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Friday, August 12, 2016

Facebook vs. Ad Blockers

Days after Facebook announced it had rendered ad blocking software useless on its site, ad blocker coders announced they'd discovered a way around Facebook's code, and it is likely to continue on in such a manner until the end of time. Because there is something no one likes to discuss when it comes to ad blockers and large sites like Facebook: They've become necessary for many reasons, the least of which now is that viewers find the ads "annoying."

As someone who employs digital ads, I quit using ad blockers a decade or so ago. But, with the rise of social networking and sites designed similarly to Facebook, I had to reinstall not just one, but two ad blockers in the last year or so -- mainly due to connection issues caused by ads hosted on, or launched from, third-party sites. Not surprisingly, statistics indicate that ad blockers' popularity has been on the rise over the last year.

For several months, my Facebook would lockup completely for up to one minute or more, then generate a script debugging box. After trying everything I could think of, contacting customer support (no help), and searching online, I installed an ad blocker. Despite still receiving the error occasionally, the ad blocker stopped the problem. I still do not know the nature of these "scripts" that were locking-up my PC when I would login to Facebook, but the ad blocking software appeared to stop them.

Even before that, I was noticing huge lag spikes during which my computer and the website sometimes refused to respond for as much as 20-30 seconds. Finally, several ads would change and the lag spike would end -- and I'm confident that's no coincidence. While my connection is a factor to consider, so is the fact that this only happened on Facebook.

I know better than many that a huge chunk of online advertising revenue comes from banner ads -- I use them myself (in case yours are blocked right now) -- but this is about far more than just Internet surfers being "annoyed" by ads. In fact, this appears to be more about Facebook being greedy than not being able to turn an honest buck.

Companies such as Facebook, Google, as far back as AOL, have often laid down rules and guidelines they themselves refuse to follow, and this may be another one of those times, as every page on Facebook is crammed full of advertising -- just as many Google searches are dominated by paid returns. Viewers wouldn't be so annoyed by online advertising if it wasn't so prolific, and didn't negatively impact our experience to the extent that it has. This problem will only grow as sites like Twitter and Facebook are routinely being pressured to turn a profit, and the "unicorns" start tanking.

If these organizations don't want consumers fighting back, they should change their tactics and approach, not shift the blame to viewers or software developers who are also running businesses focused on addressing customer needs. Facebook's response is a great example, as a spokesperson suggested ad blocking add-ons were 'blunt instruments' and the site's new approach will allow users to better control what we want to see. That's just an elegantly worded way of saying that they've made it more complicated to opt-out of advertising. I want to see Facebook, and not have to wait a minute or more for it to load! With answers like that, I'm also confident in saying that viewers aren't as annoyed by the ads as with the advertising department and direction.

This is a classic, dumbassed business move we've seen in most industries over the last 30 years or so, but most specifically in the music industry. Instead of investing in research and development, and emerging technologies, the music industry poured untold sums into legal battles against dual tapedecks and Napster. As Facebook and other sites ramp-up their fight against ad blockers, and the ad blocker programmers ramp-up their retorts, the very users they're fighting over will be the ones who walk away -- the same way they walked away from music.

© Copyright 2016, The Cyberculturalist

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