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The Almighty Buck

Advertisers Escalate Banner Ad War 448

AnonymousComrade writes: "In today's Newsbytes, there is an article about MediaBEAM GmbH, a German company that say they have developed Web server software that can detect whether a home browser is blocking banner ads or pop-ups. If the Web server detects blocking software, a message appears on the screen advising the 'free-loading' surfer that he has two choices if he wants access to the Web site's content: pay for it or be exposed to the ads. This sounds strange to me. Can they really include something in the download (Java or JS, I assume) that detects whether an ad picture has been downloaded or not? What if you have blocking S/W that not just blocks the download of the ad picture, but also modifies the HTML on-the-fly (a la the Proxomitron). Can they really distinguish this from a remote ad server that just isn't responding? And how long will it take before ad blocking S/W is updated to block this blocking-detection mechanism?"
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Advertisers Escalate Banner Ad War

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  • As a user of the Proxomitron, I have three words for these numbnuts: BRING IT ON.


  • This sounds strange to me. Can they really include something in the download (Java or JS, I assume) that detects whether an ad picture has been downloaded or not?
    They can just check the access.log - however they will never know if it actually has been displayed.
    • by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdot AT astradyne DOT co DOT uk> on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:24AM (#2367498) Homepage Journal
      They can just check the access.log - however they will never know if it actually has been displayed.

      Yep, or more likely, by the use of a web server module that does the sme thing without having to actually parse the logs. But that's not what they're claiming. In the article, they say that they "make contact" with the user's browser to determine if the ad has actually been displayed. The only way I can think of doing this is by embedding some JavaScript that checks to see if the page has been rewritten en route, and if so, posts something back to the web server, which can then modify its content accordingly. But even that won't be particularly effective, and your favourite blocking proxy should just be able to filter out the offending javascript anyway. And even if it didn't, it still wouldn't catch proxies that just serve a blank image instead of the requested ad. As far as the browser is concerned, it's been given the image it requested. I'm sceptical, but then all of my assumptions are based on having a sane browser. Who knows what MS have put in IE to give content providers control over the browser?

      • The only way I can think of doing this is by embedding some JavaScript that checks to see if the page has been rewritten en route, and if so, posts something back to the web server

        All the Javascript would have to do is make sure the url property of the image element, or embed element, or object element is correct, and that the isLoaded property is set.

        Although this would force people to surf with Javascript enabled - something thats proving more dangerous every day on a Windows based platform.

        Or they could be complete muppets and force surfers to accept ActiveX objects - which would probably sideline most of the X community.

        On the other hand, this company has decided adverts and banners is more important that the content - so be it. I prefer sites with content, and having a "This site is full of banners" type message in the form of "Remove proxy or else" is an excellent way of avoiding these sites, it happens to match with my surfing preferences.

        These marketing companies should take a lesson out of Google's book. Their advert placement is unobtrusive and normally relevant to the search topic on hand - without the intrusive methods marketing types have forced on its visitors.

      • by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @09:09AM (#2367663) Homepage

        The only way I can think of doing this is by embedding some JavaScript that checks to see if the page has been rewritten

        Sorry, I'm being a muppet! No client side functionality is required - it can all be done using a web server module.

        Its really simple:
        • create a session for each "visitor"
        • Initialise two counters in the session - number of pages requested and number of banners requested.
        • For each page request received from this visitor, increment the page counter
        • For each banner ad object (image, applet, flash, activeX etc) increment the banner counter
        • Every now and again, divide on by the other.
        • If the ratio is not good enough, warn user.

        Since each banner ad needs to be HTTP requested from the server - and proxies tend to remove instances of <img src="bannerad.gif"... with their own blank image, its a doddle to track.

        • Under windows, I have a modified hosts file that blocks out the more common ad servers. Since images are rather ugly, I use eDexter to display a blank image for me.

          So, imagine the simple version of this (assuming I have javascript turned on, which is wrong, and assuming I use IE instead of Opera as my browser).

          The IE script (which probably breaks other browsers, but...) checks to see if the ad image has arrived. It finds one. Maybe it goes further and checks to see if the image came from the ad server. It asks windows what's the ip addy is, and windows tells it, so everything checks out.

          As long as it relies on simple ad banners, it fails. More complicated scripts could present a challenge, but a challenge that will be quickly solved if the ad checker becomes widespread.

          On the other hand, thanks. Forgot that I haven't installed eDexter on the laptop yet. Need to conserve my 33.6k PCMIA modem's bandwidth, y'know.

  • this bites.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by newr00tic ( 471568 )
    damn.. Stuff like this gotta break some rule of "personal preferences" (or whatever..)
    • Re:this bites.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by EpsCylonB ( 307640 )
      The two are different. By abusing young boys you are hurting someone else, it's clear cut, there is a crime and a victim.

      Who are you hurting by refusing to look at an ad ?. Some people (bussiness men and politicians mainly) may try to force us to look at ads but my own personal opinion is that I would like to have a choice.

      Also, I'm sure this will get mentioned elsewhere, but as a 56ker I appreciate blockers that stop the ads from being downloaded as it saves me bandwidth (my bandwidth, which I have payed for).
    • by tshak ( 173364 )
      Stuff like this gotta break some rule of "personal preferences"

      Ya. I went into the CD store and told the cashier that it was my "personal preference" not to pay for the content on the CD. She said that it'd be illigal if I left the store without paying for them. It's like our rights are being stripped away from us online AND offline.
  • Just make sure the ads would be downloaded before the good stuff on a normal browser. Then hold the good stuff until the ads are loaded (from the same IP number). If no ads are loaded after a timeout period, send bad stuff instead of good stuff. I suppose you could do this with frames, or by partial uploading of html pages (upload the html referring to ads, and hold the rest without closing the connection).

    • Yeah but the browser can download anything it wants then dump it. So your idea wouldn't work. The real problem is that the web is "stateless" without Java, ActiveX. This makes it even worse than client server and I know that with client server you can just modify the client so the server doesn't know. People have been using these methods to cheat on game servers for ages.

      For instance lets say that instead of having the ads seperate from the article the thing is one whole gif jpg png whatever. What is to stop the web browser from chopping the image up anyway so the ad disappears.

      For popup ads the server may send a Java (scriplet security?) piece that contains the ad if the Java program stops running then the web server detects this and no content is displayed. But a browser can redirect output to anywhere including hiding popup windows and have the Java program still running. Since they have no control over the client they can do nothing.

      Trust me, I am not a MSCE

  • by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <> on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:11AM (#2367469) Journal
    If pop up ads started using techniques like this AnonymousComrade suggests, eventually the DMCA would apply. They could encrypt their content, their ActiveX control could decrypt it, and hacking IE to kill the popups would be illegal. They wouldn't even have to use real encryption. They could use ROT13, and the legislation would still work. Then they can use the revenue generated by the ads to purchase more congresspeople. It'll be great!
    • It isn't illegal to not display copyrighted content. Cracking IE or an ActiveX control is probably illegal anyway, as these are software products covered by copyright, but not requesting the content in the first place is certainly legal.

      Copyright is about preventing the distribution of content, not about enforcing it.

