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Adblock: blessing, curse, or both?

Adblock Plus is a Firefox add-on that blocks the vast majority of online advertisements. For Firefox users (including this reporter), Adblock is a tremendous boon. By simply installing the add-on and subscribing to an ad-tracking service, Adblock will spare you from more than 95 percent of all online ads — including Google text ads. (Noam Cohen of the New York Times wrote yesterday about the implications of Adblock for Google, as well as Google’s unwillingness to comment on ad-blocking technology.)

As Cohen points out, Adblock’s penetration is very low — its creator estimates there are 2.5 million users around the world — but it has all the makings of a killer app. It’s free, easy to install and use, and puts the user back in control. It’s too early to start calling Adblock the online TiVo, but it’s certainly conceivable that Adblock and its descendants could rewrite the rules of online advertising.

Some advertisers are up in arms, of course, going so far as to block Firefox users from their site, claiming that using Adblock amounts to theft. (Their argument, while preposterous-sounding, may have legal basis.) Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Because a small percentage of Firefox users may be running Adblock, they’re cutting themselves off from 34.5 percent of the Internet!

And apart from being bad at math, these same advertisers are bad at the Internet. Google has shown us time and again that you succeed by giving the users what they want: unobtrusive, contextual ads; fancy maps we can mash up and improve upon; threaded, searchable email; and any of the dozens of other innovations Google has come up with.

Following Google’s lead is never a bad idea. So spend some time on your site today, and make sure you’re giving your users what they want. —Ian Miller, managing editor

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September 4, 2007 - Posted by | Ian Miller, Web Content

2 Comments »

  1. Here’s a story that argues AdBlock is a bane, threatening the existence of free internet content that is ad-supported: http://www.clickz.com/3626942

    Just food for thought.

    Comment by Selena | September 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. re. the Ian Schafer piece:

    That’s rich! Where’s the downside for consumers again? The foundation of Web 2.0 is free content. Ian Schafer and co. can either get with the program or get left behind.

    Comment by ian | September 19, 2007 | Reply


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