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Advertising Censorship Editorial The Internet

Power To the Pop-Ups 204

Slashdot frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes a piece advocating for Pop-Ups and even more obtrusive advertising. But not for the reasons you might think. He says "Annoying pop-up ads have been a great friend to Internet freedom, by enabling the operation of proxy sites that would be too expensive to operate otherwise. With the rising costs of making new proxy sites to stay ahead of the 'censorware' companies, even more intrusive ads could be an even bigger friend to Internet freedom. Got any ideas for how those more intrusive ads could work?" Clicky clicky below to read his point.

Most news and information websites carry advertisements, but usually not more than one pop-up ad, if they have pop-ups at all. This is because the costs of running the sites are low enough that they can usually pay for their costs with revenue from regular ads. Surely the site owners would like the extra money that they could get from pop-ups, if their viewers had nowhere else to go. But if they tried to get away with too many pop-ups on a typical news site, visitors would just leave for their competitors' sites instead. Competition keeps the "prices" — in terms of the ads that you have to view in order to visit a website — low.

By contrast, most proxy sites [that's not a link to one of my sites, so quit yer whining] — sites that you can use to get around Internet blocking, by using a form to type in the URL of the site that you want to access so the proxy site will fetch its contents for you — are festooned with pop-up ads, sometimes on every page load. As I can easily attest, the bandwidth and hardware costs of running a proxy site are sufficiently high that there would be no way to pay for the sites with the revenue from normal banner ads and AdSense blurbs. It's no exaggeration to say that most proxy sites, which enable people to circumvent government filtering in countries like China and Iran (not to mention helping millions of students get on Facebook and YouTube from school), would not exist without the pop-up ads to prop them up. (This may not be true of a proxy site that your high school classmate set up for himself and some friends, but it's true of most proxies created to serve a wide audience.)

Unfortunately it's becoming more expensive to run an effective proxy service that enables users to get around most enterprise filtering programs. If it gets to the point where normal pop-up ads do not bring in enough revenue to pay for the service, we might need a new breed of even more intrusive (and better-paying) ads. More intrusive than the drop-down ads that play noisy videos. More intrusive than the Flash animations that crawl across the screen on top of the words you're trying to read. I'm going to argue that a company that figures out how to run the most intrusive ads of all, could be the new best friend of Internet freedom. But first a note about why the costs are increasing.

Two years ago, I thought the cost of maintaining a proxy site to help people get around Internet filtering, would steadily fall, as bandwidth and processing power got cheaper. But bandwidth and hosting costs didn't drop as much as I had hoped, and the cost of maintaining an effective anti-filtering service has actually gone up, due to some advances made by Internet censoring programs. In 2007, the then-current versions of filtering programs like Smartfilter, Websense, and the 8e6 R3000 would typically only download updates to their blacklists once in the middle of the night. This meant that I could mail out a new proxy site to my proxy mailing list just after midnight, and it would be accessible to the mailing list subscribers all of the following day. (You wouldn't be able to get to them if your local network administrator subscribed to the mailing list and added the new sites to the local blacklist as soon as they came out, but most network admins didn't bother.) As of 2010, though, the latest versions of most enterprise filters are configured to automatically update their lists every hour or two. So to stay ahead of the filters, I have to mail out several sites every morning to different portions of the mailing list, so that the filtering companies generally learn about them and block them at different points throughout the day. Just registering several .com domains every day is not cheap. (GoDaddy sells .info domains for less than a dollar apiece, but this proved to be an ineffective solution because too many censored networks simply block all .info sites.)

There are also the increasing costs of maintaining compatibility with complex sites like Facebook and YouTube. Accessing Facebook through a proxy is still a hit-or-miss proposition. (I steer my users toward accessing the mobile version of Facebook, , through the proxy, because it's a stripped-down version built for compatibility with mobile devices, and this simpler version is less likely to break when accessed with a proxy script.) YouTube access depends mainly on whether the latest YouTube plugin for the Glype proxy script is compatible with the current YouTube interface, and likewise can be working one week and broken the next. It's not hard to run a proxy site that provides compatibility with the most popular sites that people want to access, but it takes real work -- you can't just upload the script and forget about it.

(Many users in censored countries also use tools like Tor and UltraSurf to bypass their country's filters, but some of my contacts in those countries say that those tools are often too slow for them, so they end up using proxy sites instead. Since UltraSurf and Tor are free services, funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, the demand for those services can easily swell until they slow down from the overload.)

So what happens if maintaining an effective anti-censorship service becomes too expensive to pay for using just pop-up ads? Well, you could charge money for using your proxy site, but that brings with it a whole host of other problems. You have to set recurring billing in order to be paid through PayPal or some similar service, and run the risk of your funds being frozen if someone files a crank complaint against you. If one user has a paid account, you have to worry about them sharing the account with their friends or posting the account credentials on a public message board. And there are many proxy operators (including me) who would like to think that the proxies do provide a valuable public service to the world, and wouldn't want to exclude people who can't afford the monthly access fee.

