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How quickly will ads disappear from the Internet?

I was always bemused by the notion that the Internet was able to exist solely because most users did not know they could install an ad blocker. Like removing Flash, using an Ad blocker was a rebellious act but one which paid off only for early adopters. But like all good ideas, it seemed obvious that this idea would spread.

What we never know is how quickly diffusion happens. I’ve observed “no-brainer” technologies or ideas lie unadopted for decades, languishing in perpetual indifference and suddenly, with no apparent cause, flip into ubiquity and inevitability at a vicious rate of adoption.

Watching this phenomenon for most of my life, I developed a theory of causation. This theory is that for adoption to accelerate there has to be a combination of conformability to the adopter’s manifest needs (the pull) combined with a concerted collaboration of producers to promote the solution (the push). Absent either pull or push, adoption of even the brightest and most self-evident ideas drags on.

Ad blocking offers a real-time example of this phenomenon. On desktop or even laptop computers ads were tolerable and the steps required to naviagate in order to implement effective[1] blocking were non-trivial. In addition, no platform vendors were keen to promote products which hindered revenues for their most important ecosystem partners.

Ad blocking as an activity had neither the pull nor the push.

However—and there’s always a however—as browsing moved to mobile devices and as ad networks hijacked the relationships between publisher and consumer, ads became detrimental to the experiences platform vendors depended on to remain competitive. Apple first (and no doubt others soon) chose to enable mobile browsers to load third party content blocking software. This is a hesitant first step. No major promotional effort and only the most obscure setting was enabled (defaulting to off).

Nevertheless, it’s important to see this action as a “push”. The bit that flipped was not of the consumer but of the producer. Movement to a new consuming paradigm and the incessant corrosion of the online experience threatened to taint a platform and something had to give.

Thus the “push” signal was sent and the consumer now has to pick up with a “pull” action. We still have to watch how quickly the pull happens and how network effects of users showing one-another the results will accelerate adoption and whether the push intensifies as the solutions improve.

But from this first enablement, the ecosystem, network effects, distribution and value chain leverage could cause gates to open and ad blocking reach majority followed by universal adoption. Measuring the ease of switching, the independence of the solution from other frictions and basing the estimate on historic rates, I could imagine internet ads will become largely invisible in less than five years.

Alternatives will emerge; the written word will find its business model, yet again. But the current model, contemptuous of the reader and disrespecting of the art will not long last.

Notes:
  1. By effective I mean a combination of whitelists and customizations []
  • Accent_Sweden

    What a wonderful testing ground for your theory.

  • Dennis Baker

    What I see is a huge amount of content theft. Someone writes a story and a dozens of places just regurgitate the same story using slightly different wording. It’s not plagiarism, but it pulls views from the original story and adds almost no value. The fact that it’s so easy to bang out a thin clone article favors businesses with strong click driven revenue streams. Hopefully whatever new model emerges will favor original content instead.

  • Ian Ollmann

    It is too early IMO to say that ad blocking technology has simply won. I still get the occasional spam or phishing attack in my inbox. Certainly the ad-block software I purchased this weekend is only 50% effective. If cable TV is any indication, we will end up in a future where we pay for the service and get ads too.

  • Walt French

    Amplifying on this very insightful piece.

    Ben Thompson noted in a recent Exponent podcast that advertising has been a quite consistent percent of GDP for decades. Radio, then TV, and then the internet disrupted existing infotainment producers & distributors—but not the broader advertising industry per se. Google & others have carved out a slice of the existing pie.

    I put a different perspective to their “zero sum” and limitless “ad inventory” approach. Advertisers have to get more value from spending the money, than the actual cost. If internet ads are cheap, then that is so because they’re not very cost-effective—otherwise, more valuable ads would drive out the weird belly fat and bunko insurance ads (ads that depend more than most on credulous buyers, who by the “fool and his money are soon parted” logic, are not terribly good customers for higher-value products). No amount of “relevance” can make up for the basic arithmetic of the essentially-zero-sum aspect, that consumers can only eat so many cupcakes & pizzas, drink so many beers, or buy so many insurance contracts per year: to the extent that advertising helps a company, it hurts another. We may not be at Peak Ad® in terms of nuisance value, but unless the economics of ads are terribly broken, we have always been at Peak Ad® in terms of its contribution to the economy.

