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October 13, 2009

Is it stealing to block Web ads?

Posted: 09:41 AM ET

Popular ad-blocking Firefox add-ons, such as AdBlock and Skipscreen, are upsetting some Web site owners who generate revenue from advertisements.

In a recent article, TechDirt clashes with several blog owners who claim users of ad blockers are stealing.

Michael Lankton of Connected Internet argues:

When you come to one of my websites you are absolutely welcome to not click any of the ad links. You are equally at liberty to not pay attention to the ads should you so choose. I will also make a promise to the user that the monetization of my sites will not be intrusive and will not draw undue attention to itself.

That said, if you block the ads on my site, pound sand. It’s practically like you are stealing from me.

File host MediaFire has responded to the the add-on SkipScreen, which allows users to skip its ads, by firing off a legal takedown notice to Mozilla.

However, Mozilla has refused to honor the takedown request. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation supports Mozilla's decision:

Free file hosting provider MediaFire seems to think that, when you follow a link to download a file from its service, it has the right to control your browser. This is yet another example of a web site owner forgetting that it's your computer, and it's none of their business how you choose to experience their web pages.

So what do you think? Would you use an application that blocked ads from appearing, even if those ads supported the site you were visiting?

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Filed under: browsers • Internet


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Herb   October 15th, 2009 12:50 pm ET

I still don't understand what this has to do with ad-blocking. The informationweek.com article quoted above states that the whole problem was one company covering the ads of another company while allowing use of their services.

A MediaFire spokesperson counters that the company has no issue with scripts like Greasemonkey which allow automation. SkipScreen, the spokesperson said in an e-mail, "puts its own page on top of our page and then shows its own ads to the user effectively preventing the user from using our file sharing system or browsing more files. The only reason Skipscreen shows this page on top of ours is so they can display their own ads (Google ads)."

Basically what the EFF is fighting for is to say, hey, as long as you open source your program, you can make money any way you like, even if it means covering one person's ads with your own.


Hachiman   October 15th, 2009 1:03 pm ET

At the risk of sounding trite, I agree with much of the sentiment voiced above: blocking pop-up ads is my prerogative. In addition, I wouldn't feel the need to block ads if websites (such as Facebook, Yahoo, etc) would listen when I attempt to customize my viewing preferences. I'm a happily married man, and couldn't care less about ads that advertise that "singles in your area are looking for you!". Yet try as I might, I cannot stop this constant barrage of dating website info – so an ad-blocker is my next recourse.


Kristin K.   October 15th, 2009 1:36 pm ET

It isn't stealing to block REVENUE. That's like saying, if you don't walk into a store and buy something, (I'm not saying walk into a store and STEAL SOMETHING), I'm saying not walk in at all, is stealing.

It is my computer, I will choose what I want on it, and I do not want to see half naked women on my computer, because let's face it, that's what most of the ads are these days.

I am a married woman, I don't need to meet single women!


itellitasiseeit   October 15th, 2009 2:08 pm ET

The ads are annoying and the fact that I cannot move them to the bottem of the page is sickening. I am paying so I should be allowed to dictate what I have to see when I am online, on my computer, paid with my money.


Susie   October 15th, 2009 4:27 pm ET

I agree with the posts I've read so far. If we don't click on the advertisements or buy their products, is that stealing, too?

If the ads were merely advertising (and not deviously installing bad stuff on our computers) that would be one thing. But since so many of the advertisements are way out of line, anyway, and frankly, ought to be illegal since they are breaking-and-entering into personal property (our computers), then we at least have every right to block them.

There are companies that post legit ads, that are not pop-ups, on their web pages. Those are fine – and the pop-up blockers don't block those, anyway.


Mike   October 15th, 2009 6:51 pm ET

I wonder what else Mr. Lankton thinks the world owes him?


Harvey Wallbanger   October 15th, 2009 7:12 pm ET

I see little difference between pop up ads and telemarketers. They both invade your home and are a general pain in the a**. Due to the backlash against telemarketers, we now have the Federal Do Not Call List.

Maybe its time for a Federal Do Not Pop Up List.

While we are at it, how about a Federal Do Not Junk Mail List? (It will never happen, the Post Office delivers 5000 tons of junk mail a day, its their bread and butter)


Shebazz   October 15th, 2009 8:05 pm ET

Yeah, I was really surprised when I found out there are apparently ads on Facebook...

If I want to block ads, there's nothing the webmasters of the world can do about it. Go ahead, block Firefox. Privoxy allows you to block ads in any browser, and, again, there's nothing you can do about it. If your content really is that valuable, put a donation button on your site, and shut up. Or, yeah, charge a fee. If the $2,500/year site mentioned above with 25,000 registered users charged a fee to cover hosting costs, it would be $0.10/year. Even 10x that would be pretty nominal.

If Wikipedia can be ad-free, with its mind boggling hosting requirements, anything can be ad-free.

On the other hand, Google's text based ads that are actually relevant to content are right on the money. This is what ads should be, and would make adblocker obsolete.


Sabrina   October 15th, 2009 8:12 pm ET

I see their point. The people that put up the ads on the website probably paid good money to have it advertised.


