what unites them most is resentment
May 11, 2018 8:56 AM   Subscribe

 
Only a few years ago, even people who hated ads saw ad-blocking software as akin to stealing.

Literally no one has ever thought that except people who make their living from ads.
posted by enn at 9:10 AM on May 11 [180 favorites]


on a recent visit, the homepage for one popular U.S.-based news site sent 20 requests to 10 ad exchanges, each of which likely offered the space to hundreds of advertisers. It also set 47 cookies with unique tracking IDs, many of which log user data such as location, gender, age, and likes and dislikes based on browsing behavior. These data give advertisers a sense of how valuable you might be as a customer, and therefore how much to bid to show you an ad. When one of the advertisers wins the auction, an ad appears on your screen. The whole process takes less than a tenth of a second.

As a side business, every company involved in any step of the process may also try to place a cookie or tracker to collect more data on you for later use. Such companies often swap data to try to identify users they have in common, and they may pull in your email address, name, public records, and credit card history.
Ad-blockers are doing God's work.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on May 11 [51 favorites]


Is anyone selling these pre-set up? I'd love to have something like this, but the idea of starting with a box that I have to install an operating system from scratch, build a case for it, etc., just isn't my idea of a good time. I'd rather spend a little more money for something that's plug and play.
posted by MythMaker at 9:15 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Ad Blockers are in no way "anti capitalistic", any more than barnacle scrapers or shark repellent are.
And as mentioned, no one ever anywhere thought of Ad Blockers as stealing from anybody.
posted by chavenet at 9:18 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


Literally no one has ever thought that except people who make their living from ads.

Forget it Jake, it's Bloomberg.
posted by PMdixon at 9:20 AM on May 11 [27 favorites]


I have a friend who has a Pi-Hole set up on his network and he loves it. (The article mentions RIT, and he's actually an alum.) I may get one going one of these days. Currently I run Firefox with uBlock Origin and a cookie auto-delete plugin.
posted by azpenguin at 9:22 AM on May 11


Is anyone selling these pre-set up?

Yes! Buying one supports the Pi-hole project too.
posted by karlshea at 9:22 AM on May 11 [18 favorites]


I love my adblocking and anti-Facebook hosts file. I'm always appalled when I try to use someone else's browser or computer and how much slower and crappy everything is. I have no idea how people even use the internet like that.

Even on ancient, crufty computers and browsers the Facebook products blocking speeds up loading pretty much anything that uses any Facebook APIs.

And a lot of sites are super lazy about APIs. They just throw 'em all in there in the master page layout so whatever content devs can call whatever widgets from whatever subpages at all times.
posted by loquacious at 9:24 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Feeling bad for using an ad-blocker is like apologizing for wearing a helmet when people throw rocks at your head.
posted by Quindar Beep at 9:41 AM on May 11 [73 favorites]


Literally no one has ever thought that except people who make their living from ads.

I seem to remember there being more than one discussion here on the ethics of using adblockers knowing it might deprive the site of some revenue. For example. (cortex, mathowie, and jessamyn all made clear in that thread that their position was each user should do what works best for that user, but definitely the thought was out and about in the world)
posted by solotoro at 9:45 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I understand that ad revenue is a business model for websites. That said, it's trivial for websites to defeat ad blockers: host the ads themselves. Host the ads, serve up the images in the same way you're serving up any other images, and integrate it into your layout, the same as how newspapers and magazines do it.

Anyone who objects to ad-blockers fundamentally doesn't understand how a webpage works. The page itself is like the IKEA instructions, and it tells your browser where to put all the parts. If the instructions happen to include "download all these ads," and you decide, "nah, I don't wanna," how is that wrong?
posted by explosion at 9:48 AM on May 11 [40 favorites]


I've noticed a definite uptick in the number of websites blocking access if you're running an ad blocker. I've been tripped-up by the links in several FPPs here of late.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on May 11 [11 favorites]


I think it's like content piracy: The number of people who actually thought that ad blocking or downloading some MP3s was really stealing was... very limited. I do often feel bad for blocking ads, I guess kind of on the theory that I wish a lot of sites I like didn't feel the need to throw rocks at my head, not that I'm going to let them. But I've never felt it's like stealing, just that it's like not sufficiently supporting resources that I want to exist. The same way I totally prefer to buy content but I don't feel any guilt for the fact that I have, say, used pirate sites to watch anime when Crunchyroll was down, because it's really not anything like actual theft.
posted by Sequence at 9:55 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I understand that ad revenue is a business model for websites. That said, it's trivial for websites to defeat ad blockers: host the ads themselves. Host the ads, serve up the images in the same way you're serving up any other images, and integrate it into your layout, the same as how newspapers and magazines do it.

I agree that the ad ecosystem is awful, but a self-hosted system would not meet the requirements advertisers/agencies/networks place on publishers. This was true even before the ad exchanges were involved.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:05 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's less that people used to agree generally that ad-blocking was stealing (it isn't), but that people used to agree generally that it wasn't all that big a deal to not run an ad-blocker. Years of abuse from an advertising industry that cares about nothing but profit and which would shoot people into the sun if it thought it could squeeze another penny out of them has changed that sentiment.

I agree that the ad ecosystem is awful, but a self-hosted system would not meet the requirements advertisers/agencies/networks place on publishers.

