Review: The Dangers of Ad Blockers on the Internet (AdMuncher / Adblock)

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Nimrod, Feb 9, 2008.

  1. Nimrod

    Nimrod Exotic Vendor

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    The Dangers of AdBlockers on the Internet



    The Idea behind Ad Blockers.

    These days many programs sell themselves as being able to block internet adverts to improve the "Internet Experience" for users, some are free like Adblock for Firefox while others cost like AdMuncher. What they do is simple, they remove known adverts from a web page and show the users the site with them removed. Some use Javascript to pick up keywords and remove them while others just block certain urls from loading (like Google Adsense).


    Costs of running websites

    For some reason in the world we live in, people just don't seem to consider that hosting a website isn't free (partly due to sites like Freewebs and Yahoo Geocities). Costs can vary, some smaller websites are hosted on what's known as a Shared Host, where a Web Host puts up to 2,000 hosting packages on one single IP, and as such offers cheap hosting around between $2 and $10 a month. Digiex use to run on a shared host called Bluehost. Then as sites become bigger, shared hosting isn't really suitable due to the slow speeds a busy site will experience on them (as its also hosting another 2,000 sites..) and eventually have to move onto bigger hosting. Usually one or more dedicated or Virtual (VPS) servers. This is where costs can move up massively from as little as $40 a month to $1,000's when they grow. An example would be Neowin.net a site many of the staff here are fond of, where as their site grew, they couldn't even cope with one Dedicated Server and had to move onto more.

    For this example, I will use this website you are viewing (Digiex). When we were small back in 2004 we hosted the site on a home PC's. Myself (Nimrod) built a old PC out of spare parts, installed a server operating system (Windows Server 2003) and Digiex coped just about being hosted on that. The problems experienced where with the internet connection, home internet connections just couldn't cope (50kb upload limit). We then moved onto a very cheap shared hosting provider (Hostpointe.com). This did fine for a while, but we outgrow their small 10gb a month limit and had to move up. We then went to Bluehost which offered more bandwidth which we needed. The costs them moved up to around $10 a month. We lasted on that for 6 months before our site got too many hits and kept becoming suspended as we used more than our fair share of CPU usage. This is when the costs jumped massively. We couldn't afford a Dedicated Box so we went for what's considered the next step in Web Hosting, a VPS (Virtual Private Server). This means we shared a box with 4 other users but each "customer" on the box was hidden from another using some fancy Virtualization trickery, and the appearance of our own box is given. This currently costs Digiex $40 a month. You may be asking why I'm boring you with Digiex's history and whats the relevance with Ad Blockers, but it will be explained further on. Digiex is just an example, of the hosting costs behind Websites and the fact is, they do cost someone money to host.

    Some Websites don't apply to this though, like online shops (i.e. Amazon.com) as their website is paid for to sell products on it and as such, it inst really hosted at a loss.


    So how do websites cover there cost?

    There is a number of ways internet sites seek to gain revenue to pay for themselves:
    • Charge for Access. Some websites charge for access to "premium" content which costs them time, and bandwidth costs.
    • Online shops like Amazon don't need to seek ways to cover their bandwidth costs because by providing the online shopping experience they are getting customers to buy their products.
    • Take Donations to cover their costs. A website which providers very popular content to a wide number of people can sometimes make Revenue solely from Donations. But this doesn't always work. An example would be the Bluetooth Driver Digiex provides. This driver potentially saves users $10 by saving them having to buy drivers from the makers website to use there bluetooth. Based on the number of downloads (at time of writing) Digiex has saved 5,000 people, that's potentially a saving for consumers of $50,000. What has Digiex got in return for it? Nothing. The Problem is simple, to many people live in this culture of getting stuff for free. Its difficulty to near impossible to live on Donations. (Note: Digiex did not attempt to make money from the Bluetooth driver, but it has costs us in terms of bandwidth and the author doesn't think it to bad if at least one of those 5,000 downloaders would consider donation a dollar to cover the bandwidth costs.
    • Ad Revenue - This is by far the biggest and most effective method of covering bandwidth costs. The idea is simple, by putting a small Advert block somewhere on the website, publishers will pay around $1 per 1,000 viewers. Some websites can cover all there bandwidth costs by this, where smaller sites (Like for example Digiex, can cover 20% of there bandwidth costs). Some websites go further than others, I have noticed websites which have very little content, but tons of adverts and others which have one Ad Block on them and tons of content.

    So what are the dangers of using Adblocker software?

    If you haven't picked up on it, the dangers are simple. You are removing the webmasters way of getting Revenue. Though this doesn't sound bad by itself, and some would argue that some websites don't deserve a penny. While it is true some websites are out solely to make money from you via adverts. Other websites are just trying to gain some of their operating costs so they can keep going.

    I have one challenge for you:

    For one day if you have an Ad Blocker, turn it off and browse as you would usually do. Look at how many websites you visit during the day that interest you, from Gaming websites to News websites. Notice how the majority have some form of advertisement usually in a way which doesn't effect the enjoyability of the website.