    Paying attention to the self-serving claims of individual advertisers (eg, on the immorality/illegality of TIVOing) or their shills (on the immorality of ad-blocking…I doubt we’ll ever see an official Google statement) is a distraction from the question of what journalism, information & entertainment we want, and how we will pay for it. Several people have argued that ads are so inefficient on mobile—the user pays, in time and bandwidth costs, so much more than the actual content producers receive—that an alternative must be found. Surely, at least a couple are likely.

    First, many sites at the margin of profitability today, will see no hope to continue. Opinionators who enjoy having a soapbox but are unwilling to make a business model are probably toast. Second, some sites will shift their business models to become part of a Vox or Condé Nast, enough that they can manage integrating ads into content in a way that content blockers won’t touch. That’s a bit beyond the reach of many indie shops. Third, Channels such as AppleNews and FB will gain an advantage, by being outside the reach of browser blocking; maybe somebody at Cupertino and/or Menlo Park will nudge producers of content that gets too ugly, or maybe users will simply avoid those stories. Fourth, I will continue my forlorn hope for a pay-per-view system that is so easy & transparent that direct-pay monetization works.

    But one answer that seems unlikely is ad dollars shifting back to non-internet media. Like TV was in its time, the internet is continually expanding its presence in our society, and impinging on the old media—newspapers, which have been around long enough to take multiple blows, but also TV, which is less used to them.

    • http://how2startup.com/ Roy Rodenstein

      Good comments. I think an interesting scenario would be for Apple News to support micropayments, or monthly eg $10 subscription which then distributes the money proportionally to writers, just like Apple Music. No idea if they will do it but it would be one interesting model.

      re: Google, isn’t it likely that while adblock may impact Doubleclick revenue, PPC revenue may in fact be helped as advertisers shift $ to channels that aren’t blocked?

      • Walt French

        Yes, but a large share of Google revenues are from its own properties; these are under assault from Yelp, Facebook, Apple & others. Likewise, ads thru an Apple News may not allow Google the same claim to superior knowledge of the user’s recent purchase interests etc, so ① I won’t see ads for the plane tickets I searched for 2 weeks ago, and ② Google won’t be able to tell advertisers how much more “relevant” its ads are, versus print or other networks. Those are existential differences.

    • normm

      If ads cost the consumer more than the producer gets, then clearly the consumer should prefer to pay directly for the content. In the app store the model of pay-to-eliminate-ads seems to work well, and that’s based just on the value to the consumer of not wasting their time. Maybe the same solution could be mediated by ad-blocker technology. I’d be happy to pay to support the sites I use, if it just involved a single subscription that directed my payments to the content I actually consume, while eliminating the ads.

      • handleym

        “In the app store the model of pay-to-eliminate-ads seems to work well, and that’s based just on the value to the consumer of not wasting their time.”

        For reasons I don’t understand, this model is rarely available, even when it would be trivial to implement. I, for example, would be willing to pay a reasonable fee (say $10 a year) for IMDB without ads — but IMDB does not offer that, even as an obvious in-app purchase.

        It’s hard for me to believe that the lousy ads they serve at the bottom of the app generate more, per user, than the $10/annum I’ve suggested.

      • Walt French

        A while back, Rovio wrote a defense of this ad-preferred monetization. Perhaps they’ll revisit their thinking; I believe some markets are much more cost-sensitive than others.

        And isn’t there an IMDB Pro?

      • handleym

        IMDB Pro is not an app, it is a service. Specifically it is a service that augments the IMDB database with technical (mainly financial) information that’s of little interest to the public, but worth a lot of money to people in the industry.
        Point is – it solves a completely different problem from my complaint.

    • Fran_Kostella

      Walt, To follow on with your points, I think there are some aspects of this that are technical issues and some that are not. From my viewpoint ads are not going away, but that crappy stuff that users dislike is going to be treated as spam/virus quality refuse that needs to be held at bay. For example, I can’t think of any trackers that I want recording ANY data about me. The argument that this benefits me in some magical way, which never seems to play out in the real world, I find utterly ludicrous and hilarious. The idea that I want to be followed around the web is akin to the idea that I want people knowing my financial transactions, digital or otherwise. I don’t.

      Likewise, the claims that I am somehow “morally obligated” to do something for companies that publish on the web seems to me so much hypocracy and bloviation. People who will allow any anonymous third party to install trackers and auto-roll video streams of massive size into their web pages have no basis for lecturing me about blocking these things. Hell, in the old days of magazines the first thing I would do is rip out the perfume ads, I don’t care how special anyone thinks their scent molecules are, I didn’t sign up for that!