And whose problem is that? The agencies have been pushing policies for literally decades that prioritized short-term profits over the long-term viability of their business model. They've been metaphorically clearcutting their forests, and, well, that bill has come due.

Things didn't have to reach this point, and it could still be turned around, but the fact that ad agencies want a bunch of bullshit that can only be achieved by stomping all over users doesn't mean they should expect to get it. They can evolve, or they can die.
posted by tocts at 10:08 AM on May 11 [31 favorites]


I have this naive, probably-unsupportable moral intuition that if I pay for some content (and I do; I subscribe to several print journalism sources and one internet one, donate to a couple investigative journalism nonprofits, and have been donating to public radio for many years) that it will all even out and the information world I want will be sustainable. The reason it’s probably unsupportable is that I imagine there is a winner-take-all tendency when people have to open their pocketbooks. But I’m still not going to feel any more guilty for using an ad-blocker than I would for insisting on condoms at a sex party.
posted by eirias at 10:11 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]


I agree that the ad ecosystem is awful, but a self-hosted system would not meet the requirements advertisers/agencies/networks place on publishers.

It work for magazines for decades. (Whether it's still working is debatable; print periodicals are facing some serious problems.) It worked for newspapers. (Same.) And television: even when there's product placement inside a show, it doesn't show you a random item based on the demographics in your neighborhood; a specific company paid for a specific detail to be show to all viewers.

Digital allows a lot more flexibility. The website has info on its readers, and can feed them ads that its hosting with a script. Of course, no current site is going to have that script have literally several thousand different ads in rotation... but hey, advertisers should be willing to pay a premium for, "your ad will be seen by ALL of our readers."

It'd mean advertisers would have to pay attention to site demographics. Would have to figure out a broader target audience, not have one ad for "under 30 office-worker women" and another for "40-50 year old black man who owns a pickup truck." Would have to design ads to entice not-current-customers.

And of course, that's extra work, extra risk, extra cost, so they're not going to dump the current system to opt into that, unless adblocking reaches levels that actually start to put holes in the current game of 3-card monty, where damn near nobody can tell which actions are resulting in what increases in payments to whom.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:31 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


what unites them most is resentment entitlement.

And I say this as someone who uses an adblocker regularly.
It's an ethical struggle for me, because I know I'm getting something of value for free. It's not stealing, but it's also not benign.

I grew up in a home where the only source of income (my father's) came from his job as an engineer, and later executive, at a local independent television station. Everything we had was paid for ultimately by advertising dollars. That's how the terrestrial broadcast model worked - and it worked well.

The internet advertising model involves cookies and tracking and huge amounts of historical data attached and traceable to me, which is why I block them as much as I can, but if we could somehow go back to non-targeted ads that don't mine me for data I'd happily turn off my adblockers and let the content creators and websites get paid for their efforts.
posted by rocket88 at 10:40 AM on May 11 [19 favorites]


Only a few years ago, even people who hated ads saw ad-blocking software as akin to stealing.

Yeah, the idea that there's some moral imperative to be advertised to is something that has only arisen as a response to ad-blockers. No-one ever thought that it was "akin to stealing" to fast-forward through commercials or walk into the cinema after the ads. No-one ever felt guilty about folding a newspaper in half to read the article, while entirely ignoring the ads on the other half of the page. Nobody had a sleepless night because they switched stations to avoid an annoying radio ad.

Why not? Because these things are patently ridiculous. It's not my fucking responsibility to suffer the entirely pointless excreta of capitalism and also help maintain the system that's taking a massive shite in my mouth. That anyone would seriously suggest otherwise really does suggest that the world has gone completely fucking nuts.
posted by howfar at 10:40 AM on May 11 [63 favorites]


The article seems a bit "teach the controversy!"-ish, by creating a weird opposition perspective that doesn't really exist outside of big corporate media companies and their occasional apologists/shills. But whatever.

I admit to not really seeing any sort of moral controversy, but also freely admit that if I had the Ring of Gyges, the ad networks wouldn't be the first companies I'd bring down in an improbable series of terribly unlucky datacenter fires, backup tape corruption, office sprinkler system activation, and bedbug outbreaks in the homes of key executives... but they wouldn't be the last ones, either.

On a technical level I'm surprised that the PiHole has taken off given the existence and widespread availability of regular old browser-plugin adblockers, which I've been installing basically since animated banner ads became a thing and are now dead simple (basically one click) to set up on any modern desktop browser.

I wonder how much of the PiHole's popularity is purely because Apple and Google both dragged their feet in making mobile adblocking as easy as desktop ad blocking (Google still basically prohibits it in Chrome on Android—Apple lets you do it on Safari on iOS pretty easily though).

The PiHole is basically a DNS blacklist, which hasn't been the norm for desktop adblockers in years—there are too many easy ways for advertisers to get around it, by pushing the ads through the same server as the content. So it seems like a bit of a technical dead-end; if they get too popular, the advertisers will shift the delivery mechanism and then they're sunk. (The final endgame is to run everything over HTTP/2 with SSL and push the ads and tracking cookies inside the same connection as the content. You basically have to let the PiHole do a MITM attack against your traffic if you want to stop that.)

