I’ve been sitting on this idea for many months, and a few times i considered posting about it or contacting others about it some other headlines took over the news cycle. As things seem to be getting pretty heated in this space. I recently read that wired magazine website was going to prevent adblocking users from viewing articles, yahoo mail may not function if adblock is installed. Some larger ISPs are starting to block ads at the network level for mobile users, and some ISPs are injecting ads and other things into what people receive.
Wow things have gone too far both ways.
So for many months my idea has been to create a fair-block system.
Not just a browser extension to block ads in a more fair way , like adblock plus is saying they do, but a system that includes server side things as well.
I am sure others will be able to expand on my ideas here, as I have thought mainly about my issues as an internet user, and as a webmaster, and as someone who creates and sells ads for various industries in different places around the web. Certainly there are others who will think of or who have already thought of additional things that should be considered or added to this kind of system.
The basic idea:
I visit a web site, I have a fairblock plugin
The fairblock plugin will block ads and third party script things unless certain conditions are met – by default. Default settings are easily changeable by the end user.
That sounds simple enough, and for those who know how things like disconnect and ublock origin work – does not sound like anything original I guess.
Here’s the thing that I think will make this fairblock thing a success for publishers and users.
A web site can have a server side script that abides by fairblock’s terms…
Similar to an adblock detector that can display a notice when users have a blocker installed, a fairblock friendly site can display a message asking for permissions, maybe get an animated icon or something in the browser bar. When a site has a fairblock script on their server, the end user can select settings with their plugin to allow certain things on a per site basis that will allow a saved override for certain parameters.
I am not talking about a “disable your adblock on our site” thing.
My initial thinking on this is something like this:
I hit a fairblock site, it alerts me it is fairblock ready and will offer unique options should I choose to engage further than the defaults with their site.
If my fairblock is set to defaults, I am probably blocking and not seeing most ads on their site, but I am willing to support a site by getting some ads, and even willing to share some basic info, but I am not going to disable.
Of course there will be an option to disable fairblock completely for a site you want to white list, but I think an end user should have a couple of fairblock profiles saved to make some switching faster and easier.
I visit a page / article at whatever-times news site.
My fairblock plugin is auto-preventing third party scripts, tracking, ads, etc – unless the ad is served from the whatever-times server itself and does not include auto playing video or animated gif / html5 stuff.
The whatever-times site has a fairblock script on it’s server, it detects the fairblock plugin, checks to see if any special settings allow for more tailored ads. It also chooses a non animated ad to be served in place of the lazy third party crap that may be served to most users.
Some kind of alert is displayed notifying me that this site is fairblock enabled, and I have additional options for supporting the site with a couple clicks if I want.
I appreciate the articles of said site, and I know that I can do more to help with whatever-times ad revenue by enabling more info in my fairblock profile for this site, without having to choose to disable it completely and loose the protections that come with ad blocking. So I click my fairblock icon.
It shows a couple of previously saved profiles and their changed settings. I choose my vanilla profile settings, and some things change.
Now whatever-times fairblock script sees that I am willing to share my location at a city level with them, my sex, and age range. Now the whatever times script can check it’s ad inventory and see if any ads have bid higher to place a local ad in my city, or want to display for the extra criteria I am willing to share.
This could work as a huge advantage for publishers and users.
At first I think only big advertisers looking for branding will get the advantages of this system, for example a simple script server side could offer to display a non-animated ad for coke or pepsi that is server from the server when fairblock is blocking the third party ads from tracking and displaying. This kind of thing works great for global brands, and for publishers that can charge for impressions in places that they would of gotten no ad revenue at all for previously.
As more and more people and publishers adopt this kind of fair block system, and places people want to support alert that they can do more to support them by providing some more info, I think we’ll see regional places taking advantage of the option to display ads based upon city as users click to allow that kind of sharing.
Future upgrades of the plugin could show a sandboxed version of what a page could look like if certain parameters were changed in the plugin for that page – maybe a little window preview of how the page may look if google fonts were enabled for example.
