For One Day Ads Will Be Replaced By Anti-Censorship Messages

We all enjoy browsing the internet, viewing all your favourite sites and then suddenly you find a pop up appear advertising a new product that you “must buy” or a new game that you even get a “special offer” when you decide to close the window. The solution people use is an Ad blocker, making sure that only the sites we trust can show us adverts, but in a new move Amnesty International is teaming up with AdBlock to show support in the form of anti-censorship messages.

March 12th is World Day Against Cyber Censorship and to mark this day Amnesty International, one of the most well-known human rights organisations, is teaming up with AdBlock to replace ad’s with something a more thought-provoking.

Instead of Ad’s for the day you will receive messages from artist Ai Weiwei, Pussy Riot and Edward Snowden. With everyone the messages coming from being large, public and actively against government censorship.

AdBlock’s CEO Gabriel Cabbage says the concept is to provoke thoughts about online privacy and will only last a single day. In his statement, Cubbage encouraged people to “take a moment to consider that in an increasingly information-driven world, when your right to digital privacy is threatened, so is your right to free expression.”.

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.

PageFair Breach Infects Windows PCs with Trjoan Flash Installers

PageFair, a service designed to “help websites survive the rise of adblock”, has been compromised, causing websites using its software to spread malicious Trojan Flash installers the PCs of visiting users. The company, which believes that “the rise of adblocking is now leading to the death of quality free websites”, admitted in a blog post that its Content Distribution Network (CDN) services account, used to serve its analytics JavaScript tag, had been compromised by hackers. The CDN was modified to distribute a Trojan botnet in the form of a fake Adobe Flash update for Windows.

Sean Blanchfield, CEO of PageFair, revealed in a blog post the attack took place on 31st October, was seemingly designed to target PageFair specifically, and lasted for just over 80 minutes.

“For 83 minutes last night,” the post reads, “the PageFair analytics service was compromised by hackers, who succeeded in getting malicious javascript to execute on websites via our service, which prompted some visitors to these websites to download an executable file. I am very sorry that this occurred and would like to assure you that it is no longer happening.”

While PageFair is taking its share of responsibility for the attack, Ben Hartnett, VP of EMEA at security firm RiskIQ, thinks that it merely demonstrates how sophisticated hackers are becoming.

“We all know that hackers are getting smarter about how they distribute malware. The latest attack on PageFair shows how hackers are now actively targeting third-party components in a bid to reach a much larger number of victims,” Hartnett told The Inquirer. “By compromising PageFair’s analytics service, hackers were able to distribute malicious code to visitors of any website using this service. With organisations increasingly relying on their online presence to engage with customers, this style of attack is only going to increase, especially with organisations adopting more third party components to stay ahead of the competition.”

PewDiePie Proclaims “Using AdBlock Doesn’t Mean You’re Clever”

YouTube sensation, PewDiePie earned a staggering $7 million in 2014 according to figures from Expressen, and continues to attract large audiences every day. This unbelievable success story indicates that it’s possible to forge a full-time career on YouTube. However, PewPieDie is an extreme case and it’s incredibly difficult to receive large funds unless you have a huge subscriber base. Only recently, Google admitted YouTube wasn’t profitable and have decided to launch YouTube Red, a subscription based service designed to combat these financial problems.

When monetization occurs, videos are plastered with adverts which can vary dramatically in length. As you might expect, viewers feel quite frustrated having to deal with the advert onslaught and use Adblock to make a more instant form of content. PewDiePie decided to openly discuss the damaging effect of Adblock and said in a Tumblr post:

“Using Adblock doesn’t mean you’re clever and above the system.”

“YouTube Red exist largely as an effort to counter Adblock.” 

“YouTube Red exist because using Adblock has actual consequences.” 

“Personally, I’m ok with if you use AdBlock on my videos. Ads are annoying, I get it, I’m not here to complain about that,”

“But for smaller channels, this number can be devastating.”

According to the channel’s official statistics, 40% of PewDiePie’s viewership currently use Adblock. This is a figure which has dramatically increased in the last few years. Content creators are relying on donations, Patreon backers, and other funding to produce videos. However, the intrusive manner which some of these adverts are implemented in explains why people feel so inclined to block them. On another note, YouTube was originally setup as a form of community media, and some people believe the content should be free, and hobby-based.

I decided to ask a few of my followers on Twitter about Youtube Red, and the typical consensus is best summed up in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/EnvyxDub/status/660905530702045184

Adblock and its impact is a polarizing issue and continues to spark quite a lively debate. It’s not illegal, and within the open internet’s philosophy, but it is undoubtedly reducing the revenue streams of content creators. PewDiePie’s comments seem a little rash given the massive success of his channel and this move could create bad PR. Although, perhaps he feels with such a large audience, YouTube Red will become a viable alternative. That’s the main problem though, as only 0.01% of channels will be able to attain a loyal viewership prepared to pay the monthly fee. I can pretty much guarantee, the majority of these will be hugely popular channels, and not the smaller ones PewDiePie is apparently trying to protect.