    • They could encrypt their content, their ActiveX control could decrypt it, and hacking IE to kill the popups would be illegal.

      I'm not sure if removing adds from a page is legal, even without the DCMA.
      The author wrote a page with an add, and a filter app modifies the page and removes the add picture, without a permission from the author.
      But modification is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

      Selling an app that's only purpose is to remove adverts from web pages could infringe the authors rights.

      • by sfe_software ( 220870 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:58AM (#2367535) Homepage
        I'm not sure if removing adds from a page is legal, even without the DCMA.
        The author wrote a page with an add, and a filter app modifies the page and removes the add picture, without a permission from the author.

        Most browsers allow you to override fonts and colors, toggle image downloading, disable scripting, and so on; blocking ads is only one more tiny modification to the page. Modifying the page is something that is commonly accepted for other purposes (accessibility, user preference, etc), so I don't think that argument will go far.

        But modification is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

        I'm not sure if this applies. You certainly can't modify a copyrighted work and distribute it, but if you purchase a book, you're free to scribble notes on the pages. If you listen to a CD, you can EQ it to taste. Thus, if you download a web page, you should be able to modify it as you wish for your own viewing.

        Selling an app that's only purpose is to remove adverts from web pages could infringe the authors rights.

        That's what some say about Tivo and Replay TV... and so far, I don't think a real big fuss has been raised. The difference of course is that commercial-skipping isn't the only use for the Tivo (nor is it an advertised feature), so ad-blocking software might have a more difficult time... but a general proxy with ad-blocking as an extra feature might be fine.
      • But modification is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

        People keep saying this, but it is obviously not true. If you buy a magazine, it's legal to clip out the coupons, or draw a moustache on Tatjana Simic, or write notes in the margins. It's even legal to resell a textbook after you have underlined large portions of it in various colors. What is not legal is to modify something and then redistribute it as the original or as your own work. Since apps like Proxomitron only modify the code for your own use, it is unclear how anyone can claim they violate copyright.

      • by DGolden ( 17848 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @08:35AM (#2367588) Homepage Journal
        > But modification is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.

        NO. NO. NO. NO.

        Modification, followed by subsequent redistribution is restricted by copyright law.

        The mainstream media giants have managed to socially engineer this knowledge out of the vast majoirty of the sheep^H^H^H^H^Hpeople.

        If I, upon legitimately obtaining copyrighted material, screw around with it, I'm not breaking the law unless I give a copy of it or the modified version to someone else.

        Think about it - if I buy a painting from you, I'm free to draw a silly moustache and glasses on it, but, according to societal conventions currently enshrined in our legal system, I can't (a) sell copies of the painting without your permission or (b) sell copies of the modified painting without permsission. (I'm also usually allowed sell the original painting to someone else (this area is much murkier, and the reason behind the legal blurb at the start of european books about "may not be sold on without imposing similar conditions on the buyer" stuff)- that's the freedom that UCITA and software EULAs try to fight)

        That's all pretty much a mixture of common sense and courstesy - but what the lawyers and media giants have done, is, via tricky wording and paying for new laws, is destroy all that.

        Via assinine laws like the DMCA, and WIPO treaty provisions, our feudal overlords / corporate masters have managed to erode such "fair use" rights of the average person.

        • NO. NO. NO. NO.

          Modification, followed by subsequent redistribution is restricted by copyright law.

          Ahhh.... but you forget how computers have perverted copyright. Evey copy your computer makes in ram and in the proxy software can be consiteered illegal distribution IF the author demands it. This is the screwed up way that software and computer copyright works. They can, as the copyright holder, make whatever demand they want about it's use.
    • Considering that the spirit of copyright laws, as stated in Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution, is "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts", then one might also assume that pop-up ads have the same purpose.

      However, the people who wrote that Constitution also put there the exact means by which that progress would be promoted: "by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Rights to their respective Writings and Discoveries". There's no mention of advertising anywhere. And there's no provision for forcing anyone to read what they don't want to read. You can rip off some pages of a book and burn them if you want to. You can use a machine or a software to do that. The only restriction is that you cannot copy and distribute a writing within the limited time when the copyright is in force, without permission from the author.
  • Detecting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tcr ( 39109 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:16AM (#2367477)
    Can they really include something in the download (Java or JS, I assume) that detects whether an ad picture has been downloaded or not?

    I guess they could cycle through document.images[..] in Javascript/JScript to check the existence/properties of each image element, and pop up a window if something was amiss...

    Not sure what they could do if client-side scripting was disabled though. Other than perhaps checking the weblogs through a server script to see if an HTTP GET was made from your IP address to a particular ad object... sounds onerous.

    From the article, sounds like the former?

    • Re:Detecting (Score:2, Informative)

      by delay ( 134063 )
      No... I think this works diffently. I think that their solution is fully server-side. One could do it the following way: When the user requests a web-page (which includes images and banners) the server checks whether the client also loads the banners. If he doesn't, he can't request a web-page again, without being informed that he has to disable his anti-banner software.

      However I don't know whether this is such a good idea, because there's no way for the server to find out whether the client acceses the banners over his isp's proxy that could cache the banners. This way innocent users would be locked out.

      There are a lot of different reasons why such a software that forces you to look on banners is a very bad idea (for example what about people who are blind and use text-browsers like lynx?), and we can just hope that the folks who run interesting servers will recognize that.

      • When the user requests a web-page (which includes images and banners) the server checks whether the client also loads the banners.

        How much do you want to bet that they'll use cookies to do this? You can't do it by IP address, for example, because of hosts using NAT. If you disable cookies, you're toast.

        You're also pretty much screwed if you use Lynx as well, obviously.

        Stopping a proxy from caching it, however, is probably just a matter of setting the Pragma/Expires HTTP headers. Not a 100% guarantee, but the polite proxies follow instructions.
  • How? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by keesh ( 202812 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:16AM (#2367478) Homepage
    Only way I can think of is to make popup windows named, and then use JavaScript to check that mypopup.images['myimage'].src (??? not used JS for ages) is what it should be...
    • Or... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by athmanb ( 100367 )
      Or they're running log analyzing software on both the web page and the ad server. When a client requests more HTML pages than ads, he's obviously using a blocker software.

      However, such a software can easily be countered by loading ads and then not displaying them, which would hurt online advertising much more than today's blockers...
  • Sounds evil but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gazbo ( 517111 )
    I hate the ludicrous number of banner ads on websites as much as anyone, but is it really that hard to understand why sites would want to force people to download/display them? I mean, the vast majority of sites out there (no, I'm not talking about pr0n) are free. Some, especially topical sites, take a great deal of time and effort to maintain, and yet we are quite happy to sit here, blocking the ads that pay for their maintenance, on the flimsy moral objection that somehow they are 'bad'.

    Now I don't extend this to all ads - pop-up windows suck ass; there is a reasonable objection here, as spawning new windows on your system definitely interferes with the normal operation of your computer. But harmless banner ads - if they piss you off too much, as they sometimes do with me, don't visit the website. You can't expect to get a product (the website) for free just because you don't like how you're paying for it.

