Publishers Issue a C&D Letter for Brave’s Ad-Blocking Browser

Ad blocking is causing some controversy once again it seems, this time thanks to Brave’s ad-blocking browser. Just in case you’re not familiar with this browser, you should know that it takes a slightly different approach when it comes to ad-blocking, as it doesn’t necessarily remove these ads altogether like Opera does. Brave actually replaces some advertisements with ads from its own network, which apparently load a lot quicker and “protect data sovereignty [and] anonymity.” As you can probably imagine, some publishers have expressed their discontent with the product, especially the Newspaper Association of America.

Seventeen members of this association have issued a  “cease and desist letter” that stated the following:

“Your apparent plan to permit your customers to make Bitcoin ‘donations’ to us, and for you to donate to us some unspecified percentage of revenue you receive from the sale of your ads on our sites, cannot begin to compensate us for the loss of our ability to fund our work by displaying our own advertising.”

The letter refers to Brave’s business plan, which awards users who choose to see the special ads with around 15 percent of the gross profits in Bitcoin, and then allows them to donate that sum to publishers. The profit is further shared with Brave by another 15 percent, while ad partners receive the same amount. In the end, 55 percent of the revenues go directly to the publishers, which seems like a sound plan, at least on paper. The companies that issued the letter have described the model as “blatantly illegal,” but Brave’s representatives have stated that NAA members have “fundamentally misunderstood” their intentions. Apparently, the system would encourage users to stop using ad blockers, and it’s quite hard to argue with that logic.

Microsoft’s Edge Browser to Feature Ad Blocking

Microsoft is actively trying to make Edge a better browser with each update, and it looks like the next major improvement for this admittedly quick browser concerns ad blockers. During a recent presentation of Build 2016, a certain slide showed that Microsoft plans to “build ad blocking features into the browser,” which suggests that Edge might support ad blocking features natively without the need for extensions. This is definitely encouraging news for those of you who use ad-blockers regularly, as Edge’s extension support is new and rather unpolished right now. Another interesting addition to the browser could be a modern extension/plug-in model” complemented by a store, which should also be implemented into the next version.

Unlike Google’s Chrome browser, which doesn’t offer ad-blocking capabilities on its own for obvious reasons, other similar programs such as Safari and Opera already block ads without any help from extensions. For the user, blocking ads could provide a faster and potentially safer browsing experience, but it’s worth keeping in mind that publishers stand to lose quite a bit as a result, which is why many of them are actively expressing their disappointment. Not too long ago, several websites in France have taken a public stand against ad blockers, with some websites even refusing to grant access to users unless they whitelist their publications.

Opera Browser Adds Native Ad-Blocking

While internet browser Opera isn’t quite the technical powerhouse it used to be, the Norwegian company has announced that it is adding native ad-blocking to the software. The feature is included in the latest developer edition of the browser – but deactivated by default – and the company believes its native system is more effective than third-party apps, and that blocking ads will speed up page loads by up to 40%, on average, with some sites potentially seeing speed improvements of up to 90%.

“If there were no bloated ads, some top websites would load up to 90% faster,” Opera’s Senior Vice President for Global Engineering Krystian Kolondra writes in a post on the official Opera blog. “Today, we wanted to share with you a native ad-blocking technology in our Developer channel for Opera for computers. “Native” means unmatched speed vs extensions, since the blocking happens at the web engine level.”

“We are the first major browser vendor to integrate an ad-blocking feature, but this development should be a no surprise to anyone given the rising popularity of ad-blocking software and even Apple allowing it on its platform,” Kolondra adds.

The move is sure to be controversial, with sites such as Forbes and The New York Times blocking their content for users of ad-blocking software, but Kolondra says that Opera is only serving the desires of its users.

“Advertising fuels the internet, allowing for many services to be free for users,” Kolondra  writes. “But, as our new research shows, most webpages today are significantly slowed down by bloated ads and heavy tracking. We don’t accept it – we want the web to be a better place for us all, as users.”

