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Everything is an Ad

I find it somewhat amusing when people assume that by using an ad blocker, they are actually blocking ads. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the growth and proliferation of ad blocker usage in browsers today is having the opposite effect. It’s creating more ads.

Yeah, technically, it’s true. When you use ad block software, you’re preventing a web page from displaying annoying flash ads, animated banners, pop-ups, audio ads, and similar. But all that means is that companies are finding more cloaked ways to promote their products.

Just about everything in the web design and development industry today is an ad, in some form or another.

  • When you visit an open source project on GitHub started by a freelance developer who wants to ‘put his name out there’, that’s an ad.
  • When you visit a blog post by a web standards guy who links to one of his buddy’s recent book projects, that’s an ad.
  • When you visit the newest article by a CSS blogger who links to his for-sale video course, that’s an ad.
  • When a well-known tech company releases an open source project and uses their brand when promoting it, that’s an ad.
  • When a book author tweets personal updates while casually mentioning his upcoming book, that’s an ad.
  • When a web standards advocate that works for one of the big browser vendors interacts with the community and contributes to open source projects, that’s an ad.

I don’t like the fact that even attractive, unobtrusive, non-animated banners that are clearly marked as advertisements are being blocked, while all of the above actions are mostly treated as ‘being a constructive member of the community’. What I’ve described above is treated as run-of-the-mill, even though it’s not that much different than banner ads. But there’s one key difference: The stuff above is not marked as ‘advertising’.

I prefer to browse the web and be able to easily differentiate between a shameless promo and a genuinely curious blogger creating something because they enjoy it and want to contribute to moving the industry forward. Unfortunately, the way things are now, we cannot differentiate those things.

So go ahead, block all the flashing banner ads you want. But it’s not coming even remotely close to blocking all ads.

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