I propose that ads which are even more intrusive than pop-ups -- thus grabbing more of the user's attention and providing more value to the advertiser, thus enabling them to pay more to sites which run the ads -- would enable proxy site operators to fund more of the costs of their operation, and hence would be a Good Thing. The existence of such intrusive ads does not mean that they would suddenly be plastered all over every proxy site. If your user base can be served for a lower cost, then you don't have to "charge" as much (in terms of advertisement intrusiveness) to use your proxy service. Over 90% of the traffic to my proxy sites is to domains that have already been blocked a long time ago by Websense, Smartfilter, Lightspeed, and most of the rest of the censorware companies. Apparently there are a lot of users who are on censored networks and who need proxies, but whose network admins just haven't updated the blacklists in a very long time, or who haven't paid the subscription fee to keep downloading database updates. Since you don't need to register 10 new domain names every day to serve that audience, there would continue to be proxies for those users with less-intrusive ads on them. But the more-intrusive (and higher-paying) ads would also enable proxy webmasters to serve a "higher-end" audience, the ones who need several new sites every day, to stay ahead of the more frequently-updated filters.

I can think of several ways that more intrusive ads might work. My favorite would be a "quiz" model wherein a drop-down advertisement appears in front of the site you're trying to access, consisting of some promotional content, and a little form at the bottom. In order to make the drop-down ad disappear, you have to read the ad and fill in the answers to some one-word questions or multiple-choice questions about the content, to prove you actually read it.

Perhaps I'm biased in favor of this idea because I'm tired of ads that contain splashy graphics and expensively licensed music and never contain any actual information. The only television ad that I can recall viewing in the past year which prompted me to actually buy the advertiser's product, was the Pizza Hut ad announcing that you could get a large pizza with any number of toppings for $10. That's what I want in an ad. I give you $10. You give me a pizza. (And this extra plug for their $10 pizza promotion, can be considered a thank-you to them for running an ad that actually had something to say.) Most ads on TV are far less informative, serving mostly to give a glossy sheen to the advertiser's brand name. Yet these ads are paid for by corporations who do the market research and the focus grouping, so the ads must work. Many economists, including Tim Harford in The Undercover Economist and Steven Landsburg in The Armchair Economist, have explained why companies pay for ads that do nothing except look expensive: Because they prove to the viewer that the company intends to be around for a long time, in order to capitalize on the long-term exposure given to them by the ad. This has become so standard that making an ad which actually gives the user information seems tawdry by comparison. The most ghetto-sounding word in TV advertising is "infomercial".

But I think that some companies could benefit from greater exposure of actual information about their product, just as there are companies that pay for informercials. And if a company like Linksys really wanted to run a splashy ad that contained no actual information, and then make me answer some questions at the bottom like:

Linksys is:
(a) the leading manufacturer of wireless adapter cards
(b) the leading manufacturer of wireless routers
(c) the leading manufacturer of wireless monitoring cameras
(d) all of the above!!!

then that's their prerogative. The quiz-advertisement model only says that advertisers can require users to answer a question before closing the ad; it would be up to the advertiser to decide what question works best. I suspect that the actual-information model would work better for quiz ads, but advertisers could try both and see what works.

There are already some websites that require you to "complete an offer" (i.e. become a customer of some third-party company, at least for a free trial period) in order to use their services, but most proxy sites have so far declined to carry advertisements like these. Evidently their users consider this too high of a price to pay to access a proxy site. Filling out an offer is not just time-consuming, but leaves the door open to future problems -- will they sell your name or your e-mail address? Will they make it hard to cancel your "free trial", and then start billing you? The problem seems to be that there is too large of a gap between the "fees" associated with the two options -- a normal advertisement doesn't bring enough money to the proxy operator, but a complete-an-offer advertisement is such a steep price that most users won't pay it. The "quiz ad" is like a "fee" that falls nicely in the middle -- a smaller time commitment, and your worries are over after you fill in the quiz and hit submit.

If the very thought of such an ad still seems too annoying for words, then I think that objection misses the point. If the revenue from "normal" ads (pop-ups, drop-downs, AdSense widgets) is enough to pay for the operation of a "high-end" proxy service (catering to the people who need several new proxies every day), then such proxy services with "normal" ads will continue to exist. Indeed, anyone who tried running the more annoying "quiz ads" would not be able to get off the ground, because users would flock to the competing proxy sites using normal ads instead. If "high-end" proxy services flourished that were using quiz ads, it would only be because you simply can't provide a high-end service for less money than the quiz ads are bringing in.

It's possible that some advertisers would be reluctant to display ads in a manner that users would continue an annoying obstacle, but I'm not sure that's really a problem. The most intrusive advertisements currently in use on mainstream websites are probably the "premercials" that display before some news videos on and other news sites. Unlike drop-down ads which can be closed with the click of a button, the video pre-mercials can't be skipped. Since you're actually expecting the news video to come up immediately when you click the link to start playing the video, you would think that many users would grit their teeth in annoyance upon seeing the "pre-mercial", and transfer that irritation to the advertiser's brand name, but there are so many big-name companies buying those pre-mercials that they must believe it's having a positive effect. So intrusiveness itself doesn't seem to tarnish a brand.

