An article about adblocking made the rounds the other day, with this pullquote receiving particular emphasis:

"If blocking becomes widespread, the ad industry will be pushed to produce ads that are simpler, less invasive and far more transparent about the way they’re handling our data — or risk getting blocked forever if they fail."

That's a load of manure. 

Sure, a big part of the problem is the ad industry itself: to this day most ads are still the standard mrec (300x250) or skyscraper (120x600). Ads served are not hi-dpi, they're not responsive, and they're usually blinking GIFs. With all the technology we have available to us today, you'd think we'd be able to see better ads at this point.

Ads don't offend me. I personally find Google ads to be mostly alright, especially the context-relevant text link ads. +Liam Spradlin recently blogged about new mrec size Google ads featuring FABs: — that looks good to me too.

But it only takes a few horrible ads to poison the well. It seems every other news website out there runs full take-over ads, interstitials, huge "Like us on Facebook" or "subscribe to our newsletter" popups, and if you dare try browsing the mobile web you're likely to be looking through blinds in the form of social sharing links at the top and big undismissable blinking GIF banners at the bottom. It's like television, and Ghostery is the Tivo of the web. Naturally people are going to skip the ads if they can.

The thing is, adblocking is only going to pick up steam. The fact that the next iOS will allow adblocking in the browser but not inside apps is a rabbit hole on its own, but it means adblocking is going to be very much mainstream in the next few years. This is where the pullquote above falls apart. Ad networks aren't going to get better, they're going to get worse. Today it's possible to make a living running a site that's free to read, solely because of ad revenue. Some can even make a good living. As adblocking grows more widespread, ads are going to be more intrusive to get around this, more guerilla, and even bigger, to keep the "performance" up. It'll happen to good people that run these sites. Despite their best intentions, their staff have families to feed, and if they just use this slightly larger ad, and add an interstitial, they can keep up their standard of living. 

It would be unfair to blame them. It's human nature: millions and millions of sites aren't suddenly going to see the light at the same time and change their ways all at once. Even if they did, it's unlikely everyone would suddenly stop using Ghostery because of this. Once Ghostery is installed, once web-ads have been poisoned by years of bad practices, ads aren't coming back. 

In my experience humans want sea-change events, but they very rarely happen. What's likely going to happen is that web ads are going to get way worse, adblocking is going to go way up, and at the peak of this arms race curve, someone will have found a new form of advertisement that will make the blocking curve taper off. Will it be native advertisement? In-app unblockable advertisements? "Pay $1 for this article, or pay by watching a video?" "Get 5 free access tokens by visiting the site every day, or buy 10 access tokens right now for $5"?

Nature will find a way. But we aren't suddenly going to wake up to rainbows and unicorns. No matter how cool that would be.

Oh and by the way, most adblocking rarely make webpages actually faster to load. Usually there's a huge overhead of adblocking CSS injected into every page, ads or not. 

Shared publiclyView activity