Would also be cool to have options for categories of ads end users want to avoid, like blocking alcohol or gambling ads, while also providing categories for things they are okay with (or not). When users select ad categories they like, all parties can benefit, as someone checking off shoes and hats for example as things they like, this can be a setting that gives the publisher more money for a more targetted ad impression, and the end user can actually get a relative ad they enjoy like the ad industry keeps trying to say is true – but not executed well for most people I imagine.
This is not going to be easy for publishers and ad selling places I know – but actually it can be.
This also does not have to be a fairblock only plugin – other plugins could be certified as fairblock enhanced and offer the same thing.
So adblock, disconnect, ublock origin, and all those Apple Iphone / IOS adblocking plugins out there could adapt the fairblock system as well, it’s not going to be proprietary.
I’ve seen a lot of debate about these issues in the news, and in discussion forums. Sometimes i wonder if some of the comments on hacker news are being made by ad people trolling like they are regular users.
My initial idea was a basic browser plugin like adblock, but I think this kind of plugin and it’s settings would be an awesome addon for routers, and perhaps some ISPs as well.
Different people have different reasons for using ad blockers, so we need a system that caters to the various needs of the individual end users.
I myself use ad blockers mainly because I regularly surf with 80 tabs of pages open, my computer can only handle so much. Removing the animated ads in windows i am not watching is necessary. I am also very aware of the possible virus infections by ads not just on porn sites, but places like yahoo and many others. blocking ads helps keep my computer safe from these malicious malvertising campaigns that are allowed my lazy publishers. another issue I have is data collection and combining. I think it’s find for a city paper to include ads relative to my location in the city. If my local newspaper combined data with other third party data brokers saying i spent 6 minutes on a page that included ads and articles for hpv and herpes i would likely not be reading that paper if it was free or cost 2 dollars.
There must be a better way.
Publishers had an opportunity to respect the do not track settings of browsers, but instead stayed greedy for whatever reasons.
However I can say that having so many places not following the do not track setting, and the utter shock of reading an article in a doctors office and having a nice loud auto playing video ad interrupt the whole office and make me look like an inconsiderate ass, makes me consider something like the disconnect vpn service that strips all ads and all chances of tracking.
We can move to a fair block system that gives users more choice to share and more security, or we can continue the escalating war of ad industry vs users vs publishers. It’s a war where we are all losing, no matter if you get a few ads snuck through a block or not.
Why did I install adblock plus?
It was the only was I could find to turn off yahoo’s auto playing videos on their home page. I searched and searched. I looked hard. I wanted to keep using the yahoo homepage dozens of times a day, but I could not bear the auto playing news(y) videos slowing down my system when I opened links in other tabs, they even kept playing when I scrolled them off out of view, or opened yahoo links in a new tab and went to that new window. It blew me away that i was paying for data cap overages to one company while getting served news videos (not even ads) – that i was not watching.
There were some other sites doing this auto video play thing that caused the same stress. Some of them I just now refuse to open any articles, no matter how compelling the click bait may be, there are a few web sites i will never go to again. Sure I may pull the page via a proxy service or do a search and see comments about what others may say. But the shady “restart the autoplaying video after a certain amount of time even if the end user has paused (stopped it) – even if in a tab that is not active.. even if the end user has left the house and gone. To come home after 9 hours and find an auto-playing video stream running with audio, eating up bandwidth, annoying others, and adding to my over the data cap fees… it’s shameful.
Sure I guess some publishers are gaining some kind of metric / bragging rights or some other benefit, maybe some extra ‘time spent on page’ because I had to come back to that tab I was ignoring and find a way to pause it – not to continue reading or watching your video – but those short term metrics that helped you last quarter are going to cost you all year. There are three or four of your sites now that I had visited on a regular basis that I will never again..
Well, unless this fairblock thing kicks off and you all start using this system that guarantees you won’t play loose and free with end users bandwidth, privacy and security just to post some numbers for this quarters metrics.
This post will likely be re-written and edited, likely without notice. If anyone wants to see previous versions send me a note and I will be happy to bring it up from the archive.
I am looking for others who would like to work on this project in any way – add to the ideas, write some code, whatever. I’d like to see this happen as an internet user, and as a publisher.
Perhaps some graphics would help get the idea across?
Maybe some more fields that people could consider sharing or not sharing. There are so many things to this idea, but I was hoping others would have already worked on this and rolled it out by now.