Ad Blockers Are the Anti-Vaxxers of the Web

A huge part of the web relies on advertising as the primary source of revenue. Ad blocking is an issue to many websites, and the challenge is growing more prominent as we speak.

I wanted to learn more and tried to read analysis and commentary regarding ad blockers and ad block ethics. Unfortunately, the discussion seems to only revolve around the touchy question about free riding. A typical comment:

The intrusive ads made the Internet nearly unusable. Adblock is their own damn fault.


The heated argumentation reminds me of the anti-vaccine movement. Here’s a piece by Washington Post (n.b. I replaced vaccines with ads in the following excerpt).

However, parents who decide not to view ads are not deciding whether to live in a world without ads. Their choice is whether or not to subject themselves to the very slight risk of ads-related side effects or instead to make themselves a rare exception by refusing ads.

…Parents who refuse ads are, in a sense, free riders who take advantage of the benefit created by the participation and assumption of ads risk or burden by others while refusing to participate in the program themselves.

… they live in a world in which their [web] faces only very slight risk of [becoming payable], due to the decisions of all the other socially responsible website visitors around them who allow ads.

If enough people (i.e. almost everyone) follow the public health experts’ advice regarding vaccinations, risks are minimized for all of us. This is herd immunity. If too many people are skipping vaccinations, we are getting more disease outbreaks as a society. For example: case Measles in Disneyland.

Similarly, if many people block ads, the money for operating much of the web must come elsewhere. Considering the scale, this is an interesting issue. In the current state of the web, ad blocking is definitely free riding – but also a lot more. I hope to find better discussion regarding ad blocking, its consequences – and potential solutions.

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  1. Pingback: iOS Content Blocking Implications to Websites | Jussi Huotari's Web

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