Is Ad Blocking Immoral?

Apple's newest version of iOS allows ad blockers to be installed, and this change has sparked a debate over the morality and lasting effects of ad blocking.

This is not a new debate. It has been around for well over a decade, but it is becoming increasingly important. Ad-based internet businesses have grown into some of the most valuable in the world (Google, Facebook, etc.), and ad blocking software has become both powerful and cheap.

I’ve spent the last few days reading differing opinions on this topic and discussing them with my friends. To be honest with you, I'm not decided on this yet, but I feel like I have a good grasp of the arguments on both sides. So instead of giving you my opinion, I’ve done my best to provide a fair (and relatively short) explanation of arguments for and against ad blocking.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @TimothyBuckSF.

Arguments for ad blocking:

  1. Ad blocking makes the Internet a better place. Ads today provide a horrible user experience. They take forever to load, open in front of the content you came to see and autoplay.
  2. Ad blocking is a market response. It is the best way to make it clear to ad companies and content providers that users are not comfortable with being tracked and barraged with annoying ads. If enough people use ad blockers, these companies will have to change, remove tracking and make ads that are less obtrusive.
  3. Ad blocking protects privacy. Ads today are nearly always combined with a multiple forms of tracking. Ad companies have trackers on millions of sites. They tag you with an identifier and track your movements around the web so that they can sell targeted ads. Many of these ad companies are tracking you without your expressed consent.

Arguments against ad blocking:

  1. Ad blocking is tantamount to stealing. You're breaking an unwritten contract with the content provider—you get to read their content for free, but they’ll make money by showing you ads.
  2. Ad blocking will make the Internet worse. If enough people use ad blockers, websites will have to find another way to monetize. Eventually the Internet will become a maze of pay wall or ads "hidden" in the guise of content.
  3. Ad blocking will put some of the best content creators out of business. There are countless artists, musicians, videographers, writers, vloger and bloggers who make their livings off of ad-based sites. If ad blocking grows in popularity, many of the sites you know and love will go out of business. People will lose their jobs. Only big-name publications will be able to garner enough subscriptions to stay profitable.

What do you think?

  • Is ad blocking immoral?
  • Do you use an ad blocker on your desktop, tablet or phone?
  • How do you think the advent of ad blocking on iOS will impact ad-supported content creators around the web?

Additional Reading

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