers.


I don’t understand Adblocker. Facebook is simply providing the service its customers want; showing their ads to visitors to the site.


Indeed. We need a replacement for Facebook, or we need to make Facebook fear such a replacement enough that they make it possible for the user to bid against advertisers for ad impressions.

Only an advertising roboxecutive would think, “Hey, you know what our demographics want? To be able to interact with brands!”

Cf. the utter failure of advertising in Second Life. No one wants to be advertised at.


Brawndo is what browsers crave.


Every time this discussion comes up, I think again of Craigslist and how well it works, precisely because making money was NOT Craig’s number one priority. Yet it’s a 100% advertising site!

The problem here isn’t that Facebook wants to shove ads in our faces, the problem is that Facebook’s number one purpose is to be a revenue generating machine, rather than a social gathering place.


The funny thing is, while I don’t like advertisements, I didn’t actually despise them all. I had accepted scrolling past some company logo as a fair price to pay for promoting free content and small authors. It’s the escalation all the way to auto-playing videos that freeze up your browser while they try to lift as much personal information as possible that has made blocking a necessity.

The problem isn’t finding ad content people want, it’s finding what they will tolerate. All this war comes from advertisers too greedy to follow their half of the unwritten contract.


Isn’t this, more or less, the plot of Charles Stross’ book, Rule 34?

It’s interesting how this parallels the email spam battles. Except instead of random people sending you crap that you don’t want in your inbox it’s established entities curating crap that you don’t want on your browser.

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The odd thing about this is that I’ve been using AdBlock (not Adblock Plus) in Chrome and I haven’t been seeing ads on FB throughout the last few days, so it looks like AdBlock’s method is working just fine.

I love the doucheness of FB claiming that adblockers are being clumsy and blocking legit content. When you use civilians as human shields, you don’t get to criticize the enemy for killing civilians when they hit you with a cluster bomb. You put the civilians in harms way. You are the inhumane one

I really hope something like this gets so bad that FB loses marketshare and I can finally find a different social network to keep up with people I haven’t seen in 20 years. This should be the Trump presidency apocalypse of social networking - the equivalent of “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” I guess that makes AOL and Compuserve WWI and LiveJournal and MySpace WWII.


When the ad companies pushed out a virus (http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/big-name-sites-hit-by-rash-of-malicious-ads-spreading-crypto-ransomware/) it was blamed on the ad hosting companies - because the ads are clearly not part of the site you are visiting. They just plug an ad ‘here’ and the ad company pulls random ads to put in that spot.

With facebook in essence downloading the ad and then hosting it themselves (to avoid adblockers) does that make them a target for a class action lawsuit the next time a malware ad is directed through them? Now it’s not an ad host that pushed the malware out but facebook itself.

Food for thought.

Advertisers seem to always forget one thing - my computer - my ability to allow what I want to run or not run on it is supreme - every time I turn off ad block - I turn it back on because even browsing the simplest of sites turns into a steaming pile of turd.


That’s an interesting suggestion. But services offering a way to block their own ads doesn’t seem much different from third-party ad-blocking; it’d be more reliable, true, but ultimately a machine built to serve ads is fundamentally different, in bad ways, to a machine built to serve its users, even if you don’t see the ads.

Facebook is engineered to snare your attention and wipe it across as many little tidbits as possible for as long as possible. It pressures users to format their own content as digestible ad-sized nuggets, so it can all be mixed into one long ad break with a consistent tone and rhythm. They’ll keep doing that as long as ads are their core business, so even if you block the ads, you’ll still have the ad-break-style experience.

I think that’s what’ll kill Facebook in the end-- their business model requires them to evolve in directions that are more and more unappetising for users. Problem is, if people don’t see how ads are the problem, they might just move on to some other ad-supported service.

But I am somewhat optimistic, because I think startups themselves are increasingly wary of ad-supported business models. If you need to make $20 per user per year, you could try and force an endless torrent of $0.000001-per-click ads on people… but why not just make a good product instead, and ask for $20 a year?

You want me to stop blocking ads?

You stop supplying ads that are distracting and give me headaches, then we’ll talk. Until then, my adblock extensions are a medical necessity.


I’m not going to play your stupid free Android wargame.
I don’t care if Justin Bieber has a new album out.
I’m not going to buy your shitty overpriced headphones.
I’m not going to take your stupid green tea extract capsules.
I don’t want a Russian mail-order bride.
My current brand of deodorant is just fine.
I’m not going to read "Dianetics."
Your cartoon mascot won’t convince me to change car insurance companies.
I’m not going to subscribe to your financial magazine.
I will never buy a luxury car.
I’m not going to ask my doctor about the pills you’re selling.
I most definitely do not want to buy the damned sunglasses.

It is not my duty to respond to ads.
It is not my duty to see ads.
It is not my duty to load ads in my browser.


What I find most amusing is that FB already “curates” the content it sends to its users, so it’s already blocking user content.


There is a fun little game app that I like for no-brain moments, and it will give you an extra life for “watching” an ad. Perhaps some folks watch them, but I auto-magically translate the offer into “Would you like to stare into space for 30-60 seconds in exchange for an extra life?” Why yes, I’d love to stare into space for a minute or so, it’s a favorite pastime of mine.


This whole back-and-forth has been fascinating to me because I use ublock (adblock fork supposedly without the whitelisting-for-a-fee) and check facebook a couple of times a day and have yet to set eyes on an ad. Not sure if it’s because facebook has been testing this on a subset of users and I wasn’t one of the ‘lucky’ ones or if ublock implemented the workaround fast enough that I just never saw an ad anyway.