NoAds   October 15th, 2009 10:52 pm ET

How stupid is this guy? He's got some ego problems to begin with to think he has the right to intrude on people who have no desire to read the crap cluttering web pages just so he can make money...
The best thing about AdBlock is how quick the pages load, how nice and clean-looking and relaxing it is to read what I intend to read.
I even block photos of obnoxious criminals if I'm reading an article and I don't want to look at their miserable faces.
The day this fool wants to consider sharing the cost of ISP and PC purchase then he can talk about forcing people to read (or, worse, hear!) unsolicited advertisement.
Does he also think its fair for millions of people to receive those "free" newspapers wrapped in plastic dumped on driveways?
Between tv ads, junk mail and junk newspapers I can at least easily remove adverts from my personal computer. I also do what I can to stop junk mail and stop the newspapers but they don't make it easy....


Franko   October 16th, 2009 12:24 am ET

Bad drives out th good
Most advertising is misleading or annoying
Hence the need to block

Ad blockers prevent the internet version of "the Tragedy of the commons" –( overgrazing, until a resource is destroyed)


Dave   October 16th, 2009 2:30 am ET

I flip channels when commercials come on. I block craptastic ads on the web. I don't want to see the ads, Im NOT GOING TO CLICK ON THEM ANYWAY!
I was not born on this earth to serve as a continual target for marketing.


Barry   October 16th, 2009 6:40 am ET

I block Flash unless I click on it, and on occasion I black Java/Javascript, but I do not block ads. I do indeed think blocking them is morally wrong. I wouldn't call it stealing, but it's dirty.

Flash or heavy Java on the other hand hijack system resources and can be very intrusive. Flash definitely will not run without my permission.


Bryan   October 16th, 2009 7:52 am ET

To echo everyone else....it's my browser! If i choose to block or skip ads it's my choice. I respect their right to have the ads on their site. They on the other hand need to respect my right NOT to see them if I choose and to automate the process if i so choose. I also use Adblock and am very glad the it and programs like it are around to automate and block potentially hazardous ads which unfortunately can contain some form of malware. If MediaFire is going to send out a legaleze letter claiming damages to their site, they need to have done their homework and not just blow smoke in the hopes that they can bully someone to do what they want. The bottom line is that I bought and paid for my computer and it's up to me what is displayed on my screen!


Caroline   October 16th, 2009 9:31 am ET

Lankton, YOU go pound sand! I agree with everyone else on here, I don't want stupid annoying ads popping up and ruining my internet experience!! Its MY computer, not yours. I will determine what runs on it and what doesn't, NOT YOU!!


Matt   October 16th, 2009 10:47 am ET

Urgh... It all boils down to 'its not stealing'. Its not, not at all. The second you put something on the internet people will see it. If you want to protect the content put a login on it and charge a subscription. I understand that people want to make money off of their sites, not my problem. If its that big of a deal come up with a better way to monetize.

The hard reality of things is many times per day the sites are being hit by webcrawlers, spiders, bots, etc which dont give a rats ass about what ads you serve on your site. Mobile browsers and text based browsers. People who have js or java disabled... The list can go on.

Either way, though, its a moot point. The internet can be considered a kind of public square to display things. You put up your site and hope people come and look. Since its completely open and public, then you lose control over how people view it.

I'm sure you could come up with ways of blocking people who aren't viewing the ads. I can think of a couple of strategies for this just off the top of my head. Doing so will have consequences which are yours to deal with though.

Pretty much if your site cant generate enough traffic without the people using ad blocks its not very profitable in the first place. Suggesting that the onus is on the visitors to make sure that you get your piece of the pie is not only naive, but almost insulting to those of us who understand how these things work.

Instead stop being lazy, either:
a) fix your site so its worth visiting, and maybe even worth paying for.
b) hire someone to do point a for you.
c) get a real job then you wont need 2 cents per click.
d) spend some time and energy coming up with a novel way to monetize
e) open a lemonade stand
d) go to college (in the long term this works)
f) STOP BLAMING OTHERS FOR YOUR PROBLEMS – if your product is not profitable it is not he consumer's fault.


Greg Voltz   October 16th, 2009 11:37 am ET

Absolutely I would and do. I almost exclusively use Firefox and have all the flashblocks and adblocks enabled. It improves browsing speed and let's me concentrate on what I want to see. I also use a netbook and CPU speed and screen size are a premium. Loading and displaying Flash and other animated banners slows the machine down.


Bill   October 16th, 2009 12:52 pm ET

well, everybody else has my e-mail address, why not CNN.com?

i'll use adblock til the day i die.... you people complaining about it can stuff it.

stealing money. WOW. you guys have a server sitting there, just collecting money all day from ad revenue. if you can't handle it, take your server down.

take some advice from the rest of the commentators and i. without us, you are nothing.


Cappii   October 16th, 2009 1:55 pm ET

gmax October 13th, 2009 1:10 pm ET

Would this include popup blockers too?

And aren't popup blockers BUILT IN to browsers now? Seems to me that we are not the only ones who find this annoying.

