why doesn't everyone use AdBlock?

AdBlock allows people to surf the web without seeing advertising, and in doing so transforms the Web from a noisy, neon-lit advertising hell into a serene, minimalist content paradise.  It works so well, and has become so popular, that I’ve started to wonder why everyone doesn’t already use it.  What are the reasons AdBlock isn’t universally popular?  Here are the potential reasons I’ve considered:

1)  It’s too complicated. AdBlock is a bit of software that works with web browsers, variously called an extension, add-on, or plug-in.  Until Chrome launched its extensions system, AdBlock was only available for Firefox.  So “it’s complicated” means that AdBlock is a scary software installation on a non-mainstream web browser.

That might have been a good argument in 2007, when Firefox had less than 15% market share and Chrome didn’t exist.  AdBlock claimed around 2.5 million users that year.  But now Firefox and Chrome have 30% market share.  AdBlock for Firefox has had over 75 million downloads, with 10 million daily users.  A similar AdBlock is already the most popular extension in Chrome’s much newer extensions list.  With those kinds of numbers, it’s hard to claim AdBlock is too complicated to use.

2)  It’s not fair. Websites that run on advertising make less money in a world with AdBlock.  If everyone used AdBlock, these websites would be financially devastated.  Using AdBlock makes sense in the short run, but is a long-term loser for users who want free content.

Could it be that people’s innate sense of economic fairness prevents AdBlock adoption?  I’d like to think that’s true, but we don’t have to look very far to find evidence otherwise.  The use of online file sharing certainly hasn’t been impeded much by “fairness” arguments, and users don’t seem to give much regard to the consequences.

3)  Banner blindness is better. People are remarkably effective at simply not seeing ads.  This “banner blindness” requires no installation and is absolutely free.

No doubt banner blindness is the best current alternative to AdBlock.  The price is the same (free), and no particular browser or installation is required.  But how long will this status remain?  Will all mainstream browsers support extensions, and make installation as easy as visiting a web page?  Those who follow browser development regard the answers as obvious:  it’s only going to get easier to use AdBlock, and that will make banner blindness comparatively less attractive.

4)  People actually want ads. Advertisers would like this to be true, so fervently that it sometimes seems they have convinced themselves that it is.

Here’s the part that’s true:  people want to find out about things they like, people like getting discounts and early access to good products and services, people like to save time as well as money.  Does this mean that people actually want ads so much that they won’t use AdBlock?  Probably not.  Is there anyone who won’t use TiVo because they’d rather be forced to watch commercials on TV?

5)  No one knows about it yet. Sure, some people use AdBlock, but it’s no Twitter, is it?  Actually, in terms of actual usage, AdBlock and Twitter are pretty close.  But I’ll bet you’ve heard about Twitter about a hundred times more in the past couple of years than you’ve heard of AdBlock.  Why is that?

Well, the Twitter story is good for just about everyone who touches it:  Good for Twitter, its investors, the press, marketers, advertisers, and users.  The AdBlock story, in contrast, is bad for everybody.  It’s an open source project, so there’s no company to invest in or promote.  The press doesn’t like the story, it seems at once too techie (“add-ons”?) and too simple (“no one likes ads, duh”).  Marketers and advertisers have absolutely no interest in letting anyone hear about it.  And even users don’t benefit from the spread of AdBlock – it’s a non-viral, non-social product that works great for users, but also carries a slight taint of being bad for websites.

So AdBlock might be the most popular product that no one wants to talk about.  Still, you have to wonder if there will come a day when everyone is using AdBlock, or something like it.

13 thoughts on “why doesn't everyone use AdBlock?

  1. 2 months later, Apple announces both Safari Reader, that “removes annoying ads and other visual distractions”, and iAds, that *brings* annoying ads to next-generation devices for content-consuming.

    Ginsu, thanks for writing – your blog is on my toplist.

  2. Pingback: Quora

  3. It’s silly to think anyone can get into the heads of all AdBlock users and know why the all use it, so I won’t try. I use it because when I open my web browser, I’m not interested in making myself an advertising target. I don’t use the internet to be “sold to”. If I want to shop, I want to do it on my own terms.

    With AdBlock, I have a defense mechanism against advertisers who think the internet is their “bird’s nest on the ground”, and who could care less if they annoy people with their ads. AdBlock levels the playing field for me allows me to surf the web undistracted by intrusive advertising.