Endpoint ad-blocking, inside the browser, seems like it will always be a better move since there's no way to control how a browser renders the page. So the real fight is to make sure the browser vendors, e.g. Google, allow extensibility architectures so that users can control page rendering. The grim dystopian Internet future is that Google succeeds in getting Chrome to IE6-levels of market saturation, killing all other browsers, and then turns it into a "secure delivery framework" where you have no control over anything that happens within the Chrome window on whatever device you're running it on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:43 AM on May 11 [7 favorites]


N.B. Ghostery tells me the article on Bloomberg's site has no less than 60 trackers on it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:49 AM on May 11 [23 favorites]


Only a few years ago, even people who hated ads saw ad-blocking software as akin to stealing.

On the contrary, when I'm paying by the gigabyte for data usage I see advertisements as akin to stealing.
posted by beatThedealer at 10:57 AM on May 11 [52 favorites]


Literally no one has ever thought that except people who make their living from ads.

I feel this way.

If a site's ads are so offensive to me that I don't want to see them, I just don't visit that site.

If a site's content is good enough that I don't mind seeing the ads, I visit that site.
posted by paulcole at 10:58 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I feel bad about blocking ads on occasion. Though usually, I feel bad on sites that then block their content. Really I feel bad that I don't get to see the content. But hey, I'm ADHD, there's always something else to look at.
posted by evilDoug at 11:09 AM on May 11


I would stop using an ad blocker if I could count on web display ads to do the following.

1. Track only whether the ad has been viewed.
2. Not animate, make noise, pop-up, pop-over, or do anything to interfere with what I'm trying to read or do.
3. In no way be "targeted" based on data used from sources other than the website I'm viewing at the time.

Essentially, give me static images or plain text and links, and no fucking JavaScript.

Until then, I'm seriously considering adding a pi-hole to my network. For now, though, I'll stick with 1Blocker.
posted by SansPoint at 11:14 AM on May 11 [18 favorites]


I tried pi-hole-style adblocking (under SquidGuard on a pfSense box) but it blocked *too* much, and I ended up going back to uBlock Origin extension for Chrome, using some of the pi-hole filter lists along with my normal uBlock lists.
posted by mrbill at 11:23 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


One of the cons of an ad-blocker is that it's easy to become unaware of how bad a website is (because you blocked all the crap) and then you forward it onto your friends via social media and inadvertantly you give all the shady trackers and advertisers 100 or so extra page views from other people.

So it actually plays into the hands of the worst websites who you would normally steer people away from.

I wish ad-blockers were a bit more granular, so they would display the first one or two ads but anything over that limit would be blocked and a red indicator appear.
posted by Lanark at 11:29 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]


I've been using pi-hole on Arch on a UDOO x86 and it's been working like a charm for a few months now.

It's more involved than buying a Pi-Hole server someone else built, to make one yourself, but it was a fun project.

The only downside so far is I have to disconnect from my wifi network to get the ad to multiply my earnings in Egg, Inc.
posted by anem0ne at 11:31 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


I use AdBlocker and Ghostery (it seams AdBlocker doesn't try too hard to block tracking, if at all). Unfortunately, letting Ghostery run at full throttle will "break" the functionality of a site on occasion. I'm too lazy too find out why, but I won't be shocked when advertisers figure out a way to foil blockers. $200 billion is a lot of money.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:45 AM on May 11


I ordered the one karlshea posted. I am somewhat techie, but not techie enough (or energetic enough) to build my own from scratch. Figuring out how to run it on my network, is about as much as I want to deal with.

I currently run a browser adblocker in Firefox, but this will protect my entire household. And I won't have to deal with all the different browsers and operating systems in my household to do it.

I am tired of the malware that sneaks in via ads.
posted by elizilla at 11:46 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


With the shuttering of so many beloved sites recently (for example: The Toast, The Awl, The Hairpin, Gothamist, DNAinfo, etc), I'm more sympathetic to the advertising-dollar-dependent. I only pay directly for four content sources and I benefit from hundreds a month, easily.

I really do hope that all the folks who are so proud of their ad-blockers are also actively thinking about models to support all the places they consume content from, and that they are working to support those models where they exist. (I'm guessing, if you're here, that you're a fan that of the kind of rich content that the indie internet has to offer).
posted by mosst at 11:48 AM on May 11 [11 favorites]


I am super aggressive about blocking ads not because I find ads annoying, but as a defense against malware. The malware angle makes statements like Wired's "Here's the thing about ad blockers..." even more frustrating.
posted by xedrik at 11:50 AM on May 11 [22 favorites]



With the shuttering of so many beloved sites recently (for example: The Toast, The Awl, The Hairpin, Gothamist, DNAinfo, etc), I'm more sympathetic to the advertising-dollar-dependent.


Your argument is that people should be more sympathetic to the ad-based model... Because it failed to support the Toast Awl and Hairpin? Its failure to support the content I like is a selling point? What?

Gothamist and DNAinfo got shut down because the staff unionized.
posted by PMdixon at 11:52 AM on May 11 [21 favorites]


I really do hope that all the folks who are so proud of their ad-blockers are also actively thinking about models to support all the places they consume content from,

I am. The main one is socialism.

and that they are working to support those models where they exist.

On it.
posted by howfar at 12:07 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


No-one ever thought that it was "akin to stealing" to fast-forward through commercials or walk into the cinema after the ads. No-one ever felt guilty about folding a newspaper in half to read the article, while entirely ignoring the ads on the other half of the page. Nobody had a sleepless night because they switched stations to avoid an annoying radio ad. Why not? Because these things are patently ridiculous.