My community is considering free wireless internet for the residents. If we partook in the free internet, then we should have to endure the ads. It's a way for us to pay for the service, by them making money on a pay-per-click basis. However, since I am paying in excess of $60 per month for my little bit of broadband access to the http://WWW... I build my own computers... I should be able to browse how I choose, and interact with websites how I deem appropriate, so long as I am not breaking any laws or infringing upon the Constitutional Rights of others in the process.

The Ads on the websites can be compared to fishing bait. You throw it out there and hope that you get a nibble, or better yet, hook someone. If you do, Hooray. If not, too bad, cast somewhere else. We fish can swim how we want to.


Jay   October 16th, 2009 9:22 pm ET

One other point that I have not seen broached yet is the simple fact that I pay my ISP for my internet connection every month. Since it is my pipe that I pay for, it's my say as to what comes over it. If website owners bulk up a 1M page with 5M of flash adware, can you not also make the case that they are stealing my bandwidth? If I have an ISP that caps my usage for the month, this becomes even more of an issue.

Just like my house, I have the final say as to who comes through my door and who doesn't.


Biz_Perspective   October 17th, 2009 1:21 am ET

These blog comments demonstrate how little people understand about how advertising funds their entertainment sources.

You will never eliminate advertising from any arena classically defined as entertainment/event.

That means sports games, theater, films, television, etc.

In the 1500's you were a painter and you needed a rich Patron to pay your way.

Nowadays you're a programmer with not a lot of money left after design, upkeep and server fees. And advertisers are happy to step in, as they have with radio, television, film and sports.

Pay attention to history people.


Shane McGuire   October 17th, 2009 6:17 am ET

Tell you what Mr. Lankton, why dont you give me your MAC Address and let me Flood Ping your computer with Pop-Up Ads and let's see how you get any of your business done!

I have my Firewall, and my Webroot Spy Sweeper set so that crap is blocked. When I enter those websites that do that crap, I just cut and paste the pop-up sites into my "Blocked" folder and let Spy Sweeper do the rest. I don't want to look at your ads.

Like other folks we may enter websites for specific reasons such as purchases, or other such business. The "Follow This Link" junk gets cancelled and blocked on my systems.

As for stealing? Actually you are stealing from the folks whom are not interested in your other junk. What are you stealing? Our time. So since my company's billing rate is $150.00 per hour with a 4 hour minimum, I will calculate the minutes I spend blocking your crap, and send your company a bill, and a collections warrant.

I think that sounds pretty fair don't you?

Get real Bud!

You are the one who is stealing, not the folks blocking your crap!


Tim Sullivan   October 17th, 2009 8:14 am ET

I pay for my computer. I pay for my broadband connection. I pay for the electricity to run it. I will chose what content is loaded into my computer. I use pop-up blockers. (Firefox & ABP are great). These idiots who claim it is their right to spam my computer are WRONG! I will continue to use every available tool to block them and fight for the right to block them.


Brandon   October 17th, 2009 1:21 pm ET

i am just fine Not looking at the AD or NOT Clicking the AD but when the AD intrudes or slows down the page Via High Graphics Video, or opens up to cover the ENTIRE page, or has AUTOMATIC AUDIO!

ADS NEED LIMITATIONS AND RESTRICTIONS!

1. No automatic Audio Play
2. Toned down Graphics
3. No or SMALLER Flash Video
4. The Ad must be in Small Box, Banner or side top/bottom Length Banners!
5. The AD must NOT come out of the area designated, meaning it cannot EXPAND upon opening the site to COVER the page for you to hit the X to close it!

ADS NEED SERIOUS RESTRICTIONS! They Slow down Websites, Crash peoples Web Browsers and Guess what! When the AD pisses me off or Intrudes on my web experience, i am even MORE Inclined to make sure i NEVER buy or visit that site! The More ADS of the same product i see, i am More likely to Never want it!


Matt   October 18th, 2009 3:50 am ET

I really mean it when I say I'm simply not interested in any ads on any webpage. Therefore me blocking them doesn't change anything now, does it? While we're at it, I'd love to watch Spike HD in the morning without being forced to watch 3 hours of Extendze commercials.


Jared   October 18th, 2009 9:42 am ET

Ads are far more annoying now than before. While we pay for computers, internet connections, and software to use on our computers; Ad-buyers spent money to draw attention to their products. So one has to appreciate their concerns- they aren't getting their money's worth for an ad placed. The sites to which we navigate for free are supported by ads.
Perhaps a market-solution is simplest: the sites with the most annoying ads will get their sites blocked: and maybe those sites and their ad-buys will stop those obnoxious flash-ads that change in size (moving all the other text down), and other really annoying ads. That would require FF to report to the site that their ad has been blocked.