UK Culture Secretary Compares Ad Blocking to Music Piracy

Ad blocking plugins have become a topic which polarized opinions and causes some friction between content creators and their readership. Websites like eTeknix rely on advertising revenue to pay staff wages, and help produce detailed content. On the other hand, we always want to make sure that the experience is user-friendly and display ads in a non-intrusive manner. This is why we don’t use adverts which take over your entire screen and become an instant annoyance. It’s a difficult balancing act though because websites are struggling to make money, and there’s various instances of major publications being closed due to financial problems. This includes CVG, Joystiq and more. Recently, Wired announced a new plan to block users with Ad blocking software and offer an ad-free website for a subscription fee.

As an internet user, I can understand why people use Adblock because many sites and services really make such an awful user-experience. If possible, it’s so important to white list those websites you want to support, because collectively it makes such a difference! The UK culture secretary, John Whittingdale recently weighed in on this very important debate during a speech at the Oxford Media Convention and said ad blocking software:

“..is depriving many websites and platforms of legitimate revenue,”

“It is having an impact across the value chain, and it presents a challenge that has to be overcome. Because, quite simply, if people don’t pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist.”

“And that’s as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse.”

“If we can avoid the intrusive ads that consumers dislike, then I believe there should be a decrease in the use of ad-blockers,”

“My natural political instinct is that self-regulation and co-operation is the key to resolving these challenges, and I know the digital sector prides itself on doing just that. But government stands ready to help in any way we can.”

Whittingdale even went onto compare ad blocking with illegal file sharing of films and music during the last decade. This is a very strong statement to make, and I believe it’s a little bit sensationalist. I personally see both sides of the arguments, and believe educating users about the importance of ads to help content creators is essential. At least Whittingdale did acknowledge that banning ad blocking software would be the incorrect approach.

Do you use ad blocking software?

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

O2 CEO Says Mobile Ad Blocking “Isn’t The Answer”

A few days ago, mobile giant Three, announced plans to block adverts on a network level and provide a more enjoyable user-experience. It’s important to remember that only “irrelevant and excessive mobile ads” will be blocked which ensures unobtrusive ads can still bring in revenue. This seems like a sensible balance and I applaud Three’s decision to tackle mobile advertising in a direct manner. However, this viewpoint isn’t shared by O2’s (Telefonica) CEO Ronan Dunne. In an interview with Campaign at MWC, Dunne claimed ad blocking “isn’t the answer”. To be fair, Dunne did criticize companies employing intrusive adverts. Although he clearly believes a widespread network level blocking policy is flawed. Dunne also went onto say:

“In this market there is an imbalance between the interests of the consumers being supported and the interests of advertisers, and both are legitimate, but there doesn’t seem to be a fair balance.”

“The challenge is, if more and more ads are trying to be squeezed into the same time of consumption, that was never a deal that the advertising industry or brands ever signed up to.”

“What we’ve seen with some of the research we’ve done is, if it’s relevant and contextual, a lot of customers are comfortable with advertising. Good, well-considered advertising is akin to curation – it’s actually delivering value to customers.”

“It’s when it’s unsought and it disrupts their ability to consume the content that they’re after that it’s a problem. The current environment isn’t tenable, so it has to evolve.”

I’m not entirely convinced by the notion that customers accept adverts especially when you consider how many people use Adblock plugins on PCs. There’s a battle ranging between advertisers, and content providers trying to make money, and consumers wanting a clean and enjoyable experience. Wired recently waged a war on readers using Adblock and decided to block access to their site. This story across web and mobile is going to be so important and could dramatically alter the future of media companies.

Image courtesy of onwindows.com

Edward Snowden Explains Why he Supports Ad-Blockers

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower-turned-press freedom advocate exiled in Russia after leaking NSA documents that demonstrated the terrifying scope of its mass surveillance program, has publicly endorsed ad-blocking software and has encouraged every internet user to employ it.

