It’s funny how you seem to get old over night. One minute you’re sitting in your intro to C class trying to figure out what programming is all about, and the next minute you’re ringing in your 40th with a new App release. Some things (like Whisky and C++) just get better with time. Many others disappear. But a few disappear only to show up as a variation on the theme.
What got me thinking along these lines is the timely resurgence of ad blocking software. Stories about the popularity (and unfairness) of ad blockers abound. Both sides of this discussion have valid points. However, I think I can predict where it is going to end, based on the fact that this is not the first time we’ve dealt with this issue.
In the old days (like the nineties), the internet was all the rage. Amazon was just taking off, Pets.com had just raised $300 million in venture funding, and I literally had never heard of Google. And popup ads were totally ruining the internet (thanks Ethan!). Everyone understood that websites had to make money, but just about every site you opened would spawn three or four popup (or popunder) ads, and it was maddening. Then the browser vendors developed popup blockers. Problem solved. Unfortunately for the content providers, ad revenues declined, as would be expected:
However, revenues quickly regained their footing as advertisers learned to be more respectful of their audience’s bandwidth and overall browsing experience. Content providers were paid for their content and internet users were more or less pleased to consume that content, together with the ads required for financing the online enterprise.
I personally started feeling this delicate balance get out of kilter again about 18 months ago. Maybe it was because I was using my iPhone (and its comparatively limited processing power) to browse. But I think that it was something more fundamental. It started becoming harder and harder to consume content without waiting a long time for the page to load, and then to click through all of the ads that had overwritten the content. The old familiar frustration had returned! And with it the need for a technological solution to the problem.
Enter ad blockers. As with the adoption of popover blockers 15 years ago, the current adoption of ad blocking technology is tilting the delicate balance of content vs advertising back in favor of the consumer. Will there be a commensurate decline in ad revenue? The chart above doesn’t show any at this point. However, intuition says probably so, at least initially. But as in former days, once advertisers learn to stop assaulting consumer’s senses and bandwidth so aggressively, the demand for these services will likely diminish, and the balance will be restored.
In the meantime, ZipZap will provide you both with the ability to block ads, and the ability to whitelist ads for sites that you really value. That way you can do your part to restore harmony to the internet galaxy.