To prolong the metaphor: you also didn't need to worry about the movie ads silently putting a tracking beacon on your credit card. (And if they did, you certainly wouldn't need to worry about people dismissing your concerns by pointing out that it's no big deal, every movie theater does that) . Nor that the half-page newspaper ad might quietly reach out and punch you in the jaw.

Modern ad networks are destructive. Not just in an abstract "I don't want my identity tracked," or even in the slightly less abstract "I pay for my data by the gigabyte and I don't want to pay for an ad network to barrage me with advertising." I mean actually will-do-tangible-harm-to-your-multi-hundred-or-thousand-dollar-device destructive. Try-to-sway-swing-voters-in-American-elections harmful. Will-steal-your-identity-and-resell-it-to-Russian-hackers destructive. They're a goddamn menace, and somehow no one seems bothered by it because hey, that's how Google Ads works, and it's good enough for everybody else.
posted by Mayor West at 12:08 PM on May 11 [51 favorites]


We use pi-hole. I love it. The idea that I am in the wrong by blocking ads, rather than the advertiser who is spying on me, selling my privacy/personal info, trying to manipulate me into buying things I don't want or need all under a shabby blanket of "secrecy," is flat out laughable. But then I'm the person who got pissed off when they started running ads in movie theaters. As far as I'm concerned, I paid to watch the movie content, you don't have the right to turn around and sell my captive attention to advertisers. Fuck ads.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:12 PM on May 11 [13 favorites]


I really do hope that all the folks who are so proud of their ad-blockers are also actively thinking about models to support all the places they consume content from,

Yes I do. I give money to propublica, meta filter, and public radio on a monthly basis.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:19 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


I am super aggressive about blocking ads not because I find ads annoying, but as a defense against malware. The malware angle makes statements like Wired's "Here's the thing about ad blockers..." even more frustrating.

A big chunk of Wired's tech coverage is about malware so actively not pushing malware on you would be them stealing from malware authors that they depend on.
posted by srboisvert at 12:21 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


I have my ad blocker set to allow reasonable ads: curious I never see any.

It also annoys me when sites flash up a page telling me that I have an ad blocker and to remove it. Don't they realise that the reason I have an ad-blocker is to STOP full page ads and that if they behaved and followed the rules I would see ads.
As usual with marketing people, give them an inch and they will stretch it to a mile and still plead innocent.
posted by Burn_IT at 12:24 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


I also agree that the only time my AV flashes any problems is when there is malware in the UNCHECKED BEFORE THEY PUSH THEM ads.
posted by Burn_IT at 12:28 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Third-party advertising networks have dragged their feet regarding developing solutions for problems such as UI hijacking, intrusion, advertising inappropriate for the audience, tracking, malware, hardware-punishing formats, and cryptocurrency mining. They have about the same credibility as email marketeers, telephone cold calls, and social-media astroturfing.

What would I accept? Same origin, signed by the publishing site, no javascript or highly restricted javascript, no trackers, preferably no cookies.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:35 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


If google really wanted to fix this, they'd buy cloudflare and directly inject the ads at the proxy level, offering DDOS protection for free.

That they haven't done anything like this so far is strong evidence that not enough people are running adblockers to matter.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:47 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


"This has abetted the spread of fake news, violent children’s content, and Logan Paul."

Ha!
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


It's an ethical struggle for me, because I know I'm getting something of value for free. It's not stealing, but it's also not benign.

Maybe when blockers first appeared but once the ad networks started pushing out malware--fuck them. I have a higher duty to make sure my computers (and those of my friends and familar) are safe and not turning into DDoS or spam bots than to their bottom line (even if they're starving content creators).

(on post hot-take, what xedrik and Mayor West said)
posted by MikeKD at 1:28 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


TIL some internet-connected TVs run banner ads. I have to say, if I bought a TV that did that - and this was not prominently disclosed on the outside of the box and/or in the description of the device - I would immediately return it and place that company on my Never Buy Again list.

I run µBlock Origin on my computer(s). While reading this thread I sshed into my home network, connected to my Rasberry Pi AirPrint server, and installed Pi Hole. I'll update the router when I get home. Why? Because I have become so reliant on µBlock that using a mobile device is awful. Ads that I know damn well would never appear on the desktop just keep appearing on iOS, no matter what ad blocker I install.

I don't hate ads per se. I hate BAD ads, I hate MISLEADING ads (e.g. the clickbait trash "sponsored links" at the bottom of every website) and I hate ads being forced on me when I don't want them (e.g. Windows deciding to put text ads in the lock screen - I'm in a Mac-only household, thank god). When given the opportunity to remove ads, I do it. iOS apps that have an ad-free paid version? I'll pay for it. Charge me a reasonable amount to permanently remove ads? I'm in. But you leave me with nothing but the nuclear option, you deserve to get nuked.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:40 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I'll go one step further to say that I am looking forward to the death of the ad-supported model altogether, along with the sites and services that rely on it.