    As an alternative, I wonder how many people (I am one, btw) have donated to SatireWire via the Amazon Honour System?
    • hard to understand why sites would want to force people to download/display them

      No it's not. If your revenue depends upon serving up ads, and that's the only way you are making money, then it's incumbent upon you to find the point at which the most users will see the most ads. Between a single banner per page that millions see and a bazillion banners per page that only one person can stand to look at is the point where you cram just enough ads in to not piss off a majority of users.

      As it is, I'm pretty easy-going. The only thing that motivated me to action was pop up/under ads, which I block religiously.
  • by beanerspace ( 443710 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:20AM (#2367486) Homepage

    I dunno, but this sounds awfully "BORG" like. Even if they can figure out exactly what's getting through to, and visibile to my browser, do I want someone to know that information ?

    Do websites using this bleeding edge ad technology take into account the variety of settings and the reasons for them ?

    For example, the public library or a school. It bans ads to protect the little kids doing homework, but can't afford, not equitably employ "pay per play" sites.

    Likewise, what about those who are in work situations where firewall and proxy filters are employed ?

    This entire scheme seems almost too myopic ... and too borg like ... to be successfull.
  • by Basalisk ( 215292 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:20AM (#2367487) Homepage
    Always there is a third option.

    In this case, it is to ignore the offensive website. When a company starts to insult the decisions of potential customers, they lose more customers than they gain.

    But what if you need something that the website provides? Look elsewhere. When there are enough people requiring the services of one company, but who do not want to go to that company, another can come in. By being freindlier to their customers, all else being equal, they can gobble up market share.

    But it's your choice whether the companies force-advertising you will succeed or not, because they depend on you, and not the other way around.

    • by samael ( 12612 ) <> on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:57AM (#2367531) Homepage
      And how are the web site owners supposed to pay for the bandwidth you're using?

      If you don't want to give them an income directly and don't want to give them an income indirectly, are they just supposed to pay out of the goodness of their hearts?
      • By selling things that people wish to buy.

        That's how most companies make an income, by exchanging goods or services for money.

        Not by selling advertising space, and providing freebies or sausage sizzles or other methods to attract eyeballs.

        These people are targeting the wrong customers. Instead of targeting the people visiting the site to buy stuff, they are targeting the people with ads to sell.

        • A lot of sites really don't have anything to sell. Sure, the idea of Amazon or eBay having banner ads is a bit absurd, but news sites, opinion places, comic strips, or basically any place you go for information also needs to be able to support itself, and I really doubt /., for instance, could make a living of selling nifty t-shirts.
          • I really doubt /., for instance, could make a living of selling nifty t-shirts.

            You mean they have other sources of income??
          • news sites, opinion places, comic strips, or basically any place you go for information also needs to be able to support itself

            Before there was an Internet, I bought newspapers, comic magazines, books, etc. We used to pay for whatever information we wanted. Of course, newspapers and magazines also got a large part, perhaps most, of their income from advertising. But it was well organized, there are separate pages for ads, you don't have to read the classified pages to get to the editorial.

            What website managers need to understand is that they have to offer value to their customers. And it's so easy. Why not offer better search engines? How often I have searched for something I wanted to buy, by poring through page after page of Altavista or Google, while having to see an endless list of stupid, blinking, obtrusive ads offering something I definitely do not want to buy.

            • by egburr ( 141740 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @10:04AM (#2367787) Homepage
              Generally the price you pay for a newspaper is for the delivery, whether by hand-delivery or locked in a paper-box. Advertising pays for the paper, press, ink, and employees' salaries. This is just how online sites whould work, too.

              The difference is that online advertising is no longer something you can skim past while reading the story. Online advertising is now a very annoying, can't-be-ignored, get-in-your-face irritation. On top of that, much of the onlie advertising also tracks you to see where you saw the ad, how often you saw the ad, who you are, what other sites/ads you may be seeing, etc.

              Back when online advertising was just a simple banner ad, I never even thought about trying to block it. When online advertising starting tracking where you went and what you did, I started looking at blocking options and started a half-assed attempt at blocking. When online advertising started getting really annoying and very difficult to just ignore, I got serious about blocking the ads.

              The advertisers did it to themselves. They tried to force more upon us than they did with newspapers. They tried to gather much more information about us than they could with newspapers. (They probably are also paying less for the ads than they did with newspapers.) If they had left well enough alone and not gotten greedy, most people probably would never even have thought about blocking their ads.

        • Not by selling advertising space, and providing freebies or sausage sizzles or other methods to attract eyeballs.
          These people are targeting the wrong customers.

          Just like the TV networks. I just don't know how they stay in business with this "free public TV with advertising" model.
  • by The G ( 7787 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:22AM (#2367492)
    ...that they're fighting this battle on technical grounds. I hope we see a good clean fight, technology vs. technology, with no lawyers.

    May the best code win.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:25AM (#2367499)
    Some browsers don't support JS, and cannot download images (eg: lynx, or browsers for sight-impared people). At least in the latter case, there's a legit reason for them to not have images.

    In addition, in today's age of worms upon virus upon other nasty things, there is a sufficiently significant (probably around 10%) of users that have turned off Active Scripting in IE or the equivalent in NS to avoid such problems. I very much believe that these users have more of a right to keep this off than an advertizer has to force you to look at an ad.

    • by BadDoggie ( 145310 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @09:21AM (#2367689) Homepage Journal
      Some browsers don't support JS, and cannot download images...


      I very much believe that these users have more of a right to keep this off than an advertizer has to force you to look at an ad.

      Also correct, but not in the you mean it. The page owners and creators -- as well as the advertisers -- can't force you to do anything. You go to a Web site by choice... most of the time, anyway.

      However, you do not have some intrinsic or inalienable right to view the content of any site out there. Some sites you have to pay for (like Westlaw), some you just need to have a free membership, and some sites (like mine []) don't care.

      It galls me that so many people here piss and moan about having to register to read a NYT article. For fuck's sake, it's free! It takes a minute to do and, if you allow a cookie, you'll never have to bother with it again. In exchange for this, you get access to current stories in what is arguably one of the better US print journals (it's certainly referenced often enough here!).

      Is the NYT in cahoots with the CIA, NSA and the Illuminati? Who cares?! As far as the NYT knows, my name is Mr. Potato Salad, I'm an 83 years old labourer and I live at 123 Happy-Go-Lucky Lane in East Timor. All the NYT cares about is being able to show advertisers unique visits/impressions so that the advertisers can pay instead of you and me. How fucking hard is that?

      I draw the line when the ads become intrusive. Pop-unders, JavaScript, Flash, new windows, onOpen/onClose, etc., as well as any ad over 30K (if I'm on a dial-up) or more than half the data size of the page I want. This kind of crap has a tendency to crash my browser, disrupt or destroy work in another window. It also costs me a lot of money when I'm using a modem in Europe.

      It's because people went ballistic at even the most innocuous of ads and started an arms race that we have the sorts of intrusive ads and methods we're now facing.

      If you keep blocking the ads, then the advertisers will give up and you will get to pay for the content. It's that simple.

      It doesn't take a lot of effort to hack the binaries and change a couple of spellings so that new instances can't be forced open, scrolling can't be blocked, etc. Now I just need to know how to stop the lame animated GIFs -- can anyone please tell me if there's a way to halt them in Konqueror the way I can by hitting ESC in Mozilla/Opera/IE? Maybe there's a way to display them only as static or disable the LOOP command.

