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Why Do Websites Use Pop-ups?

If you read my article Can we no longer view websites without getting pop-ups?, you’ll see that some of the comments on that article range from annoyed to indignant – and not at the state of the web in general (though that’s certainly represented there as well).

No, some people are absolutely outraged that while reading an article that will hopefully help them make pop-ups go away, they’re suddenly faced with…

A pop-up.

From me.

So, let’s talk about pop-ups, why they exist, why some are worse than others, and why some sites (including Ask Leo!) use them.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Pop-up abuse

I think it’s important to acknowledge that not all pop-ups are created equal.

I know I get annoyed as all heck when some site – most often sites that use “click bait” style headlines to get you to visit them – display pop-up after pop-up, or spread their content thinly over page after page, each with its own pop-up (or even) multiple pop-ups.

I leave and vow never to come back.

Until I forget, and click on one of those silly headlines, only to be reminded why I left and never came back.

Pop-ups on Ask Leo!

Originally, Ask Leo! had no pop-ups at all. I relied on people finding the site through the search engines, or perhaps word-of-mouth, and then remembering to return because they found it interesting.

The problem? Asking people to just come back when they remember to is pretty pointless; there are too many competing distractions. The number of visitors to the site stagnated.

Then I added a weekly newsletter and encouraged people to subscribe. On each page, there was a sign-up form that people could fill out to start getting The Ask Leo! Newsletter.

The problem? Few people noticed the sign-up form. My suspicion is that “ad blindness” caused most folks to simply not “see” the form at all. Even if they might have been interested in subscribing, they tuned it out. Newsletter subscriber growth was pitiful – barely breaking even with normal, expected attrition.

Ask Leo! Newsletter Pop-upNext, I added a one-time pop-up, timed to appear only after someone visited the site for 30-60 seconds (I experimented with the timing), and only once every 30-180 days (I experimented with the frequency).

The result? Rather than getting flooded with complaints, both newsletter subscriptions and site visits grew. Yes, there were occasional complaints, but far fewer than I expected.

Pop-ups work.

That’s why they exist.

The cost of free

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: there’s no such thing as “free” on the internet. Everything has a cost.

Sites that provide free information, like Ask Leo!must make money somehow or they simply cannot exist. Rather than charging for the information – which, by the way, a) doesn’t work, and b) restricts access to only those who can afford it –  sites rely on advertising revenue, and possibly direct sales, to break even or even turn a modest profit.

And all that depends on traffic: getting people to visit the site. The irony is that the more people willing to view the information provided for “free”, the healthier the site’s revenue situation becomes.

The “cost” is advertising, which often takes the form of pop-ups.

Ads versus ads

I want to distinguish between different types of pop-ups: offers and advertisements.

Pop-up ads are just that: advertisements like any other, which happen to pop up on the screen at some point while you visit a site. The advertisements can be for just about anything, and are often unrelated to the site or the site’s topic.

They’re just ads.

Offers are advertisements in a sense, but they give you something in return for an action. For example, my pop-up offers you a free ebook when you sign up for my newsletter. This is a very common practice that uses pop-up technology less frequently (once a month, for example) to get your attention and give you an immediate and direct benefit as a result.

True advertisements are pretty much constant, and, like any ad, are pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to offering you actual value.

Your alternatives

I can confidently say that Ask Leo! would not exist as it does today had I not been able to use the newsletter pop-up to encourage people to subscribe and view my (otherwise free) information each week.1

Not only would that be a business loss for me, but it would also mean one fewer resource of helpful answers on the internet for anyone to use at any time without any monetary cost.

I’m sure other sites feel the same way about their constant advertising, or whatever it is they choose to pop up as you visit. Hopefully they’ve done the math and decided that it works for them, and is an important cornerstone of their business model.

Your choices are actually quite simple:

  • In the case of less-intrusive sites and pop-ups such as the one you’ll experience here, just hit the ESC key, or close the popup, and carry on using the free resource.
  • In the case of more annoying and persistent pop-ups, decide if you’re willing to pay the price to consume the otherwise free information. If not, leave the site.

Pop-up blockers, ad blockers, and tools like NoScript can sometimes, though not always, be used to prevent pop-ups from appearing at all. My position remains that this is akin to theft; it’s taking the information provided without paying the price that compensates the provider. I realize that not everyone feels that way, but the bottom line is that no one is forcing you to visit sites that behave in ways you don’t approve of, just like no one forces you to visit sites with content you don’t like.

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Footnotes & references

1: And yes, I’ve considered donation mechanisms, paid memberships, and the like, but those either don’t work to the degree that they need to in order to support the site, or they restrict access to those both willing and able to pay. Even my current model of direct sales of my books requires that people visit my web site in order to learn that those books exist.

132 comments on “Why Do Websites Use Pop-ups?”

  1. Honestly, I use Adblock Plus and noscript, but not so much to avoid being confronted to publicity which I don’t mind, but rather for security reasons. I used to click on ads to generate revenue for sites I particularly liked, but since ads have become potentially dangerous scripts, I’ve decided not to allow them any more. I’m totally aware of the problem that poses to the finance model of free sites.

    Reply
    • I’ve seen sites that have “ad block detection” of some sort, and will display a message like “disable your ad blocking in order to view this site”.

      Reply
      • That’s their good right, and then most of the time I don’t stay on such a site.

        The point is that there is actually a fair deal between a “content provider” and someone browsing for content. The content provider wants to “be seen/known” and have people read his stuff, purely for his ego, his business, or whatever other reason he has to want to be seen. While content providers are in competition with each other, browsers aren’t. If Joe doesn’t want you to see his content without looking at his ads, then I’ll find Jack who is so much craving for shouting his thing on the web that he’ll give me the content without ads. And if Jack doesn’t want, I will find Chang. Wanting to get attention is a human property, and you’ll always find someone who is so much in need of feeling important, that the “price” of content will drop to near zero, and that that person will take the cost of putting himself in the limelight on him.

        Modest advertising was a good thing, but Google’s greed has pushed advertising over the level of acceptable for browsers (especially with all the privacy-questionable targeting), and content providers didn’t realize the weak position they had because of their competition. So I think that aggressive greedy advertising is actually killing advertising as a financing model for content. Content has essentially become at price zero, because of the harsh competition between content providers.

        Reply
        • “Google’s greed has pushed advertising over the level of acceptable.” – While Google and the other ad networks are not entirely blameless, the responsibility really lies with website owners who make excessive use of ads. People will always be willing to pay a fair price – whether in terms of a monetary sum and/or their exposure to ads – for good content. And in that regard, the web is really no different to print: in both cases, it’s all a matter of price to value.

          Reply
      • The most common “adblock detection” is totaly passive. The site have a background showing the message about adblock that is supposed to get hiden when the adds are displayed. When the add is blocked, then the messsage stay visible.

        Reply
  2. The only problem I have with pop-ups on AskLeo are the ones that say “subscribe to my newsletter”, with no way to tell it “stop asking me… I’m already subscribed!”

    I’ve seen other sites that, while “free”, require you to subscribe in order to view the complete article. Those are a lot more annoying. (I have no idea if the articles are worth it, as I refuse to supply my email address just to read the “free” content.)

    Reply
    • Unfortunately the web site has no idea who you are (or who any visitor is for that matter). So there’s no way for it to know you are a subscriber.

      Reply
      • True. (You would have to have a login option on the site for that.) But I have seen sites that have an option “don’t display this again for 30 days” or similar. I am assuming they use a cookie for that.