Do you use Adblock? Do you disable it to support sites your know and trust? Let us know in the comments section below.

AdBlock Has a New Owner and No One Knows Who

Popular Chrome and Safari browser extension AdBlock has been quietly sold, and no one seems to know who the new owner is. Yesterday, users of AdBlock – rebranded from its former guise as AdBlock Plus – may have seen a pop-up announcing that, in contravention of the entire principle of the extension, that advertisers were now able to buy themselves on to the AdBlock whitelist, through EyeO’s acceptable advertising, allowing their adverts to circumvent the block. A footnote at the bottom of the post, though, revealed that AdBlock is under new ownership. The name of the new owner was not revealed.

https://twitter.com/aahaworth/status/649702548358701056

Requests submitted to AdBlock, asking for the name of the new owner, have been met with a flat refusal, with the company revealing that the buyer wishes to remain anonymous. All the company was willing to reveal is that former CEO Michael Gundlach was no longer with AdBlock, the tool he created.

Couple the lack of transparency with the new policy of allowing rich companies to pay for their adverts to be forced upon AdBlock users, and we have a company that, within the space of a day, has done everything it can to erode the trust of its users.

Thank you The Next Web for providing us with this information.

Adblock Plus Launches Web Browser For iOS

Recently, Apple announced plans to allow the use of ad-blockers on Safari for the very first time. Granted, this will only be available to users on the latest iOS 9 release, but Eyeo, the company behind AdBlock Plus has pre-emptied this revelation with its own browser designed to detect and block “annoying adverts”. According to the development team, the project has been in production for some time:

“We’ve been developing Adblock Browser for months, long before Apple made the announcement about iOS 9,”

Adblock’s app is a custom-variant of the Kitt browser which gives developers the tools to create a huge scope of unique software. By default, only extremely intrusive adverts are blocked but users can manually select all adverts to be hidden. The advent and acceptance of ad-blocking software on iOS was only a matter of time as consumers can already employ a number of blocking extensions on Android.

Research indicates Adblock’s usage is on the rise and grew by nearly 70% between June 2013 and June 2014. Unfotunately, there’s no concrete data which clearly outlines the percentage of web users installing Adblock. Some studies predict around 10% whilst others have recorded a much higher figure.

Consumers feel the need to use Adblock because of intrusive adverts. However, websites depend on ad-sense to pay for equipment, writers and make their content a professional, full-time job. There needs to be a balancing act where adverts are permitted but done in a very subtle way without detracting from the core content.

Do you use Adblock?

Thank you Venturebeat for providing us with this information.

YouTube Plans to Introduce a New Paid Subscription Service

There have been rumours of YouTube working on introducing a new paid subscription service for some time now, but there hasn’t been anything concrete until now. The streaming service looks to add a monthly subscription that would allow users to watch videos without ads, having the revenue split between YouTube and content creators.

The paid subscription service aims to boost revenue for both YouTube and content creators alike after CPM rates have dropped this year. Aside from the latter, a lot of people are using AdBlock nowadays and that significantly reduces the money income for those who are making a living from YouTube.

There have been no subscription fees detailed just yet, but notifications have been sent out to content creators regarding the upcoming changes. The move seems to come after it was revealed that while the streaming service has an enormous pool of users, it is not making any profit at all.

Thank you KitGuru for providing us with this information

Google Paying Adblock Plus To White-list Unobtrusive Adverts

After Google recently cheesed a lot of people off by removing Ad-blocking Apps from the Google Play Store, it turns out they are now resorting to paying Adblocking App companies to white-list Google adverts. According to Horizont.at Google is funding the developers of the AdBlock Plus App to create a special white-list where Google adverts will not be blocked on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox Adblock Plus extensions.

We don’t know how much the deal is worth to ABP but apparently numerous other companies are doing a similar thing with adblocking app and extension developers. Neither Google nor ABP decided to comment on the speculation but some Adblocking companies are known for their “Acceptable Ads Initiative” which basically states that unobstrusive advertising should remain viewable because it is vital to internet revenue generation.

I myself agree with the acceptable advertising concept but I think it should be optional. Some people may be happy to block no ads, some to block only obstrusive ads and some to block all ads. I myself am more inclined to blocking only obstrusive adverts but it is nice to be able to block all adverts. In some situations it can be critical to block all ads, such as if you are very bandwidth constrained or loading flash-based adverts detriments your PC performance.

Image courtesy of Adblock Plus