Do you really want a web without advertising?

The fact that ad-blocking will be a major feature of iOS 9 will likely cause some rejoicing amongst those of you who get fed up with the dominating and interfering adverts that blight what could otherwise be excellent websites. On the face of it, it sounds as though Apple is doing the world a favour, but the reality is that it could be incredibly damaging.

We have seen the power Apple has; smartphones became ubiquitous thanks to the iPhone, the tablet was re-born into a device that millions actually wanted to use and Mac OS X continues to have millions of fans around the world who would never go near Windows again because of it. Touch ID is amazingly invisible in use, Apple Pay is fantastic and so many other Apple developments, not inventions of course, have positive effects on people every day.

When I visit a site with pop-up adverts that constantly interrupt the experience, I get frustrated because it is just so futile. It highlights a lack of respect for the reader, a single-minded money grab mentality and almost certainly a lack of customer loyalty. It’s narrow minded, transparent and f*cking annoying! It is what the web has become in 2015 and some sites are now taking as long to load as a simple site back in the days of dial-up. 

All of the above is true, but we have to remember that the people producing the content need to get paid somehow. The notion that the web should be free has become embedded in the souls of the majority and so subscription models and paywalls are not even getting close to being viable. We are all cheap and do not want to pay for written or visual content. We are happy to pay for music, TV shows and films, but not for online content. So this is why advertising and data gathering have grown to dominate many parts of the web, or at least the parts where the customer experience is completely ignored.

So, we can be happy that Apple’s ad-blocking will stop all of the problems? No, we can’t. We absolutely cannot because it could cause more problems that it solves. There are sites like Daring Fireball that offer one simple advert to pay for the time taken to create it. They have high traffic, dedicated audiences who are worth advertising to and good quality content which is actually worth reading. The problem arises when the majority of people who own an iPhone use ad-blocking by default and the responsible sites get swept up in the new blocking feature. A much reduced audience actually seeing the advert, much reduced revenue and ultimately a much reduced amount of good quality content to read. The sites that bombard you with adverts and pop-ups don’t care about the quality of the content, they merely care about money, but their behaviour has the potential to damage the good sites when universal ad-blocking is employed.

I don’t use an ad-blocker currently. If a site punishes me for visiting it by bombarding me with crap, I will simply not visit it again. I, however, recognise that many sites need to make money to produce content and thus I tend to view ad-blockers as self-defeating and actually quite selfish. You cannot expect the entire web to be free just because you can block aspects of it- over a long period of time that will just not work.

If you visit a site because you like the content, you should accept the methods it uses to make money or you should simply stop visiting. If Apple enables ad-blocking by default and the majority of users simply go along with it, be prepared to lose a lot of the content you currently enjoy, and especially so if Microsoft decides that this is a good idea as well. Ad-blockers solve problems that many websites do not cause and they unfortunately pull the rug from under the good guys as well as the bad. And if you use an ad-blocker, it is all your fault.

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