Just charge for content. "But no one actually pays for content!" you may say. But the deep dark truth is that 99% of content creators and developers don't produce something worth paying for. Maybe the bar for creators should be higher than "just good enough to warrant at least a second of attention". Maybe the terms journalist or author should mean something more than "marginally employed freelancer spouting hot takes and top ten lists". Maybe a functional site or app should provide a service good enough to shell out the cost of a hamburger for.
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:48 PM on May 11 [17 favorites]


Ad-blocking isn't theft, ad-blocking is defining your own boundaries and declaring what behavior towards you you find unacceptable. Nobody should ever feel bad about doing that, in any relationship, and certainly not in relationships with advertising corporations.

What's more, while I am somewhat sympathetic to the plight of small magazines or newspapers that are finding the internet isn't the financial salvation they thought it was, the fact is that the vast majority of the Big Websites (and even some smaller ones, like this one!) exist largely or entirely on the back of a shit-ton of content that was provided to them for free by their users. Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia and even Metafilter* (much as I love it) sure as shit don't feel bad about not compensating me or any of their other users for the content we create and put up there, even though without us, they are just empty shells with no purpose and nothing to sell - and yet I'm supposed to feel bad for not making sure they get compensated for what they brought to the table?
*I whitelist Metafilter anyways...but Metafilter also takes some care to make sure its ads are not-totally-awful and don't violate my boundaries for what I find acceptable.

I'll admit though, I have long believed that advertising is fundamentally a sloppy jury-rig to get around the limitations of capitalism-as-a-model, though. Without advertising to support so many things that a huge percentage of the population wants, and that we as a society easily have the ability to create and maintain, but that don't naturally lend themselves to being profitable, the limitations of a society that has no place for anything that isn't profitable would become too easily and readily apparent to the masses.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:10 PM on May 11 [8 favorites]


TIL some internet-connected TVs run banner ads. I have to say, if I bought a TV that did that - and this was not prominently disclosed on the outside of the box and/or in the description of the device - I would immediately return it and place that company on my Never Buy Again list.

I just bought a Sony TV that runs a version of Android as its OS. There aren't banner ads (thank god) but enough "sponsored content" and other bullshit on the home screen that I seriously thought about packing the whole thing up and returning it. I don't need or want smart tv features in a TV -- I want a dumb, 55" 4K monitor that doesn't have terrible color that I can plug my AppleTV into. Nobody sells those at consumer prices.

Instead I figured out how to kill most of the crapware, put the TV on my network long enough to update its firmware, and then disabled its wireless.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:15 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


While a pi-hole sounds interesting from a hacking perspective, I'd probably be the only person using it, and a fair chunk of where I need an adblocker is outside of the house anyway.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:16 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I do not mind ads, what I don't want is anything animated/flashing or anything that covers content on a page (e.g., popups, notices, etc.).

When a site throws up one of those "this is an ad supported site--you should turn off your ad blocker" notices, I surmise it's because they are using the newspaper model and selling space. There is just no way for me to know if they allow malware ads, jiggly content, or other crap in that space...I assume that anyone who pays for that space can put anything they want in it.

Anyone remember the "dancing" animated ads in the early web browsers? That's what started my attempts to block that junk.

Gist: allowing "reasonable" ads means no animated/flashing stuff right next to what I'm trying to read/view.
posted by CrowGoat at 2:27 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I'm completely out of touch with smartphones, are owners not allowed to set /etc/hosts on android or ios like they can on a desktop/laptop? That would seem a better option than buying yet another piece of future landfill fodder with the bonus that it would work everywhere, not only on the connection where pi-hole is set up.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:58 PM on May 11


Apple lets you do it on Safari on iOS pretty easily though

The apps "WeBlock" and "AdBlock" are both available in the Apple app store, and they both use a local on-device "VPN" to proxy all web traffic through the app. They're basically a Pi-Hole on the iOS device, and work for games, apps, Facebook, etc. even when the data is going over cellular.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 3:20 PM on May 11


Yeah modern web ads aren’t just likely to *carry* malware, IMHO they literally *are* malware.
posted by edheil at 3:28 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I once was moved by one of those "please turn off your ad blocker" notices. So, honest fellow that I am, I turned it off and refreshed the screen.

The very next thing that happened is a full screen overlay covered the webpage with fake "cracks," an ad for some stupid computer maintenance thing.

I immediately turned the ad blocker back on. If sites would just stop with the autoplay, noisy, distracting junk ads, they'd find people like me far more willing to put up with them.
posted by SPrintF at 3:37 PM on May 11 [17 favorites]


MetaFilter: what unites them most is resentment
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:42 PM on May 11 [11 favorites]


I make my living indirectly from web site ads, and I will say this: if ads are done natively (no 3rd party javascript calls) and are well-designed (both functionally, and in how thoughtful their placement, styling and number are) I have no issue with ads per se. Ads are generally not done this way.

I view it the same way I view audio ads: when my favorite podcasts do their own commercial breaks in the middle, with their same voices and sensibilities (MBMBAM and The Adventure Zone) or keep the "produced" ads short, I consume the ads without resentment or skipping...but radio ads are generally not done this way.

This is about social interaction and norms, I think. Right now I'm working on a project where user testing shows users are confused by and dislike a specific mandatory section of our form, and the solution we're proposing is simply changing the copy from "SELECT THING" to "Which of these things are you most likely to purchase to replace your current thing?"

Changes like that are surprisingly effective, because people like to be treated with respect and thoughtfulness. If you run ads that are tantamount to running up to strangers, waving your hands in their face and interrupting what they're doing to say LOOK AT ME, I have no sympathy for your loss of ad revenue, because there are ways to go about it that people won't block.

