An approach to fair ad blocking - Feedback summary · 2009-05-13 15:41 by Wladimir Palant
I got more than 200 comments in two days to my controversial proposal to occasionally suggest Adblock Plus users to whitelist frequently visited sites. Given that it was a lengthy text and many users came from sites that “compressed” it, the feedback was surprisingly useful (and only few people accusing me of deciding everything without asking users on a blog post that asks users for their opinions). I will try to summarize the important results:
- A significant proportion of the commenters is opposed to ads in general, no matter whether they are annoying and no matter what effect this will have on the sites they visit (only a few mentioned technical limitations like bandwidth restrictions as the reason). These were mostly the same commenters who felt that a feature like this is unnecessary or would go against the purpose of Adblock Plus. This is not very surprising given the sites that linked to this article but it convinced me even more that I shouldn’t be getting into any of this with just wild guesses on what the overall Adblock Plus community thinks. This means that most likely Adblock Plus 1.1 will ask a few users whether they would like to participate in a poll. There will be some questions on how people use Adblock Plus and what their general opinion on ads / acceptable ads is. Regardless on whether the idea currently under discussion will be implemented, having this information will be very useful.
- There was a large concern about the notification being too annoying/showing up too often. That was mostly because originally I didn’t make it clear enough in my proposal that the notification wouldn’t show up each time the user opened a page. After reading the comments I realized that it is better to even explicitly limit the frequency of this notification across all sites — e.g. to once a week.
- There were many voices suggesting that the meta tag is a useless element in the proposal. The general concern is that such a meta tag would just be used on all webpages without spending time on improving advertising — simply because it still increases webmaster’s income slightly while less annoying advertising will currently significantly decrease it. There were some commenters who suggested to simply show the question on all frequently visited websites and I tend to agree now.
- Something that was established pretty early in the discussion is the fact that opting out of this feature should be easy (especially if it is shown for all frequently visited websites). Some commenters even suggested that this feature should be opt-in but that would defeat its purpose because it is targeted at users who won’t change any options on their own.
- There were some suggestions to notify webmasters on how their sites are doing. On the technical side, the decisions would have to be sent to adblockplus.org which would count them (no further data stored, not even in web server logs) and forward to the website in question at the end of the day. There are still big privacy concerns here, this needs much more thought if implemented.
- There was some feedback on the notification message itself, mostly on the fact that it should be shorter. I think everybody agrees on that but shortening it without loosing important information or introducing ambiguities seems pretty hard. Another suggestion was dropping “Ask me later” button (which has the same semantics as closing the notification) in favor of a “Yes, please” button — accept the question without having to go through the preview phase.
- There were some suggestions to allow personalizing the message, e.g. by including webmaster’s name or considering a link to a donations/subscriptions page. There was another comment mentioning that this might cause security issues (spoofing, obscene language, linking Adblock Plus users to malware sites) so I think that this isn’t worth it.
- Concerning reverting user’s decision, one option that came up was adding “Adblock Plus: Block ads on this page again” to the context menu on sites where Adblock Plus is disabled. This is a useful feature regardless of this proposal, I have put it on the list for Adblock Plus 1.1.
- Many users would prefer having Adblock Plus block annoying ads only. Unfortunately, this is technically pretty challenging and probably boils down to different sets of filters. While this is under discussion (and was before my proposal already), it requires lots of effort meaning that this certainly isn’t something we will see soon. Another proposal was to limit the number of ads displayed per page. This one cannot be implemented because reliably counting ads isn’t possible from what I can tell and “unreliable” solutions would be open to abuse.
Commenting is closed for this article.