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Dealing with advertisements on the web — a balancing act

By Jean-Claude Elias - Oct 07,2020 - Last updated at Oct 07,2020

Photo courtesy of searchengineland.com

Those who cannot stand seeing uninvited, distracting ads on their web browser page, address the problem by installing a plug-in software application that automatically blocks these ads. According to thinkwithgoogle.com 11 per cent of the world’s computers have an ad blocker installed.

AdBlock Plus, one of the most popular such plug-ins, has been around for about 10 years now. It is an effective way to get around ads and to only see the topic you went to visit the website for in the first place. The web has become the preferred place for advertisers. It only makes sense after all, given the huge traffic that takes place every second of every minute on the network. It is more sought-after than traditional TV broadcast, even more than the old-fashioned street signs perhaps.

Over the last 12 months, developers of websites and webmasters have been reacting to (counterattacking should I say) ad blockers with a simple, yet effective approach; a weapon of their own. Once you open a webpage, the site will detect if your browser is using an ad blocker. It will then deny you access to the page and will display a screen asking you to disable the blocker, to let you in.

There are a couple of variations around this scenario. Some will ask you gently to disable the ad blocker, but will let you in anyway, whatever you choose to do. Others have a more clear-cut, a sharp kind of approach.

It is in a way, a cat and mouse game that is more or less similar to computer viruses and antiviruses. In the end they all make our living with the web in particular and IT in general, more complicated.

So, should the 11 per cent of the population using ad blockers uninstall them? Should they leave them on and then selectively allow this or that site?

There are two good reasons why one should disable ad blockers, but discernment is the key word here. The decision shouldn’t be done blindly.

The first reason is obvious. If you absolutely need to access the web page and you are denied access to it because your blocker is enabled, then there is little choice left in such case.

Another, perhaps purely ethical approach, is to remember that most sites, news in particular, need ads to be sustainable. The Internet has made countless contents free, but someone has to pay in the end, if we want to benefit from the wealth of information that is posted and available out there. A comparison with the tax system is relevant here. Public services just cannot operate if citizens do not pay their taxes.

Some sites have adopted the “donate when/if you can” approach, and would not ask you to disable your ad blocker. Two of these sites come immediately to my mind. Karenware.com offers numerous small utility software applications that are very useful when working with Windows operating system, and come to nicely complement it.

Kenrockwell.com is a site about photography. It has excellent reviews about photo gear, provides precious advice to both amateur and pro photographers, and best of all, is not biased towards any brand. The quality writing is always objective, never subjective.

These are just two examples. There are thousands of sites that have adopted the donation approach to sustain their operation.

In the end, how much to enforce ad blockers, how much to disable them, when, if and how to donate to sites that are worth being supported financially, it is all a question of balance. Just like most everything in life.

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