      My guess is that soon, content will be served only through the advertising locations, so that blocking the ads will block your receiving the content, as well. There will be a way around it, but it'll be a lot more complicated than adding a couple lines to the hosts file.


      If the ad is condescending or annoying, I avoid the product. If it's informative, I pay attention.

      • I agree, that there needs to be something to balance the need to push ads to pay for bandwidth, and the ability of the user to block ads.

        However, I would suspect that most people are blocking ads not such that they don't see them, but to prevent them from being tracked, and thus, my arguement is more along the lines of "The right of the user not to be tracked by blocking ads" and "The right of the web site to make money". Thus, I first imply that we take the web site out of the picture, and only focus on the end user and the ad content deliever.

        If ads did not have any way to track users save through click-thrus, then I would probably not block ads in the first place; ads simply ought to pay based on the number of hits the ad gets. Unfortunately, because some sites way back in the early days (1996ish) found ways to falsing increase hits or similar steps to make ad numbers seem overblown, the ad content companies felt they had to go to a unique impression model, which means they HAVE to track you at some point in order to determine the value of an ad. Unfortunately, too many ad companies have used this to also create large databased of browsing and surfing histories; not necessarily associated with a given user, but it would take very little work for someone with a names database to connect to a browsing database, and get your full browsing history through ad servers. I believe that this type of situation is a fair violation of privacy (Particularly since most sites that use ad banners and have privacy policies do NOT consider the privacy invasions of ad servers in their policies), and thus there is a right of users (at least in the US) to block anything that they might feel is harming their privacy.

        Again, if you can serve me ads that do not track me, I'll happy get them (and ignore them, but I'll still get them so the end site gets that fractional cent they have coming). I believe that this is that attitude that most people that use ad blocking software have, in addition to ads being too large/using JS/Flash/etc.

      • If you keep blocking the ads, then the advertisers will give up and you will get to pay for the content. It's that simple.

        Excellent. As soon as I can do micropayments to read slashdot, I'll be more than happy to.

      • If you keep blocking the ads, then the advertisers will give up and you will get to pay for the content. It's that simple.
        Like most revolutions, no one really understands how to make money on the internet yet. Advertising isn't going to work. Enough people hate it, and the profit margins are low enough that it will eventually fail completely. Except for google. The internet is about information, not cramming trinkets down ignorant consumers' throats. Products on the internet have to compete on merits alone. People research products they want to buy on the internet. Your competitor's website is just a google search away...oops, your flashy banner gave the consumer an idea, but pissed him off, so he did a web search instead, and he went to your competitor.

        Advertisement will fail in the long term if people do not buy the products advertised. I see lots of people claiming to be willing to put up with ads, but that's a moot point. No one is buying.

        Now I just need to know how to stop the lame animated GIFs -- can anyone please tell me if there's a way to halt them in Konqueror the way I can by hitting ESC in Mozilla/Opera/IE?
        Mozilla has an "Animated images should loop: As many times as image specifies, Once, or Never" option in Preferences->Privacy & Security->Images. My proxy, FilterProxy [] contains a module that will de-animate animated gifs, if you wanted to use a different browser. (you can turn off ad-filtering, if you find that offensive)

        As to funding of sites not-selling-stuff? I don't know. Surely many of them will perish in the coming months. But you know what? It's not my responsibility to keep them in business by watching mind-numbing ads. And as I said, it wouldn't matter if I did since I never buy things through ads anyway, and that, ultimately, is where the money comes from. Sites are pulling out all the stops trying to come up with new ideas for funding. Some of them will succeed. Let's just hope they don't patent their business model...but that's another rant.


  • Sure it can be done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by j7953 ( 457666 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:25AM (#2367500)

    The server can detect if your browser, after requesting an HTML page, also requests the contained images. I guess it works only if the pages are served from the sames server as the images.

    Of course, you'll always see at least one web page, as the server doesn't know yet if you'll request the ads as well. If you don't, it can deny to handle further requests from your IP. They also cannot make sure (at least not by tracking requests) the ad is actually displayed, they can only make sure it's downloaded.

    Still, I don't see a wide success for this technology. What about multiple people using the same IP -- the first one blocked ads, now the site is blocked for the other users as well? Even worse, dynamic IPs -- the guy who previously had my dial-up connection's IP blocked ads, now I cannot view the sites? Of course, they could require cookies, but those users that understand cookies will be really pissed off if they have to accept cookies they don't want to have to see ads they don't want to see.

    • From discussions I read on a german newssite from people who've tried this system it depends on a cookie to keep state.

      So you needn't worry about other people in your flat being affected, however disabling cookies might defeat the system at the moment.

      It would be theoretically possible to delay the download of the last 2/3 of the page until the banner has downloaded, however this would probably cause too many problems in real life.

      As with any such systems it's not meant to discourage someone really determined but only make shure that 99% of pages get served with their banner.
      • Cookies would be necessary, because some large ISPs (e.g. AOL) use a load-sharing NAT setup - you can request a page via one NAT box, then an image in the page via another NAT box, i.e. it looks to the web server as if two unrelated web clients accessed the page and image.

      • Cookies would be necessary, because some large ISPs (e.g. AOL) use a load-sharing NAT setup - you can request a page via one NAT box, then an image in the page via another NAT box, i.e. it looks to the web server as if two unrelated web clients accessed the page and image.
    • All kinds of problems if they try this:

      1) Some people browse with "download graphics=no"
      2) Many people don't accept cookies (except for the Girl Scout kind!)
      3) What if you are using multiple proxies for downloading? Multiple IP streams...
      4) Ok, I have to pay to access the site- and how do I do that exactly?
      5) All of the problems mentioned in the parent.
  • by sfe_software ( 220870 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:40AM (#2367516) Homepage
    Lots of problems with this:

    - The biggest problem I see is that many sites run ads from a third party network (eg, Doubleclick). More than likely this would only work for ads served by the same server.

    - What if you simply disabled image downloading all together? Or use Lynx? Or disable whatever technology they are using (Java, JS, whatever) for other reasons, if that's the case?

    - If you're behind a proxy, often times images are downloaded via a different IP than other content (images are generally considered cachable). I've seen this in my logs many times, mostly with scripts (which are generally non-cachable). Or, the user may download the image from a cache, and the server might assume the user hasn't seen it. With larger ISPs who cache content, this is easily conceivable.

    - If you chose not to see ads, you probably aren't going to purchase any products advertised. So the advertisers get cheated, the visitors annoyed, and the site owner is the only one potentially gaining anything (though pissing everyone off isn't a good way to make money).

    I'm so sick of ads personally, I've disabled Flash and Java (both of which seem to be used more for ads than anything else). I've also added * and a few others to my DNS cache (on my home network), so ads from those places simply come up empty for me (no ad servers at :)

    This reminds me of the CD copy protection crap: trying to extend a basic technology for purposes it wasn't intended for, for corporate gain, that only serves to harm the consumer. It won't fly.
    • What if you simply disabled image downloading all together? Or use Lynx? Or disable whatever technology they are using...