But I don't propose to micro-manage suggestions for how the more intrusive ads would look, or how advertisers should tailor their ads to fit the format. I'm just saying that a new breed of more intrusive ads, even more annoying than pop-ups, might be just what we need to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated Internet censors. It's still technically quite trivial to release a steady stream of new proxy sites that defeat most Internet filters, but it costs money to buy domains and maintain the service, and the money has to come from somewhere.

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Power To the Pop-Ups

Comments Filter:
  • So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:34PM (#31087022) Journal

    Is he saying that annoying pop up ads have brought about the technology to get around censorship, and thats why we still have a Free Internet?

    Wouldn't it be better if there wasn't a form of censorship at all except what the user wishes to?

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:53PM (#31087308)

      Also, wars are bad, why don't we stop having those?


      • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 )

        I agree with your trollish way of saying this:

        Wars are not bad for everybody, hence they will never go away

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:56PM (#31087330) Homepage Journal

      But if censorship isn't going away... and it isn't... then you have to look ways to deal with it. His premise is odd, but seems valid.

      You response is like saying, "Why bother talking about all these laws to prevent gun violence? Wouldn't it be better if there simply were no guns?"

      • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:16PM (#31087578) Journal

        Some people would say, "Yes banning all guns IS a good idea." They've forgotten that banning beer did not work in the 1920s, nor has banning the plant marijuana/hemp worked in the present day.

        Anyway with governments like China censoring the internet, clearly there's a need for tools to get around it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Some people would say, "Yes banning all guns IS a good idea." They've forgotten that banning beer did not work in the 1920s, nor has banning the plant marijuana/hemp worked in the present day.

          So, on the one hand, we have historical bans on easily grown and made agricultural products, one of which is enjoyed by the majority of the population, or at the very least not very controversial. On the other hand, we have a proposed ban (or rather, a strawman ban) on a much harder to manufacture industrial product t

          • There are also some with less gun violence than the US per capita that have even less stringent laws concerning guns (eg Switzerland, which is about on par with France in gun deaths. It's close to half the US per capita rate. Israel is about half of the French rates). Even in the US, some of the most deadly places also have strict gun control laws, such as Washington, D.C. had before a supreme court ruling. I bet that having vs not having guns did not cut down on crime at all in DC, and did not make anythin
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by quadrox ( 1174915 )

            correlation != causation.

            I will admit that much stricter gun laws would probably have prevented at least some of the school shooting in the U.S. Probably/maybe.

            However, I don't believe that guns are the root cause for the gun violence problem. If all you're going to do is to ban guns, you're not really fixing any problems, you're just hiding them (and depriving everyone else of their right to bear arms at the same time). You should find out what makes people go crazy like that and work on that problem inste

        • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @04:37PM (#31090342) Homepage

          It's not that bans don't work; it's that they must mirror social values to be effective. Alcohol and marijuana enjoy acceptance by a large portion of the population; upwards of 50% in some places, which is a simple majority.

          But those aren't weapons; they're drugs. To at least keep thing in the same ballpark, consider bombs and chemical weapons, both of which are either banned outright or heavily regulated. It also happens to be socially *unacceptable* in the U.S. to possess either of those items as a civilian. So, through a combination of legal and social pressures, the prevalence of such items is negligible despite the fact that anyone could easily make either one in their basement. In some countries however, there's a greater social acceptance of such weapons -- explosives at least -- along with impotent law enforcement, and they're far more prevalent as a result.

          I'm not saying we should ban firearms -- I'm actually a card-carrying member of the NRA -- but the idea that bans can't work because *some* bans didn't work is simply a straw man. As with prohibitions against smoking in bars (something else I personally opposed), once social attitudes are in place, then a ban is nothing more than a codification of public sentiment, and it's extremely effective as a result. Not 100%, but (as in this example) smoking in bars and restaurants literally went from perhaps a 1 in 10 prohibiting smoking to 99 in 100, overnight. Without public opinion, people would simply be flaunting the law. Conversely, without a law, owners didn't want to risk alienating customers. The two go hand in hand.

      • I just wanted to ensure I understod him correclty - a little too busy to read the full summary, but I gathered that from the first couple of paragraphs.

        Though really, it would probably be better if there were no guns. We should go back to swords, because swordplay is awesome, and every good action movie has at least one swordfighting sequence. I'm getting a little side tracked here, what were we talking about?

        Censorship! Right. It's not going away anytime soon, though thats not to say it isn't going to go a

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      Yeah, it would also be better if there was no war; everyone had basic necessities like food, shelter, and healthcare; and everyone had someone to love and to love them. I mean, if we're going to dream, might as well cover it all.
    • I guess the guy doesn't like asking for donations or something.

