It is with some hilarity that I recount that the Mozilla foundation is being seen as the new Satan. WTF I hear you ask? Well, it's all about the failure to display advertising content using an extension for Firefox called adblock plus (ABP) which prevents ads from being displayed on the most common sites. What it actually does is modify the pages after downloading but before display so that the user does not get to see the ads. Think of it as a popup blocker on steroids.
Well, not surprisingly, some people are a bit miffed about this. In their version of reality this constitutes theft as the user is bypassing the revenue stream which supposedly supports the site in the first place.
Okay, so to cut it a bit short, some plum has started a one-man hate campaign about this and is advocating that webmasters use the browser UA string to block anyone using Firefox. Any webmasters mad enough to actually block Firefox users redirect there users here. Further than that, this chap has decided that the people to blame for this are the Mozilla foundation.
Not the people that install and use ad-block plus? Nope. Not the people that write the ABP extension? Nope. How about the people that maintain and issue the filter sets for ad-block plus such as filterset G? Nope. Maybe then the harmless and beneficient people that make the best browser on the planet for free? Could be!
Although I can empathise to a micro extent with the affected organisation which rely on the income from the ads to support their sites, I think the point is that ad sponsored websites don't really work too well. It's always a juggling act between in your face adverts and keeping the site useable.
Click though rates are so low that an awful lot of people have to suffer the ad just to get that one sale. Personally, I expect this to change a lot in the future as it becomes more aparent that ad supported surfing does not work.
This has always been an issue for TV: maximising ad revenue. Have the TV companies got it right? Nope, but we don't have a choice. Every ten to fifteen minutes we go wander off for 5 minutes. Whats the upshot of this? TV programmes are unable to persuade you to suspend your disbelief and get into the show. The only fix is to use a recorder and bypass the ads.
How would it be if we applied this to other media forms and claimed a moral responsibility (and these guys would also claim it's a legal obligation) to view ads?
Is it against the law to take a piss when the advert break is on in the middle of Lost? These people are arguing that you must watch the adverts and take a break during the feature!
When you buy a newspaper, are you legally obliged to read all the adverts, particularly the crappy ones for big slippers and hearing aids? These people think you must read all the adverts and skip the content if you run out of time.
Well what is the answer then? Tough one that. You need to take a long hard think about why you have a website, how you fund it and whether your audience will bugger off somewhere else if you put too many ads on the screen.
I could change the UA string on the browser or the proxy so that the webserver thinks Opera is at the other end and get around the redirect, but then why: The Firefox embargo has been in place for a month and I've never received a warning. I would guess that the most badly affected people are those who run Blogs and things and are using the most invasive (and therefore the most commonly blocked) ads to try and make a couple of bucks. I seem not to use those sites. For now I can live with the fact than someone doesn't like me 'taking a leak' when they are trying to feed ads to my browser!
In the future, if a really important site takes issue with my lack of advertising consumption and I can't read their content, like say Google, BoingBoing or SlashDot, then perhaps I'll think again and maybe take a premium feed. Or maybe I'll find another site. Until then, I'm really greatful there are plenty of IE users reading the ads so that I don't have to.
Remember information wants to be free but the whole world want to makey money from it!