Contempt for Advertisers

I never much liked advertising. Before the world wide web existed I ignored ads except for occasional entertainment value. I do not always watch Super Bowls but yes, I sometimes watch those ads — for the well known entertainment value. A few days after the game I have forgotten the ads and who sponsored the ad. Usually I have forgotten the game score too.

Advertisers seldom persuaded or motivated me to buy anything. During the rare occasion when I watch a live TV sporting event I find something to do during the advertisement break. I channel surf, mute the audio, or read.

These days I watch old movies only through a recording. Even in my VCR days I seldom watched a movie or show in real time, instead recording and then skipping the ads.

I understand the desire for advertising — to inform people about a product or service. That motive is innocuous. The problem with advertisers is they deceive and lie.

Just watch. Their lips are moving.

TV, radio, billboard, and magazine ads are not interactive. At least, not yet. As I do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV, none of these types of ads allow sponsors to track me.

Like TV and radio, web ads ads tend to be loud, intrusive, obnoxious, and annoying. Unlike TV and radio, user tracking has become a disease.

Along with using cookies and JavaScript white lists, I use a simple but effective hosts file method to block domains.

I always have blocked cookies and JavaScript by default, going back to my Netscape 2 days. Blocking domains came later but originally not to block ads.

I started doing this many years ago when I was using dial-up. I live in a rural area. I used dial-up until 2005. My memory is not so short to have forgotten those days. My current connection is through a Wireless ISP (WISP), the only “broadband” service in this outlying rural area. The definition of “broadband” varies, but I do not experience double digit Mbps connection speeds. On a good day the best I expect is about 8 Mbps down and 3.5 Mbps up. My average is about 6 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. There is a 80 GB/month data cap. Connectivity speed and bandwidth are important to me and have been for many years.

Back at the turn of the century, surfing the web was easy with dial-up. Few web site designers used graphics, let alone bandwidth hogs like scripts, flash, and content delivery networks. I needed help from city folks to download ISO images, but web surfing was palatable.

When graphics became popular I ran my web browser with images disabled. Back with Netscape and then Phoenix, aka Firefox.

Eventually web designers started using content delivery networks. While Firefox then directly supported an images white list, blocking images became less effective as more sites contained images relevant to the information and web page layout. Many web page designers were using image maps.

I started blocking domains to help control bandwidth and maintain a decent dial-up experience. While I could do that from within the browser, I found the hosts file more effective and more universal back when I was using Windows alongside Linux. The hosts method is more effective when using multiple web browsers and operating systems.

Avoiding connection latency is precious on dial-up. This was my simple and innocent motivator. Bandwidth wasting advertising, tracking, and spying had not yet become a sick and sorry epidemic. The hosts file approach helped me control web sites that contained more visual noise than useful information. With my modest efforts web surfing remained palatable despite the dial-up connection.

As I flipped pages on my calendars I began using Linux more than Windows. I discovered the dnsmasq name caching tool and the configuration option known as additional hosts (addn-hosts=/etc/hosts-blocked). I moved all of these blocked domains into a separate file and configured dnsmasq to use that file for DNS queries.

Then, rapidly, bandwidth wasting advertising, tracking, and spying became common. A funny thing is for the first few years when this happened I did not understand how the owners of web sites like google, myspace, or facebook made money. One day somebody told me they made money from advertising. I never saw these ads, hence my confusion.

Through nothing more than coincidence, my /etc/hosts-blocked file grew in size much the same as bandwidth wasting advertising, tracking, and spying increased. The more irritating those elements became, thankfully the larger my domain blocking became.

I continue to rarely see online ads.

I use this method to this day, a decade after leaving dial-up. The file contains more than 216,000 domain names.

I pay for my bandwidth. Advertisers do not pay for my bandwidth. Owners of the web sites I visit do not pay for my bandwidth.