        Reply
          • … Unless you delete cookies regularly, then it would pop up each time you access Ask Leo! after clearing cookies. Believe it or not, cookies are good for you. It’s generally not necessary to clean them.

    • Given the quality of the information provided on AskLeo.com, I don’t mind having to close one pop-up whenever I visit the site.

      Reply
  3. “My position remains that this is akin to theft.” – Sorry, but I don’t think it’s at all akin to theft. People are just as entitled to block web ads as they are to fast forward through TV commercials. That said, I do agree with the spirit of what you say. Pretty much every website relies heavily on ad revenue and, if everybody were to use an ad-blocker, many of those websites would cease to be and those that remained would be behind paywalls. In other words, there’d be substantially less free content available than there is today.

    To my mind, the only argument in support of blocking is that, were it to become ubiquitous, it could force the advertising networks to become less aggressive so that people didn’t feel the need to block their ads. While that could indeed happen, it’s almost inevitable that a very large number of websites would cease to be during the transition.

    A chap called Dean Murphy summed things up pretty well with the question: “Do I care more about my privacy, time, device battery life & data usage or do I care more about the content creators of sites I visit to be able to monetise effectively and ultimately keep creating content?”

    http://murphyapps.co/blog/2015/6/24/an-hour-with-safari-content-blocker-in-ios-9

    It’s a tough question, but I think the bottom line is that if people want to be able to access free content, they shouldn’t block the ads that support the production of that content.

    Reply
    • I don’t think we’ll be missing the sites that rely heavily on ads for financing. I think there are enough content providers in competition with each other, and that a relatively modest presence on the internet has become so cheap, that there will always be enough volunteers around to put good content on the web (simply because they crave to say their thing).

      It is a pity that modest advertising, that provided a modest income to cover expenses, is finished, but I think this will blow more in the face of the aggressive advertising industry than in the face of the people blocking ads. Also, a different way in content providing (if we think of large files) will be peer-to-peer. Then you blur totally “content provider” and “browser”, as they are the same, and form a file-sharing community.

      Reply
      • Content is not necessarily cheap – at least, not good quality content. A news website, for example, needs to a generate revenue in order to be able to pay its reporters’ and editors’ salaries and cover its other costs. If that revenue cannot be generated from ads, it’ll be generated by a paywall/paid subscriptions – and if the paywall/paid subscriptions doesn’t generate sufficient revenue, the website will go bust.

        Sure, content can be cheap – any Tom, Dick or Harriet can start a WordPress blog or a Tumblr or write comments at AskLeo! – but good quality content has an associated cost.

        Reply
        • I do not deny that good contents has a cost. But given the fierce competition and the desire to put contents available, its *price* will be very low or zero for the consumer. There are two kinds of cost of course: the cost of producing the content in the first place, and then the technical cost of putting it available on the internet. I was mainly thinking of the second aspect. That has become quite cheap if you do not do heavy things on a server. And for the first, there are enough people craving to be the one whose content is seen. Look at something like Wikipedia. People contribute because of their ego/desire to be read/…. The donations serve to keep the servers running, not to remunerate people who put content. So although it takes a lot of effort to produce it, the cost is taken by the producer, because he’s satisfied in another way which we can call ego satisfaction.
          News sites, they are all over the place, and as Leo pointed out in another article, very often they just copy from one another. They too are craving to get your attention.

          Reply
        • One qualifier: good quality content has **significant** associated cost.

          I strive to meet the “quality” moniker. I have a part time staff of four, plus hardware and services to pay for. This is NOT something that’s cheap and easy to just throw up there. If I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do, and if I didn’t have other personal resources to draw on, Ask Leo! would simply not be here. And, no, up-front payment to write is not a viable business model for a variety of reasons.

          Reply
  4. I don’t mind the popup ads. I can deal with them. However there is a popdown feature to some of these ads that creates a reading problem for the reader. The ad pops up and plays and then pops down. I have a hard time finding where to continue. You are continually scrolling the mouse back and forth. I fail to see how this creates additional revenue for the site. The site has the right to use pop up ads, but I should also have the right to choose which ads I read. If they popup they should stay up.

    Reply
  5. I am one that takes exception to your “theft” comment. You chose to put the site up as a “Free” site, and offered it to the public as such.

    I do not mind any advertising as long as they put the ads ON the page and not OVER the page.

    So I use an ad-blocker to control them. I can remember times when I had to shut the computer down to get rid of the popups. Every time I shut one off, two would come on to take its place. In my opinion this justifies the use of a popup blocker.

    Reply
    • “I am one that takes exception to your “theft” comment.” – Yeah, I think that could certainly have been said better. It’d probably have been more productive to simply ask nicely that people whitelist AskLeo in their ad-blocker. That said, while I can’t speak for Leo, I very much doubt that it was his intention to brand his readers thieves and suspect that it was simply a case of unfortunate/careless wording. Nobody is perfect and we don’t always word things as well as we could or should.

      Reply
      • It’s a bit more complicated than that. Asking people to white list ads on Ask Leo! wouldn’t get many takers, probably not so much that people want to block the pop-ups on Ask Leo!, but inertia would prevent most from doing it. Without those pop-ups, Ask Leo! would no longer get enough revenue to exist. The same is true for most websites nowadays. Leo tries to find a balance, but many websites do not. One solution: stay away from websites that abuse pop-ups. You’ll never avoid them all, but you can certainly visit viewer problematic sites. I personally just consider clicking that ‘x’ as the entrance price to many websites.

        Reply
        • “Asking people to white list ads on Ask Leo! wouldn’t get many takers.” – Maybe it wouldn’t, but what are the alternatives?

          “I personally just consider clicking that ‘x’ as the entrance price to many websites.” – Yeah, so do I. Given that the majority of reputable websites make very sparing use of popups, I don’t consider closing them to be much of a problem. And, of course, if you’re visiting a website that uses popups excessively or misleadingly, then it’s probably a site you’d be best not visiting anyway.

          Reply
      • I did clarify, but I actually stand by adblockers as being theft. The vast majority of my readers are not thieves, as I certainly get ad revenue. But it’s important to understand what blocking ads really means, IMO. I get that not everyone agrees with me, but then … not everyone publishes on the internet, or is trying to run a business doing so. 🙂

        Reply
        • Adblockers are theft?… lmao. They’ve evolved to the point they have because of ad creators being totally obnoxious and inconsiderate in barraging visitors with a plethora of ads. Yes, OK… there’s a ‘price’ for the “free” content. I get it, but there’s no point in there being ANY content at all if you’re getting barraged by ads to the point you can’t enjoy or make use of said content. And there are many sites that do that. So I use adblocker, and I’m no thief. If I access certain content with regularity to the point where it’s contributing to my quality of life, even indirectly, then I remember and return the favor… as I have with you, several times (and Bob Rankin, as well). I also contribute regularly to so-called ‘freeware’ that I use the most. So no, I don’t consider adblockers to be theft at all. I actually think there’s a more legit assessment of autoplay vids (about.com, for example) and delayed pop-up’s that do their thing right over the content you WERE just reading being obnoxious and unnecessary. But I put up with it for the sites from which I get useful info with any kind of regularity. Also, I’m more than happy to turn off adblocking for certain sites, although it helps if they politely request it in order to remind me. If it’s too obnoxious afterward, adblocker gets turned right back on… lol.

          Just an FYI, if the market bears it (and it’s not illegal), then it’s justified.