On edit: as SPrintF just said above.
posted by davejay at 4:15 PM on May 11 [10 favorites]


Seems like I land right there with everyone else -- I don't mind ads in general and have even clicked on a few relevant ones, but those are so far from the norm that I feel like I have to run an ad blocker all the time.
posted by HiddenInput at 5:27 PM on May 11


I was an early adopter, using a program called Intermute which later became AdSubtract. Now I use uMatrix.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:30 PM on May 11


I dislike ads and have mostly run adblockers. I need to research options for iOs; I don't browse a lot there but the ads are irritating especially when I am paying for data.

I am intrigued by the option to deal with this at the network level, I hadn't realized that was so accessible.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:33 PM on May 11


There's one site I'm required to use for work all day every day. When I had an ad blocker on, it was fine. Then they started blocking access if you had an ad blocker. Since then I've had several instances of "Warning: Call Microsoft at..." browser hijacks from that site that render my machine unusable until I restart (and lose whatever I was working on). If advertisers were reputable and didn't force malware onto me I'd consider removing the blocker. But they aren't and so they don't get paid. Not my problem.
posted by downtohisturtles at 5:55 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


If anything is moving or flashing on a page, it's not "annoying" to me, I literally cannot pay attention to the content I came there for. The same is true offline - I can't read a book if the cat is in my peripheral vision playing with a toy. It's probably a good thing I got laid off a month after my office switched to an open plan design because I would have never been able to cope, and I'm too pretty for jail.

In Chrome, I use uBlock origin and Autoplay Stopper (which really truly does stop autoplaying videos!). That takes care of 95% of the annoying ads. On my iPhone I use AdBlock.
posted by AFABulous at 6:09 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I ♥️ this and can hardly wait to build one!
posted by hilaryjade at 6:49 PM on May 11


Instagram ads are relatively unobtrusive and yet I hate them so much, probably because there did not used to be so many. I've taken the time to find and follow artists who post startling, weird, intriguing, intelligent work, and I can't look at more than 3 or 4 images without being nagged about superhero movies or sub sandwiches. They've taken what used to feel like a wonderful creative community and turned it into a fucking Tupperware party.

If I'm providing content for your platform, I should not also have to see ads. How about: if I post on Instagram, my feed is ad-free for the rest of the day? Or just let me pay a one-time fee for an ad-free app! It's insane that ads are seen as the only possible way to support these platforms.
posted by oulipian at 7:28 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


So if I get a pi-hole can I still get the watch-an-ad-get-free-stuff free stuff when I play two-dots with my phone connected to the wifi? I admit I want the free stuff and let the ads run to get it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:21 PM on May 11


"If anything is moving or flashing on a page, it's not "annoying" to me, I literally cannot pay attention to the content I came there for. "

Ugh, ditto. When there's a moving or flashing ad in the corner of my eye while I'm trying to read, it literally makes me nauseated and I have to physically cover the ad with my hand or close the page. Also those fucking rotating share buttons ("Share this on every possible social network! But we don't want to give space to 22 buttons, so we'll just have one button but change it every second!"). It's like, "Congrats! You served your fucking obnoxious ad, I had to quit reading the article I was here to read, and I will not be returning to your website! Good job! I hope the 3 cents you made off that was worth losing a reader forever!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:47 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


My hypothesis is that fundamentally adblocking is a lost cause. True adblocking, like malware detection, is hypothesized to be equivalent to the Halting Problem. Arms race between adblockers and adblockerblockers will thus lead to unblockable ads ultimately.

And what I'm doing is to block ads as aggressively as I can, knowing that I'll be ultimately defeated.
posted by runcifex at 12:24 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad the general opinion around here about adblocking has reversed. It's almost like it was never any different…

Because, yeah, a few times in the last 10 years when I've stated that I (a) hate advertising, (b) think it's little more than social cancer hijacking people's emotions for its own purposes, and (c) use an adlocker everywhere, I've had some … let's say 'interesting' … responses and pushback about how I'm a freeloader who's not only stealing from 'content producers', but jeopardising the very future of the internet…
posted by Pinback at 3:36 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Would you download a website?
posted by Bangaioh at 3:44 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


If you're building your own Pi-Hole, it should run just fine on one of these $10 Orange Pi Zero devices.
posted by flabdablet at 4:10 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I’ve never run an adblocker and the internet works fine for me. Some sites are terrible, but that’s what the back button is for.
posted by grahamparks at 4:21 AM on May 12


Has anyone here noticed adblockers blocking comments sections as well? Granted, on some sites this is a feature and not a bug, but on others the comments section are a main attraction. I've had this problem with, I think it's uBlock on iOS. I have it installed, but frequently wind up disabling it so that I can read comments on (what I think are) WordPress blogs.
posted by eirias at 4:21 AM on May 12


If you're looking for an easy way to get an Orange Pi Zero to do something useful, Armbian is very easy to get running: download the image, overwrite a micro SD card with it, plug the card, Ethernet and power into the Orange and wait about a minute for first-run reformatting to finish; then, assuming you have a router with a sane DHCP+DNS, ssh root@orangepizero with password 1234 just works.