I am not stealing. Argue that baseless hot air all you want. Stealing is taking somebody’s property. I am ignoring, much the same as walking by a store front window and not looking at all of the window display. Or ignoring billboard advertisements while traveling.

There is no alleged quid pro quo for free content. This is and always has been a red herring, a proverbial elephant in the room. Advertising contracts are between content providers and advertisers. I am not an explicit or implicit third party to any such contract or agreement, nor is that implied.

In the early days of cable TV, the great promise was subscriptions would render ads as unnecessary. Public television started the same way — with no ads.

I was using when no ads were required. I foresaw the day when that would change. The first stage was when a user blocked an ad from a content delivery server, the user viewed a black space for the duration of the ad. Then that approach stopped and all users were required to view ads. That was the last I watched So much for promises of being ad free.

The early web survived because people enjoyed hosting web sites and sharing information.

I have used the world wide web since the beginning. Throughout the 1990s the web was mostly ad-free. We all got along great.

Consider a typical search engine result shows several dozen hits of the exact same material. Many if not most of this duplication is from useless aggregator sites, designed to function only as a click-bait and click-through revenue generator. Seeing those copy cat aggregator sites die from a lack of advertising would be a boon for the web. Search engine results have degraded noticeably through the years, filled with noise rather than results.

Much of the web now is based on click-bait and click-through.

Many online writers who address the issue often include a weasel word apology about supporting favorite web sites that include advertising. I have no sympathy. The apology will remind readers that, yes, some ads are obnoxious, but ads are how sites produce money to operate. Then readers are urged to use some kind of white list to allow advertising at favorite sites.

Owners of sponsored web sites argue they need the advertising to pay expenses. Otherwise they would go out of business. I am fine with them going out of business.

Such apologies ignore an important problem. Advertising has become a security issue. Not with just the obsessive tracking and spying. Advertisers have failed, utterly, in ensuring online ads are not used to deliver malware.

Eventually such malware will be designed to be operating system agnostic.

So forget about the money and the illusion of quid pro quo. I block ads to protect myself. Online advertising has become a disease. A mental illness. Advertisers spy. Advertisers track. Advertisers waste bandwidth. Advertisers allow ads to contain malware.

Advertisers believe I owe them something. I do not and never have.

All human relationships are based on trust and respecting boundaries. Advertisers have proven unable or unwilling to grasp these simple concepts. Modern day advertisers repeatedly demonstrate a lack of respect for fellow humans.

A general statement can be offered about people who do not respect others — they do not respect themselves.

Advertisers seem to think ads should be everywhere. This disease now infects “Smart TV” firmware.

There is no quid pro quo relationship between web site visitors and advertisers. If there is a quid pro quo relationship, then the nexus is between web site owners and visitors or web site owners and advertisers. If web site owners expect visitors to view ads and want to use advertising in their revenue model then they need to resolve the problem along with advertisers.

Advertising is not content. Advertising is advertising. Few people will disagree that advertisements are noise. Just watch the TV for a few minutes and notice how the volume rises when the advertising begins. Advertising distracts from content.

I have no empathy for online advertisers as long as they persist in creating disruptive, distracting, and intrusive ads. As long as they persist in tracking and surveilling people. As long as they allow malware. I am not a “consumer.” I am a human. I expect to be treated with respect because that is how I treat others.

No further discussion is possible until advertisers demonstrate respect, decency, and courtesy. No further discussion is possible until they stop tracking and spying. No further discussion is possible until they guarantee that ads do not contain malware.

The only way to stop the malware infected ads is with static ads. The only way for web site owners to avoid the ad blocking problem is host static ads at the web site server and stop using ad servers.

The essential cornerstone of this advertising battle is the utter disrespect advertisers have for other humans. In their eyes everybody is a product.

Nothing discussed here is likely to occur because the goal of online advertisers is to monetize everybody. I refuse to comply and help. I look in the mirror and see a human and not a commodity. I am not a product.

Posted: Category: Commentary, Usability Tagged: General

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