Adblock is not immoral.

Why it's ok to block ads and tracking when surfing the web.

· 7 minutes read

It's just a common misconception that some website owners want you to believe. But there are arguments for either side, whether blocking ads from websites is immoral, or theft, or actually needed today. But let's dig deeper into this topic.

The business model „website"

First of all, not a single website out there is actually entitled to earn money. People want to share their thoughts or other kinds of content, and developers like to offer some „apps" or „web services" that they find cool. Both types of people do this for free, at least financially. In the long term, blogging or similar activities build up reputation for you, enables some people to get jobs they wouldn't get otherwise through exposing their level of competence on topics. Or, at the very least, it feels good if you built/wrote something that someone else might find useful. Some people publish all kinds of stuff on the web even just for fun.

But when you made something that actually is useful for some people, they might pay for it. Then, and only then, you can build a source of income on top of your now called product. But only the actual customer decides if whatever you made is worth some money for him, no one else.

Once you have a product in place, useful enough that customers are willing to pay for, you can start monetizing it. For example through a monthly subscription fee, or „freemium-accounts", or virtual currencies one can use to buy some features, whatever feels right given your kind of product.

If the thing you offer isn't worth it, real monetization methods won't work. Why? Because your product isn't actually useful enough to enough people. (Leave SEO and other parameters aside for now.)

Again: if real monetization strategies are don't work, you have no useful product. Would you pay money for something that isn't useful for you? Nope.

Altruistic Websites

There are some websites out there that are useful, but don't cost a penny to use. For example wikipedia. It's actually highly valuable for most of us and completely free to use. But webservers and developers do indeed cost money. That's why from time to time wikipedia asks all their users to donate them a few dollars to keep everything up and running for us all. That's it. It works fine for years now.

Other great software gets written without even these donations, mostly open source. Developers often do this just to learn new things in their spare time, stretch their mind, or showcase something and pushing their egos. They are happy when someone somewhere actually uses what they built for fun.

Another source of truly free and useful websites come from companies that want to gain mindshare in general. They already have a running business, and decide to built something for general usage to gain good PR. Money might flow back to them through their actual business, not directly from running some web service.

Advertising

If you neither have a useful product, nor want to give something out to people for free (see altruistic stuff above), how possibly can you make money anyway? You make the user pay indirectly. How? You display ads. This sucks in many ways for the end users:

  • Every single user on your site causes way more network traffic (modern ads are expensive amounts of traffic). So, the users with bandwidth limits are paying a little bit more on their plans.
  • Flashy, interactive ads consume incredible amounts of CPU cycles, make websites seem to be „slow", shorten battery usage on mobile devices, increase energy bills a little and finally counteract moore's law and ever increasing infrastructure.
  • It stresses the brain. When you're looking for specific information while being focussed on a specific task, and your mental flow is disrupted through annoying ads (you have to read them to discard them visually), it sucks a little.
  • Even if you completely ignore all the adds everywhere, they won't ignore you. Every single move you do on the web is tracked precisely through ad networks, better and more detailed than any intelligence agency could do even if they focus on you.

While basically a good thing (you get to know products exist), most ads today are outright spam, scam and exhausting for humans and machines. Many Website owners force all these negative implications on all of their visitors. Why would someone do that? Money. For every thousand people suffering from your ads, you make a few dollars.

Consequences of excessive Ads

First, all the issues above on larger scale. But even worse: real innovation stops instantly. Whole classes of companies are rising that take over small, specialized parts of the whole digital advertising process.

  • Some analyse user behavior as exact as possible and even predict what you'll be doing next or in real life
  • others aggregate and classify user data to pigeonhole everyone into multiple stereotypes
  • „experts" optimize websites to appear more useful than they actually are, so more visitors come in, see your ads ($$$!) and leave after a few seconds
  • new breeds of marketeers conquer social communities and slowly clutter people's notifications with more and more crap, making whole networks barely useful any longer.
  • Webmasters build loads of „content-aggregators" to gain a few visitors on scraped data with tons of injected ads and call that a „business".
  • Adblock/Privacy-products are built, which block most ads, except for whitelisted vendors that pay for not being blocked.
  • Anti-Adblock-products are built to force ads onto users that really do not want to see them, no matter what.
  • The once glory Silicon Valley startups aren't about true innovation any longer, but to maximize advertising revenue in any way in the age of adblock/anti-adblock wars and bringing free internet to new corners of this world, of course preloaded with ads and trackers to create new markets.

This is of course my own perception, and I think you, the reader, can see where this is going. I don't know exactly how this will end, but I don't like the direction in general.

What's wrong?

We have an over-saturation of about everything online. I can get nearly every single piece of information/product from a plethora of sources. I bet most of everything that gets written right now is copied (at least in part) or at least „inspired" by other stuff already online. Thus, the acquisition of information isn't as costly as it used to be.

So, if you have a „business" running that doesn't offer enough value to enough people, I have no bad conscience that your product fails because I don't view your ads. Go and build something people actually want. Or just shut down, we do not need any specific online company at this point in history. Even the least shortage of supply would be overwhelmed by new companies even before the actual shortage happens.

The same applies for newspapers, magazines, you name it. People are willing to pay you a fee if your information is actually useful, unique and relevant to them. If they won't, accept that your product has not enough value and don't beg users to disable their adblockers or publish outcrying blogposts about poor online writers that need to pay bills.

If someone doesn't make enough money by writing stuff online, he should either improve his writing or get an other job. Or just write because you have something interesting to say and share it with the world without expecting actual profits instantly.

Closing words

Yes, this is a rant. Rant back if you want. But I have to write this down to get the anger out of my head. Maybe someday someone will find this post and think a few seconds about the topic, that would be great.

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