Since the dawn of filesharing, our corporate overlords have been shouting about how media piracy is “stealing“. Thankfully, the idea of making a digital copy being equivalent to theft has been beaten down by countless arguments and dissertations, to the point where courts have, in certain cases, prohibited copyright holders from using the words “piracy”, “theft”, and “stealing” in jury trials. However, there is a new group of people complaining about “stealing” — websites that earn their revenue through ads.
Blocking ads is a little different than piracy. Viewing a web page actively consumes resources: bandwidth, which the site pays for. This amount is fairly negligible, however. Consider that my $30/month Hetzner server is allotted 20TB of upload, and that the homepage of this blog is roughly a megabyte, each page load costs me about $0.0000015 . Not really an amount worth crying about.
The anti-ad-blockers’ primary argument is usually something like, “We are content creators! Ads are the only way we make money! If you block our ads, the internet will never have any new content ever again!” Let’s pretend for a second that 75% of the “creative content” blogs and websites aren’t just regurgitated bullshit served for the sole purpose of getting ad views. Bad news: I’ve seen better content generated by the internet hate machine and even in Reddit comments than any ad-supported blog. We’re talking about unpaid, pseudo-anonymous users of these communities creating better content than anyone paid to do so.
But LG, those communities wouldn’t exist without ads!
I can run a Reddit clone on a $2 VPS. Good creative content spreads between all of the communities. In other words, the content would’ve still been created even if these communities didn’t exist, or were more fragmented.
So why block ads? It’s fairly simple: they’re annoying. Ads have evolved from being simple text ads, to flashing and jumping, to literally screaming the name of a product in a background window. Fuck you and your content, I don’t want to put up with that shit. If you included a few affiliate links or something in your blog posts, I wouldn’t mind, but because of the behaviour of the ad industry, I have no choice but to go full nuclear and block everything resembling an ad.
The idea of “acceptable advertisements” has been a topic of debate recently, but I’m not interested. I simply cannot trust a company to accept money to decide which ads to show me: it’s basically bribery. Nor am I going to trust a some democratic process: Reddit is a prime example of democracy failing. No, fuck advertisements alltogether, you people will have to find better ways to fund your activities.
So let’s talk alternatives. “Donation” mechanisms have been around approximately forever, and are the sole source of revenue for all sorts of sites (private trackers are a notable example). A somewhat more complicated idea is Flattr: basically, users pay a monthly donation of their choosing that’s automatically distributed between the sites they clicked a “flattr” button on. But that’s the essential idea: users contributing directly to your site, rather than some evil network in the middle. I bet if I contributed a single penny to every website I’ve ever visited, I would’ve given 90% of those websites more revenue than they ever earned by showing me ads.
Anyways, back to the original point: is blocking ads “stealing”? Kinda, like copyright infringement is kinda stealing, but it doesn’t matter. In short, advertising is basically getting #rekt by ad blockers, there’s going to be an all out war soon, and advertisers will lose. If you run a site supported by ads, now’s the time to get out and find a donation-based alternative. And if you can’t sustain your site on donations… I’m sorry, but your site is probably clickbait shit that nobody cares about, and the net would be better off if you just left.