          Reply
          • There are two other good reasons to block ads, apart from the nuisance of intrusive ads in your attention span and in your brain. These two reasons are:

            1) security
            2) privacy

            Scripted ads means in principle, that the owner of the site allows the advertiser to send scripted code to your visitor’s browser. Things like Flash being full of security holes, and javascript being also potentially dangerous, this means that the owner of the original site actually allows just any advertiser to send just any code to his visitors.

            Ad clicking helps the advertisers (and the advertising intermediate such as Google) to learn about the visitor by both learning his main interest (on what page is he reading main content) and his side wise interest in what ads he might be interested in. In other words, this is a potential privacy violation by learning about the eventual sub-conscious bridge the user has between main content and a specific ad, that made him click on it. But even without clicking on it, scripted ads give your information of your page visit back to, say, Google. Browser fingerprinting and IP address can further identify you across different browser sessions. Ads are the way for advertising intermediates to track your browsing behavior, even without cookies: by recognizing you (with IP and browser fingerprinting) across different ads.

            For example, suppose that I visit first some pages of Trump, on which there are some ads. The scripts of these ads can see my browser ID, and can see my IP. The company providing these scripts can hence know that this browser ID with this IP visited Trump’s pages.
            Next, I visit a page on holiday centers. Other ads there see my same browser ID and my same IP. So the company providing *those* ads (probably Google again) know that the guy that visited Trump’s page, visited next this kind of holiday center.
            Finally, I visit a page on medical stuff. An ad on that page also sees my browser and IP. Google now knows that the same guy has an interest in problems with blood tension.

            Follow people for a few years that way, and you know a hell of a lot about them.

    • I’m with you here. Advertising has become annoying. It wasn’t always like that. A discrete banner with an ad was a good thing. But then the battle for the attention was set in. That’s too much. Technicalities that attract attention of the user such as flashing and moving stuff, popping up and all that should be used for the user’s sake, to increase the value of the content. If they are abused to get the user’s attention to get junk in his attention range (which is the principle of an aggressive ad), then the user will take steps to stop these things from happening on HIS computer and HIS screen.

      There’s a misunderstanding of the power balance between the consumer of free content and the provider of free content, which you can easily see this way:
      Suppose that the content isn’t there, who’s going to be most unhappy ? Its owner, or the casual potential visitor ? My bet is that it is the owner of the site who is going to be mostly unhappy. The casual potential visitor has so many other possibilities that if the site is down, he’ll find another one with the content he’s looking for. The excuse “hey, you come and take my free content so you ought to pay me for my cost and my effort” is contradicted by the raw power balance above.

      Reply
      • It’s gotten to the point that you go to a website to download a utility, and you have to spend a few minutes figuring out which is the real “download” button, and which of the dozen other things are “download this advertiser’s program”.

        Reply
      • “Advertising has become annoying.” – Actually, it doesn’t annoy me at all. I rarely see it, in fact (I see it but I don’t really *see* it, if you know what I mean). I no longer read print publications; I very rarely watch live TV – instead, it’s recorded and the commercials skipped; and web ads are simply background noise that, for the most part, I don’t even notice (I can’t remember the last time I actually clicked on an ad). Additionally, when ads are too in-your-face – such as commercials in YouTube videos that cannot be skipped – I’ll simply abandon watching unless it’s something I really, really want to see (which is rarely the case).

        I suspect that I’m far from unique in this and that advertisers will need to discover more effective ways to reach people with their messages.

        Reply
        • Exactly! And this is exactly the approach we should all be taking to annoying advertising: if there’s too much of it – Don’t consume the content it supports.

          Reply
          • Indeed. And while nobody likes ads, what the ad-blockers need to bear in mind is that is that there are only 4 possible outcomes to their actions: 1) we’ll start to see ads that are even more intrusive and which cannot be blocked (think product placements in TV shows); or 2) websites and web services will start to die off, à la local newspapers and print magazines; or 3) everything will become pay-per use or subscription based; or 4) some combination of these. In any case, the new world would necessarily be any better than the old one. The devil you know….

            The bottom line is that the internet (as we know it) cannot be free. Facebook has operating costs of about $12 billion. It’s got to be paid for somehow….

          • Not viewing the content the ads support would put the website owner in an equally tight financial spot no? Except with none of the notoriety that comes with lots of people viewing your site….

    • Viewing the ads is the “cost” of visiting my site. Visiting my site and blocking those ads avoids the cost. How is that not theft? The style of the ad – whether or not you find it acceptible – is not at issue here. What is at issue is that you are unwilling to pay the price, yet you take the content anyway. By any definition, that’s theft.

      Reply
      • This is – as you can guess already 🙂 – not the way I see it. (BTW, I have no problem with the relatively small amount of publicity on your site ; you are just a victim of others putting aggressive/dangerous ads on their site, so I configured my browsers to avoid them all).

        What you do is to put available for free, a “website”, that is, HTML source code/javascript and what not else, to be downloaded. With a graphical browser interface on MY side, that produces graphical stuff on MY display. But I could just as well use something like curl that simply downloads the HTML instructions to a file. YOU have chosen to put that freely available. In other words, you put available a server that sends source code to any device that asks for it, with the HTTP or HTTPS protocol. That device doesn’t have to be a graphical browser, and certainly doesn’t have to be a graphical browser to your specifications.
        How I’m now INTERPRETING that source code, is MY affair. The only thing I will grant you (even though, in our other discussion, I’m only obliged by an immoral law), is that I’m not supposed to put that source code myself, available to others on another server of mine (in other words, copying your site). But what I do or do not, with that source code on my machine, is totally MY affair.

        I didn’t crack any password in doing so. I didn’t break into any system of which it was obvious that I was entering a private sphere. You did all the effort to make that source code available for anyone who solicited your server. Well, I’m now totally free to interpret that source code the way I want, and if I don’t want to execute parts of it because I’m not interested, that would be the least of my rights. I can look at the text of it in a text editor. I can decide to pass it through text processing filters to extract only those pieces I’m interested in. And I’m CERTAINLY not obliged to EXECUTE all the instructions that source code contains, or to display it graphically on my screen according to the instructions in that source code.

        If you go and stand on a box in Hide Park, then what you are telling the crowd listening to you, is your choice, but anybody in that crowd is free to cover their ears if they don’t want to listen to part of what you are saying !
        There is no implicit or explicit contract between you and me when I access the stuff on your server. You have put out HTML and javascript code freely available, people can download it. Whether they EXECUTE all of that code in a graphical browser or not is their affair.

        Richard Stallman, of the Free Software Foundation, even claims never to use a graphical browser. He downloads systematically the source code with curl, and then looks at the source and takes what he wants from it. I don’t know up to what point he’s consistent. It is not the easiest way to browse the web 🙂

        The claim that it is theft NOT to execute parts of code you put available, is stretching the notion of “theft” even further than intellectual property rights do. Theft is taking something away from its owner so that the owner is now missing it.

        Reply
      • I disagree. To my mind, it’s akin to watching a street performer. If you enjoy the act, then the nice thing to do is to drop some change into their violin case, but you’re certainly not obligated – either legally or morally – to do so. And choosing not to part with any cash certainly isn’t theft.

        I choose not to block ads on my laptop, but do on my phone. I struggle to keep it charged throughout the day and…

        http://lifehacker.com/ad-blockers-on-mobile-can-reduce-battery-drain-by-up-to-1764344384

        Reply
        • Indeed. When you offer something for free, you cannot afterwards impose your conditions on the ground that it had a cost, and that the other one enjoyed it, and should now pay a price. Because then we’re talking contract, and there’s nothing “free” about it any more: a contract is negotiated both ways.