      Why don't we just go back to the web "stone ages" and use Mozilla 1.0? So much for the evolving web.
  • one way they could do it is with a client-side script/applet that runs at the very tail-end of a loaded document. the client side stuff could profile the document object exactly as it is loaded and displayed on the browser, instructing the browser to describe the various properties of the document's objects (visible=false, unavailable=true, whatever)... that would reveal a blocked ad. then the script phones home with the results, detailed, or with a simple pass/ fail.

    another way they could do it is by sensing whether or not the client sends out a request for the ad from the ad server at all.

    if either is the case, so what? the next move in the arms race is for the blocking software companies to request the image anyways... just not display it, or spoof the document properties that indicate a properly displayed and enabled ad.

    the german company mediabeam is ratcheting up the arms race, that is all.

    i think the web ad ecosystem is in for an overhaul anyways... pop-under ads, etc., just seem like a desparate last-ditch attempt at old-school ideas of ad prominence... the web is not tv, it is not radio... they will get it someday.

    why not go for subtlety instead? win users over to your site with gentle persuasion, not howling insistence.

    what the heck am i talking about? try google's understated and creative approach [] (zdnet article from june). wired also raved about google's novel ad approaches, all of which have a simple theme: potential customers want to be gently persuaded, not knocked over the head with a salami and dragged to your storefront. (the wired article is in the current october issue- "Google's Secret Formula: How a no-nonsense search engine built a stealth advertising machine." only on newstands... not available on line until october 16)

    you don't need fancy graphics... a few bytes of ascii with an href in the right spot and you probably have a better time at snagging a customer than any strongarm tactics anyways...

    did you like my post? have me write one for you and boost your karma with just a small one-time donation of $5.95. but act now! i'm slowly losing my faculties so karma supplies are limited. []

    • Google's approach really works, at least on me. I visit sites advertised on Google on quite a regular basis. The ads are always highly relevant, and the fact that a company takes out an ad at Google rather than spending the money on one of the more offensive types of ads tells me that I might not mind doing business with that company. Plus, I'm familiar with Google's pricing structure. It doesn't price the small guys out of the market; it provides a nice advertising solution no matter what your budget.
  • by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @07:54AM (#2367527)
    I'm not trying to flame anyone.

    When we read our daily paper (which we pay for) we get ads too, right? What makes sites that much different? We don't pay for the contest on sites, in stead we see ads, is that so bad? Sure, I hate pop-up ads as much as you do and I thing those should be shot on sight.

    But really, does a small banner like the one on slashdot bother that much? I'm okay with the ads on Zdnet and C|net too (the ones in the center of the article). Just ignore it, no one is forcing you to click on it. Just as no one is forcing you to go and buy whatever is advertized in your local paper.

    Keep it as it is now, don't force people to click on ads or to close a window that pops up each time you surf a site and people will have no problem with the ads.

    Just my 0.02 euros :)

    • I'm okay with the ads on Zdnet and C|net

      So am I. But am I the only one that clicks on M$ adverts in the hope that they have to pay more if a user clicks on the ad?
    • Banner ads worsen the user experience; print ads do not. Regular banner ads take up my bandwidth and worsen my browser's responsivenss. So, yeah, I will use a proxy, no question.B ack when I had a 1.2M DSL line, I didn't care about ads that much. I only resorted to the Proxomitron when pop-ups and pop-unders became the vogue.

      The industry needs to get smarter. Download ads after (not before) the content of the page has loaded. Stop annoying the user. A click-through ad is much better than a pop-under or a flashing fake Windows alert box any day of the week. Sponsor content instead of obstracting its delivery. Something.
    • Web ads use a public net for private profit. When some poor MSIE serf hits some advert bloated junk site, and is forced to look at all of it, the junk site annoys me too! All of that crap gets in the way of you and me getting to real content. That the profit may be small or not exist does not change the intent. The intent is to make the web resemble a push media and it's doomed to fail.

      It may be argued that trees are a public resource as well, but most news print comes from recycled paper or stands that were planted for the purpose. It's hard to argue that trees privatly planted are a public resource.

      This stupid stuff will never work. Blocking or otherwise anoying users will just reduce the number of users the publication has. No readers makes for no revenue. Publications that depend on advert revenue will have to adjust to the world as it is. The rest of us will have to find other ways of getting information if those publications fail.

    • by Croaker ( 10633 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @11:00AM (#2367895)

      Banner ads, in general don't bug me.

      What made me reach for my revolver (err... ad blocking software) was that godamned "click the monkey" ad. (In case you've never seen it, it's some dumb ad with a monkey zipping around the background).

      Usability tests of websites agree... movement kills the ability to read. Having something zipping around in your perefrial vision distracts your ability to read content. Content is what I came to the website for. If I can;t read the content, why should I go there?

      So, since the advertising numbnuts that push animated banner ads poisoned the well, I've been using ad blocking software. Apparently, people still haven't learned, as I have seen godawful flash advertisements slip through my ad blockers, again making the page friggin' unreadable.

      Most print ads do not disrupt. There are a few exceptions (I noticed once that a magazine started to place ads in a stripe across the middle of the page, and had each column of text jump over the ad, so in reading the story your eyes would be forced to jump over the ad space two or three times. They knocked that off after two isses). In general, print ads seem to have struck a balance between getting the reader's attention and disrupting the reader's ability to enjoy the content... which is their purpose in reading the book/magazine/newspaper in general. This has happened through evolution. Those that annoyed their readers with ads were less likely to survive.

      Ads on the web right now are about the sophistication of those cheesy local cable ads. You know, the ones you can tell are stuck in by the local cable company, because the sound is suddenly too loud, there's usually bad audio, and the video is of poor quality. And like those cheesy cable ads, they tend to be inserted not by the producer of the content, but of third parties (such as doubleclick) who may or may not be concerned about how disruptive the ads are to the site within which they are viewed.

      Things are just getting worse in this space. I've seen more Flash ads on the web, which makes me think I should uninstall that damned plugin.

      When you push things too far, when you make things annoying enough, don't be surprised when your audience pushes back, and does things like install ad filtering software. It's corporate conceit and stupidity to fight back with things that are supposed to technologically allow you to annoy the hell out of your potential customers. Hey guys, how about maybe adopting guidelines so your ads don't disrupt your audience's ability to do what they really came to your site to do? Like, for example, no movement. Totally static images. I know, not as flashy, not as sexy, but also not as annoying. If, in the end, I cannot read and enjoy the content of the site, I'm simply not going to come back. Then the site dies, just as surely as if they had no revenue from ads in the first place.

  • The easy way to annoy users of banner blocking software is to name images vital to the site browsing something like banner or ad. That stops them right there, works very well.

    With that said, I must say that I also use banner blocking software these days. I know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that bannerads helps paying for the site. So I have accepted banners for a long time.
    But with the introduction of popup/under ads on so many sites these days, it was just too much for me.
  • While much of the people here seem to think that everything that is easily replicated should be free (like software), there is a question of paying for intellectual content online.

    Sure, to draw the metaphor out a bit more, if people are willing to create free software in their sparetime, other people should be willing to create free content of other sorts (ie, Slashdot for example, would be created by people who didn't get paid to do this). However, even if you decide to undertake a free software project in your spare time, usually you don't have to shoulder the cost of distribution all by yourself.