Speaking to The Intercept’s Micah Lee, Snowden, responding to the question “Do you think people should use adblock software?”, said, “We’ve seen internet providers like Comcast, AT&T, or whoever it is, insert their own ads into your plaintext http connections. … As long as service providers are serving ads with active content that require the use of Javascript to display, that have some kind of active content like Flash embedded in it, anything that can be a vector for attack in your web browser — you should be actively trying to block these.”

“Because if the service provider is not working to protect the sanctity of the relationship between reader and publisher,” he added. “you have not just a right but a duty to take every effort to protect yourself in response.”

While there are ethical arguments against the use of ad-blockers – mainly that users of ad-blocking software are depriving site owners of revenue – it makes sense, purely from a security perspective, for Snowden to recommend ad-blocking for all: anything that could potentially provide a backdoor into your computer is a threat, much like the recent worrying revelation that advertisers are tracking users over multiple devices via inaudible sounds.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Man Trying to Smash “All the Ad Blockers” After Google Loses $6.6 Billion in Advertising

Google has lost $6.6 billion in advertising revenue due to third-party ad-blocking software, such as AdBlock Plus. In an effort to tackle the problem and help companies like Google reclaim some of its lost advertising revenue, former Google employee Ben Barokas has set up a new company to smash “all the ad blockers”.

Barokas sold his advertising optimisation company Admeld to Google for $400 million in 2011, subsequently becoming its General Manager of Marketplace Development. He has now left the search engine giant, though, in favour of his new startup, Sourcepoint, which claims to have the technology bypass all ad blockers.

In an interview with Business Insider, Barokas lamented the practice of many ad blocking firms for charging companies to whitelist adverts, saying, “It’s blackmail. It’s extortion. It’s not fair.”

“That being said, [ad blocking] is not against the law, it’s legal in Germany, the US, the UK … but at the end of the day it’s also legal for publishers to give people messages and say you can choose ads. It’s not fair for journalists like you not to have food at your table, it’s not fair not to have a roof over your head. It goes back to transparency and fairness … if users opt-in to having advertising subsidizing the experience, we can serve that ad, [and if an ad blocker continues to block the ads] then that would be illegal.”

Barokas’ Sourcepoint will make the websites of its customers essentially ad block-proof, and even present visitors with ad-based browsing incentives, such as clicking on an ad to unlock an article or section of the site, turning ads into a kind of pseudo-paywall.

Thank you BGR for providing us with this information.

AdBlock Plus Ruled Legal by German Court

Despite being the life-blood of many websites, some internet users understandably find online ads annoying, especially when they are intrusive and impair their ability to engage with a site (for the record, all of eTeknix’s ads are tastefully placed, unobtrusive, and will bring you great wealth, long life, and the adoration of all the cats).

For such users, AdBlock Plus, the advertising blocking software, is like mana, but businesses that rely on revenue from web advertisements are understandably opposed to the application, with many challenging the legality of AdBlock Plus in court, the latest of which has failed. A group of advertisers took AdBlock Plus to court and, after a four-month trial, the Hamburg court has ruled that blocking advertisements is entirely legal.

The plaintiffs, German website operators Zeit Online and Handelsblatt, alleged that Eyeo, the parent company of AdBlcok Plus, were breaking the law by blocking adverts on their websites, since it circumvented their wishes. Had the court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour, the decision would have effectively killed AdBlock Plus, but the judge came down on the side of the users, maintaining that they were free to maintain control over how they enjoy a website.

Ben Williams of AdBlock Plus wrote of the decision on the company’s blog:

It may surprise readers of this blog to know that some advertiser groups believe blocking ads is illegal. They are upset that adblockers impede their multi-billion dollar business (or in this case, euros) of shoveling ads at you whether or not you like it or asked for it. In fact, a group of publishers in Hamburg, Germany was so upset that they actually took Adblock Plus to court.

Today, after a four-month trial, reasonable heads prevailed as the regional court in Hamburg ruled in our favor by declaring that ad blocking is, in fact, perfectly legal. I know, it’s restating the obvious. But it cost us lots of blood, sweat and tears nonetheless.

Thank you Beta News for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of AdBlock Plus.