          That said, there’s courtesy. If you particularly enjoy a free gift, you may be inclined to do something for the person giving it to you too. But that courtesy has to remain, well, courtesy, which is itself a free choice.

          Reply
      • Leo, I think you’re describing it poorly. It’s not that viewing the ad is the “cost” of getting the content. It’s the fact that your being presented with the ad means the website owner gets *paid*. By blocking the ad, it’s not that you’ve avoided the “cost” of seeing the ad, it’s that you are depriving the website owner his *actual*money* that he would have received.

        And Ray, I don’t think it’s the equivalent of watching a street performer and not dropping some money in the hat. It’s more akin to sneaking in the back door of a theater without paying for a ticket.

        Reply
        • The last comparison is totally out of place. In a theatre, nobody ever claimed that the performance was free. You’re in a private place, and you accept a contract when you enter it: you pay a ticket. Taking a seat in a theatre is the same as getting a bread from the baker: nowhere the bread it put out available for free. You make a contract, you pay for a good or a service.

          However, putting a website public, is putting the access to the contents available for free, in the same way as the baker would put baskets full of bread in the park, for everyone to take.

          You can compare putting ads on a website, rather akin to the baker putting some or other addictive stuff in his bread. The guy, Joe, who is selling the addictive stuff is paying the baker to put this addictive stuff in the bread, so that people eating the bread, will get addicted and come and buy the addictive stuff at Joe’s, and he made a deal with the baker: “if you make people addicted, my business will boom, and I pay you for helping me making them addicted.”

          Now, with all these baskets with “free bread” in the park, people eat that bread and some of them become addicted and Joe’s sales boom. However, others have found out, and take the bread that is put out freely available, but take out the salad with the addicted stuff in.

          So it would be theft to take out the salad and not let yourself be addicted and eat the “free” bread nevertheless ?

          No. If the bread is free, you do with it what you like, and if you want to remove the addictive salad stuff before eating it, that’s your good right.

          That said, if there were an ad-blocker that would “click” a million-fold on every blocked ad without actually executing the stuff in my browser, I would certainly install it 🙂

          Reply
          • The question is not whether it’s illegal to block pop-ups. The problem is: Can the internet survive without pop-ups.?. If nobody supports the street performers, they will no longer be able to performer. If nobody allows pop-ups, many websites including Ask Leo! will not be able to perform. I don’t believe legal or moral are the main considerations in this case. The movie theater analogy doesn’t seem to fit either as that is trespassing. And saying that it’s like offering something for free and then making someone pay once in also doesn’t seem to fit. Nobody is promising ad-free content, and it’s normally expected that you’ll have to put up with some ads to view the content. As bad as pop-ups can be, in most cases they are less intrusive than TV ads and much easier to “fast forward” than TV ads. If the pop-ups are too much to bear, don’t visit those pages.

          • “If nobody supports the street performers, they will no longer be able to perform.” – Exactly. Paying is the nice thing to do and ensures that performers will keep on performing. Similarly, in the case of web content, keeping ads unblocked ensures that its creators will keep on creating. The bottom line is that if you enjoy something or find it useful and want the person to keep on doing it, then you should show support for that person – whether by dropping some cash into their violin case or by viewing the ads on their website. This is not, however, a legal or contractual – or even moral – obligation. It’s just the nice/right thing to do.

          • My point is exactly that of course the internet will survive without ads financing. There are enough people craving to put their quality contents available, for their ego-satisfaction or other reasons, who are willing to put net worth into it for free. Wikipedia is an example. The whole free software movement is another example.
            Almost all important quality stuff you find on the internet, doesn’t find its origin in ads-driven financing.
            It would make the internet again a communication medium, where people who have something to say, tell it, and not a business medium, where people think that by providing “content” they can make a living. And of course, if you want *tailored* content, which comes down to wanting a specific service, you pay the people you think can provide you with it.

          • In fact, I like a lot the adnauseam plug in concept, although it is not keeping up with adblock plus development. That would provide sites whose ads are blocked – that is, not shown, in any case with enough clicks so that they get their revenue. In other words, I delegate “looking at the ad” to my browser plugin instead of having my personal attention cluttered by it 🙂

          • “My point is exactly that of course the internet will survive without ads financing. There are enough people craving to put their quality contents available, for their ego-satisfaction or other reasons, who are willing to put net worth into it for free.” – Yup, the internet would indeed survive without ads – but it’d be radically different and not necessarily better. Advertising revenue doesn’t only create a monetization mechanism for content creators; it also funds the content distribution/hosting services that people use to get their content into the public domain – WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. – and funds the search engines which enable that content to be discovered. Additionally, ad revenue funds the enormous development, maintenance, energy and infrastructure costs of the services and apps that we use every day: Skype, Google Maps, Pinterest, Gmail, YouTube, Flickr, Street View, etc.

            The alternative to ads is that we pay cold, hard cash – or maybe Bitcoin – for the content we consume and the services we use: per-use micro-payments, perhaps, or subscriptions for services such as Facebook and Gmail.

            I don’t think anybody particularly likes ads, but most people would probably like the alternatives even less. “When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers,” said Oscar Wilde.

          • It’s actually expensive to keep content online. A big ego wouldn’t pay for it without funding.

          • Well, I guess we have different opinions then. BTW, I have some modest content online, together with my mail service and everything, that costs me less than $10,- per month. I have no need for more.

            I have in principle nothing against financing with ads, but that industry has gone totally beserk, and is turning into a corporate global surveillance system on both accounts: first of all because of all the data collected, which is a huge privacy problem in itself, in order to shape ads to your “profile”, and second because when the “feedback loop” of targeted ads as a function of all the information about you that has been collected, and the observation of their efficiency is closed, you are totally at the mercy of those ads which can then be so well targeted to your subconscious, that in essence you become a mind-controlled zombie. In fact, you can consider targeted and efficiency observed ads as “brain malware”. As long as you are confronted to general public ads, you can learn to defend yourself against the manipulative and rhetoric techniques of ads. But when they target your deep subconscious, because of the big data analysis that is behind it, and the worldwide experiment that Google, Facebook and others are performing in this domain, you might very well turn out to be defenceless. Remember that all complex systems have vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and targeted ads are nothing else but looking for exploits in your personality. This can turn in a very, very dangerous game. Do you really think that industries are poring tens and tens of billions of dollars (the targeted ad business) into technology that doesn’t work ?

            You should read stuff like http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3493/2955 by professor Nissenbaum of New York University.

            As such, everything which is targeted ads, the data collection that goes with it, and the necessary privacy violations that are necessary to do so, is, in my eyes, something that is really, really very bad. Classical advertising has no problem of course.

            This is why, if you look carefully at the charter of Adblock Plus, the “acceptable ads charger” looks to me as a very good compromise.

            https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads

          • @ Ray: “it also funds the content distribution/hosting services that people use to get their content into the public domain – WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. – and funds the search engines which enable that content to be discovered. ”

            Of all those, I only have a LinkedIn account, which I rarely use. All the rest is unnecessary internet pollution in my eyes (useless at best, if not dangerous), but that’s my personal opinion 🙂

            “Skype, Google Maps, Pinterest, Gmail, YouTube, Flickr, Street View, etc.”

            It is absolutely true that Google Maps and Google earth are great. I wouldn’t mind paying a fee for them. I think that things like YouTube and other file sharing and indexing systems can be replaced by peer-to-peer systems. Although I use Skype because the people I contact are used to Skype (we get the “microsoft windows” effect: you use it because other people were indoctrinated in using it), in fact I’m much more in favor of an open source version, like Jitsi, or messenger applications like Tox, Linphone, or Red phone.