    After a day, feel free to turn the Adblocker back on. But now imagine this:

    A day where all those websites are either gone or still exist but charge membership just to view.

    Doesn't sound that appealing does it? Well if around 90% of the internet users used an Ad Blocker, that's pretty much the only way half of the websites you view could still exist.


    Arguments for using AdBlocker software:

    While this article is pretty much against the use of AdBlocker software, I thought it would be worth looking at the Arguements for using Adblocker software I have seen around the internet:

    "I pay for my internet connection, I pay my electricity and I pay for my PC, why should I waste my bandwidth and PC resources to view adverts?"
    While the points being said make some sense, and infact is the opinion I had until recently when I got into running websites, it is flawed. Yes you pay for those things, so enjoy the internet as you see fit but then surely you should only stick to Websites that don't offer adverts, I'm sure the internet would be "worth" the money if you could only view a handful of sites like Amazon, BBC News (Which British people pay for via other methods) and other online companies. But you paying for your internet connection and PC doesnt pay for Bandwidth costs for websites which are providing you with content and all in return you need to do is have a small advert block somewhere. Again, I would continue to stress to follow my challenge and consider if the internet you are helping to shape is the internet you would like to waste your money on

    "I dont view adverts or click on them anyway, so websites aren't losing anything"
    Lets be truthful here, the majority of people do ignore adverts, including the very people who create the website with them on! (Heck, I ignore adverts). But webmasters don't really expect people to sit there and view them. Money is given to webmasters based on number of views. You can ignore them all you like, but the fact they loaded even if you choose to ignore them, covers the website costs. By using AdBlockers, you are stopping the adverts from even loading, to instead just view a blank space where they would have been? To be honest, it doesnt benefit you as much as you think, but it does hurt webmasters and the very sites you are viewing on.

    "Its my choice, not webmasters!"
    Again it is, this is not about forcing you to view adverts. Just consider the argument being put forward.

    "Only a small number of people use Adblocker, me using it won't effect websites as a whole!"
    While its true at the moment the number of people using AdBlockers is around 10% and revenue can come in from others not using it. In time this will change, as more and more people adopt it. At the moment if you are using it, your part of the problem, and that part will continue to grow and grow.

    "Some websites are horrible with the amount of adverts, I cant even see the content well without an Ad Blocker"
    Well simply put, AVOID THOSE WEBSITES. Go to another website which offers the content with less adverts. If it is the only website with what you need on, either choose to avoid it based on the adverts they have and there morals, or put up with it.
    To be honest most websites with tons of adverts, tend to be those websites with illegal content, like cracks and keygens. Avoid them if it bothers you (You shouldnt even be going on them in the first place).

    At the end of the day, with an up to date web browser, you are fully in charge of your internet experience. If you don't like a website based on its advert content, then vote with your pocket and avoid it. If everyone did that they wouldn't generate any revenue and consider other methods. Websites with minimal adverts and good content deserve your page views wheres other sites which try and bring you all to show nothing but adverts (like Ad Farms) should be avoided.


    If you are going to use an AdBlocker anyways
    Even after reading this, if you still choose to use an Adblocker please consider one thing. Don't EVER pay for an AdBlocker like for example AdMuncher. To reward someone with your cash who makes money out of ripping Webmasters off is difficult to call moral. Its your choice to remove ads, but please don't consider rewarding someone who makes programs which has the potential ruin the amount of content on the Web. Consider the sites on the internet, if Ad Revenue was down, website quality would disappear. The only way half the sites could continue to operate is via other methods like CHARGING for content. If instead of 10% of the Internet Population used Ad Removers, and it was 90% the internet would be so different. The resources wouldnt exist.

    If you really must installed an Adblock, may I recommend this one as it is free:
    http://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865


    Conclusion

    At the end of the day, its each individuals choice as to if they wish to browse the internet as it is, or choose to install some software to block Adverts. While AdBlocker use is only around 10% of internet viewers at the time of writing, if people continue to recommend them to friends and family over time this will keep increasing, and as the numbers of users with Adblock's grow the number of websites providing content for free will slowly disappear. Although the problem is small at the moment, the way it seems to be growing could danger the existence of websites in the long run and I am concerned as to what the internet will look like in another 10 years if the adoption of blockers continues.

    The gist of it from a webmasters point of view: Why should you view their site which is given to you for free at their own cost, if your going to hack out the advert which pays for your viewing?

    If you have any views you would like to add to this article, please just send me a private message or reply.

     
  2. supercity

    supercity Resident

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    AdBlock

    :O i never have thought of it this way. i use adblock for chrome a fair bit but only stop video ads like on youtube. Howether after reading this im now about to uninstall it ;)
     
  3. InsaneNutter

    InsaneNutter Resident Nutter Staff Member

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    You can use Adblock the opposite way too, to only block adverts on certain websites such as YouTube:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. supercity

    supercity Resident

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    Lol. Block ads On all Sites Except: digiex.net :) Lol JK
     

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