    Bandwidth costs money. The better the content, the more bandwidth it'll take. So even if you had a society where people were willing to generate all your content for still have to pay for bandwidth.

    I'd imagine the people in the content business also like to get paid for their work occasionally too. Having money to eat is a good thing.

    Furthermore, all the people who say "You have a third alternative, take your business elsewhere" when presented with the option to pay for content or view ads...well, I mean sure you have that option. But you're not exactly taking any business anywhere. If you're not viewing a site's ads, you're not making them any revenue. And if you're not paying them for a subscription, again, they're still not seeing any revenue. So, by your taking your business elsewhere, you're _helping_ them, by not wasting their bandwidth and not giving anything back. Not exactly a punishment.

    Until we shed this thing we call a market economy, you're going to have to give some value back for people to even attempt to give you anything.
    • Frankly, I can't see how you must think to be able to post like this, so let me try to explain why I see things completely differently.

      As you correctly observed, bandwidth costs money. It still costs me money, even now that thank gawd the dialup days are over, for me.

      I have always been very selective in what I download from the Internet, from back in the good old days before Mosaic. And I don't see why I should now let it drop and start downloading unwanted material. If a dot-com has a crappy business model it's their problem, not mine surely.

      Why, pray tell me, should I waste my precious bandwidth to download useless shit I never asked for? On what grounds am I obliged to download crap together with the content I am interested in?

      Thank gawd the modem days are over, bit it is still my bandwidth and it is up to me, myself and I to decide how to use it.
  • downloads the ad anyway, but directs the browser to skip the image? The ad would still be useless, at the cost of bandwidth. I'm sure that no web server can detect this trick.
    • " enables the Web server to establish contact with a surfer's browser and then count the number of ads displayed on a screen."

    If I hit "G" in Opera, every image on the page disappears. Yeah, all the nice ones like the picture of the foot, the mainboard, the greenback, the Apple logo...but also the "How many different development tools do you use? Click here" SourceForge banner ad up the top. If a site is well designed like slashdot (and I'll get a few flames on that no doubt) and has the alt= attribute set in the <img> tag, I can turn images off and still see "It's funny. Laugh." and "Technology" etc instead. Of course, this is hopeless for some sites, like AnandTech [] (which looks great with images turned on, but I think is poorly designed nonetheless), and sites where you want to see the pretty pictures (I'm thinking of news sites like BBC News []; I don't know about you :P), and it also tends to be quite pointless in terms of blocking ads because it's rather like executing fifty people because you know one of them is a death row escapee, but I just thought I'd mention it, because it seems that this software would prevent you from even choosing to turn all images off in your browser. Frankly, I'd like to know how they do this considering the many different browser types out there, but I presume they can and do, using Java probably. If any web designers can enlighten me, please do.

    My question is, how much right does a site have to tell me that I may not turn off images altogether? Technically I am not even blocking the ads; I am simply choosing to ignore all the <img src=""> on a site, and instead am displaying the <img alt="">, which prevents me from downloading the image itself. There's still a little box indicating an image, with "Click here" inside it if it's an ad. Does that count? It also seems ridiculous that a site can penalise you based on what browser you choose to view it with, because text-based browsers such as Lynx would surely be affected by any site running the software developed by GmbH. I realise that few people run Lynx or other text browsers any more, but it's still something to consider. I know sites need their revenue, but I can't believe they think forcing people to look at their ads is going to help. I for one already boycott sites with too many ads (although popups aren't a problem any more since I have disabled them, using Opera), and the more in-your-face an ad is, the more annoying I find it, and the less I feel inclined to click on it. As far as I can tell, this is about as in-your-face as you can get. Do sites honestly believe this is going to increase their revenue?

  • How many people (percentage wise) actually block ads do you think? I can't imagine that it is a significant part of the population. Any site owners care to comment?

    Additionally, I noticed that the first paragraph of the story says this blocking adds insult to injury. I'm injuring someone by merely visiting their page?

  • Can they really distinguish this from a remote ad server that just isn't responding?

    You betcha. Two ways off the top of my head, one client side, one server side (assuming you serve your own ads). The first, client side, was actually done by for a while. Basically, if the picture wasn't found, it would dump to the next page. This was done in javascript. On the server side, it gets a bit trickier, as you need to wait to finish sending the HTML until after you've received the request for the ad. If the browser doesn't request it, insert a meta-refresh to your "bad user" page.
  • While the interested geeks develop anti-content-blocker schemes, MediaBeam realized what it's really about: The masses want "free" content. The effort, which is necessary to fool the webserver into thinking that ads are shown while in reality they are cleverly redirected to the bitbucket, is bigger than just downloading and suffering through them. Is websurfing really fun when you always have to question wether that page you see is really the one you wanted? Or is it just the heavily abbreviated version for ad-blockers? Why aren't people complaining about this slow server? Maybe it's fast for them cause they don't block the ads? Nah, that can't be it. My ad-blocker behaves just like the real browser, it just doesn't show the ads. Or are they using new methods of detection and my blocker doesn't fool them anymore? Guess I'll have to upgrade. Again.
  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @08:40AM (#2367602) Homepage Journal
    here's what I do :

    I maintain DNS entries of the sites I wish not to receive ads from and map them onto a local machine.

    I then configure Apache to respond to the requests using mod_perl to strip the paths from the URI and leave me with just the filename.

    I then return an image OF MY CHOOSING to be displayed in my browser. I have set of images to choose from with pictures made in various banner sizes from anime / pr0n / abstract / auto-texture generating scripts / mandlebrots / swf files I have made.

    It makes online life more interesting and colourful.

    By logging your outgoing requests you can even change the graphics for programs like icq & other banner toting stuff.

    Some places defeat my plan by using their own hostname ( is one example) or by using IP addresses. I plan to build an Apache proxy module for these but haven't got round to it yet.

    Most of the websites I visit are return visits anyway so you soon get a feel for the ways the ad system works.

    By using a DNS & Proxy I can configure not just my workstation but my whoel LAN so it becomes OS/Browser agnostic.

  • advising the 'free-loading' surfer that he has two choices if he wants access to the Web site's content: pay for it or be exposed to the ads.

    How about I advise the offending web site that they are one among many, and that I can view the same content somewhere else where I am not FORCED to look at ads

    You can't make me watch ads on television, or listen to them on the radio, or read them in the paper. What makes them think I should be forced to watch them on my computer screen? Any site that trys something like this will lose viewers big time.... I'm using webwasher [] right now. It prevents those pop-up windows from appearing on a Nimda infected web server and and it even cancels out Salon's new click-through ads (not that I read much on Salon anyway).

    Go ahead, try out your new "forced ads"... I'm ready for ya.

  • by Anonymous Coward

  • The problem with banner ads is they're messed up. You shouldn't be responsible for making people click on banner ads, they should be good enough for people to click on them out of curiosity.

    Just for a few of the people who don't know how banner ads work, let me explain: Back when banner ads used to work (they really did make money once), they were run on a per-veiw basis, not per-click. When I got started advertising on my site (about 1998), per-click, and per-sale were becoming popular.

