Adblock: Blocking Ad Content Good Or Evil?

by Vanessa on November 23, 2007

Billboard Blocked

Yesterday’s newspaper was three times the size it normally is, thanks to an inch and a half of advertisements plugging their five-alarm fabulous Friday sales. I’m not the type of person to get up at 4 am to get to a 6 am, 4-hour only sale, and if I could subscribe to a version of the newspaper without these shopping bonanza ads, I probably would.

As MightyMerchant’s marketing specialist, I’m always trying to balance the notion of how to utilize marketing effectively with my personal desire to not be indiscriminately marketed to. I know I’m not alone, so when I found this Firefox add-on that blocks ads from appearing, I wanted to talk about it.

Adblock, a free Firefox browser plug-in which blocks website ads, is one of Firefox’s most popular plug-ins. Adblock uses simple and regular expression filtering to block content. A simple filter is a string of text with one or more wildcards (*). Regular expressions are more complex ways to add filters. The Mozdev website provides some sample filters.

Once Adblock is installed, go to the Firefox add-ons menu, and select Adblock preferences. Add these expressions, or others of your choice, to the ‘add new filter’ field– to block all images: .gif; to block all DoubleClick content: doubleclick.net; to block the contents of an ad-directory: http://example.com/ads/

The Wikipedia entry for Adblock provides more examples of filters, including how to block the “donate to Wikipedia” banner!– wikipedia.org#DIV(id=siteNotice

Read further down this entry, however, and you get to some meaty controversy involving use of this add-on. Understandably, web masters who serve ads do not support the use of this blocker, and some criticism has gone far enough to conclude that this blocker could kill the online revenue model. Some site owners feel that Firefox developers Mozilla should be responsible for an inestimable loss of click-through income, and have retaliated by blocking the Firefox browser from accessing their site at all. One site that advocates for a boycott of Adblock, whyfirefoxisblocked.com, provides a Firefox user with the headline, “You’ve reached this page because the site you were trying to visit now blocks the Firefox browser,” and calls Adblock “internet theft.”

So far, most large search and ad companies like Google and MSN have ignored the phenomena of ad blocking, presumably because the service isn’t hugely popular yet. But with growing numbers of people installing Adblock, Adblock Plus, and related content blockers, it’s destines to be on the radar screen of small and large companies alike before too long.

Let me know where you stand on this. Perhaps this service isn’t widespread enough yet to concern you. Do you use Adblock? Would you use Adblock? Would it make a difference to you if you served ads which you knew were being blocked by this tool?

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  • Hm, you are talking about Adblock Plus but link to the very outdated Adblock. The filter to block the Wikipedia banner uses Adblock Plus syntax, Adblock cannot do it. Whyfirefoxisblocked.com is upset about Adblock Plus, Adblock is really not that popular.

    Btw, to get a sense of proportions: less than 2% of all Firefox users use Adblock Plus. This makes “solutions” like blocking Firefox look pretty stupid. Not that the owner of Whyfirefoxisblocked.com needs logical arguments to justify what he is doing – take a look at jacklewis.net (his blog), you might think again about linking to any of his sites. I think http://whyisfirefoxblocked.com/ sums it up nicely.

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for your comments, Wladimir. You bring up some issues I was not aware of.

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