So, it's that time of the year again. Apple has unveiled its new ad-blocking technology for the latest iPhone, and people on the internet are losing their minds about why ads are good for you, and how this will be the end of the internet as we know it.
To which I reply: no, they are not. And good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on your way out.
I can't properly outline the mess that online ads have brought into internet users. Slower loading times, annoyingly loud sounds, erosion of our privacy, malware, and constant surveillance of our browsing habits. "But wait", says the marketer, "if we track you constantly, then we can sell you better stuff. If ads are tailored to you, then you wouldn't be annoyed by them - in fact, you would be grateful". To this, I usually reply by not replying, because arguing with someone who thinks I enjoy getting sales pitches is a person I don't bother discussing with.
The technical point is more interesting. If the ad industry where to collapse today, bringing down every ad-supported website along with it, the resulting meltdown is something I'd love to witness. Imagine the ad bubble blows up tomorrow. Thousands of websites disappear overnight. Panic. Chaos. Bloggers on the streets yelling "LIKE ME!" to random pedestrians. Desperate tweens crying in restaurants because they don't know what to do with their food pictures. But then we'd all cool down our collective heads, and realize that most of the stuff we enjoy is already produced for free, is not supported by ads, or both. Without the marketers, the internet goes on.
I still remember the "older days" in which advertising was restricted to a couple pop-ups here and there. And I can tell you: that early internet was anything but "dead". There was an incredible amount of content long before the advent of advertising. Which is why I cannot understand how anyone would believe that the internet needs cash to survive. There was plenty of content before ads, and there will be plenty of content afterwards, too
In a following article I'll detail replacements for popular websites and apps based on technology we already have, to show that ads are more a convenience than a necessity. But I want to repeat that a volunteer-run internet would be incredible. Would we lose several of those San Francisco startups burning cash as fast as they can? Yes. But I'm still not sure why should I even care. Marketers are free to continue spreading the notion that they are the saviors of the internet if they want to. But I'm also free to keep recommending Adblock Edge and Disconnect to everyone who wants to enjoy the internet as it was meant to be.
A final thought: The fact that the side with more money has not prevailed in this discussion makes me a little less cynical. If their rooms full of paid commenters have not squashed this discussion yet, then we must be doing something right.