I'm using the Debian flavour of Armbian on both my Orange Pi Zero boxes (neither of which is actually running Pi-Hole, because I'd already done the same job essentially the same way before Pi-Hole was a thing).
posted by flabdablet at 4:36 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I'm completely out of touch with smartphones, are owners not allowed to set /etc/hosts on android or ios like they can on a desktop/laptop?

Root access is locked on android, although there are ways around this.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:36 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


My favourite ads are the ones on Ravelry. Targeted, thoughtful, hosted by the site. I click on Rav ads very often - in fact, I have been known to actively look in the ad list and browse it for the one I just saw. I click on Rav ads and buy through them. Granted, I have no idea how much the site does or doesn't make, but my clickthrough on Rav is the highest of anywhere I've ever browsed and I've never minded an ad on the page -- in fact, I make sure I scroll down enough to look at them. Ravelry ads <3 <3
posted by E. Whitehall at 6:56 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


One interesting aspect of the ad-blocking discussion is the seldom-used "Do Not Track" setting in browsers. Respecting DNT is completely voluntary; in fact, it is unknown how many companies actually respect it.

My company just started respecting it as part of our GDPR strategy. A user enables DNT, and they're opted out of any tracking that could uniquely identify a browser and device. This was mostly done out of necessity, since -- owing to specifics -- there was no easy way to universally opt out a user across all our customers' sites. We could engineer another method, but it would be more difficult and less straightforward, both for the company and our users.

But it raised in interesting question -- what would happen if all browsers started enabling DNT by default? This would essentially kill DNT. You'd be penalizing any company that respects it, as it would likely slaughter all their data collection efforts. Most companies would probably just be like "fuck this" and find some other way to let users opt out.

In fact, IE10 did turn on DNT by default, a move that was met with mass outcry by the ad industry. They argued that DNT was no longer an expression of a user's choice if it was turned on by default. Notwithstanding the flaws in that argument, Microsoft later reversed their decision, and no browser (to my knowledge) has taken that tack since.

Thus, DNT sort of represents a compromise between the ad industry and browser makers -- sort of an assumption that both sides will "be reasonable." It's a dirty solution, but I actually kinda like it. Sadly, since compliance is voluntary and its efficacy somewhat depends on its obscurity, I kind of doubt it will ever be a large part of the privacy discussion, and may someday go away entirely.
posted by panama joe at 7:19 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Kadin2048 > because Apple and Google both dragged their feet in making mobile adblocking as easy as desktop ad blocking

caution live frogs > Because I have become so reliant on µBlock that using a mobile device is awful.

While this won't be for everyone, my own answer for a while now has been uBlock Origin on Icecat Mobile.

https://f-droid.org/
https://f-droid.org/packages/org.gnu.icecat/
https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock

Sorry, can't help with iOS.
posted by Enturbulated at 12:11 PM on May 12


I block ads, everyone in my house blocks ads, we block ads at work...

Blocking ads is a simple and basic level of security that is mandatory wherever I can make it be so.
posted by XtinaS at 9:26 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


My hypothesis is that fundamentally adblocking is a lost cause. True adblocking, like malware detection, is hypothesized to be equivalent to the Halting Problem.

It's probably not possible to be 100% effective in blocking ads. I think it's analogous to virus scanning or other types of malware detection. It's inherently reactive, at least as commonly implemented.

Somebody has to take the hit and see the ad in order to "fingerprint" it (using whatever method you want—source IP address, HTML page element, whatever) and push it onto a blacklist so that everyone else can avoid it. But as long as you are not on the cutting edge of the Internet, on pages that have just been created or tweaked to get around adblockers, you are probably going to get pretty effective blocking because other people are out there on the frontier doing God's work and contributing to the blacklists.

Historically these sorts of reactive technologies (virus scanning, spam protection, etc.) have actually been pretty effective, and they seem to do a good job of making the cost high for the malware/ad creator—each time they want to get through to a new target, they have to create a whole new "vector", which will get added to the blacklists soon enough and stop being effective. This is why cyber offense organizations stockpile zero-days and other novel types of malware, because they know they're only going to be useful for a short window before the defense catches on.

That's where I see advertising going, if the business model behind it turns out to be un-killable. Eventually it turns into a cat-and-mouse game where the advertisers keep evolving their ads and the adblockers keep evolving their blocking tech, but the cost of getting an ad through to a significant number of eyeballs is pretty high and the defensive gap short-lived.

This (admittedly optimistic) outlook makes one critical assumption, which is that consumers continue to use platforms over which the end user fundamentally has control over the user experience. There are DRM-like technologies which basically lock off a user's computer from themselves and those are worth fighting tooth and nail—a workable, secure DRM system would be the perfect vehicle for forcible ad delivery/consumption.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:37 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


a workable, secure DRM system would be the perfect vehicle for forcible ad delivery/consumption.