      Making annoying ads different doesn't make them less annoying. There is a well known trend away from online advertising being effective in any format. Really, people don't want ads and don't have interest in them. Have a proxy and a cost for that proxy? ask for it. Relakks does so with their vpn, and if you want a good proxy I see no reason not to have to pay them too. Maybe have the free option include ads as they are now, but trying to make th

    • His basic point is that free sites which have high operating costs are expensive to run, so they need more money to continue to offer services for free. His solution to getting more money for the free sites is to have more intrusive advertising. One example of a free site with high operating costs is a proxy site.

      I'm not sure why he needed 14KB to say that, but that's what he's saying.

  • It's official. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:37PM (#31087066) Journal
    It's official -- Haselton has gone off the deep end.
  • by drachenstern ( 160456 ) <> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:42PM (#31087138) Journal

    Because seriously:

    a) quiz-advert is stupid. I'm sorry, subvert my browser and change who's in control of the flow of information before either I or the information provider can have a say in the process? I would write the firefox plugin to stop that one post haste.

    b) this sounds like a /vertisement.

    c) does this REALLY solve a problem? I submit to you "gloves". []

    • You know, the gloves only work because there is already a complicated system of valves, tubes, and smaller tubes in the underlying architecture...

  • Go visit in IE and tell me pop ups are a good thing, until then, crawl back under whatever rock from 10 years ago that you came out from. Popups are good like a geocities web address is good.
  • Point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HunterWare ( 128177 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:45PM (#31087184)

    I don't see the original thought here. Intrusive ads generate more revenue... yep. Some services need more revenue... yep. There are many ways to pay that increased cost of which intrusive ads are one... yep. That doesn't make them less obnoxious and isn't really new.

    If you want to use those ads as a way to generate revenue then good for you. Maybe it will work, and maybe those customers of yours will enable popups and other crap to use your service. The rest of us will still avoid those boils on the ass of humanity as much as we can because that's what they are.

    • Intrusive ads generate more revenue... yep.

      Is this really true, though? Every time a web site annoys me, I hit the Back button and go somewhere else. There aren't very many places that have content so compelling that I will consent to being badgered and interrupted. I cannot imagine that I am the only one who thinks like this. I would think that these sites would see in their web logs that thousands of people are leaving the site almost immediately because of in-your-face ads. And it gets worse because I will not embarrass myself by forwarding

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:45PM (#31087188)

    You're trying to serve ads to people trying to get around government censorship. They're probably not interested in the new Maxi Pad with propellers. In fact, if somebody is using a proxy for privacy reasons at all, I don't think they're interested in buying, and thus giving out personal information, for anything. Your business model basically depends on the gullibility of your advertising clients. This is, as you're already finding, not sustainable.

    • In fact, if somebody is using a proxy for privacy reasons at all, I don't think they're interested in buying, and thus giving out personal information, for anything. Your business model basically depends on the gullibility of your advertising clients.

      Actually, the question and answer format he's proposing seems like a good way to build brand recognition.
      Brand recognition is considered an "intangible asset" and not all advertisements are about immediate sales.

  • Adblock Plus Rocks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:48PM (#31087232) Journal

    Even has a nice little comment permantely in the upper right corner: "As our way of thanking you for your positive contributions to Slashdot, you are eligible to disable advertising." I get a real kick out of that.

    The funny thing, is I like slashdot adds. It's that freaking girl in a bikini who really wants to meet me that requires the block. If I could somehow allow really well targeted adds, and block the spam, I'd enable it.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      I would actually keep the ads on Slashdot unblock if they would just not take any animated ads.
      I hate them and find them very disruptive

      • This is why Google dominated. Their adds are targetted, based on keyword matching your search, and they're just plain text. Why can't the rest of the internet do that?

    • I've *never* disabled Slashdot ads, or do I have Adblock installed, and Slashdot is allowed in NoScript. Yet I never see ads of any kind. Go figure.

  • by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:49PM (#31087252)

    He said people do not use Tor because it is too slow.

    Then he proposed making his own service slower by making the users do some stuff before seeing what they want to.

    Then Tor will be the faster option.

    • He said people do not use Tor because it is too slow. Then he proposed making his own service slower by making the users do some stuff before seeing what they want to. Then Tor will be the faster option.

      Heck, ad-clicky version could be 2x faster, but people would still use Tor. I could set a connection up with Tor, go make a sandwich and come back, and read what I wanted, or I could set a connection up with ad-clicky proxy, go make a sandwich, come back, be forced to click a quiz, then read what I wanted. Which sounds better?

  • Buy Lightspeeds! (Score:3, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:51PM (#31087270) Homepage

    The idea that more intrusive ads are a good thing comes ultimately from those who are trying to sell stuff via the ads. They will invariably want the most intrusive ads possible reaching as large a group of people possible. That's what they'll pay the most for, and where there's a demand for it someone will sell it.

