THE WEB IS NOT BLOCKED — The Big Publishers and Adtech Are

By admin | Uncategorized

May 26

PageFair, an ad blocking blocking company (yes the activity that is illegal in EU) and DCN, a big publisher grassroots / lobby organization organised an event to discuss ad blocking. As a result, a guidance on “How to Approach Blocked Web” was created, published and widely reported in the media. Actually its big publishers and adtech companies that are blocked, internet users are doing better than in years.

Welcome to the Unblocked Web

For years web was blocked by annoying and often outright deceptive ads. Payloads associated to visiting a website became bloated and user rights violating, infested with 3rd and nth-party tracking tags that nobody has control over or can understand. I’m happy to say that today the web that I have come to know over the past +20 years by being part of building it, and before that using it, is being unblocked. It’s being unblocked with the help of companies like by Rob Leathern and Brave Browser by BrendanEich. Part of the unblocking is being done through increased awareness by such thought leaders as Alexander Hanff, Dave Carroll and Doc Searls. Also Electronic Frontier Found particularly for their work on advocating low-entropy tag eco-system. These, and many others, are the unsung heroes in the frontlines of unblocking of the web. They are helping us, the internet users, take the internet back.

You too can become part of the movement to unblock the web. The simplest, most straightforward way to do that is to install Brave and make it your default browser accross all your devices. There are other ways, but it gets trickier. Unblocking the web is about three things:

  1. protecting yourself against malvertising
  2. protecting yourself against bandwidth cost
  3. protecting your privacy

As an internet user, it is your responsibility to take care of these three things. Whichever way you decide to do it, you should start right now. This is very important, because it can be easily established that industry bodies and startups appearing as “consumer-centric” and focused on making the internet better, actually are not. How can we know it?

How to Approach Industry Bullshit

  1. Industry bullshit should be understood as bullshit
  2. The reasons behind the bullshit should be identified

It’s most likely bullshit when an industry player says that they are “customer-centric” and want to put users first but…

  • we know that industries are focused on making money
  • we know that in the internet, the user is the product and not the customer (applies to all ad driven publishers and not just Google)
  • we know that companies have a legal responsibility to their shareholders in terms of shareholder value and do not have the same legal responsibility in putting “people first”

Also whenever I hear the word “consumer”, it’s very hard to take anything else that comes together with it seriously. Just like you, I’m a person, and an internet user. I’m not your consumer.

We can identify the motivations that drive the bullshit by analysing the comments made by such industry players. Let’s analyse the 7 points that resulted from the congregation organised by PageFair and DCN. PageFair, according to its website is “the counter-adblocking leader.”

How “consumer-centric” can a congregation organised by an ad blocking blocking company, and a grassroots / lobby organisation whose members have taken a very aggressive and self-absorbed approach to ad blocking. Often completely disconnected from user interest.

Cutting Through Industry Bullshit

I worked years in adtech, creating some of its most myth perpetuating bullshit.

1 — “On the blocked web, the user must have immediate tools to reject and to complain about advertising.”

They already have, it’s called Ad Choices, and it really sucks.

Also what’s interesting here, is that this point assumes internet users are going to see ads, but they are not going to see ads because they will use ad blockers, Brave browser or whatever comes next.

The first point reveals what’s behind this initiative i.e the assumption publishers and adtech vendors hold in respect to internet users. That internet users have to subject to online advertising as-is with minor changes here and there, as opposed to the said publishers / adtech complex having to innovate their way out of this by going through a total structural makeover.

2 — “Rather than restore all ads on the blocked web, only a limited number of premium advertising slots should be restored. This will make a better impact for brands, clean up the user experience, and incentivize better creative.”

How is this going to help with malvertising? Privacy violations? Or even payloads which come from tracking tags inside ads and not the ads? This point is assuming that the only problem we have is with the user experience, even though that is fast becoming the least of users’ concerns.

More about the dark side of ads here:

3 — “The blocked web may provide the opportunity to establish a new form of above-the-line advertising.”

“May provide”, “opportunity” … “above-the-line”. I worked in the industry over 20 years and I could not figure out what this actually means. Except that because it says “may” nothing ever needs to happen

Also there are ZERO internet users who will understand what it means.

4 — “Contextual targeting can be used on the blocked web to establish ad relevance if other forms of tracking are not practical or desirable.”

I have long been an advocate of contextual targeting, even when I was a behavioral targeting innovator +10 years ago. Yet at the stage where we are now, it will solve only part of the problem.

To understand this, you can read more about how malvertising gets in to the online ad eco-system here:

Also it does not address trust issues with users in anyway, as they still would not know if it actually is contextual or not, what data is being collected, if there is malvertising inside the ad…etc.

5 — On the blocked web, where third-party tracking is largely blocked, publishers can create new value by engaging with their users to elicit volunteered data.

These are the same publishers who have all along argued, and are currently doing so in the legal arena, that actually user are already “volunteering” their data.

Read more about large publishers and IAB tag-teaming to defeat internet user rights in the court of law:

6 — “Measuring advertising success on the blocked web with broader top-of-funnel metrics may incentivize buyers to focus on value rather than cheapness. A second benefit is that such metrics (example: engagement time) can be unified across digital and non-digital media.”

Measuring advertising success is a great idea when you are showing ads to internet users. My advice to publishers and the conduits of those publishers is to start thinking real hard how business models less focused on “milking value out of internet users” are going to play out. For inspiration, look at what happened in the music industry. I would move fast, as time may be running out.

7 — “On the web as a whole, there should be a maximum pageload time standard that publishers and advertisers both commit to. The growing hazard of adblocking may incentivize this.”

Pageload time is the wrong approach. Bandwidth cost is what gets the users, especially in where it hurts the most. For example in India where 12.7 hours of work on average pay required to pay one 1gb of bandwidth. This point shows very clearly how disconnected this initiative by DCN and PageFair, and others like it are from the actual people of the world.


Based on these 7 points resulting from the consumer-centric approach PageFair, DCN and its members are taking, there is no real effort to consider internet users, beyond to what is within the immediate commercial interest of the companies involved. If indeed these parties think that they have the best of internet users within their priorities, then they clearly have no clue about what interests of internet users are. In either case, when we remember that what led to all these problems, such as malvertising and surveillance capitalism, is a direct result of the same parties focusing on what lies within their immediate commercial interest, internet users are adviced vigilance.


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