    Now here's the problem with either of those methods: People don't really care how creative the ads are, so everyone gets bored, and the sites running the ads go broke, while the advertiser doesn't get many ads, but at least they aren't loosing anything.

    Per view is a better way IMHO, because the ads seem to be less boring, and the sites make more money. In turn the advertiser will get more people because the ads are less boring. Putting this back into the topic... People might not block ads if they were less boring.
  • Or javascript... but noting is stopping a proxy from making them THINK they downloaded it, but block it.

    Really... you know... who cares.

    Sites that are *free*, that don't use my content or efforts to make the site work (as opposed to say, napster or CDDB or slashdot...)... I couldn't care less if they put up banners, or want to 'force' me to read their banners.
    For the most part, I don't *care* if there is a simple, normal banner (a-la slashdot). They don't bother me one bit.

    I vote with my money...

    And you know what else? Those x-10 pop-under ads? As much as they annoyed me.. they DO Make me want to go buy some of those cameras..
  • The evil marketing guy forces the webdesigner to put a banner on the top of the page. The contents of the page is in a IFRAME tag.
    If a browser requests the IFRAME src but not the banner, the server can send a page that says that you have to view the banner or pay.

    This is only one way of doing it.
    Java script and VB script can do even more marketing things.

    And the marketing guy's don't care about lynx (and not even mozilla) beacuse none of their target audience uses lynx anyway.
  • ... by for instancem, viewing ads? It isn't exactly free to host sites, especially good ones.

    Sadly, I can't stand the popups either, so I am very depressed by the fact that the advertisers didn't stick to normal banners, that would be the best choice. Doesn't really bother anyone, and if it is interesting... I click. Otherwise, I don't.

    I'm equally depressed by the sorry mofos that use filters. That is kinda like stealing. Well, I guess you think you are Robin Hood liberating the internet. No, you are lowering the quality of the internet, by driving providers out of business. By taking their stuff for free. Do you do the same in stores?

    I love free internet, and ad-free internet - but I don't demand that everyone can afford to bring you the latest news, articles or whatever it may be for free. Can you do that?

    • I'm equally depressed by the sorry mofos that use filters. That is kinda like stealing. Well, I guess you think you are Robin Hood liberating the internet. No, you are lowering the quality of the internet, by driving providers out of business. By taking their stuff for free. Do you do the same in stores?

      So you don't use the fast-forward button on your VCR to skip ads?

      Same thing with ad-blocking programs. I'm using my 'fast-forward' button, so to speak.
  • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @09:24AM (#2367699) Homepage
    Most likely they just detect if the banner has been displayed. On the client side blocking software, I'm assuming, just doesn't download the banners and blocks popup windows from even oppening, so if the ads don't get loaded successfully first, don't display content. Once the server has a successful load of the ad, you can send the content.

    This of course won't stop anti-ad software from simply downloading the ad and not putting it on screen, but most blocking mechanisms just don't download the ad anyways.

    However I think that we should not use blocking software. You are getting "free as in beer" content, so you should be required to "pay" for it, in this case with your time. The servers that you are reading your pages off of have bills to pay, and the only way that most of them can do this is to serve ads. The only reason why ads have gotten so fscking annoying is because the conventional style isn't working. Why isn't it working? Because people block it. So thus the more you work against the system, the nastier it will become.

    Now seriously, how much trouble is it to read around a huge ad in the middle of your page? I'm being serious here. I have mental filtering. I just don't notice them anymore. I close popups usually before they're finished loading and even sometimes if I think the content is good I'll go and click on the ad just to give them a bit more money. Having these ads maybe adds 5% to the time required to read the article. Big whoop. Do it so that they can get paid. There is no free lunch, they have bills to pay and the least that you can do is to at least glance at the ads and sometimes click so that they can pay their bills. Because if people keep blocking then we will be forced to start physically paying to view pages, via micropayments perhaps, but we will pay because they have to pay their bills. It is much cheaper for us to just put up with the ads and that way it won't get much worse, and we won't be faced with having to pay physical cash to view the stuff that we want to view.

    People aregue about "Artists' rights" and that they should be paid for their music that you download in MP3 form. Although I agree with this, the same thing applies here. People have spent their time to write the articles that you are viewing, and they deserve your patronage to put up with the ads so that they can pay their bills.
    • by decesare ( 167184 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @10:05AM (#2367788)

      This of course won't stop anti-ad software from simply downloading the ad and not putting it on screen, but most blocking mechanisms just don't download the ad anyways

      FWIW, I think that the iCab browser for Macintosh is one of the few that I've seen that can be configured to not display images of a certain size on the page, just leaving a blank where the ad would have been. And, it comes pre-configured with a list of typical ad/banner sizes to screen out. I believe that it's a "download but don't display mechanism". Is there anything like this in Konqueror (I haven't been able to find it).

      Now seriously, how much trouble is it to read around a huge ad in the middle of your page?

      Depends on how annoying the ad is. There are two issues here: one is that the ad itself can takes up computing resources to display. Maybe those with 2GHz P4 machines don't mind this, but for those of us working with older processors, it unacceptably slows down the page display.

      The second is just how distracting the ad itself is. I'm still trying to train that "mental filtering" of which you speak to screen out images of fast-moving monkeys or flashing blue and white images that I've seen that distract from what I'm trying to read. Some of these ads have gotten so ridiculous that I can't read the page on which the ad is placed. And a concept that web marketers don't seem to grasp is that maybe people will remember a product backed by an annoying ad, but how many people will really buy that product if they negatively remember the ads for that product?

  • by pantaz ( 316654 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @09:33AM (#2367714)
    Advertisers are not receiving adequate response for the amount of money they sink into online ads. The proliferation of in-your-face pop-up ads was their first response. Those still don't generate the desired traffic. They mistakenly believe that this is caused by ad blocking software. Marketing types can't believe that anyone can possibly resist their clever, highly targeted advertising campaigns. Therefore, too many folks must be blocking the ads -- if they see the ads, they won't be able to resist them. The marketers fail to realize that the largest group of ad-blocking users are people like us. We're not going to click on the ads even if they are forced upon us. If anything, we are less likely to as a form of protest.
  • It's a typical arms race. So, in the grand tradition, here is yet another strategy.

    Write software, perhaps similar to a 'honey trap' that runs in your browser, and passes back the results to the 'bludger detector' that make it look like you are reading the ads. This could happen silently as a service, downloading the ad's, but blocking them out on your page, so you don't have to see them. Ho hum ... I am sure there are tons of ways to defeat this.

  • allegedly already uses the adblocker-blocker software on it's server.

    try the button "gastzugang" on the bottom right...

    • by purplemonkeydan ( 214160 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @10:23AM (#2367827)
      Yep, I can confirm this, running Norton Internet Security 2002.

      Here's the Babelfished text they serve up if you are blocking ads:

      The page requested by you cannot be represented unfortunately. This problem can have the following causes: An advertising filter (e.g. Web which ago, AdBlocker) prevents the announcement of banners. DirectBOX finances itself by advertisement. Please you deactivate the advertising filter.

      Note: They can deactivate the advertisement on directBOX by a monthly payment. Click here, in order to activate directBOX the advertising filter.