      I see it as being based on a bad business model that pretends that tech can be ignored and that advertising revenue can be farmed out to third parties without reprecussion. If you run a web business and aren’t focussed on tech and hiring good technical people, then you’re being foolish. You’re going to suffer as things evolve, the ocean you live in is technical, you can’t get away from it. I imagine that the technically competant companies are going to roll with it and come up with workable solutions, but those who have farmed out their tech are going to really suffer.

      I think that there is plenty of room for advertising if you make part of your site and keep out the crappy stuff. For example, I’ve been blocking stuff since nearly the beginning, there have always been technical solutions for this since the tag. If you put any kind of auto-roll animation or media or visual disturbance in my field of view I will block it in seconds, I’ll even reconfigure the router if I need to, and good luck getting around that. However, if you’re reasonable, so am I. I follow a blog that covers music creation apps for mobile and the site is covered in ads, but they are ads for, wait for it… music apps for mobile! He doesn’t run network ads, he keeps content fresh and interesting, he does demo videos to show new things and links to his advertisers’ apps. There are no trackers except Google Analytics, which is the only thing I block on his site. Most of the music apps I bought originate from that blog. When I want info on music apps for mobile this is where I go. When I have info on what’s going on I pass it on. The point is that he’s technically savvy and ads are part of the site content. However, if those ads appear in another context I just ignore them.

      I have no desire to block them on his site and I get value from these ads and I’m happy to keep the site afloat in my little way. If he put up a notice asking me to unblock, which he doesn’t need to do, I probably would, short of the visual disturbance stuff I already mentioned. However, when I go to nearly any other site and am told not to block, I take it as a sign to just leave since they aren’t smart enough to deal with the tech. Generally I can find reporting on the topics I am following from either the sites I already susscribe to, or those freely available on the web. If they went away then I might reevaluate, but I doubt I will subscribe to many more news sites as I spend way too much on media as is, and I certainly would not make micropayments for content. I feel like I already have too many sources of information, and wouldn’t mind a big culling.

      Also, regarding micropayments, that’s simply too much mental friction to be worth my while. I might deliberate over a moderate purchase, and spend even more time depending on the price tag versus my available funds, but I have no desire to deliberate at all over any micropayments as it is too much effort for such a small thing that I can easily ignore. I think the X number of free article per time period is a good solution as you can get me to evaluate how important your site has become.

      Here we go, who knew that web content would get disrupted so soon?!

    • obarthelemy

      Isn’t a side effect that ad blocking doesn’t matter, and will simply make the ads that do get through more valuable ?
      I’d also think it might accelerate concentration. If I my blocker starts making me lose huge swathes of content, I’ll probably either pay up or disable it, at least selectively, but not 50 times, maybe 5 tops. I think Google has such a pay-to-un-ad program in place already, but at the ad-serving level, not from the content/brand point of view which would be stronger.

      • http://www.noisetech-software.com/Home.html Steven Noyes

        I’ve been thinking the same thing the CPC might actually start to rebound but will CPC go up 30% while overall impressions and clicks drop by 40%?

        I could see white lists becoming the new extortion racket.

      • Walt French

        @obarthelemy wrote, “If I my blocker starts making me lose huge swathes of content, I’ll probably either pay up or disable it…”

        Ad-supported sites are an important part today of our internet network, and networks can have funny feedback effects. Think of it as either a “Tragedy of the Commons” or “Prisoner’s Dilemma”—what’s best for an individual can be harmful to the whole system. Any one ad network gets more revenue (and its sites, too) by saturating sites with ads, trackers and other privacy-stealing tools, but the reaction has been slow to recognize*: users block ads, so more ads are shown to recover revenue, and eventually all the user goodwill has been plowed under. No one site, no one ad network could’ve held back and saved us; a consensus would’ve had to have been formed. W3C, seduced by the DAA, whiffed.

        By the time you notice your favorite content gone, it might be too late to switch the blocker back off. Hell, it may already be too late to rescue many sites, e.g., Om Malik’s, that couldn’t rely on ads to support high-quality content with low-quality user experience.

        @Asymco recently noted Charles Arthur’s Overspill blog that highlighted a PageFair/Adobe report with a more global view of blocking than the recent hysteria can. Blocking is already well past the early adopter stage, and especially as important as user control is on mobile screens, seems destined to explode there.

        * hysteresis.

      • obarthelemy

        Sorry, my phrasing is ambiguous I mean, if I get a “Disable Adblocker to Visit This Site” (obviously a US site in this case, with all those caps) instead of content, not if I learn that sites are having financial difficulties.