    The only way to combat ads being absolutely everywhere is for the commodity being sold to advertisers (our eyeballs) to avoid or not pay any attention to the most intrusive ads. If we don't set limits (via technological means or just training ourselves to really ignore them), then what is "really intrusive" now will become the new normal, and a new even more intrusive ad will be created for when the marketer wants to be intrusive.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:52PM (#31087286) Journal
    Betrayal for money! Allow me to explain:

    Proxies serve four broad classes of user: 1)Dissidents in the world's various despotic hellholes. 2)The bored cubicle slaves of the first world, who wish to stick it to the man by updating their twitbook instead of collating TPS reports. 3)Various flavors of copyright infringers, either trying to avoid the copy cops, or trying to access streaming sites that block their country of residence. 4)Kiddie porn enthusiasts who would rather not be raped to death in prison.

    Here is what you have to do: Choose which of these markets you actually care about, either because they make you warm and fuzzy, or because they pay well and don't use too much bandwidth. Advertise your proxy to all of these markets. For all of these classes except the one you care about, secretly sell the users' identifying information to data brokers. For instance, if you care a whole lot about idealistic democracy activists in repressive hellholes, you can finance your great-firewall-of-china penetrating proxy by selling out the facebook users of corporate America to their HR departments. If you want to stick up for the beleaguered lower-white-collar class' right to check its friends page at work(because after they cut your health benefits, man, you have to fight back somehow) you can pay for it by selling out the democracy activists and paedos of the world to their respective governments.

    See? A brilliant plan! Why Monetize your userbase when you could Judasize it?
  • Mostly whining... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:53PM (#31087296) Homepage

    I have ZERO problems with all the mentioned sites through the Proxy that everyone here at work has to use. His whine is with his script that auto changes or inserts ad's for his proxy to spam the life out of you with.

    If I was a site admin that a proxy site was trying to inject ad's onto, I'd code it to break their ad injection.

    I have no sympathy for a proxy operator that whines about a site changing it's design to stop ad injection. I dont want my site looking like I support some scumbag company because a proxy company injected a ad into my site to an end user. I would have less problems with it if the proxy companies would inject their ad with "THIS IS NO THIS WEBSITES AD, IT WAS PUT HERE BY YOUR PROXY" but they wont do that.


    • If you care enough about hiding your IP to use a proxy, you should have Java, JavaScript, and Flash turned off anyway, in which case popups are not an issue anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @12:55PM (#31087324)

    The author is thinking too 'small time'. More Intrusive Pop-ups are just more annoying, and the website visitor will do the minimum amount of work possible to get past it. I propose a much more proactive plan.

    Web technology is sufficiently advanced that the advertising company can now force a choice upon the ad viewer: either buy the products being advertised, or do some small amount of work for the company, right now, in order to get past the advertisement. Imagine if every viewer of an internet pop-up had to read through a short product manual, and then go right to work for five minutes as a "virtual customer service representative." These virtual workers could be evaluated on their expertise, call turnover, etc., just like actual employees, and then given the reward of getting past the advertisement and on to whatever content/service they were seeking. This would guarantee a more reasonable level of ROI for an advertiser, thus encouraging more companies to adopt this model and therefore funding further growth and support of the internet infrastructure.

    • Web technology is sufficiently advanced that the advertising company can now force a choice upon the ad viewer: either buy the products being advertised, or do some small amount of work for the company, right now

      I hate you, and I want nothing to do with your newsletter. Good day sir!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apart from the fact that the article is a lot of mindless, meaningless chatter for "internet ads pay for proxy services", I still do not see the need for proxy services. I know what they are []; I do not understand why the administrator of the service can't foot their own bill, or make users subscribe to the service with an annual or monthly fee, if they think the service is that important. Dodging the expense issue with pop-up ads is a cheat that guarantees hostility towards the service.

  • The advertising model of American media is going to go away, either through self-destruction or consumer choice. Advertisement subsidized content is mostly worthless. You have a choice between low production value in niche markets, or high production value where the content is dumbed down and filtered through corporate "values" lenses so you can sell enough ads to pay for the production. In the first option you have marginally interesting but poorly presented content. In the second, it's a highly polished t

    • Your argument is interesting but fatally flawed. I could substitute "direct paid content" for "advertiser subsidized content" and your argument still holds. Niche content = few viewers = low budgets. Mass market content = many viewers = high budgets. Whether the viewers pay directly or via advertising doesn't effect the outcome. Mass market content isn't dumbed down to sell ads; it's dumbed down because the majority of viewers are dumb. If anything, the advertising-based funding model actual favors hi
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Advertisement subsidized content is mostly worthless

      I haven't seen a newspaper or magazine without ads. I haven't seen but a handful of web sites without ads. Are you saying magazines, newspapers, and the internet are mostly worthless? If so, maybe worthless to YOU, but most people would beg to differ.

  • This is kind of a freaky argument. Sites need funding, so if a site provides a useful service and is not directly funded by end user payments, then it can do whatever it needs to generate advertising revenue.

