Monday, September 3, 2007

Cart Here, Horse There

A NYT article on the evils of AdBlock manages to be insulting while completely missing the point. The problem, you see, is that this evil program actually gives the user some control.

What happens when the advertisements are wiped clean from a Web site? There is a contented feeling similar to what happens when you watch a recorded half-hour network TV show on DVD in 22 minutes, or when a blizzard hits Times Square and for a few hours, the streets are quiet and unhurried, until the plows come to clear away all that white space.

But when a blizzard hits Times Square, the news reports will focus on the millions of dollars of business lost, not the cross-country skiing opportunities gained.

Likewise, in the larger scheme of things, Adblock Plus — while still a niche product for a niche browser — is potentially a huge development in the online world, and not because it simplifies Web sites cluttered with advertisements.


[T]he program is an unwelcome arrival after years of worry that there might never be an online advertising business model to support the expense of creating entertainment programming or journalism, or sophisticated search engines, for that matter.

First of all, the purpose of the web, and the internet in general, is not to make money. No matter how many latecomers want it to be.

Second, most online advertisers should be grateful I'm blocking their ads. If I don't see their ads, I don't know anything about them. But seeing their ads gives me an impression of the company, and most of those impressions are overwhelmingly negative. Dancing aliens, jarring flashing colors, suddenly getting a sales pitch blaring over my speakers and having to hunt for the ad that's causing it, then the purposely-obscured mute button on the ad, popovers, scroll-bys...

Look, it's really quite simple. If you go out of your way to annoy me, and I have to go out of my way to shut you up, you're not making me want to buy your product or service. Your crackhead tech-school-dropout web designer may be proud of himself for coming up with code that keeps your ad on top no matter what, but all you're really doing is driving people to seek out ad blocking software and to avoid you entirely.

And as for the websites that block FireFox entirely...well, again, I think we should thank them for self-identifying about their priorities, so a boycott is simplified. FireFox offers a valuable, almost uniquely valuable, service. Very few websites do, and even fewer online merchants do. So if I need to choose between FireFox and yet another widget-seller, it's an easy choice. Almost a no-brainer. Just as easy as the decision was in the first place to install AdBlock Plus.

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