Ad Blocking = Theft?

Well, it seems that CNet has weighed in on the ad-blocking pissing match between Danny Carlton and Adblock Plus. Take a quick look at Chris Soghoian’s article at, then come back here.

OK, now you have read his article, we can discuss, intellectually, his argument that “Users of advertisement-skipping technology are essentially engaged in theft of resources”

Wow. How fucking stupid can you get? Sorry, I mean, the arguments he has used are of questionable support and logic.

His argument is based on a two assumptions: first, that unlike television, the cost of web hosting is directly related to data transferred, and therefore to the number of page views; second, the advertisements on a page, are a part of that page, and are directly tied to viewing the page.

The first part of Chris’s argument is that the cost of a television show is not going to change based on the number of viewers, in that the cost of the electricity to broadcast the show and the satellite time remain the same. While that may be correct, the largest part of a show’s cost is not the physical transmission costs, but the production costs, and that has everything to do with the number of viewers. The cost of salaries for the people involved, the percentage of income taken by the production company, and many other costs, are based on the show’s ratings, or how many viewers it has. Therefore, a popular show will cost more to produce than an unpopular show, even though the physical transmission cost is the same.

I do understand why Chris misses this fact, it is because there is a time delay between ratings and costs. Now this delay can be days, weeks, months, the next season, or whenever. While page views seem immediate, and the costs are immediate, or are they?

Another problem with his argument is the idea that “each time users visit a Web site, the server consumes bandwidth to send the content of the Web page back to the user–and that bandwidth costs money.” Well, last I checked, hosting services were normally provided on a flat rate for each tier of service, with each tier providing more bandwidth. Here is a quick example, over at Go Daddy’s hosting plans you can see that the basic plan is $3.99 per month and includes 250GB of bandwidth per month, while the $6.99 plan includes 1,000GB per month of bandwidth.

Now, taking those Go Daddy numbers, and a quick look at the cnet page for the story…
50KB – html page from cnet
90KB – images for the page
51KB – shockwave flash ads from a different server

Let’s see, that is less than .14MB of files from cnet for the page, which would take around 1,790,000 page views to go from the $4 Go Daddy plan, to the $7 plan (based on 1000MB per GB). Heck, if I turned off images, then it would take 5,000,000 page views to force them to the next plan. Just to put it in perspective, the .14MB it took to download the page to my computer, cost cnet $ 0.00000223, using the low end Go Daddy plan.

When someone sets up a site, they choose what hosting plan to go with, and they pay that amount, no matter how little of the bandwidth gets used. The site owner only pays more when the bandwidth crosses the monthly threshold, 250GB is first one, 1,000GB is next, and then 2,000GB after that. So to say that each and every page view pushes the price up, is incorrect.

Now, let’s say that we accept the idea that advertisements are a part of a web site. Kind of a “if you want one, you have to take the other,” attitude. Well, what would be the effects of that? Well, the site would become responsible for the content of the ads. So, if an ad has hate speech, or advocates a violent act, or if an ad makes false or deceptive claims, or even if an ad is a link to spy/mal ware, the site that hosted the ad is directly responsible. At that rate, any site an ad links to, is also the responsibility of the site that hosted the ad. Now, site owners would proclaim that they can not be held responsible for the content of the ads, or the sites the ads link to, but if the ads are an integral part of a site, then they are that, A PART OF THE SITE.

As you can see, the ‘web sites are not TV’ analogy is neither correct nor incorrect, it is a false argument, and each and every page view is not more cost to a site owner. Also, if Chris was correct in the assertation that ads are a part of a site, then the sites would be responsible for the content of those ads, something sites are quick to keep away from. Therefore, the two key arguments that Chris depends upon, are either unfounded, are flatly denied by the sites themselves.

On a final note, a site owner can choose any advertising method or vendor that they want. I can choose to ignore the ads, enter false pointers in my /etc/hosts file, use plugins to block ads, or whatever means I wish, to block the ads, and make the page load faster. Just the same way that I can get up during a commercial on television to go to the bathroom, grab a snack, take out the garbage, or whatever I want to do. I can flip through a newspaper or magazine and completely ignore the ads if I wish. The site owners choice of ads and rates, are part of their business plan. If they choose an annoying ad campaign, or really low rates based on page views, then it is their business choice, possibly a bad once, but only they are responsible for their business choices. I will base on my choice to use an ad blocking plugin on how annoying the ads are becoming. If you want me to not fight you over ads, then don’t use stupid ad tricks. With stupid ads, at the least I will become annoyed with you over it, and at the worst, I will stop visiting to your site altogether.


One Response

  1. I’d like to add that poorly written java ads can crash ome’s PC and/or cause the requested page not to load (especially if the first part of the page is the ad.

    I don’t worry about TV ads turning of my VCR.

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