            And don’t forget the whole FLOSS movement, estimated at a worth of more than 100 billion Euros http://carlodaffara.conecta.it/the-economic-value-of-open-source-software/

            They didn’t do it on ads most of the time.

          • Every bit of the internet – from its underlying infrastructure to the hardware that attaches to it and the energy that powers that infrastructure and hardware – costs money. Enormous sums of money. And that money has to come from somewhere.

            The internet simply cannot operate entirely on a free/OSS basis. Take Mozilla, for example. It’s revenues are in excess of $300 million per year, almost all of which is derived from search partnerships – in other words, partnerships with companies that make their money from ads.

            You can’t have P2P networks unless the infrastructure exists to support them, and that infrastructure costs big bucks.

          • @ Ray: I think I’m repeating myself, but I’m the first one to say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the internet infrastructure does cost a lot of money of course. But my (eventually controversial) position is that this is paid for by the content providers, because it is THEM who are craving to get attention and get some form of satisfaction when their content is seen. In other words, the paying customer is the “content provider” and the actual provider of service is the “content consumer” who provides “needed attention” the customer/content provider is so much craving for that he’s willing to pay a lot for it from his pocket.

          • While there are people who are on the web who merely crave attention, I assure you, as much as I love my work here at Ask Leo!, I don’t think I’d be doing it for free. Seriously, if you don’t want to call it theft, that’s fine. It’s a matter of semantics, but if there are too many freeloaders, most sites which produce good and useful content will fold. If you think you can just go elsewhere, I guarantee you, you’ll be disappointed, because those alternative sites you mention will also fold, as they also rely on some sort of funding which in most cases are funded by ads.

          • I keep bristling at the whole “craving attention” thing, because that’s not what I believe I’m trying to do. I’m trying to provide a service – to make the world a better place. I run ads to support that endeavor, and somehow you seem to imply it’s just an ego-play on my part.

          • @Patrick:

            “It is absolutely true that Google Maps and Google earth are great. I wouldn’t mind paying a fee for them.” – Neither would I, but I’d prefer not to have to. Given the choice between parting with cold, hard cash or seeing a few ads in order to conduct a web search, get driving directions or send an email, I’ll take the ads (as irritating as they may sometimes be).

            “But my (eventually controversial) position is that this is paid for by the content providers, because it is THEM who are craving to get attention and get some form of satisfaction when their content is seen.” – The NYT, WSJ, TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Buzzfeed, Dictionary.com, etc., etc., etc. do not crave attention – except to the extent that that attention makes them money. Money from ads.

          • Again, we would miss them less than they would be hurt by not putting their content on line and “not exist” on the web. In the power game of desire, they are on the losing end. That’s my point. Of course, but very rarely, I read something on the site of the NYT or the WSJ (most if not all of the time because in one or other discussion, someone has provided a link to their site). As these are established “media”, one would think that they would rise their main funding from people who want to spread subtle disinformation, like politicians, corporations or the like, and not from ads 🙂

            Seriously, who would be more hurt when, say, the WSJ site were gone ? Their visitors, or themselves ? Nobody needs a site like the WSJ. Yes, it can be fun and entertaining. But the content they would produce (with all the subtle disinformation included in it), you don’t need, and the information you’d like to get out of it, will be available somewhere else, by someone who wants to shout it at you. You can say that for all those sites. You should realize that you are much less in actual need of “consumption” of on-line content, than most content providers are in need of you consuming it. And the actual need of information you have will always be available, as the competition for your attention is so terribly fierce, that the content providers would bleed themselves to death to get your attention on their content for a few minutes.

          • @ Mark: I understand your thesis, but I think it is flawed, because it is based upon the hypothesis that the Internet is an economic world on its own, where “content” is created for its own sake, and income is generated by consumption of that content. I think that the hypothesis that the Internet is a world on its own, is not only fundamentally flawed, but also outright dangerous. It is true that some see it that way: the Internet is a universe, only very slightly connected to ‘the real world out there’ for some needs like copper cable, electricity, optical fiber, and racks full of servers and some more supporting hardware, but once all that is paid for with “normal world labor”, we live our digital lives in a digital world with digital providers and digital consumers, and a digital economy.

            I think that is totally crazy. We are living humans who live in a real world with real diseases and real food, with real clean or polluted air, in real brick and mortar (or wooden or plastic) houses. We walk in real forests with real trees, and we fly in real airplanes with real petrol. We climb on real mountains, and we swim in real seas and lakes.
            But of course, it is great to have computing stuff that is able to communicate digitally over a world-wide network, but that stuff is there only in support for our real-world life, or real-world passions and our real-world business and is void of meaning without that real world in which we live. Of course, setting up that network and its hardware is taking real resources in the real world, and the economic trade-off of sacrificing resources taken from our real world, to build that Internet infrastructure, should, in the end, serve a real-world purpose. We have needs in the real world, and the Internet is only a tool to satisfy them hopefully better. We have no intrinsic “Internet needs”. In as much as we have Internet needs, we only have them because we think they are a way to satisfy real-world needs.
            As such, any body doing something on the Internet is doing that for “real world sake”. As a business, you want to be present on the Internet to attract real-world business, selling real-world services and goods. As a human being, you want to satisfy your ego by getting other real-world people their attention. You can do that on your own, or in group, as a way of entertainment. In all these cases, in order to even hope to merit a split seconds attention span of someone else, you need to provide some content to get that attention.

            And as human beings, we like to communicate about things. This communication can contain valuable content for others, like people explaining on a discussion forum how they solved a specific problem, people discussing things that they witnessed, happened, people talking about how they see the world, people wanting to teach material they are fond of, to others, and so on. *this* is most of the valuable contents on the Internet. That doesn’t need any financing by itself, because the rewards are in the real world: ego satisfaction, or attracting attention for business in the real world with genuine quality content.

          • “That doesn’t need any financing by itself.” – Yes, it does. While you can have a small website hosted for a sprinkling of dubbels, a popular high-traffic website can cost $10k or more per month to host. On top of that, you also have web dev costs, etc., etc. And, except in the case of sites that are actually selling stuff, those costs are almost always paid for by ad revenue.

            The simple fact is that without ad revenue – or some alternative funding mechanism – the web as we know it would cease to be. It’d become a collection of small-scale hobbyist websites and websites that are selling stuff. And how would you even find those websites without search engines, all of which are funded by ads?

          • “I keep bristling at the whole “craving attention” thing.” – Like an angry porcupine? 😛 I think the majority of website operators “crave attention” simply because the attention results in an income – whether via product sales or ad views. It’s rarely an ego thing.

      • Theft is usually defined as “the intentional taking without the owner’s consent”. Intentional is the key word because although I am a long time fan of Leo before reading this I was quite simply unaware of the effect of switching on my add blocker! So Leo, although I sympathise (and have now white listed Leo) I do think that the use of “theft” is a bit ott!

        Reply
  6. Oops! Just seen that my comment about pop-ups asking you to subscribe to the newsletter you are already reading has been answered previously. But if the site doesn’t know who I am or if I am a subscriber or not, how could I be reading the newsletter if I wasn’t a subscriber?

    Reply
    • That’s because the Ask Leo! site does not require you to log in to read the content. Because of that the software does not “know” who you are. So there is no way to turn off the add for subscribers.

      This is kind of a funny discussion because on other articles people are ranting and raving about the fact that websites track who they are. Amazon.com, for instance, always keeps me signed in on my main computer and literally follows me around everywhere. Youtube does the same thing. So maybe it’s a matter of choosing your poison.