    Of course it is true. Without funding the site would not exist, so users should be happy to do endure whatever is necessary to support the advertising model, or be willing to cover costs and profits among themselves. In reality advertising is a heavily regulated system with many silly rules. For i

  • No one likes either of them, but they serve a understandable purpose. The problem is that it's easy money to keep increasing the revenue that way, but people get more and more annoyed. There needs to be a proper balance, and sites that get it wrong are likely to be subject to less viewers and/or ad-blockers.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:12PM (#31087518)
    You can always spin off a subscription-only alternative (with some added perks for subscribers like no ads at all). This may or may not make enough money to support the free version. If it does, great. If not, you could always shutter the free version and say "Sorry freeloaders." There are a lot of people willing to pay a premium for a good service (just look at all the subscribers to /.). But realistically, if someone is a freeloader and isn't willing to look at ads to begin with--you're not going to change their nature just by making even more annoying ads (you're just going to drive away a lot of other people who might actually be willing to pay for a premium ad-free version). If you have to dump the freeloaders at some point, I don't think it will be a big loss.
    • He mentioned that possibility then shot it down because he feared people would share the credentials. Which some people almost certainly would. The question becomes, would enough people pay the subscription to offset the costs? I don't know the answer to that, but suspect it's probably "No" or you'd see proxy operators doing this already.

  • Ugh. And no. People already have the option of not blocking popups in most browsers. Let those who want to see the ads disable the blocking feature. Not me, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

    And seriously .... Pizza Hut? Chainstore pizza = fail without exception.

    • Chainstore pizza = fail without exception.

      Noble Romans used to be good back in the 80's, then they changed their dough to some corn-meal base, and lost everything.

  • If someone clicks in a pop-up or a similarly intrusive ad, it is probably either an accident or they are not used to navigating the internet. It is very unlikely they will see the advertiser in a positive view and end up buying from them.

    An ad doesn't have to be intrusive or distracting in any way. Some people may be amused game, quiz and other flashy ads for a while, but they will end up ignoring them and/or considering them a nuisance. Being informative is important for an ad, but it needs more than that.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:15PM (#31087568) Homepage

    Displaying ads is a very, very great danger to anonymity. A whole new network is "put into the loop" in the user's request, able to log IPs, see URLs in referral headers, and store cookies. Adding advertisements to websites in a proxy and then claiming that proxy to be anything but worse than useless for evading censorship is not honest. If you're in a repressive country and want to avoid being imprisoned, do not listen to advice like this and use Tor and hard crypto instead (and learn how to use them right).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by corbettw ( 214229 )

      Wouldn't the proxy service run the ads through its own network, obfuscating the client just like with any other site?

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:17PM (#31087600)
    If you want to see what happens when you don't fight the Customer see Google. Even though most of Google's revenue is from advertising, without the people using their tools then they would not make any money so the people using their tools need to be considered Customers.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Don't you know? Marketing drones know best. You must, you shall, you will suffer under the thumb, finger, feet and possibly toes of our advertisements.

  • If I was going to make regular use of a proxy-site, I would rather pay a modest subscription fee and not be hit with obnoxious advertising. Especially since you know these new ad techniques will be moving out from just the proxy sites to the rest of the wild west web.
  • A proxy site that alters the content of the page so the proxy site can afford to operate?

    This seems on its face to be an awfully spammy way to operate, and one that I would think would be easily defeated by the site owner. Just make it so that the pages can't be scraped in that manner and you are home free. Should be easy with AJAX and other tools.

    Ads are not the answer. If the users absolutely will not pay for services, then the ads are a hoax anyway - you are serving ads to non-customers that never wil

  • by cetialphav ( 246516 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:22PM (#31087658)

    The key to running something that depends on advertising is providing an effective platform for delivering advertisements. Effectiveness means that people will actually take some time to actually see and respond to the ad. This is why advertisers are generally obsessed with demographics. They want to make sure they make their pitch to potential customers.

    You have to find a way to match up the visitors to your website to an ad that may interest them. Of course, this is hard. Too bad. Throwing up intrusive, annoying ads does not suddenly make your advertising platform effective. If I'm not interested in something, then it doesn't matter how intrusive you are; I'm still not interested. Many advertisers suffer from the delusion that if people just payed attention to their pitch, they would all come running to hand over money. Bzzzt! Wrong! It doesn't work that way. If you can't find an effective way to deliver ads, then someone else will come along (like Google) and kick your butt, so stop being annoying and start using your brain.

  • ... remove the enabling technology from the standards and the browsers. Problem solved.

  • A better solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @01:27PM (#31087762) Homepage Journal

    I have a revolutionary idea. One that may seem totally outlandish but you know, it just might work!

    Please understand; I don't intend to "steal"[sic] content. I understand your web sites need to make money. That is why until recently I never ran ad blockers; I made do with popup blocking. However, advertisements have become so $%&@ing intrusive that about a year ago I started using adblock, and haven't looked back since. See, you advertisers minimally test your ads; you don't test them integrated into all of the pages in your advertising network, and you don't test all the major browsers. In fact, I don't think you even test Firefox or Opera at all.When those $%&@ing "popover" ads started with the close button being inaccessible or nonresponsive, or when your $%&@ing ad is floating over DHTML, you are hurting my "web browsing experience." You are blocking my access to the content, and that is a major no-no. Instead of courting me as a potential customer, you are alienating me. Even worse are the audio-visual ads which play loud noises on mouseovers. That is incredibly irritating, especially if I am browsing the web at night when guests are over.

