Web We Want’s newsletter highlights one important topic every week and tells you what you need to know in 3 minutes or less.
What’s Going On?
Around 200 million people have downloaded ad-blocking software on their computers and phones, and publishers and ad-agencies are furious. ‘How can there be free content on the Web if people refuse to see the ads?’ they say. But there are overriding concerns.
Some ads that appear automatically through programmatic sales pose a security risk even on reputable websites. Even if you don’t click on anything, malicious code in ads that look normal (“malvertising”) can make your computer download software that locates bank details or installs ransomware that holds your computer hostage until you pay.
Tracking is so untransparent, special tools have been developed to reverse engineer the process, like OpenWPM, XRay, and LightBeam. This is how we know that searching for “cancer” or emailing a friend about debt, opens the door for marketers to take advantage of people by showing ads for fake remedies or offering higher interest rates on loans.
So what choice do you have? You won’t find satisfactory answers in existing regulations or global ad industry practices. Meanwhile, billions of dollars exchange hands every year, and the businesses that lagged on implementing better security still have the upper hand.
Who’s Doing Something?
The very popular Adblock Plus software (more than 500 million downloads) doesn’t actually block all ads, but encourages users to view “acceptable ads” as a default. Adblock Plus maintain a whitelist of publishers that the biggest media sites must pay to be added to.
Rejecting that business model as a kind of “shakedown”, a new startup called Brave is developing an open-source Web browser that would block ads that track and replace them with their own non-intrusive ads, splitting revenue with publishers and even Web users themselves.
Several U.S. and European newspapers (and even Yahoo Mail for some users) now ban people with ad blockers from viewing their sites unless they pay. A more diplomatic approach by The Guardian in the U.K. displays a message asking readers with ad blockers to consider paying.
Despite blaming ad blockers for huge financial losses and shunning Adblock Plus from industry events, the influential Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in the U.S. now admits that the meteoric rise in ad blocking has been a wakeup call for how badly the ad industry behaved so far, and what needs to change to make ads better.
What Should I Do?