May 10, 2015

Ad-xtremism

I use ad-blockers. I rev them up to maximum settings. Normal people don't even blink about that. But people in the media would say that they have to earn money somehow. They support their families with the money. They even go as far as calling ad-blocking a form of piracy or stealing. Poor souls. They don't realize what force are they facing.

I am one of the many people with ad allergy. When I was a student, I passed a wall covered with ad posters on the way to school. I did everything I could not to look, but the ads kept creeping into my mind. Eventually I started tearing them down, leaving clean wall behind myself every day. The ads kept coming back and I kept tearing them down.

When I listened to radio back then, they ran ad blocks increasingly often, up to 5 minutes of ads for 10 minutes of music. When the ads started, I tuned to another radio station. Then they started to synchronize the ad times. All the radios played ads at the same time. I turned the radio off.

When the Internet came, I never used search engines. They carried ads. I had my list of favorite ad-free sites and I used those. Even if that meant I couldn't complete some tasks at my job efficiently.

Ad allergy is essentially an extremely strong desire to avoid ads. It's irresistible. It will override every other priority. And I am not alone. There are quite a few of us. Millions of people worldwide are allergic to ads to similar extent. We form an informal extremist movement - the ad-xtremists.

Then I discovered ad-blockers. I could get access to everything on the Internet without seeing any ads. It was like a new world. Warm and cozy. I was free to go anywhere while the ad-blocker shielded me from all the shit advertisers were trying to throw at my brain.

Advertisers tried to detect and block the ad-blockers. I occasionally come across such sites. I just leave. I don't care. Some sites are broken under ad-blocker. I usually ignore them, but sometimes I add exception if it doesn't cause the ad-blocker to leak tons of ads through. AdBlock Plus once got a "feature" of allowing "non-intrusive" ads, which essentially permits ads from ABP sponsors. I disabled this "feature" the same day they launched it.

Advertisers then tried to inject unblockable ads using JavaScript, inline video, even modifying the content itself to be spammy. Ad-blockers are catching up. It's an arms race. I avoid sites that have immortal ads that pass through the ad-blocker. There are even devices, Android devices specifically, that will do everything in their power to prevent you from blocking ads. I just don't use them or use them in ways that avoid ads.

Advertisers cannot win the arms race. They have the money, but we have the zeal. There are virtual reality goggles that provide augmented reality. That means that someday in the future plumbers will be able to see pipes through walls as the VR goggles will overlay them on top of real camera input. This is the ultimate nuclear weapon of ad-blocking. Such VR goggles can block billboards on streets or unskippable ads in the TV. They will replace them with green rectangles. Similar filters can be developed for audio.

Advertisers will try to declare such things illegal, pressuring governments to beat us to death with fines for not looking at the ads. Notwithstanding the fact that spammers could make the same claim against spam filters.

They share the same vulnerability with movie/music industry though: privacy. Nobody can prevent me from doing anything I want within privacy of my own computing equipment. Probability of being found out during random check is near zero. I'll challenge the law and I'll break the law. And I'll do it again.

We have an unexpected ally in this battle: parents. Google recently released YouTube Kids. Independent researchers found this service filled with kid-targeting ads and even full 20-minute promotional videos trying to lure kids into the endless emptiness of consumerism. There was a joke in ad industry that these days nothing is sacred, not even trash bins. Everything has ads on it. Since then, ads started to appear all around kids, on the kids themselves, and ad agencies are now trying to convert kids into unpaid brand advocates. Kids are not sacred either.

If advertisers succeed at stripping us of ad-blockers, I will be in the front row of mass protests under government and advertising offices, throwing bricks into their windows, lynching advert designers trying to escape. They cannot stop us. This is not about being lazy or cheap. This is fanatical militant ad-xtremism.

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