Should Ad Blocking Be Illegal?

A stop sign

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I know most of you will probably jump to “no” and wonder just how crazy I am. But, I hope you’ll at least understand my point of view after reading this.

Full Disclaimer

I currently use an ad blocker, and have no intent to stop using one in the foreseeable future. To be more specific, I use the Fair AdBlocker, which although being an ad blocker, it makes an attempt to make it more fair to publishers. The extension allows users to choose how many ads they’d like to allow per page via the Fair Ads program. While this does require publishers to submit an application to be approved into the program, it is free to do so. Publishers can make their websites free for everyone and users don’t need to suffer through more ads than they want. It’s a perfect solution. But, not all ad blockers do this and even if they did, there would still be users who disabled the feature. Anyways, back to the post…

How Websites Are “Free”

Just because you can access a website for free doesn’t mean maintaining the website is free. On top of the obvious major expenses of hiring writers and editors, there’s so much more that’s needed for a website to exist. Websites don’t just pop out of nowhere when you visit them; they need a server to live on and a domain name to be accessed with. Sure, there are free websites builders out there, but do you really think professional websites use them? Probably not. Many professional websites probably do use Wix and Weebly, but those websites pay for more advanced features. WordPress, the content management system which powers around a third of the internet, needs a server to be hosted on. And that hosting isn’t free, both for the company running the servers, and the website owners who pay to have their site hosted on those servers. While the cost of hosting a small website, like this one isn’t exactly high, the numbers get big pretty fast.

Ok, I think I’ve made my point. It costs money for websites to exist, even if you don’t pay for it directly. So, how are there so many websites out there offering access to their site for free? The answer is, at least partly, advertisements. The reason websites make use of ads isn’t just to bother you, it’s to pay for the expenses of running the website and hopefully some profit 🙂 . Advertisers are willing to pay for space on websites. Advertisers earn from having people buy their products, websites earn money without charging users, and users get free access to websites. It’s a win/win situation for all parties involved. Sounds like a great system, right?

Why Block Ads?

Because some websites drastically overuse them. While I’m generally against blocking all ads on the internet, I do agree that there needs to be at least some restrictions. No website should have so many ads that it slows down your entire computer. I’ve been to websites where it takes something like 20 seconds for the page to load because there’s so much JavaScript fetching video ads. That’s a bad user experience that will probably end up hurting the website more in the long run. Speaking of video ads, unless I’m on YouTube or otherwise watching a video, I probably don’t want an advertisement to start screaming about some new social media site at full volume when I’m in a library. There are websites that abuse ads and I’m 100% against that. However, when compared to the actual number of websites out there, the amount that abuse ads is probably quite small. But there were obviously enough to warrant extensions to block all ads.

It’s Stealing

One way to think about ad blocking is stealing. Not only are you accessing content without contributing anything back, but you’re actively refusing to contribute even a pixel of your screen. Now, if one person eats at a restaurant without paying, is the entire restaurant going to go bankrupt? Probably not. But if enough people do, it’s going to cause problems and I think that’s where we’re heading with ad blockers. It’s not that big of a threat yet, but if its use continues to grow and browsers begin to have built-in ad blocking functionality, it can become a problem sooner than you think.

But, is it really?

After thinking about this for a bit, I realized something else. You have the right to buy a newspaper and cut out all of the ads before reading it. You can also outsource that to someone else and they may even offer it for free. Now, replace that newspaper with a website and cutting out the ads with an ad blocker. Does it still sound that evil? No, but this analogy is flawed. You most likely paid for the newspaper, and didn’t pay for access to the website. Also, websites don’t get money for ads that never display. If you buy a newspaper, and cut all of the ads out, the publisher still gets money from advertisers because there’s simply no way for them to check.

What’s Going To Happen?

I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. That being said, ad blockers can only block ads served by third parties. So, sponsorships will not be affected, and neither will websites who sell ad space directly. There are also other sources of revenue, such as affiliate links which can be somewhat automated, but nothing I can think of can quite replace ads. Affiliate links require users to click through and purchase something, while sponsorships may skew reviews. I’m not saying everyone that accepts a sponsor is a sell out, and many people still find a way to provide honest reviews despite being having a sponsor. But, ads are probably the least worst solution for everyone.

Please don’t block every ad on the internet! If you do decide to use an ad blocker, then please choose one with an acceptable ads program or something similar.


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