Then again, they might not figure it out: after-all- they keep making pop-up ads and ways to get around most pop-up blockers. (I use Safari, and if an ad beats the blocker- I submit a bug report for that site to Apple; a rare event for me) But maybe this new blocker on FF will clue them in that the audience is ticked off at their ads.


james   October 18th, 2009 10:18 am ET

I went to http://www.connectedinternet.co.uk/ on my Mozilla Firefox browser with adblock enabled. I then refreshed the site about 20 times or maybe more. That a-hole doesn't own my computer!


james   October 18th, 2009 10:29 am ET

I then went to the sites the writer actually runs on his own:

http://aventhusiast.com/

http://pseudoexpert.com/

I then blocked all the ads adblock didn't block on it's own and then refreshed my browser about 50 times each.


xeon256   October 18th, 2009 11:13 am ET

No, it is not stealing. If anything the ads steal from us. Bandwidth, system resources, etc etc. It's also a form of harassment, when you have to click click and click, or have a rapid cycle of flashing colors(seizure risk). I agree with others. I pay a large amount of money for my computer, the internet service, and if I dont want to see certain content then I dont want to see it, and shouldnt have to. Some ads are extremely harmful, automatically uploading to some machines malicious code. If website owners want to force us to view such content, then make the internet access fast, and free. Or pay me to view each one, per minute, or compensate for the harassment, and risk to the security of my system. they can have their ads on the site, but keep them on a ads labeled(correctly labeled, no trickery) portion of the website, that one could go to if one wished to, while leaving the mainstream site free of such annoyances.


chris   October 18th, 2009 11:28 am ET

Nope, and boohoo to those who think so. If you don't want to see ads you have the right to block them, and the beatiful thing about the internet is that unlike tv you don't have to pay a monthly fee to be able to skip them or fast forward through them. Long live ad block!
Wish CNN would have followed suit with BBC's choice of fewer ads!


Gregg   October 18th, 2009 11:36 am ET

These comments are all missing the point. Many Web sites DO, in fact, generate a massive amount of their of their revenue through online advertising - among them, Google. When you agree to visit a Web page, you agree to put up with the ads that fund it - just like when you visit a movie theater, you need to put up with previews, and just like when you watch TV, you need to put up with commercials. Instead of accusing people of needing to 'get a job' or being 'crazy,' you should consider that these people DO have jobs - bringing you the content that you seem to love so much.

Things like TiVo are different because the live ads themselves are not blocked; you are instead recording the broadcast - live ads INCLUDED - and then watching it at a later time and skipping through them. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one that courts have recognized.


D   October 18th, 2009 5:13 pm ET

I'm stealing from YOU??? No, YOU are stealing from me. You are stealing my bandwidth to pull up these crappy ads, that I DON'T WANT TO SEE!!

Now it's time for you to pay for your lousy web design. Get rid of the pop up ads, side bar ads, pop under ads. You don't deserve anything from us visiting your site, other than the specific reason someone visits it – and it is not for the ads!


Carl Buschner   October 18th, 2009 9:48 pm ET

I use ad blockers to not only get rid of malware but to save time. On several popular sites clicking a link can waste two to three minutes waiting for various ads to load – and I'm on DSL. On a dialup the delays are intolerable. A TV station that broadcast commercials twenty percent of the time would have few viewers. (One station takes three hours to show a 90 minute movie!) Webmasters should show some discretion and not grab every ad they can.


Steve Bostedor   October 18th, 2009 9:49 pm ET

Is it also stealing to get up and use the bathroom during a TV commercial break? This is the most stupid thing that I've read all day.


Sean Waanders   October 18th, 2009 10:49 pm ET

Regardless, you can't get over the simple fact that the people who run the blockers are not going to click the ad's anyways. End of story.


Anne   October 18th, 2009 11:42 pm ET

Would these same people say that I'm stealing TV by using my DVR to record what I want to watch and then fast-forwarding past the ads. I don't think so.


Website Owner   October 19th, 2009 1:42 am ET

I have to wonder about Mr. Lankton's lack of creativity and greediness. Somehow, I manage to run 4 successful, fairly high bandwidth websites for about $240 a year, without a single ad.

I personally hate ads. I have ever since the late '90s when animated annoyances became the norm. I refuse on a fundamental level to subject any of my users/viewers to them.

If I can't figure out how to sell my content without annoying my audience, then that's *my* problem – not theirs.


wm   October 19th, 2009 2:36 am ET

No, I don't agree to view the ads when I visit a site. There is no disclaimer that says I must agree, no pop-up that requires me to click yes. Where is this implicit agreement stated anywhere? What a crock.


David R Rickman   October 19th, 2009 6:37 am ET

Is it stealing to fast-forward past commercials in the shows you've recorded?


Andy   October 19th, 2009 9:16 am ET

"No, I don't agree to view the ads when I visit a site. There is no disclaimer that says I must agree, no pop-up that requires me to click yes. Where is this implicit agreement stated anywhere?"

Well, technically this may not be true. The site may have a Terms of Service page which specifies this. You may not have read the terms, but they still apply.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with the notion that advertising has gotten out of hand, whether it be on the web, on TV, or a million other places.


Karmana   October 19th, 2009 11:00 am ET

Here's an idea- eyeglasses with advertisements etched into the inner side of the lenses! (About as useful...)


Adbuster   October 19th, 2009 12:02 pm ET

What law states that web ads have to be annoyingly intrusive and potentially dangerous to our computers? Whatever happened to simple visual ads that just delivered a message and didn't play unwanted videos, annoying animation or sounds, pop-ups, etc...

This is about greed and a desire to control how consumers experience media (RIAA, anyone?). It's about fighting progress and sticking to a dying business model rather than rolling with innovation.