    • This is incredibly ignorant as if it wasnt for adverts, their would be no free content. The websites dont like ads either however they are mandatory as they are a source of income to them. Simply ignoring the ads will mean you dont have to be sold to and the websites dont have to shut down or lock their content to payed users. Its people like you who are making the internet available only to the big companies who have sufficient capital and make it impossible for the average joe to post content, develop games and vlog full time. Adverts arent destroying the internet, but you my good sir are.

      • This is completely false; in fact, it can be said that you are the ignorant one. First of all, think Wikipedia. It’s a completely free content source with no ads whatsoever. It receives money from donations, and as far as I know, it receives much more money than the websites that use advertisements. Furthermore, advertisements are only useful if you click on them. Ever heard of pay-per-click? If you know you aren’t going to click on any freak of an advertisement, its your right to use ad-block because having ads on your browser will only slow your internet down, and that’s a big no-no if you’re paying for your internet. Why do you have to suffer a slow internet speed, tired eyes, and noisy content when you can simply block them? Stop calling everyone you talk to “Good sirs”. It doesn’t make your distorted arguments right.

  4. i use adblock all the time because i hate ads. no ads are immune to my usage of adblock. In fact… if i see an ad, you can be sure i’ll be doing my part to ensure it is blocked and updated n the database so no one who is using ad-block has to face this foolishness.

  5. personally, i’m glad everyone doesnt use it. that means it works for me. if everyone used it, i think websites would try even harder to get around it, or even try and shut adblock down. so, please everyone, dont use adblock :)

  6. Me I never use any ad-blocking software for he exact same reason that I don’t shoplift a store, pretty much the fact is that using ad-blocking software is pretty much digital shoplifting on the internet.

    Imagine if everyone shoplift a single store, pretty soon the store would go out of business or at least use extreme measures to curb & to recoup the lost of profits.

    Using ad-blocking software is pretty much the same thing as if everyone that uses ad-blocking software be pretty much halting the ad view count thus meaning without the view count meaning the webmasters woudn’t be getting the profits from the ads & in the end unable to pay for the running costs.

    Then these webmasters would likely turn the extreme measures to recoup the losses like adding paid subscription fees to there sites to pay for the running costs.

    Do any of you really want to pay dozens of monthly fees just to visit your favourite sites, to read the latest news or to catch up with your friends in another city via these social sites.
    I know I sure don’t want to so I rather pay these sites with ads.

    • Looting a store and using ad-blocking software are completely different things, mind you. The difference is physical and digital consumer products versus peer – to – peer information.

      People who thinks that advertisements should be there just because it is considered a norm doesn’t know that the internet is created as a base for free flowing information.

      Being paid by advertisements is only a bonus: if you got people to click it, good for you, and if you didn’t, then try harder next time. Being blocked isn’t a bane; receiving income from advertisements is a bonus, and this distinction should be understood.

      There isn’t a personal offense; if you don’t know this information, its only because you are uninformed.

  7. You have a couple of valid points here but I strongly disagree with point 1 and 3. Installing a ad blocker is easy and can be done in a few steps, if you can browse the Internet you can install an ad blocker! Look at this website http://www.ads-blocker.com they provide an easy walkthrough that hooks you up with the best ad blocker available for your browser in just a few steps. In point 3 your say people ignore ads like banners and stuff but this is not true! Of course everybody ignores the Google Adwords but innovative banners and sounds can trigger an action from a user that is unintented and will lead to a desired effect of the advertisement.

  8. I want a better adblock!

    I don’t mind WELL BEHAVED ads. I understand that the content I am looking at is supported by advertising. Periodically I follow an ad. Periodically I buy or buy into what they are selling.

    The first time I got tempted by adblock was when some idiot company kept pushing some computer game with a picture of a very poorly dressed woman. I am a family man. I don’t need her in my face, and I don’t need my children to see her.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was an ad with jittery letters that kept popping up. You know the ones. The ones where the letters look like they drank too much coffee. It drove me nuts, so I adblocked.


    I want a custom adblock. I want to be able to indicate to my computer that a particular ad is unacceptable. I want that ad immediately and permanently blocked from my computer. I then want a message to be sent to ad central informing them of my distaste. I want these guys to notice which ads are seeing a pattern of being rejected, and get them changed.

    I would be happy to give the advertising industry air on my computer, but only whey they figure out how to be more responsive.

  9. The ones that drove me to investigate AdBlock are the ads that attach themselves to the top or the bottom of the frame and stick there as you scroll up and down. They annoyingly cover content. These “sticky ads” usually have a little triangle in the upper right corner that takes you somewhere you don’;t want to go. And they have no way for you to dismiss them – No “X” and no “Close”.
    Why would I want to put up with that? Why would I buy anything from a company that would put its name on such an annoying thing?

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