Ad Blockers versus Flash Blockers

The recent debate has diverged from Flash on the Web in general to ad-blocking plugins and the (invalid) entitlement people express in multitudes of blog posts. Just the other day, I quickly summarized my view on Flash & Ad blockers on Twitter, which sparked some discussion on both Twitter and Facebook (where my non-reply tweets get sent to). In addition, I got an email from Peter Strømberg criticizing my dislike of Flash because it hurts publishers who need the ad revenue to continue publishing.

All this called for an elaboration post, which you’re reading now.

There are many reasons to install a Flash-blocking plugin like ClickToFlash for Safari or Flashblock for Firefox, but the primary reason most people seem to have aligns with my own: Flash is buggy, crashes too often, and even a reasonably benign Flash ad can slow the browser down noticeably. This is all the more true on the Mac, but remains a valid point on Windows.

As for Ad-blocker plugins, there is only one reason to install those: you hate ads, and don’t want to see any. A fair preference to have, and no one can force you not to install them.

The fact that many ads on the web are done in Flash is a separate issue entirely, and is cause for some confusion, especially among people in the publisher’s camp who deeply understand the need for advertising to drive revenue.

The biggest argument that is often overlooked in these discussions is that most ads suck leafy green donkey balls. They are obtrusive, annoying, frustrating, tasteless and rarely, ever so rarely, really worth seeing or watching (or listening to). They work, sure enough, but the vast majority of them work by being so obtrusive, and are shoved down your throat so regularly, that their effect stems more from those traits than from their quality.

You know which ads work well? The Deck ads. Fusion ads. These ads are tastefully and beautifully designed, and are clearly made with the intent to be worthy of your attention and time. They specify certain requirements, which is perfectly fine because that’s how you make things work well.

If more ads on the Web were like the Deck and Fusion’s ads, people would not be quite so inclined to install Ad blockers. Also, Flash blockers wouldn’t affect the ad revenue because these ad networks don’t do Flash ads (as far as I know).

Publishers complaining about people making them lose revenue by using Ad blockers should consider the nature and quality of their ads. Obviously, no single site can be held responsible and all sites suffer equally once someone has an Ad blocker installed, but a start has to be made.

One last example I’ll point out: I refuse to use Netflix because of their infuriatingly pervasive pop-under advertisement that tarnishes much of the Web. I’m sure those ads work really well, but until they stop that practice and find a method that doesn’t annoy me constantly, I vote with my wallet.

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