CaptainLouie   October 19th, 2009 12:49 pm ET

Actually, sad to say, there have been proposals in the Congress to legally block a DVR/PVR from skipping commercials, fro the exact same reason: The advertisers felt that the people who skip commercials were "stealing" a free TV show. No kidding. It's also one of the reasons why you now pay a fee for a DVR from Dish, DirecTV, or your local cable provider.

Pressure from the industry is why we don't have DVR/PVR's that automatically skip ads, a technology that was proven to exist. It uses the same digital ad signaling that the equipment at the TV provider uses. This signal is how you get local ads during a National show. At a certain signal, the cable/satellite provider or local TV station's computer starts the local ad or ads, for x number of seconds.

For the record, there is a difference between "pay per click" ads where the advertiser only pays the site owner when the ad is clicked, and "pay per view" ads where the site owner is paid based on unique page hits, or 'views" of the particular ad.


Brian   October 19th, 2009 3:15 pm ET

I would like to cordially thank MediaFire for their complaint and request for SkipFree to be removed. Why? Well simply, now that they made such a ruckus, I have been able to LEARN about such a great app! Thank you MediaFire! I have now downloaded and installed this app into my Firefox browser thanks to your wonderful advertising!


Mike   October 20th, 2009 12:35 am ET

Would all you financial wizards decrying the "archaic", "dying", "intrusive", etc..., etc..., advertising based revenue stream for presenting media please release your new and improved model already. The industry has only been looking for alternatives for about a hundred years now.

Seriously folks, what part of "it costs money to run a website" don't you understand?

As mentioned, without advertisements, you need subscriptions or some other pay per view model so that the website owner can continue to own and operate the website. Now, unless you come up with a way to turn good intentions into cold hard cash, kindly check yourself before you criticize and deride.

Perhaps the real solution is to create adblockers that prevent you from seeing it, but don't clue the advertiser in that his/her ad was blocked. Without hard numbers, blocked ads go from a hard line on a budget, to a general "cost of doing business".


Jacco   October 20th, 2009 3:30 pm ET

When I visit a site I don't mind the occasional advertisement banner shown, this is how lots of sites generate revenue. However, when the add is a full blown streaming movie clip or flash animation that downloads data, I consider that stealing. I pay a price per megabyte download, so that advertisement clip costs me money.

So you see Michael Lankton, the coin flips both ways, you feel duped, but so do I.


Charles   October 21st, 2009 2:11 pm ET

Many of these websites (Yes CNN too) are using mouse over popups complete with super loud audio.
You can bet your monitization I will seek a way to block that noise.
I look at and even get interested in some of the ad's down the sidebar but stop putting popups in the middle of the text of an article or mislabled links in the body of text.
As a Network admin I capture those links and block them for my whole network.
A little common sense and these folks wouldn't be blocking your ads


Angie   October 23rd, 2009 5:28 am ET

I have never blocked ads. However, I will be doing so VERY SOON. I am extremely annoyed at one of the latest adds. It is an add from Orkin. I log into a website that I frequent, and all of a sudden I see HUGE roaches crawling on the right side of my screen. After a second or two or sheer terror, I realize that they are not real roaches, but just an add for Orkin. After that mess, I will be blocking adds.


KC   October 23rd, 2009 3:52 pm ET

Pop-ups should be illegal. They are actually mini viruses that bend the current laws. In response to Shawns comment about limiting his adds...I say kudos!!! I would actually pay him to keep me add free at his site.


Marty   October 23rd, 2009 6:15 pm ET

Any half minded webmaster knows that all you have to do is detect the kind of browser and then restrict access to all firefox users. Simple fix. If the visitor wants to see the website bad enough then they will have to use their built in IE browser if so equipped. Otherwise too bad! Ads are what drives the internet. It isn't a free handout. Deal with it!


jack   October 23rd, 2009 6:37 pm ET

Can you say denial of service attack.


ML   October 24th, 2009 10:26 am ET

I'm a gamer, a heavy web user. I don't object to ads and supporting these sites. What I do object to is the security or lack of, not to mention content. A lot of the gaming sites I frequent have been targeted by hackers to load viruses, malware and trojans in an attempt to steal my game account for profit. Some ads are also very obtrusive. FULLSCREEN IN YOUR FACE WITH FULL AUDIO IN STEREO! Quite annoying. If there was better control of what ads come in, how its formatted, and if it was secure, people probably wouldn't object so much.


Chris L.   October 24th, 2009 1:06 pm ET

While I agree with a lot of opinions stated here in the comments, I can't help but feel that both sides are right to a certain extent. Users have the ability to choose which websites to access and which websites to stay away from, so you are able to stay away from the sites that have ads that bug the heck out of you. However, as it stands right now, there are WAY too many malware "advertisements" coming from ad vendors which feed the content to that site. The users don't want to see ads, but some websites needs to generate ad revenue. Much like TV commercials, it's become commonplace.

This reminds me a whole lot of when Tivo first appeared on the scene and took off. Advertisers didn't appreciate the fact that they could potentially be paying thousands of dollars for a TV spot during a popular program without people even having to see that commercial. Obviously Tivo still has a fast forward option, so advertisers lost that little spat. However, Tivo started letting advertisers get a bit more creative and advertise within the Tivo menu. It's not annoying and pretty unobtrusive, and not many people seem to mind it. Think of it as the "Anti Popup", because after a while you tend to forget it's even there.

