Articles & Columns » State of the Arts Tech Talk

I write a Tech Talk column for the bi-monthly newspaper State of the Arts, published by the Montana Arts Council. My latest is Virtual Private Networks. My archives are here and you can subscribe to my RSS feed with your feed reader or by by email.

State of the Arts for January/February/March 2016: Block Those Ads?

(One of my Montana Arts Council State of the Arts Newspaper Tech Talk Columns)

If auto-play videos on websites are annoying (which I covered last issue), in general, advertisements on websites can get that way, too. When ads are flashy and animated, they are distracting. Sometimes a site is so loaded with ads the whole page loads slowly. And on mobile devices, ads can overwhelm the content.

So you want to block ads on websites, so you only see the content? Try Adblock Plus: Adblock Plus calls itself “an open source, community-driven project aimed at making the Internet better for everyone.”

Adblock Plus is a browser add-on that allows you to block display ads – graphics, Flash ads, etc – from the site you’re visiting. There is also a mobile version, too. Adblock works by detecting the format of ads, the location they are loaded from, and even uses a list – retrieved from Adblock Plus – that determines what to block. Install it, check the settings, and block those ads. You might be amazed at the “cleanliness” of your favorite websites when they are presented without ads.

When using Ad Block Plus, you may be surprised to see an notice in place of an ad on a website that says something like ”We see you are using an ad blocker…” It’s easy enough for the website to detect that you are using an ad blocker.

And it’s something to consider, too. The problem is that many sites need ad revenue to survive; it’s a hard truth about ads and being a business on the Internet. Within Adblock Plus, you can disable ad blocking on any site by whitelisting them, so at least you see the ads, and the website records an ad impression for the website owner.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll click on the ad, if it’s something you are interested in. It’s one way to find out about a show or an item that you may have missed reading about. I’ve whitelisted some sites I read daily because the ads are not intrusive, and the ad content compliments the site content.

Now, to be honest, Ad Block Plus has made something of a deal with the devil: they allow some ads – which they call “acceptable ads” – through their filters anyway. You can read about that at Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus

The justification is that some sites do rely on advertising for revenue, and the makers of Adblock Plus want to encourage advertisers to produce better and less intrusive ads. Adblock Plus says that about 75% of their users accept some kinds of advertising to help websites.

But, you can disable the “acceptable ad” setting, too, and block all ads. The makers of Adblock Plus ask you not to do that, but you can. I kept the settings, so I see acceptable ads, and I have whitelisted many popular sites, so I see their ads, too. It’s hard to be a publisher on the web, and ad revenue makes a difference.

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