Seattle Space Needle Reflection at Night

The Unintended Altruism of Ad-Blocking


I am a person who wears headphones for most of the day as I whack away at command-lines and code, and as a result of this, have suffered hearing damage over the years as I stumbled upon one auto-start video after another, most of which play at twice the decibel level of my music.

In a fit of self-defense, years ago, I resorted to using an ad-blocker, and I quite frankly never looked back.

I’m evil, though.

At least that’s what I’m told by numerous website-operators.  Too many to count at this point.

They tell me that by using an ad-blocker, I am stealing.  They tell me that I’m leading to the demise of the Internet.  They tell me that I’m ruining their lives, and killing the quality of content.

The HTTP protocol, you see, is a request-based protocol.  A given page-loading session goes something like this:

  1. I click or type-in a link
  2. My browser performs a DNS lookup of the hostname
  3. My browser opens a local port, contacts the host’s IP address on port 80 (typically), and requests the resource that’s specified after the hostname.  This is called an HTTP REQUEST.
  4. Assuming the web server is running, the host responds to my request.  The response may be “yes, here it is”, “no”, “I don’t have it”, or “what are you talking about?”
  5. My browser displays the contact (or the web server message), then closes the local port.

It’s a system that usually works pretty well.

It is, at its core, a REQUEST-based system.  I request something from someone, or in this case, their agent (their server), and they determine whether or not to give it to me.

I don’t take anything. I don’t force them to give me anything.  I, or my browser as my agent, makes a request, and if the answer to my request is yes, I get content, if it’s no, I don’t.  I need the host’s permission before I can have anything, and the host is entitled to turn me down, as it does quite often.

A lot of sites block people from countries that the host’s owner doesn’t like. A lot of content no longer exists where search engines think that it does.  Some say no because they’re too busy. When this happens, I move on.

If the host says “yes, here it is”, however, I am under no obligation whatsoever to request an additional resource.  An additional resource which I do not want.  Not requesting an additional resource, even if the host wants me to request it, is not stealing by any definition of the word. Refusing to request permission to receive a file is not stealing.  The very suggestion is absurd.

In fact, those who suggest that it is stealing, are usually themselves the thieves.

How so?

I’ll tell you.

See, I don’t buy things from Internet ads.  In fact, I’ve expressly not bought something that I actually wanted, because the advertiser paid to pester me with a pop-up ad, or some other format that I found annoying. I am openly hostile to Internet marketing and advertising to the point that it is of no benefit to the company for me to see their ad, and may even be a detriment.

This being the case, the company that pays to have the ad served to me receives no benefit for the money they pay. None.

By blocking the ads, I’m actually saving them that money.  I’m saying “Look, I am not your target audience. I loathe ads. I’m already predisposed to disliking you. I will not in good-faith consider your message.”

What I’m not doing, is forcing them to pay for a completely useless ad.  In return, the ad can be shown to someone who is not like me, which is the vast majority of people.

Don’t companies that advertise, have employees too?  By viewing ads I have no interest in, am I not hurting those ventures as much, or more, than I’m hurting the website?  Am I not costing them jobs?

Of course, the website owner could not care less about me OR their advertiser.  They just want the money, and I guess I get that.  We are far and away most concerned about our own interests.  Website owners are too wrapped up in their “see my ads” stuff to realize to see one last thing, though.  One last, counter-intuitive-yet-true thing.

By running an ad-blocker, I am also helping the website.  Yes, you heard me.

Let me ask you something, what do you think happens to the price of ads when they’re frequently shown, but not clicked on?

That’s right, they go down.  The price they pay to the website owners goes down.

Given that I am never, ever, EVER going to click on an ad, by forcing me to see it, the website owner may make a few pennies in the short term, but they will lose in the long term as their click rates go down, and the ROI on the part of the advertiser goes down.

If everyone who hated ads used an ad-blocker, click rates would go up, as would the revenues expended to procure those clicks.  Trying to force people to view ads, when they do not want to, is shortsighted and counter-productive.

By using an ad-blocker, I am actually helping myself, the website operator, and the advertiser.  No, I’m not helping those guys as much as I would be by clicking on their ads and buying something, but I’m helping them more than simply ignoring the ads.  At the very least, it’s a wash.  Hurting one company, helping another.  It’s neutral.

I can hear the naysayers now.  “Sure Rex, you’re doing this to help others, right?  Is that what you’re saying?”

No, that’s not what I’m saying.  I’m doing this to help me. I’m doing this to save my hearing, to keep my browser from crashing, to protect my privacy, and to increase the quality of my life.

I don’t have to be trying to help you, in order to help you, though.  It’s an irrelevant variable to the equation.

Every website I visit, including the so-called “legitimate” ones, bombard me with one ad after another, the vast majority of them scams, and they have no conscience about doing so.  “We’re not responsible for the ads on this page” they disclaim, just in case you take offense to the three separate ads for penis pumps.

In the same breath, they’ll tell you that if you don’t view them, then you’re hurting the website.  The website that disavows the ads in the first place.  The same website that tell you in no uncertain terms that they are not responsible for which ads get served.

These same sites will tell you that, if you dare block the ads, though, that you’re stealing.  They tell you that it’s morally and ethically wrong, and they tell you that you should stop it at once.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, all things considered, if you’re in the group that detests, and I mean really and truly detests Internet ads … blocking them is the right thing to do.  Both morally and for your own interests.


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