Another argument that can be used is the legal agreement or terms of service you are bound by when visiting the site. Much like regular computer software, you can't just modify it to your liking after you purchase it. Read the fine print while installing it; 99% of agreements state that you may not modify and/or redistribute that software, regardless of whether it is free or purchased (open source projects do not adhere to these rules, as they are meant to be modified and made better by users as they see fit). So technically, you can't open and edit the source code to a certain piece of software if it has a feature you dislike. Sure, you may never be caught doing this if you don't redistribute the software, but it doesn't make it any less a violation of the agreement. If you don't like what a piece of software does, then you are free to uninstall it or suck it up and continue using it. Likewise, if you don't like the content of a certain website (whatever that content may be), then you are free to either a) not go to said website or b) suck it up and deal with it. You can't have it both ways.

So, what do I think should be done? I think there needs to be an independent committee that governs and safe-harbors both websites and consumers, while also getting rid of all pop-up ads and scripts that refuse to let you have a good experience on the internet. This committee should take points from both parties and create a finite outline to what constitutes a safe and enjoyable environment while also allowing websites to generate much needed ad revenue for their bandwidth costs. Most importantly, these websites NEED to be held responsible for the content showing up on their site, just like cable channels are held responsible for what airs on their network. That is really the linchpin to this entire idea and the only way to actually get websites to monitor these ads from a consumers perspective rather than a business perspective, as they are currently doing.


Dani   October 24th, 2009 1:23 pm ET

Honestly most web designers are moving away from Ads because most website viewers are trained to skip over ads in their view now anyway. Then theres the other group of users (like myself) that simply use an ad blocker.

If you want to pay for your site make a move away from ad generated revenue. Its bad business to strictly rely on it anyway.

Second, to view anything from someone's website your computer has to download the info to your computer. As many have said, its my computer and I will choose what goes on it. If I don't want to put my computer at potential risk for a virus or malware I'll simply block the ads.

Like most intelligent people that have posted comments here, they know customers don't have to change for a business, the business needs to change for its customers.


B   October 24th, 2009 2:02 pm ET

A. Not all of us who want high speed internet have access to it in the US. The US is actually way behind most industrialized countries in this respect. At $5000 a mile for a line minimum it's likely I will never have access to more than 500kbps. When you have 20 scripts running on your page, I can't reach your content. Just as it's good business to design your page for people with small monitors, it's also good business to design your page to work for people who have either slow connections or who have to pay for bandwidth.

B. I am not against advertising. I am against needless cross-site scripting, automatic reloads, flash loops, loud noises, sites that disable the "back" button, masked urls, behavior tracking cookies, fake games, popups, facebook apps, automatic downloads, and sites that can only be viewed with scripts turned on (which is why I don't bother browsing Artfire).

C. Use simple jpg images with html links and people can't block your ads. If they don't grab attention without noise and animation, they are designed badly. Period.


b   October 24th, 2009 2:56 pm ET

if they make adblockers illegal, we'll just change the hosts file. mine is several thousand lines long and blocks more than what the adblock locks out, and yes, it kicks out data miners too.


Todd   October 24th, 2009 3:36 pm ET

Crazy crazy crazy! Why is it that website owners think that if you want to control the bandwidth of your connection by blocking annoying ads and pop-ups in order to speed up the page load times that we are stealing? It isnt like I am charging them for my time when I visit their sites.


Rick   October 24th, 2009 4:06 pm ET

I run roughly 25 different web sites, most of which have advertising on them. The sites are a mix of commerce and free information sites.

HOWEVER...

I am very particular about the size and placement of those ads. Ads are placed at the bottom of the page or in the limited-size (125px) margin.

I do not, and will not, accept flash trash anything on our sites for advertising. I find it to be annoying as hell and the color schemes look like a 6-year-old dumped their paint box.

If one of my site guests choses not to view the ads, whether by AdBlocking or shift the browser window or what-ever, so be it. It's their machine.

And, I don't rely on ads to be a real revenue generator. We display thousands of ads every month, but few are clicked on. Any income that we may see from advertising I consider gravy.

In the beginning, we had the 88x31and 468×60 sizes. Then, along come the Internet Advertising Bureau and their standards. They have specs on 18 different image sizes! And they all support up to 15 SECONDS of animation.

Get real!

As far as stealing the content because I block ads, that argument makes as much sense has stealing the road because I don't read the billboards along it.

One more thing, I also do consulting on web site design. I tell all of my clients to avoid pop-ups, loud background music and 1960s psychedelic color schemes like a plague. If they want the stuff available on their site, it must be relevant and it must be the site guests choice to see it. Otherwise, they will lose more than they gain.


William R. Buckley   October 24th, 2009 6:17 pm ET

The best solution to this issue is for complainants to be as vociferous as they can be, letting everybody know who they are, and why they think I should accept their advertising.

Then, I can simply not use their services.

So, other than the two who posted here, who are these businesses that I should boycott?


Will   October 24th, 2009 6:53 pm ET

My computer. My browser. I can block ads if I want.


