Ad-Blocking – Is it an Internet Apocalypse in making?

Have often have you been embarrassed by Ads on the web page that you open during a business presentation?  What you wanted to show was possibly some article that supports your argument, and what people primarily get to see is your deepest and darkest desires as assessed by your personal browsing history, from family vacations to lingerie for your wife/girlfriend, health supplements or kids back to school products etc.

So, is it possible to strip away the web page content from the ads?
Yes it is.
You can easily do it with Apple’s Safari browser (since Sep 2015- iOS 9 onwards) and Mozilla’s Firefox (June 2015 version-38.05 onwards).  This utility goes by the very unprepossessing name “Reader view”– yet it also accomplishes the amazing task of blocking all ads (literally any “visual distraction”) and rendering the web-content in its pristine glory. It is enabled by a simple touch or click of a button on the browser. No add-ins or external plug-ins are required. How many of you knew of this feature I, for one, stumbled upon it only about a few months ago.

Let me illustrate how easy it is to toggle to the reader view in Safari and Mozilla.
Safari _Reader ViewFirefox _Reader View.png

This is how I consume web-content on my iPad (safari)/Desktop (Firefox). Understandably, Google’s Chrome, though a cutting edge browser, does not seem to have a native “Ad-Blocking/Reader View” feature yet.  So, why would anyone use Chrome?  Will this impact Google’s projected advertising revenues of USD 72.69 billion in 2017?

Will Google ever support Ad Blocking? If not, will it impact the usage of Google Chrome in anyway?

Google has had a great run in its browser usage. If we take a look at the usage share of web browsers in the past from May 2007 till Mar 2017, Chrome’s usage (accounted for 58.9 % in Mar-2017) surpassed all other browsers. Along the way, Chrome displaced Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to become the world’s most-used browser.
Browser Usage
There was a time when the browser one used was nothing more than a matter of taste. “Safari was for Apple purists, Chrome for the fleet of foot, Firefox for the universally compatible, and Internet Explorer for the masochistic”, according to The Atlantic report People also went on to study if the usage of web browsers can tell something about a person. One such study found that people who use Firefox or Chrome were better employees as they perform well and stay longer in their jobs as they presumably displayed an active choice to do something that wasn’t default.
Everything went in favour of Google Chrome.

But will this winning streak of Google’s Chrome continue, if they do not come up with a native Ad Blocking software/Clutter free browsing experience?

Looks like Google has taken the signals seriously. Apparently, they have plans to include Ad-Blocking feature in Chrome. And that’s good news for the users.
But what happens to the web advertising industry if Ads are blocked by users?
Let me present a different perspective to Ad-Blocking below.

The Other Side to Ad-Blocking: Is it equivalent to Stealing?

Human Attention is the most scarce and the most valuable commodity today. That’s why advertisers spend billions of dollars trying to seize a few moments of your time when you’re watching TV, surfing the web or using your mobile apps.  Yes, these Ads have well-deserved reputation for annoying users and I bet all of us would approve of an ad-free internet. But when we manage to block all Ads from appearing on a web-page with great content, then who’s paying for this content? When you allow ads to be shown next to the free content that we consume, you are in-effect “paying” to access the content. If the content were to be put behind a paywall, would you pay say $5/month to read say CNN.com or IMDB.com? Can you imagine paying to access Facebook or YouTube videos? It is the annoying Ads that power the content. If there are “No Ads” then there is “little or no incentive” for content generation.

Even if Ad-Blocking were universally acknowledged as “stealing”, would people reconsider blocking them? No. We instinctively believe that information is meant to be free.

Epilogue

Jaron Lanier in his insightful book, Who Owns the Future asserts that had Internet been architected differently, the content creators could have been paid micro credits for each time it was consumed and there would have been no need for ads to power the Internet. But then, the reality is, we are living in this Ads propelled Internet.
Who owns the future
In summary, “Information doesn’t want to be free”.

So, will Ad- Blocking lead to a needless Internet Apocalypse?  Well my idea of this article was to present the good and bad sides of Ad-Blocking.

 

 

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