Online Economics and those who oppose it

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Firefox is endorsing a new plugin called adblock plus. This one little plugin is causing a stir amongst internet advertisers and those who would block them.

From WhyFirefoxisBlocked.com.

The Mozilla Foundation and its Commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation, has allowed and endorsed Ad Block Plus, a plug-in that blocks advertisement on web sites and also prevents site owners from blocking people using it. Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing. Millions of hard working people are being robbed of their time and effort by this type of software. Many site owners therefore install scripts that prevent people using ad blocking software from accessing their site. That is their right as the site owner to insist that the use of their resources accompanies the presence of the ads.

The argument from the surfers is that the advertising on the internet is intrusive at best and malicious at worst. So a plugin has been developed which allows Firefox users who have it installed to block ads. Software like this has been in existence for years, but certain advertisers have taken up arms against adblock plus because not only is Mozilla endorsing this plugin, but they have no means to block the visitors who are using this plugin.

Some have gone so far as to completely block users who are surfing with Firefox.

Completely blocking Firefox users from visiting your website is ridiculous. For one, it is too easy to circumvent. Another plugin would allow Firefox users to mask their user agent – the variable that tells your site what browser the visitor is using – so that they could appear to be using any browser. Or they could use IE Tab, another plugin for Firefox, which would make the browser load a page using the Internet Explorer engine and thus make the user appear to be surfing with Internet Explorer. There is no way to prevent users of adblock plus from accessing your content – at least not 100%.

On the other hand, completely blocking ads is ridiculous too. Some things, like aggressive popups and malicious ads, need to be blocked. Otherwise they compromise your computer and put you at risk. Firefox already does this though, and it does it well. There is no real value in the plugin adblock plus. Except, of course, if you want to be smug.

‘The internet is free’ some would argue. But not for the publishers. There are costs to putting a website on the internet. Time, and money. And as we all know Time equals Money. Any website that gets more then 10,000 hits a day would need it’s own server. The average server costs about $100 a month. Then there is the cost of the scripts and web design. Programmers can do these things themselves, but it takes them Time – which equals money. Then there is the maintenance of the site. It takes time and dedication to get a good website off the ground, and to keep it going.

And this is all over the internet. Most of the sites you see online are either funded by ads or, if it hasn’t broken even yet, out of the publisher’s pocket. The internet is sustained by the revenue generated by advertising it and without this revenue the internet would fail. Myspace would not be online if there was no money being brought in to support it’s massive growth. Neither would Digg or Fark. These sites are supported by the ads they serve.

Some ads do need to be blocked. The same ads Firefox is already blocking. But to use
adblock plus to block ads like Google Adwords or a banner or two on somebody’s blog for the sake of being smug and righteous is naive at best. You may not click on the ads you see online, but at least understand the economics behind it.

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