      Leo’s newsletter popup is to easy to shut off. Maybe everyone could just use that as a Zen-like reminder to take a breath and relax. Sometimes I worry about how angry people get over the smallest little thing. That has to cause a ton of health problems!

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    • The newsletter and the web site are two different things managed by two different systems. The newsletter is email that is simply sent to you. The web site is … a web site anyone can visit.

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  7. When a website produces ads in a form so abusive that the content is effectively unobtainable, I consider that fraud (I’m paying the price, but not getting the product). As I don’t do business with folks I know I can’t trust, I leave immediately, assuming all links are scams.

    There is exactly one website I will knowingly visit despite this kind of abuse, and that’s because I find its content extremely valuable (so much so that I would happily pay a subscription fee): snopes. That’s only because they proved their worth to me before their ads became abusive. Had my early experiences with snopes been with their current ad structure, I would never have use it.

    All other websites I like to visit are very circumspect with their popups and ad placements and allow me to view the content (much like AskLeo!).

    Reply
  8. I am a Ask Leo subscriber. I also use AdBlock Plus in Chrome. However I am still able to get the pop-up for the newsletter sign-up periodically. I don’t see any issue with that. I understand that it costs serious money to run a website like this. i wouldn’t object if there were more ads than I see now. It’s well worth it to me. I’ve read a lot of Leo’s articles, and have even posted links to his articles at a forum I participate in a lot.

    Reply
    • “I wouldn’t object if there were more ads than I see now.” – Maybe that’s because you’re using AdBlock and so do not see any 😛

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  9. Leo, I’m hoping you will allow this link to an essay on the subject, from the Practical Ethics site of Oxford University. If only to add another dimension to the topic. http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2015/10/why-its-ok-to-block-ads/

    My personal feeling is that anything I really want I’ll pay for, and do. I say this as someone whose sole source of income is SS, addressing those who will come back with the cost. I do without much. I use AdBlock Plus, Ghostery and ScriptSafe. As you’re a back-up fanatic, I’m a security fanatic. A very close family member is a 17 yrs. experience security software developer and core infrastructure engineer for a large hedge fund manager/financial trading firm (we’re talking about protecting billions of dollars transacting); I get security alerts from him before they hit the public awareness. The scope of the security breaches that’s out there, attacks people don’t even know about unless they’re security freaks, is mind-boggling. It was he who got me into computers, giving me the Windows for Dummies book and telling me never to click on the ads or the goofy come-on ‘stories’ in the margins. I’ve never clicked on an ad since I first got a pc in 2000 and never will, pop up or otherwise. Today we have the additional problems of bad juju embedded in the little “X”, nailing people who click to close the ad. Remember the recent Forbes fubar, in which they told readers to turn off their ad blockers? Those foolish enough to do so immediately got hit with malware. We have the same problem when accessing some everyday sites that infect us just by landing on their website. This is all going to continue to get worse. Those of us who have the least, stand to lose the most because we have no soft place to fall. If I don’t protect myself, who will?

    In this country we’re already being robbed with outrageous charges just to have Internet speeds slower than the rest of the world; while your site was never bad, I’ve watched my speed drop dramatically due to all the ads running on pages of certain sites I’ve paid to subscribe to, if I turned off the blockers. The entire deck is stacked against us as consumers. The sites that are now refusing access to content by those using an ad blocker can do without me, and me them; that’s fair enough and I accept it. I donated to you every time you answered a question, back when I knew nothing and didn’t want to pester the family member. But, and I say this with all the respect and admiration for what you try to do, I’ll never ease up on my security measures unless website owners are willing to take financial responsibility for my security on their sites. We all do what we have to do, including you. Where do we go from here?

    Reply
    • “Remember the recent Forbes fubar, in which they told readers to turn off their ad blockers? Those foolish enough to do so immediately got hit with malware.” – To my mind, blocking all ads because of the risk of bad ads is akin to blocking all emails because of the risk of bad email attachments.

      To try put some perspective on this issue, bad ads on mainstream websites are relatively uncommon (if you frequent the darker side of the web, the situation is, of course, very different). I work from home spending the bulk of my time on the web, but have never once encountered a bad ad. Additionally, if your computer and browser are patched, your antivirus up-to-date and you don’t click on ads, the risk of a bad – even if you were to encounter one – being able to compromise your computer is close to zero.

      While people are perfectly entitled to block ads – I block them on mobile to conserve battery – they do need to realize that their actions are not without consequence. Almost every website, app and service – from AskLeo! to Google Maps to Facebook to Firefox to Linux Mint –relies, directly or indirectly, makes all or part of their income from ads. Take that income away, and these websites, apps and services will either cease to be free or cease to be completely.

      Reply
      • “Additionally, if your computer and browser are patched, your antivirus up-to-date and you don’t click on ads, the risk of a bad – even if you were to encounter one – being able to compromise your computer is close to zero.”
        I say this as politely and respectfully as I know how, that you are seriously uninformed about current risk levels.

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    • Amen. Actually, I was only marginally aware of the scope of insecurity on the internet, until I got involved into pen testing (I’m still learning a lot). I went “wow”. Even the first courses on using BeEF give already an idea of the dangers even if you’re not proficient yourself to actually carry out the attack, you can easily imagine it.

      Reply
      • The threat landscape has indeed changed drastically. Yesteryear, malware was created for kicks by pimply teenagers working out of a bedroom in their parents’ house; nowadays, professional programmers create complex exploit kits – that do all kinds of funky stuff, like dynamic/polymorphic code obfuscation – which are then rented out to organized criminals. It’s not even easy to know what kits are out there as they tend to be traded in closed communities with strict registration requirements.

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  10. Leo: “I did clarify, but I actually stand by adblockers as being theft. The vast majority of my readers are not thieves, as I certainly get ad revenue.”
    This has been niggling at me all day, your personal feelings that the rest of us are thieves. While it’s your opinion vs ours, I admire what you do and would pay for it if you gave me that choice, just as I pay for other quality content. I feel now that perhaps you resent us ad blocker users, and I can understand your perspective. Inasmuch as I don’t have a choice to pay you for your content and won’t disable my security apps, I apparently offer you no value as a subscriber and should unsubscribe. Maybe someday you’ll run a paid subscription site and I’ll be back. Wishing you all the best, and thanks for some interesting reading during my subscribed time.

    Reply
  11. Just putting my $0.02 in…

    To those who say “it’s no different than taping a TV show and fast-forwarding the commercials”, I’d like to point out that the TV station gets paid for airing the ad, whether you fast-forward them or not. Website owners don’t get paid if you use an ad-blocker.

    Reply
    • It’s also worth noting that there’s presently no viable alternative funding mechanism for websites. While they could erect newspaper-style paywalls that restrict content-access to paying subscribers, not too many people would actually be willing to pay – which, I’m sure, is exactly why so few websites choose this option.

      Nobody like ads but, until a better/alternative funding mechanism is worked out, they’re the only viable way for websites to generate revenue. And if that source of revenue starts to dry up, more and more websites will shut their doors – in the exact same way that more and more local newspapers and magazines have shut their doors.

      Reply
      • I said before that I don’t mind “old-fashioned” ads: that is, ads that are discrete, static, in a banner (above, on the side, below the main content), and are not a privacy problem (no big data collection, no targeted ads). This is pretty close to what Adblock-Plus proposes in his non-intrusive ads charter which are white-listed.

        Scripted, aggressive, targeted, privacy-invading advertising systems (which are also an open invitation for security problems) which have become the norm are to be avoided at all price.