    So, I installed adblock and haven't looked back since.

    Now again, understand that I agree that content isn't free and has to be paid for. Believe me, I like to have a roof over my head, drive nice cars, and even eat on occasion. So yes, I do understand that and agree that you need to make a living. However, by negatively impacting my computing experience, you are not winning me as a customer. So, I now block your ads. Your eating is not more important to me than my computing experience. It's not that I don't understand, it's that I don't care. It is almost as if you are going out of your way to be completely obnoxious with your malfunctioning DHTML or Flash-based ads, which is malicious. So, it is my desire for you to go bankrupt and ultimately homeless, without Internet access, since you can't do your job responsibly.

    What was wrong with text-based or banner ads? You can't say they don't work. If you claim that they don't work, I'll point you at one of the most valuable tech companies in existence as proof otherwise: Google: 99.9999%+ of their revenue is advertising revenue. I have small (2-3 person) manufacturing clients who make $20K (profit) per month (I wish I made that much!) and they promote their products world-wide through google adwords. I know that text-based banner advertising works!

    I never worried about blocking text-based or banner ads. I never even blocked, uh, "adult" ads regardless of environment. I understood everyone needs to make a living. But, now that you have gone way, way over the line by negatively impacting my computing experience, I don't see any of your ads. Adblock takes care of that.

    Bring back banner ads. You can even use animated GIF images; I don't care. Use text-based ads like google adsense/adwords. I have made purchase decisions based on being made aware of products via such ads. However, I refuse to be a patron of businesses which go out of their way to annoy me and to interfere with my web browser's functionality. Now your obnoxious ads don't reach me at all. Also, any time I work on client machines, I install adblock (I've been deploying it network-wide in business environments for 3+ years now, and now I install it on privately-owned computers as well). I'm not the only one deploying ad blocking extensions, either, so your outreach is becoming increasingly small. You are annoying yourself out of existence.

    Obnoxious pop-over web ads are the new spam, and are just as annoying. It is your job to court me to fall in love with your clients' products; not to alienate me and make me hate your client and refuse to patronize them.

    • I never fail to snicker at the mentality of advertisers like this. Real world analogue: Do people really buy from the companies who have a business card stuck under the wiper of their car, or a stupid doorhanger put on the door of your apartment? They must, I guess, but wtf.

      I go out of my way to let them know that while before I had no idea their stupid club, real estate agency, or pizza joint existed, now I do, and between the annoyance of having to dispose of their garbage and the fact that they're cre

    • That is incredibly irritating, especially if I am browsing the web at night when guests are over.

      Sounds like quite the party.

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @02:14PM (#31088422) Journal

    Oh okay, let me try to re-cap what he is claiming.

    A: I run a proxy so that people can access the internet through me and get around filters. Example: from China access to read

    B: This costs money.

    C: I want to plaster this proxy experience with ads to pay for this.

    D: If I make the ads annoying enough, I can pay to keep the proxy running.

    Is this guy a marketing genius or what? His reasoning is straight out of the Internet bubble days.

    NO SHERLOCK. People using a proxy to access a site are NOT people you can advertise to. Why would an American company pay for eyeballs in China? Especially eyeballs that want to be hidden for some reason? Shindlers List, now sponsored by Coca Cola!

    Your proxy will either be used by privacy freaks who think that anyone cares what they do OR people who actually need it. In both cases, ads will not be useful at all. The first will freak out at the thought that ad company can read their mind because yes their penis needs to be bigger and in the last case, the people got better things to worry about.

    Either find some alternative way of funding your proxy or just eat the costs out of the goodness of your heart. But no sensible advertiser will advertise on a proxy server. How after all are you going to track user identity? Proxies should be anonymous, so how do you track how many unique visits you have unless you keep records and that means your proxy is worthless from a privacy view point.

    Really, is the web bubble back again? This is such a classic "I got an audience, advertisers love audiences, I can make some cash here!" idea.

  • fuck you! i hope you die in a fire! the whole goddamn planet is swamped with advertising, billboards, spam in email, TV & radio, i use adblocking software and turned off javascript and never bother to install any plugins because of all the goddamn advertising, i say enough already so one last time = fuck you! Bennett Haselton i hope you die a painful miserable slow death
  • by Rexdude ( 747457 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @03:03PM (#31089244)

    It's 12 years since I first got onto the net, and 11 of those have been utterly, satisfyingly ad-free. First, here's why I have zero guilt about supposedly leeching off the revenue(?) stream of website operators:
    1) Most of the English language websites I visit are American. I am Indian, from India.
    2) The products advertised here are also American, or delivered within the US/Canada only.
    3) There's no way in hell that I'm going to buy anything advertised here, thanks to lack of a little thing called purchasing power parity when it comes to pricing.(If you charge $20 for a Tshirt, that's about 1k INR, when I can get 5 good tshirts for the same price here, add another 50 dollars for international get the idea). I'd rather rip off your design and make my own tshirt elsewhere.
    4) Ergo, I am not going to ever click a single ad, and am fully justified in banishing them.