Brian J. Bliss   October 24th, 2009 7:07 pm ET

Is it stealing to block Web ads? No. It's that simple. Desperate entrepreneurs took to make easy money – they dream of that moment where you don't really need to work any more. Online success – meet Mr. Cheesy. Just like Whole Foods saying because you walked in the door, if you keep your eyes closed, your stealing from us – stay away!

Internet success has some people believing they have the right. Damn, my chicken is burning... Provide value and you'll succeed. But don;t take an attitude because I don;t want to look at your ads. What = you don;t have anything else of value on your web site – ah, no wonder.


Steve   October 24th, 2009 7:07 pm ET

Yeah so it must be stealing to go to the bathroom while commercials are on TV too.

Is it stealing to flip the pages in a magazine and not look at every ad? The advertisers are subsidizing my reading of the magazine after all.

By this perverse logic I must be stealing too if I'm not clicking on the ads on some web site – because many sites are compensated by click-thrus. not views.


b   October 26th, 2009 8:37 am ET

chris, it sounds like you've never built a website before. these ads come from google and they have made it painfully clear that they will take anybody's money with no regard as to the content of said ads. in general, there are far too many ads everywhere not just the internet. if i can get a few moments of no ad time, an hour of nobody trying to push some over-priced, non-functional crap on me then i'll do it. you're third paragraph assumes a eula on websites. mostly, there isn't one. we are under no obligation to view ads or accept content we don't want, especially with a good possibility of malware.


Kevin   October 26th, 2009 12:41 pm ET

People, People People, you want everything for free. If you think it is cheap and easy to run a free website then do so and shut up about ads. The better a site the more it costs in time and money.

Get a life you say in stead of runnig a web site? There are a lot of sites out there with no ads. I saw a comparison to televsion and saying that you have to watch their ads? Don't you get it you have already been tapped as a fool? We are paying for sattelite TV and calbe and everyting else all full of ads. I would make a suggestion that if you like a site so much offer to pay on your own and have the ads just blocked on your computer and those that do not pay extra get the ads.

Remeber Net Zero that used to be free if you received the ads? That did nto work and now you have to pay even for a service that still calls itself Zero


Andy   October 26th, 2009 1:20 pm ET

As far as I'm concerned, this is a pointless showdown. If you don't like the ads a site uses – go elsewhere.
Now popups on virtually every TV network in the US – That's worth discussion and Boycott!!


EvilLord   October 26th, 2009 5:25 pm ET

It is simple, redesign your advertisment model .. Instead of popup ads which everyone hates. Look at other sucessful sites and how they run them with their advertisements which are not intrusive and annoying. yahoo, cnn, google, msn etc ..

Easy to view IF the person chooses to view them, easy for us that ignore ads and do not want to click a button to close your ad. sorry most of us do not need viagra ..


REM   October 26th, 2009 11:58 pm ET

It is no more stealing than going into the kitchen for a sandwich while watching a tv show.


Kevin   October 27th, 2009 10:47 am ET

You want to see advertising out of control, look no further than infoplease.com. It's covered in ads. Or look at National Geographic's web site. It has video ads everywhere and a popup from Netflix that appears behind the window, even when you have popup blocking enabled! Michael Lankton and his sort can pound sand!! Thanks to slimeballs like him, I'm inundated by ads by companies like Pheedo. We get bombarded by advertising from the time we wake up till the time we go to sleep in this country. It has to stop somewhere. Our computers are our property and what we block is our business. Pound sand advertisers!


Kasado   October 27th, 2009 1:59 pm ET

I don't mind ads, it's the heavily animated graphics I detest. They use up huge bandwidth and slow everything down throughout the net. If you cannot sell me something in one image then your not worth following in my opinion and I have been websurfing since '92


max stalnaker   October 27th, 2009 2:01 pm ET

So, consider slashdot. A techie linux site. But it covers all sorts of tech. They get hundreds of thousands visitors a day. Recently, they upgraded their servers and in a fit of overkill, they probably have a dozen servers in a technically complicated setup. Quite a bit of money.

So, they have ads. But the audience is pretty judgmental about ads. So their ads have minimal impact. And the ads are relevant to the audience. Now I have excellent karma there, sort of a meaniless word karma, but at times people have liked what I have to say. (There is a moderation system.) So I get the reward of turning off the ads that are there. The option is prominently featured for me. And if I do not have excellent karma, I can pay a little and subscribe and that blocks the ads..

As I say, the audience is judgmental about ads, are vocal, and since the best part of the site is the comments IMO, they have a way to complain. There were some complaints when slashdot first talked about introducing ads, but now there are simply no complaints.

So I think it possible to moniterize a web site througy ads with out making people unhappy.


Bob   October 27th, 2009 3:05 pm ET

Stealing to block ads? How about breaking and entering to display anything on, under,over my browser, put anything on my computer of any sort, that I have not explicitly agreed you may do?


Pkshadow   October 27th, 2009 3:17 pm ET

Owners of websites have the option of paying Ad Block to un-block their sites.
I believe this is fair for both sides and as a end user it is my computer to allow and disallow anything and everything I want with what ever technology that exists at the time. My rights will not be given away.