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    • This is why I’m favorable for two things:

      1) the charter of non-intrusive ads such as adblock-plus describes it on their site. It is the kind of ad that was prevalent before things got out of hand.

      2) something like adnauseam, that clicks invisibly on blocked ads in a browser sandbox, so that on the other side, it is indistinguishable from a human looking at the ad, without the “brain and attention pollution” that the ad brings.

      In other words, if people want to pay for sandboxed browsers “looking” at ads, I find that all right 🙂 This has moreover the supplementary advantage of putting noise on the stolen privacy data by ad-clicking.

      Unfortunately, for the moment, adnauseam seems not to be functional with the latest version of adblock plus. I hope they keep up the good work.

      Reply
      • “The charter of non-intrusive ads such as adblock-plus describes it on their site.” – While this is not something that could be universally enforced, Google et al could certainly take a step in that direction by specifying clear standards for ads and making compliance with those standards part of the algorithms that determine search rank. The search engines probably have little interest in doing this, of course, as it’d inevitably result in them taking a financial hit (less ad space sold = less revenue for the search engines). The widespread use of ad-blockers could potentially force the search engines’ hands in this direction – which would obviously be a good thing – or it could simply result in ads become even more invasive than at present. In either case, it’d likely be a long – and for websites that rely on ad revenue, painful – road.

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  12. I got a pop up reading this page, but the stuff you have pop up I might be interested in. These other sites I learned not to click on those teasers”10 best stocks etc.” Its endless pop ups, and forever waits to get the pages since I assume my computer is trying to block them

    Reply
  13. Hi,
    I don’t agree with “no such thing as free”. Yes its much less common now, but some altruistic people still provide their information for free without seeking a FINANCIAL reward – they get other rewards. I see nothing wrong with a ‘free’ site saying “we are ad’ supported” but not using ‘free’ as bait. A similar example is “free download” which turns out to be not free after download but a crippled or trial version trying to suck you in. I certainly get angry when reading something ??free?? and find a pop up blocks it out. There must be a better way to get your message across.
    Regards, Don.

    Reply
    • I fully agree with you. BTW, I consider “altruism” as a form of smart egoism, where you nevertheless optimize something that deep down, YOU want (such as seeing someone else happy, and enjoy the empathically induced happiness for yourself by that).

      This is why I claim that a lot of so-called “quality content it is only fair that the user pays for in some way or another, such as looking at ads” is in many cases, totally hypocrite, because it is actually the provider of content that craves to have you look at HIS content, for whatever reason.

      This is somewhat similar to the “altruistic” third-world helper, who craves to be able to flatter his/her own ego by “helping people in need”, and then expects some kind of reward for the “altruistic” deeds he/she undertakes to help these people, such as a form of gratitude or taxpayer money or whatever. In my eyes, this “mother Theresa” attitude is nothing else but ego-satisfaction, with, it is true, nice free-rider effects for the people who get help. But the primary reason for doing this, is the ego-satisfaction of the “helper”, who would be much more unhappy if there were no poor people to be helped in the first place. In other words, the “help” so generously “given for free” by the “altruistic helper” is in my opinion more a need of relief by the helper to flatter his/her ego, to feel useful and important and so on, and is *strongly in need* of people needing help to be able to get satisfied.

      I consider content providers on the Internet very similar: they are craving for attention, and are strongly in need of “takers of their free content”. They are willing to put a lot of their time, effort and money into it, because, at the end of the day, they mainly/only do this for their own satisfaction in one way or another. Like third world helpers.

      Reply
      • @Patrick: Your many comments that there are enough people on the internet who crave the attention to keep the internet going are very good examples of yourself. You’ve posted so many narcissistic egotistical comments on this page, you’ve demonstrated that some, especially yourself, like nothing more than to hear their own voice.

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  14. The nice thing about blogging is that, by selectively deleting arguments, one can steer the discussion subtly in one direction or another.

    Reply
      • A few comments I posted had disappeared after Ray had already replied to them. But now they are back. As I believe in the quantum multiverse, I will consider that my mind must have made an excursion in a parallel world where I never wrote them, and then came back to this branch of the wave function 🙂

        Reply
        • This is usually a caching issue. To keep the site speedy(ish) I use a couple of levels of caching that reduce the load on my server. SOMETIMES older pages get displayed by error. When comments are flying fast and furious is when it’s most likely to happen. It shouldn’t, but … stuff happens.

          I delete comments only when they are clearly spam, really detract from the discussion at hand, abusive (particularly to other commentors – my skin is relatively thick), contain profanity that can’t be ***ing removed without losing context, or in some cases so far afield that they simply don’t belong. The “rules” above the comment box below allow me to delete whatever whenever, but I can appreciate a thoughtful discussion that includes disagreement.

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  15. A couple of points:

    1) I find it interesting that by the time I’d finished perusing the comments, I would have sworn that Leo had said, “people who use ad-blockers are thieves”, when in fact he said, “My position remains that this is akin to theft” – no at all the same thing

    2) If Leo had had ads in the comments section, he would have cleaned up on this post.

    Hoping a bit of levity might ease the tensions!

    Reply
    • I honestly fail to see the semantic difference in the two alternatives you present in 1). But of course Leo may think so, that is his good right. It is good to formulate sometimes controversial opinions. I claim everywhere that following the law is in many cases an immoral act, that law-abiding citizens are for a large part mostly immoral creatures. That’s also probably a controversial statement (and I will admit, partly – but only partly – meant to be provocative and open a reflection on the immoral aspects of law and state).

      I think that there are 3 classes of views on the issue:

      1) (my viewpoint): something that is offered open of access is free, meaning, the user can do with it what he wants. Free as in free choice.

      2) (I think, Leo’s viewpoint): by accessing content, you engage in a kind of implicit contract which obliges you – at least morally – to view the site as meant by its owner, implying that you’re supposed to look also at ads, generating revenue for the owner. If you take the good stuff, but refuse the bad stuff, you’re sneaking out of a contract by not “paying your dues”, which is akin to theft.

      3) A pragmatic viewpoint: no matter ethical principles, ads pay for a lot of stuff on the internet, so please look at ads to keep the money flow and continue to get the stuff financed !

      Reply
        • “Pragmatism wins.” – Agreed, Nobody particularly likes ads – whether TV or web – but, at the moment, there’s simply no viable alternative. Maybe that’ll change at some point; maybe it will not.

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    • My old site design actually had ads in the comments. Turns out they made little to no impact on revenue, were complex to implement, and just slowed the site down. So … *poof*. I’ve learned a thing or two over 13 years now. 🙂

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  16. Hi,
    I think we are losing the point. If you want your stuff to be free fine – altruistic or egotistic no matter. If you want to be paid for it fine. But don’t confuse the two. Its like selling a product with ‘free shipping’. That rubbish. The cost of shipping is contained within the products price. Free seminars are really about getting you to buy the presenters services. Along as its clear I don’t care. Just don’t try to con’ me its free when really you are trying to get me to buy something. let me choose.
    Regards, Don.

    Reply
    • I’ll respond to this with the same comments I made previously…

      “To my mind, blocking all ads because of the risk of bad ads is akin to blocking all emails because of the risk of bad email attachments.

      To try put some perspective on this issue, bad ads on mainstream websites are relatively uncommon (if you frequent the darker side of the web, the situation is, of course, very different). I work from home spending the bulk of my time on the web, but have never once encountered a bad ad. Additionally, if your computer and browser are patched, your antivirus up-to-date and you don’t click on ads, the risk of a bad ad – even if you were to encounter one – actually compromising your computer is close to zero.