  • Walt French

    There are a couple of reasons why I wrote, “I doubt we’ll ever see an official Google statement.” Obviously, Google is smack-dab in the middle, offering and supporting the two browsers (Chrome and Firefox) on which most blocking is done today, currying favor with “power users” and hugely interested in growing internet advertising.

    But even more, the ad blocking “debate” echos, unwittingly, debates over Google scraping sites. Many advocates cheered Google’s extraction of a significant part of content from stories, making it unlikely that a user would ever go to the site to see its own editorial decisions about newsworthiness of stories, or the ads: weakening both their reach and their revenues. And many of these same people now decry Apple’s extremely timid step towards users having a small fraction of that power, not to disrupt a business model but to selectively read material that Google has long assumed it had to do.

    For Google to decry blocking would be to reopen the questions Google continues to face in the EU, where publishers are trying their damnedest to keep Google from disintermediating readers from publishers, and where regulators have taken the position that Google is (illegally) leveraging its effective monopoly in search, to take over unrelated business, such as selling airplane flights.

    As a BTW for the monopoly aspect: @Asymco/twitter today notes the decline in use of search engines; technology may well mean that Google will not have a monopoly to exploit in the future. That’s not a reason for giving a free pass to illegal tying; rather it’s a reminder that no business can rest on its laurels forever, and that any illegal tying extends/protects the monopoly, making it harder to put new innovations into place.

    • BookWorm

      “Many advocates cheered Google’s extraction of a significant part of content from stories, making it unlikely that a user would ever go to the site to see its own editorial decisions”

      This statement has already been disproven by experiment. First, when Spain and Germany threatened Google News with fines over extracted summaries, Google switched them off and displayed only blue links, and as a result, traffic dropped dramatically. Far from preventing click throughs, search snippets more often then not, serve as a lede which invites the user to click through.

      The tying stuff is just nonsense. Why should Google be limited to 10 blue links? What’s the difference between “Flight Search”, “Hotel Search”, “Food Search”, or “Image Search”. The idea that ‘vertical search’ is a separate industry market and that if Google presents a different search UI for different content types, it is illegal tying is quite absurd. Google’s business is indexing all information, organizing it, and making it accessible.

      How is Apple not using their dominance and ownership of their platform, plus their huge cash war chest, to get into markets they were previously not in, and undercut existing players? Apple Music is an assault on Spotify, clearly, making Apple Music a default preloaded app is a hugely unfair to competitors. Spotify innovated in this market, beating out the iTunes download-and-own model, and now Apple is trying to destroy them. If Apple launches a streaming TV service, it will be a “tying” attack on Netflix. Apple is more vertically integrated than Google, so in a way, they force tying at an almost religious level while using the App store T&C to disadvantage opponents on their platform.

      And what is Siri if not an attempt to do run a similar extraction service and present snippets as answers. Extraction of a single paragraph for quotation in a search query would be called fair use.

      For Apple, their default Apps are a huge competitive advantage. They can harm any company with any iOS update. Just switching Mobile Safari’s default web search would significantly harm Google. That’s a level of power that Google always feared about Microsoft, it’s why they bought Android, and why they made Chrome, because competitors who control closed platforms could always kick the chair out from under them.

      Now Apple holds that power, and actually, in a far more deeply controlling sense than Microsoft ever did, since it was never possible for Microsoft to deny a user the ability to install something on hardware they owned.

  • johnnygo

    At last, someone puts in writing what many of us feel about this brouhaha about ad blocking: users always could block ads on the internet and many of us did. Why such a fuss with mobile ad blocking ? I agree with you 100%: ads as we know it will start to fade away and be replaced by other business models. Change is coming.

  • dgrayson98

    Apple Pay integrated into Safari for micropayments. Apple News is the first step.

    • Fran_Kostella

      I have a hard time imagining this succeeding. First, people have a natural resistance to purchasing, and there seems to be some base level of resistance no matter what the object under consideration might be. As I mentioned in my reply to Walt, the amount of decision energy needed to overcome the resistance is never worth such trivial purchases for most people, so they’d avoid the purchase, and that’s the major problem. Imagine you had to pay to read each posting on a blog like this. Imagine you have to pay $.02 to read beyond the first sentence or two? Would you? I think it would a hard sell and much too easy to characterize it all as not worth the effort to decide then make an effort to go through the payment process.