    1998-99 - Argh, WTF are these banners doing choking up my already slow dialup line?
    1999-2003 - AtGuard Personal Firewall. Awesome URL based adblocking included, it would auto load on detecting a dialup connection and exit when disconnected. Bought over by Symantec and turned into the bloatware called Symantec Personal Firewall. Sadly doesn't run on XP.

    2003 to present - Ad Muncher [] - Socket level filtering, so can filter any program that can make a network connection. 7 GB bandwidth saved, 850,000 ads blocked (according to the built in counter) since then.
    What Admuncher could not catch, Adblock Plus does, and what slips through that gets routed to by my 15k+ entry hosts file.

    The End.

  • Pop tarts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @03:11PM (#31089348) Journal

    What are these "popup ads" of which the article speaks? Is it something you toast for breakfast?

    Maybe "intrusive ads" create more revenue...for the site that serves them up, but that's not the same thing as being effective—that is, actually selling stuff. All I know is that I don't usually see "intrusive" ads on the web. I've made arrangements that pretty much eliminate "intrusive" content from my web reality. Basically, my policy is to kill anything that moves. Uh, well I mean anything that's animated, flashes at me, does any popping up or under or sideways, and does not basically sit meekly in a corner and behave itself. I get a kick out of the /. notice that offers to turn off advertisements for me because I have such good karma (yes this is your chance, oh my enemies!). I mean, doesn't having good karma mean I've been around? Like, what ads, man?

    Here's free advice to advertisers: if you want me to notice your advertisement and even maybe click on it, make it a nice discreet image that doesn't get in my way, but shows something I am likely to be interested in buying. You know, stuff that will draw my eye instantly: guns, ammo, camera lenses, computer parts, neat tools, or new science fiction books. I'd even be willing to sign up for a service that plants a cookie that cues advertisers about my special interests, as long as that meant I wouldn't be bothered by obnoxious ads for all the other stuff I will never want. In fact, why hasn't anybody already implemented a system like this? Ooops, time to fill out the patent application.

    • In fact, why hasn't anybody already implemented a system like this?

      You ignored google's options for this. If you have a google account, you can configure your preferences so that ads are better targetted.

      I present to you, exhibit A: Google Ad Preferences []

  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @03:14PM (#31089392)

    Is this some kind of joke? This guy is NOT asking for help with this article.

    It's a mind-game which he hopes will achieve two things. . .

    1. He's advertising his site to privacy freaks (well, you and me, actually) who might actually be inclined to use his services, thus ballooning his traffic, thus increasing the price he can ask for when selling to advertisers.

    2. He's trying to inject the idea into popular discussion that ads are some sort of Freedom Fry, and hopefully infect the IT people of the world with the idea that ad-blocking is bad for good things.

    Sorry, but anybody who is so totally into pumping adverts at people against their will cannot be trusted. And it IS against their will. People who have installed ad-blocking features on their browsers have CHOSEN not to see ads. To attempt to circumvent this, as he clearly explains he does on a daily basis, is a violation of Free Will. People who have no problem violating Free Will, will also have no difficulty in justifying the selling of private click data to the highest bidder. I'd be shocked if he wasn't doing this.

    This guy is not a censorship crusader. It's all about profit and personal gain. He may not view himself that way, but that wouldn't be any surprise either; denial is always easier to embrace than a hard truth and the work required to change one's behavior.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ceseuron ( 944486 )

      As one of the people who have chosen not to have my web browsing experience ruined with rampant, uncontrolled advertising, I can say that if a website tried to pop up an ad, mask the content behind some overlay ad with a quiz, or generally do anything that interferes with my activities, I will promptly close the offending site and add it to my blacklist of sites that utilize intrusive advertising. I'll hunt down and add blocking filters for ad content from other hosts to prevent it from being displayed on a

  • Meh (Score:3, Funny)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2010 @03:18PM (#31089458) Journal

    I find a SOCKS proxy running on the machine of the desk of the person charged with administering the block works fine; for some reason, that machine is always exempted. If that doesn't work, put a keylogger on it too.

  • The more intrusive the ad, the more I'm likely to add it to my personal boycott list.

    In other words, if everyone did as I do, advertisers would be less willing to pay for more intrusive ads than less-intrusive ones.

    Also, if a site's ads are too intrusive I start looking for a competing company offering the same service. This is very easy for things like newspaper web sites but a bit harder for sites where there are few competitors.

  • It seems like most of the cost he describes is associated with running a Web-based proxy -- that is, a proxy that simply presents itself as a webpage with a form, rather than a native HTTP proxy.

    We've had HTTP proxies as a spec for decades. Forget all the custom software and hacks you're talking about -- slightly more work by the end-user, but it would work everywhere, and the upkeep would be the cost of running a Squid proxy.

I've got a bad feeling about this.