      While people are perfectly entitled to block ads – I block them on mobile to conserve battery – they do need to realize that their actions are not without consequence. Almost every website, app and service – from AskLeo! to Google Maps to Facebook to Firefox to Linux Mint –relies, directly or indirectly, on income from ads. Take that income away, and those websites, apps and services will either cease to be free or cease to be completely.”

      Reply
  17. I just wanted to say that I agree with Leo. Its not pop-ups as much as the abuse of pop-ups that are so annoying. You have to expect some advertising on free websites.

    Reply
    • I also agree with Leo. The idea that online content should not bring in revenue for the writer would limit content creation to hobbyists or amateurs who have another day job. Quality content takes a lot of time to create and maintain and that time has a value. If it’s to be made freely available it’s only fair, IMO, that another revenue source be found, and at this time it’s ads.

      Reply
  18. hm, that’s an argument, with free online content. I wasn’t aware that ads really pay so much, and how they work, that one gets paid the moment the page is displayed. I installed adblockers way back when casino sites would pop up repeatedly underneath windows and slowed down my network dramatically without me getting what’s the matter (I have slow and expensive internet). But I can see it’s not a fair approach to have them on by default.

    Is there a site-blocker that keeps sites from loading that I really don’t want to return to, when clicking them inadvertedly? probably. I’ll just see how things work without adblockers for a while, how bad it really is right now.

    Reply
    • Most ad-blockers have a whitelisting mechanism that enables blocking to be selectively disabled on a per-website basis. If you’d rather not be completely without an ad-blocker, whitelisting would enable you to view ads only the sites that you enjoy and wish to support.

      Reply
      • That’s a great feature, in theory, but do you really think many people would take the time and effort to whitelist ads from websites they like?

        Reply
        • Likely not too many and it’s a problem, for sure. On the one hand, you have the fact that websites need ad revenue to survive. On the other hand, you have websites that make excessive use of ads – including ads with video and sound (yuck!) – and malvertising outbreaks that can impact even legitimate sites. I can certainly understand why some people use ad-blockers. Heck, even security companies are now recommending them:

          https://blog.malwarebytes.org/cybercrime/2012/12/ransomware/

          I have no idea what the solution is – but, I suppose, a good starting point would be for the ad networks to up their game and ensure that they ads that are pushed out are “clean.”

          Reply
  19. Your popup is not the kind people are talking about when discussing this topic so your experiences are null regarding the converstation. popups mean VIRUS and MALEWARE, and NOTHING more. Yours is an innocent “hey we have a newsletter” and doesn’t result in a new webpage opening or a redirect and it’s easily closed…also, it doesn’t stop me from viewing the site, it’s out of the way.

    But that said the fact that you use a popup means I WON’T sign up for your newseltter..of course I don’t sign up for any newsletters, if I want to know what someone says I’ll go to their web page, I don’t want my email flooded with nonsense, I get enough spam (another useless media) so I’m not adding things to it even if I do want to read them. I’ll simply visit the website. I won’t be signing up though, I don’t sign up to websites. Require a signup to comment, well then I won’t comment. Automatically sign up commenters, I’ll simply unsubscribe, require membership to view content, I’ll find it elsewhere for free. I don’t honestly care you had more signups for your newsletter, why should I, it means nothing to me. It doesn’t show that popups work it only shows your previous methods were deplorable at garnering signups…it only means you had ineffective methods before…and those who signed up were too stupid to find the signup themselves or simply not interested enough to. I suppose it could be seen as “proof” but not to me, I see too many other variables at play.

    Fact is popups are, generally and 90% of the time, useless and DAMAGING…you being the exception to this does not change anything.

    Reply
    • It is possible for a porn pop-up to appear even if you are not visiting porn sites. They can be served up by third party ad servers.

      Reply
  20. I was on one site watching tv series and got pop up of a porn site. What does that mean? Did i maybe download some malware cuz i sometimes download free programms etc. I also have ad blocker.

    Reply
  21. Are third party ads based on our browsing history? What if u browse in incognito? Would you still get third party ads based on stuff you browsed in incognito mode?

    Reply
  22. Are pop up ads always based on our browsing history or could they just me part of the site sometimes regardless of our browsing history?

    Reply
  23. I watch movies for free on ps4. I have no browser on it but when i watch movie i get pop ups a lot. One of pop ups have in their link written “browsing notification” and it redirects me to 18+ page. Why is that if i dont watch stuff like that, especially not on ps4?

    Reply
  24. Yesterday i watched adult site on my phone. My mom has tablet and she watches series on free sites (we dont use same device) and she gets 18+ pop ups all of a sudden. Is it because of me?

    Reply
  25. Hello guys,
    when i watch anime for free i almost always get up ups from syndicate pop. II asked my friends and they said that pop up is usualy on porn sites, but i am not interested and dont watch porn (i am female). Can you have such pop up even if u dont watch porn? I mean this specific one.

    Reply
  26. When I visit my own website, I am flooded with google ads yet when I visit other websites, e.g., AskLeo, I am not getting these same annoying ads. I am using the same browser. Is there something that I can do to ensure that my website is not getting flooded with advertising?

    Reply
  27. Thank you but it’s my personal website. It’s a wordpress site. Is there something that I should be doing to ensure that my site is not getting flooded with ads??

    Reply
    • WordPress.com? Then probably not — that may be the “price” of hosting there. Otherwise if you’re hosting elsewhere (like askleo.com is a wordpress site hosted on my own server), then you should chat with your webmaster or web host to see what might be causing the ads to appear.

      Reply
  28. I know this is old, but this really needs to be said. Not all content is worth paying for. If you believe your content is worth money, then asked to get paid for it. Don’t put it up for free. If you ask for money, and nobody is willing to pay you that money, what does that say about the worth of your product? Now don’t think that I’m saying that what you put up is useless, because at point I wouldn’t know if it is or not. It’s just that people value different things, and as with everybody else, we all must prioritize what we pay for. In order someone like me to pay for your content, it must be important/useful enough (keyword) to justify the cost. I’ve noticed that content creators get so caught up in getting paid and arguing in favor of ads, because their business models depends on it, that they forget about simple supply and demand. The user, Patrick, didn’t outright say it, but it was all over his posts. As supply goes up cost goes down, and vice versa. And there are TONS of content, making the worth of most content very low. Practically zero. It’s generally not a good idea to enter a heavily saturated market. Why should that not hold true for web content?

    I ad block religiously to prevent ads, tracking, malware, etc. There are many reasons, but I do pay for content I like. Not this site because I don’t know if it’s worth it yet, but I doubt it is. I do donate to NPR automatically every month and don’t even bother to make use of their ad free streaming service. I just continue to listen to them on the radio and put up with their yearly membership drives. I also donate to foundations that, I feel, do a lot of good, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Internet content is very low on my list of what I should be paying for. Does NPR, and the ACLU serve ads? I wouldn’t know because I block them. Actually another thing I pay for is porn. Great stuff!

    Lastly, advertisers are liars. One of the reasons I block ads is because of tracking/data collection. How many times has well known companies like Google and Facebook said they won’t collect or use such and such data for whatever purpose and it turns out they did it anyways? What companies do with our data is outside of askleo’s control. No matter how harmless the ads are, we are still being tracked and our data collected. So I will always block ads. I’m also a software developer

    Reply
    • well.. i meant to follow up that “i’m also a software developer” part with another point that I found to be useless, but turns out I didn’t delete all of it LOL

      Reply

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