      Second, it is hard to imagine credit card companies and banks being willing to incur so many transactions with such costs for little benefit. They’re going to want base fees that are greater than the transactions. Given that, the only feasible way to do it that I can think of is to have Apple charge you some block fee and put it into an account to draw from to pay the microtransactions, renewing it as needed. But then you’ve shifted the prior problem into Apple’s hands. Maybe they’d do it but what is their benefit? To help small content web businesses? Why? That’s nothing like movie/tv/music business they’ve built on in iTunes that helped sell devices. It isn’t clear how they benefit as it doesn’t help sell hardware. I think they’d prefer to do subscriptions. And that doesn’t require Apple taking 30% of everything, but that’s what they’d want.

      I’ve been watching the micropayment idea limp along for nearly the entire history of the web, but it never gets traction. I think is a lovely idea, but it seems too costly in terms of requirements and doesn’t serve customers, so it never gets adopted.

      • dgrayson98

        Apple users are happy to pay for things they enjoy. Apple already bundles iTunes app/song/movie credit card charges, they’ll simply extend that. Forget what’s happened in micropayments before now, Apple has the clout – and incentive – to make it happen. This is Apple carrying out Jobs’ thermonuclear war on Google.

      • Fran_Kostella

        Hmm, I don’t see any of that. It has to make Apple/customers/sites happy, and I don’t see Apple spending scarce resources (excellent people to make this happen, not money) on this without a clear large payoff. Music/TV/Movies have a limited set of companies for Apple to deal with, but the web has literally millions of content sources to potentially deal with. I don’t see why they’d do it when the good sites, the ones that Apple’s customers will clearly want to follow, already have subscriptions available.

        Most people who will pay are going to be willing to pay for the Times, or equivalent news publications, using well understood subscription mechanisms, and maybe a few of the other top tier publications/sites. Most of the rest will need to go to Facebook or Medium or what-have-you and partake of whatever those companies offer to content providers. Apple is focused on what sells hardware, there’s no big payoff for them here, we all already have web browsers on our devices, what are they going to sell us because they offer micro-payments for sites?

        I see no reason to forget any of what has happened already, it is very instructive and the past is often prologue and none of it has really changed. I don’t see how content blocking changes any of it. I think it more likely that a lot of middling sites will just evaporate. And not be missed, mostly.

        I can see Google wanting to offer this as a new product as they try to get a bigger foot in the door with payments. Which they then let wither on the vine in a year or two. But it doesn’t help Apple to fall on the sword to prove this can work, they’d be more likely to let someone else prove the concept while they scoop up top tier content in their News app.

  • Roo_44

    I do accept the contractual agreement of the publisher and reader of “my content is offered with advertisement” but as this advertisement has moved from passive informing to data mining and behavior tracking, that original agreement is no longer valid. It no longer me view ads but abs viewing me.

  • http://www.isophist.com/ Emilio Orione

    Advertising has always been inserted in media used to spread information, from posters when physical bulletin boards where the norm, to paper, radio and TV.

    Today all this media are declining and really have no reason to exist, they survive only for a lack of data infrastructure or to absorb existing investments, the future is digital distribution of all info using apps (browsers are an app).

    But what is the media used to spread information when everything will be apps? Internet is not media is distribution, apps are the channels for ads.

    Advertising will always be in contrast with apps, since the objectives of apps and ads will always be orthogonal.

    What has happened with web browsers (or tv) is only a demonstration of the conflict between the two business models, a better solution must be casted.

    There is the concrete possibility that an unobtrusive way for advertising to be inserted in apps could not be found, new business models should sustain the information flow of the future.

    The only common denominator is data and data consumption is the measure unit.

    I believe that the ultimate business model for information distribution will be taxing the data usage of each user, independently from the app or the device used, it will be user bound not device or location bound.
    Advertising will find an unobtrusive way to enter the flow paying for the user’s data usage when users will willfully submit themselves to consume the ads from time to time to obtain the rebate.

    In this way objectives will converge and business models will be sustained.

  • Jerome

    I recommend looking at this from another perspective, as I believe many are confused about the business model.

    The publisher’s business is not selling content, but selling adspace. The content is only a carrier signal for ads. In a perfect world, ads could be broadcast without need for pesky content. But in order to have someone consume ads, you need to inject some content here and there.

    Publishers, whether they are printing newspapers, broadcasting TV or radio, or websites, are in the business of selling adspace. Ads are not some unwanted side effects, ads are the core business. It’s the content that’s merely a “cost of sales” factor.