For a site to pay then that means their content is of quality and that they believe in it. This puts harmful sites at a disadvantage.

Most AV/Firewall programs have ad-on's that filter website searches and ranks them as to ads, spyware/malware/tracking cookies/viruses/identity theft, are you going after them....no!
Some are good reports others tar and feather a whole range as like what Norton did to my Geocities site because I was in a certain address range.
This was unfair but since Geocities was going down I simply moved my site and deleted my account.

So with that there are ways to make a site work.
Click through has gone the way of Geocities.
People will not click on your/the ads anymore due to bad experiences.
If you want to sell your product do so in a un-obnoxious way that does not intrude upon "me your visitor"!


Li Tai Fang   October 27th, 2009 3:53 pm ET

Is it stealing when you enjoy your TV show but you always take bathroom breaks during commercials?
That idiotic website owner sure thinks so.


BvF   October 27th, 2009 4:36 pm ET

I personally use a modified HOST file to redirect a vast majority (17,000 ish) of sites to my loopback address. This has the benefit of removing ads and popups. Granted it reduces the money generating that the site will use but it also prevents rogue ads from infecting my machine. Just about every ad service gets hit with rogue ads now and then and after getting hit twice, I say no to all ads. Those plugins and manual approaches are fine but HOST file redirecting is a time savings and has sped up my surfing by many times what it was.


Les   October 27th, 2009 8:00 pm ET

Absolute individual freedom to see or not see is paramount to a free Web. Search engines have all but eliminated being directed to non-commercial websites. At Google, I can get 1000 of several million links. I never can get further than the 1000 dot coms. Dot com is a hint (or maybe an ad?) to activate -Allow ads- for the site if you choose. Or, not. As an afterthought,maybe the advertiser's should pay me for the screen space they steal from me when I am using a service I paid for.


Agent Cool   October 27th, 2009 10:58 pm ET

AdBlock is bull and should be shut down.
If you choose to go to a website, you are obviously looking to gain something.
Information, goods, entertainment ... and to not allow the webmaster to control his environment is a joke at best. You get what you want, and he has to be censored by your b.s. plugin.
People seem to think everything is for free online ... but everyday we're learning that online is in fact the real world.
How would you feel if somebody took the sign off your business or the neon beer sign from behind the pool table at your bar?

If you want to live in an ad free world ... get off line and go live in a cave hill billy.


grotum   November 10th, 2009 12:26 pm ET

it's real simple, guys: i decide how many instances of my browser run at a given time and also which servers my computer sends http requests to. i browsed to http://www.gamerheaven.com, not pagead2.googlesyndication.com or adsense or clicksor. i have every right to block http requests to those domains.

so here's a simple solution: you want me to view your ads? then YOU host them on YOUR domain. that way, in order to block your ads, i have to block your site. this means i won't waste your precious bandwidth by consuming your content while blocking your ads since i wouldn't be able to view your page in the first place =).

my my, how simple things can be if you just stop and think for a while.


Sean Robert Meaney   November 13th, 2009 9:59 pm ET

I think it is time advertisers paid you a cent per downloaded ad when their ad is transfered to your Computer screen or Hard Drive.


lobotom   April 16th, 2010 1:27 pm ET

I am so fed up with ads that I replaced my hosts file. All adservers are blocked. So there.
No more nasty yellow teeth, nervously dancing cutout figures, or blatant lies disguised s "news." When I go to CNN.com and then look at the drop-down list at my "Back" button, I can't even see the website I visited before because the ten or so previous addresses are all "ads.cnn.com."
Too bad that I won't find out what the local mom's $3 secret is to get white teeth.
Stop harassing me with disgusting, intrusive ads, give me a guarantee that none of the ads, if clicked, will hurt my computer (and pay me damages if they do). Then we can talk about displaying ads on my monitor again.
Until then, feel free to block me if you don't like me. I do the same.


Sean Kaur   August 30th, 2010 12:56 am ET

Clicksor is also nice but there are alternatives to Clicksor that pays much better-~:


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Anon65   October 31st, 2011 3:53 pm ET

The problem isn't that we don't want ads at all, believe me I do web hosting myself and know the expenses are not cheap. The problem is some of the ads are so annoying and so intrusive and can even be full of malware auto downloading in popups. If you need ads to support your site and don't want them blocked, stick to plain image or word ads, something people don't mind at all. Its when videos start playing and things flash all over your screen people start to get angry. The ad companies are only hurting themselves.


Mccccc   December 16th, 2011 2:38 am ET

Is there a way to block the horrible CNN video ads? I wont even watch the videos because I refuse to sit through a 30 second commercial for every 30 second video clip I watch. If I wanted to watch commercials I would flip on the television. Until then, I'll get my news from somewhere else.


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Edward C   June 26th, 2012 6:47 am ET

I guess I am a thief then. I steal from the television networks, so why not you too? Every time a commercial comes on TV, I change the channel until the commercial break is over. Please explain to me how using Adblock is different, other than the fact we are talking about the web versus television?


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I've decided to just block CNN. it's garbage not news.


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If the ads weren't so damned intrusive, long, loud and obnoxious, add-ons like ad blocker wouldn't have been needed, RIGHT?


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