Charlie Brooker shows us how that might look in Fifteen Million Merits.
posted by flabdablet at 10:42 AM on May 14


Adafruit Learning System has a tutorial with product links to make it easy too - for all the items I needed (along with the optional but recommended OLED display) + shipping, my total was $76. So if you are like me and not knowledgable enough to go pick out your own stuff (I've never built anything like this before), this might be an option.
posted by hilaryjade at 1:25 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Despite trying various ad blockers, I can never get rid of the "give us your email" pop-overs. Has anyone discovered a workaround?
posted by AFABulous at 5:01 PM on May 14


AFABulous, what are some examples of those "give us your email" pop-overs? I don't think I was ever bothered by them. It's possible my adblocker is working, or the sites in my interest aren't predisposed to using them. (Feel free to send MeMail if you wish).
posted by runcifex at 6:19 AM on May 15


runcifex, it's things like this
posted by AFABulous at 6:53 AM on May 15


AFABulous, could you provide a link to that site? I thoroughly despise being hit on by that kind of interstitial, and it would be my pleasure to work out how to whac that particular mole for you.
posted by flabdablet at 10:49 AM on May 15


To minimise unwanted site breakage, by default uBO only uses a subset of lists blocking the more egregious stuff, did you try enabling the annoyances lists too in the settings? Since what you describe are not technically ads maybe they're being kept on separate lists, like EU's cookie warnings.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:11 PM on May 15


flabdablet, the first screenshot is from medium, specifically this article, but it shouldn't matter where you are on the site. Since it says "we've seen you here before," obviously it's looking at my cookies so if it's your first time at medium maybe you won't get one.

Bangaioh, thanks, I'll try that.
posted by AFABulous at 5:14 PM on May 15


You go to Amazon and shop for a bathroom faucet. You buy a bathroom faucet. For 6 months you get ads for bathroom faucets. Not just on Amazon, but all over the web. Trackers and tracking cookies and building a consumer profile. I got the faucet. I don't expect to need or want another bathroom faucet for quite some time.

I click on a link because maybe that dress looks nice. I peruse, and the dress is cheap crap, but that ad is going to be In.My.Face for ages. Also, I will shop to answer ask.mes, so my profile is nutty and I am not going to buy that raincoat.

I go to a newspaper, where I want to read the news in text. But I get a video with loud ad crap at the top of the page, then as I scroll down, another video on the side, and a swirling, pulsing ad, all for the same Honda. Bite me. If I'm reading text, I don't want intrusive video. Facebook without an ad blocker is wretched.

For the masses of data they seem to have, Big Advertising sucks appallingly at selling anything to me. I want the best price on stuff I actually want. I want to be able to know what shipping will cost. I want to be able to do this in a reasonable time frame. Advertisers are so busy dicking with me that I go to a different page and buy from somebody else. Its the noise, my dear, and the fucking incompetence.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Hello AFABolous,

If you use uBlock Origin, can you try adding the following to the filter list in the "My Filters" tab?

medium.com##.overlay-dialog

uBO has a GUI option called "Block Element", and you can use this to block specific elements point-and-click style, which works sometimes but not always.
posted by runcifex at 9:12 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I just finished installing a Pi-Hole on my home network. Let's just say I'm astounded at how much better ad blocking is with this approach compared to an in-browser ad blocker.
posted by davejay at 10:00 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


For the masses of data they seem to have, Big Advertising sucks appallingly at selling anything to me.

They're really quite good at selling advertising, which is something all of us do end up paying actual money for every time we buy a product that's been advertised to anybody. Because Big Advertising's customers are sure as hell not just absorbing Big Advertising's notoriously exorbitant fees. They're passing them on.

Keep buying the Nikes, people. This much cocaine won't pay for itself.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]


I had a coupon for a free MicroSD card at Micro Center, and some free time, so I impulse bought a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, and now I have a Pi Hole on my network. Feels so good.
posted by SansPoint at 5:35 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


If you install OSMC on that RPi2B, you should be able to install Pi-Hole inside it (OSMC being essentially just a specialized Debian) and now you have an advertising black hole that's also a tidy little media centre that will reveal just how dumb every "smart" TV is by comparison.
posted by flabdablet at 9:56 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


flabdablet: Cool. If I ever get a TV, I might do that. What I do plan to do is add OpenVPN, though, so I can get my Pi-Hole On The Go
posted by SansPoint at 8:20 AM on May 20


If I ever get a TV, I might do that.

Attach a monitor and a couple of speakers to the RPi2B, install OSMC, and you'll never need a TV.
posted by flabdablet at 8:52 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


flabdablet: I'd also need a monitor big enough to use as a TV that isn't hooked up to my laptop. Still, something to keep in my back pocket!
posted by SansPoint at 11:48 AM on May 20


My pi-hole is up and running. I would have needed to buy far fewer things than I did - would have been fine w/out the little OLED and header, but I am thrilled with it. Fun to put together and I have ad-free WiFi now.
posted by hilaryjade at 5:51 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Just did a trial installation of Pi-hole on a US$10.49 Orange Pi Zero (512MiB RAM version) under Armbian Stretch on a 4GB μSD card. Works fine via the Ethernet port. I've made no attempt to get it to work via wifi. Admin console shows it using under 14% of the RAM, so I'm sure it would also work on the US$8.49 256MiB RAM version of the same board. CPU barely ticking over, 3% load at 240MHz.
posted by flabdablet at 11:02 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]


My Orange Pi Zero is installed in one of these US$2 cases, which I've measured at 51mm × 56mm × 37mm; also available in black.

You can order the 256MiB Orange Pi Zero with a white case as a bundle for US$10.38. Suitable power supplies can be had for US$3.90, and you'll also need a micro SD card (anything 4GB or over and reasonably quick will do).

I had also stuck a set of these self-adhesive heat sinks onto the board's CPU and RAM packages before assembling it into the case, but if all you're running is Pi-hole they're probably overkill.
posted by flabdablet at 11:50 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


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