  • http://www.kickstartdigital.com/ Kickstart Digital

    Interesting post (as always). A few thoughts in response, FWIW…

    1. The back-and-forth between different sides of a platform is not a simple one-step process. It is usually a dynamic, iterative back-and-forth process that unfolds over time as competitors propose approaches, the market evaluates them and a dominant design becomes established (or reestablished, in a disruption scenario). Such will be the case here, as it has been in online advertising–to one degree or another–from the beginning.

    2. The economics of digital media have created a race to the bottom for audiences, publishers and advertisers. Interruptive advertising is killing the golden goose that spawned it (I say this as a user, first; I can barely watch any of the NBC digital properties, and many other sites from mainstream media). The problem will only get worse as the endless stream of slow-loading, browser-crashing video ads continues to permeate media experiences (especially the godawful auto-play ads). But as long as 1) the cost to publish network-monetizable content is low and falling, 2) advertisers are satisfied to use the same hammering man approach to marketing (counting “scientific” campaign response rate successes in terms of basis points), and 3) publishers are content to destroy their experiences and abuse their audiences in ungodly ways to make payroll, the race will go on. My guess is it won’t end until the realized pain of free (i.e. users losing job opportunities or insurance or credit based on their data/behavior) exceeds its perceived benefit among users. Perhaps we are already at Peak Annoyance, but I’m pretty sure we (unfortunately) have a ways to go.

    3. Some tech vendors, like Apple, are not wedded to advertising monetization and are therefore happy to mess with the revenue streams of competitors like Google–particularly as the battle for TV and the living room heats up. Perhaps they have another, app-centric, alternative to bring to our mobile devices and boob tubes, something bette for the user and the content provider alike? However, just because platform vendors push different approaches/models doesn’t mean the industry will adopt only one–although in this case there is powerful gravitation toward broad, if not absolute/universal, standards.

    4. Interruptive rich media display and video advertising may be challenged, and may disappear as we know it today. But this will not happen quickly, I expect. And third-party monetization to subsidize products and services is here to stay. It’s just that new form factors will have to be found.

  • shumaradio

    “Alternatives will emerge; the written word will find its business model, yet again. But the current model, contemptuous of the reader and disrespecting of the art will not long last.”

    An anonymized and walled off advertising stack that is fundamentally incapable of influencing editorial decisions is vastly more respectful of the ‘art’ than sponsored content, paywalls, the social media dependent rate race of Facebook, or Apples “only the rich deserve to be heard” alternatives. Hating the add stack and enjoying being tracked just as much in a proprietary system while wringing your hands of the social responsibility you, as a consumer, have over the future of the medium is foolishness.

    Nothing is more contemptuous of the reader than a sponsored apple news article. That kind of editorial ethical suicide is exactly what we’re diving towards.

    • Walt French

      @shumaradio wrote, “An anonymized and walled off advertising stack…”

      This is what some publishers say they are involved with. If they are actually so naïve, their content is probably worthless, too. Ad blocking is a belated response to a battle of the robots. We users are fleeing the war zone. Like most refugees, we’re likely to settle permanently in our new home, a home we weren’t especially trying to get to until our old one became unlivable.

      Apple-encouraged ad-blocking has become a hot, Hot, HOT!!! topic in the past couple of weeks only because the problem has been metastasizing for years, and, as Horace says, has reached a tipping point. I think he’s pessimistic about the adoption curve.

      The problem exists because the ad-tech industry (apparently, a phrase of the @AdContrarian linked nearby) has gotten trapped in a Tragedy of the Commons, where self-regulation and government regulation was skipped, turning the business into a cesspool of fraud, trackers to combat the fraud, malware inserted into the trackers, etc etc.

      No individual can exercise restraint in a Tragedy of the Commons situation; Elinor Ostrom got the Econ Nobel for showing many situations where communities self-regulate for their common interest. But on the internet, nobody knows you’re a fraud: the whole chain from advertiser to viewer is filled with anonymous brokers and bots, with no incentive to clean it up.

      W3C had a chance a couple of years back, when DNT was first proposed to limit the collateral damage by fraud. They whiffed. There are a couple of Ad Council type organizations that might have admitted that they were enacting Stein’s Law (“when something can’t continue, it won’t”). They whistled past the graveyard.

      Ad blocking is a nuclear warhead to wipe out the plague. Many good people’s livelihoods will be lost. And a few cockroaches will survive to repopulate the planet.

      But ad-blocking is not the war; rather it’s the fraud, deceit and greed that forced users to flee. Their loss of revenue is the same whether users stop visiting sites—which is well underway—or try to visit without letting ads overwhelm their phones.