      Their Browser does not support an announcement of pictures. DirectBOX uses pictures as navigation item. We recommend to use you a current Browser.

      Stiff bikkies Lynx users.
  • by GordoSlasher ( 243738 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @12:14PM (#2368114)
    I've been blocking ads for years. Not that I don't like to see ads - sometimes I really am interested in the products being offered. But such a large fraction of ads are now so visually annoying that I can't take them anymore. I don't want to punch the fscking monkey. I don't want bouncing pong balls drawing my eyes away from a software review. When I'm at work reading financial sites I don't want a huge pair of hooters trying to sell me an X10 cam - it's unprofessional in an office environment.

    I prefer magazine-style ads: occasional full-page ads I can easily skip or read, smaller ads in the margins that are not intrusive. When I look at them, there they are, and when I look away, they don't pull my eyes back. The web was like this in the early days of advertising. Then the monkey-punching games and Vegas-style animations started to take over, and now we have big honking animated ads with an inch of content wrapped around them, too distracting to read the actual web page content.

    On TV the commercials are clustered together, then go away so you can view a few minutes of uninterrupted program content. If TV worked like the web, you would have a commercial running in the middle 60% of the sitcom stage with the actors squeezed into the margins around it, speaking lines between the commerical's music, and ducking under other smaller commericals, all competing for your attention. How long do you think people would watch such a program?

    Bring back the days of less intrusive ads and I will turn off my ad blocker.
  • A lot of bunk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @01:33PM (#2368340)
    I see a lot of posts defending the brave upstanding advertisers who have to pay the bills.
    Let's get something straight - I think everyone agrees with that sentiment. Some people seem to feel for moral reasons that the web should not subsist on advertising alone because it is an inherently offensive mix, the freedom of the information frontier and the crassest sort of commercialization ever.

    Part of the problem is that those upholding the advertiser's point of view keep saying things like "they have a right to do it" and "if you didn't block it, we wouldn't have this problem. Stop blocking ads now!". The reality is that the only reason blocking has become even slightly common is because the ads have gotten SO much more incredibly intrusive and offensive with the obnoxious javascript toys at the disposal of the advertisers.

    And why have the advertisers gotten so obnoxious? Why the move to pop-under, pop-over, run-around-my-fucking-page-chasing-my-cursor sorts of annoying ads? Because there is some sort of myth that people are supposed to click-through on ads and if we annoy the living shit out of them, they will click through. I'm sorry, clicking on ads just is terribly unlikely to ever happen and is not a meaningful metric of anything. People don't WANT to interrupt their precious time relaxing and browsing the web for information, news, pr0n or whatever to read your ad shit. Now if you were nice, showed me a banner ad and let me click to queue something up in my bookmarks or some client side info-base, I might want to come back to it later, maybe. But you should be fucking happy that I even saw your ad, glimpsed your logo and have cognizance that you exist.

    As soon as your ad association in my mind goes from "oh that looks neat" to "fucking assholes make me click all over the place" I guarantee you I'm gonna go looking for blocking software and I'm sure as hell not going to have positive associations with your product (apparently these advertisers don't care and they just want any association at all). But I guarantee I will never buy anything from X10 or anybody who gives me a pop-under. Furthermore I consider it outside of my contract of usage for a site that they can force me to waste my time chasing click-unders. Give me banner ads, fine, if they are too big and take up more of my screen than the content I won't read your site, IN THE SAME WAY I'D TOSS A PAPER PUBLICATION THAT DID THE SAME. But don't abuse javascript to wreak havoc on my browser or browsing experience or I will be forced to take defensive technological measures against your hostile advertising. I'd rather not have access to your site than feel like nothing other than a click-through prostitute.

    There's a reason TV has something like 4 minutes of advertising every 30 minutes - if they had any more people would shut off their fucking TVs and cancel their cable subscriptions.

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @01:34PM (#2368342)
    How about an ad blocker, that still downloads all images or files marked as ad related (according to the ads database or logic code) .. so that the site still gets the money, but instead of displaying the ad and annoying the user, it simply pushes it to /dev/zero.

    Sure, it still uses bandwidth, but other than that - no harm done. Anyone who feels this strongly is *not* going to buy the product of aggresive advertisement in either case (so the advertiser loses nothing), the website gets some cash, and you save screen space.


  • Legality (and hype) (Score:3, Informative)

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @01:49PM (#2368378)
    While it may well be the case in the US that they don't have to make their sites visible to people using different settings, it's starting to become a legal issue in the UK.

    As disabled people do have every right to access content, things like making a site usable with alt tags is starting to become a genuine legal issue. Telling a visually impared person that they must turn on the features that make a site physically unusable to them would be breaching equal opportunity laws. Curiously, most of the UK laws wandered out of the EU and so I'd imagine that Germany, where this company is based, is much the same.

    Of course there is one other option no one seems to be looking at: "Who cares whether it'll pan out? Creating this hype will generate a lot of interest in the company and maybe help raise enough money to see us through the current downturn." A lot of companies that planned to get to IPO this year seem to be doing this at the moment. Whether or not they have a tech and whether or not it's actually viable, if you create enough talk and hype, you might still be able to get a few investors that you wouldn't have got otherwise and just maybe you'll stay in business long enough to come up with a more viable product.
  • by AftanGustur ( 7715 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @02:33PM (#2368498) Homepage

    When you make a request do download blabla.html, the web server makes a conneciton to the server that serves the ads to see if your IP address has downloaded /gci/ads?ad12345&UniqueID. If it doesn't receive a response in 30 secs, it assumes that you didn't download the ad and you don't get to download blabla.html.

    This is already beeing done ...

  • Arms race prediction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @02:52PM (#2368544) Homepage
    You can do this purely on the server side. No cookies. No by IP address. No javascript. No Java. Possibly without even using frames.

    First, with frames. Send them a tiny page with frames. A frame for the ad(s) and a frame for the content. The tiny frame containing html contains custom url's for both the content and the ads. That is, the "session id" is embedded in the url's, without using cookies.

    When the browser requests the url for content, the content stream is stalled until the ads are downloaded, or at least started. Since ads and content are tied to the same "session", you can tell which content goes with which ads. But you don't penalize others behind a NAT. The server can still be load balanced because a database keeps track of the sessions -- which can be very short lived. So even multiple servers can be used, as long as they share a common database -- or some rpc mechanism to ensure evil ads have been served before "unstalling" the stream for the content.

    I said do it without frames. Simply send the html stream of the main page. Ads appear in the stream before content, which almost means necessarily "above" the content. When the stream gets right up to the point where it is to start delivering content, you stall the stream until the ad image(s) are at least requested.

    Possible problem: are there any browsers that cannot request the ad image while the main content page is stalled? i.e. non multi-threaded?

    Possible countermeasure: when your junkbusting proxy detects ads, it must deliver fake ads to the browser (or better, rewrite the content stream so that there aren't even ad spaces in the content), and it must make a pretense of requesting ads from the server. The proxy would continue to suck down the ad images until the content is delivered -- then abruptly close the ad stream connections. This way, if the server isn't willing to unstall the content until the ads are fully delivered, all you wasted is the bandwitdh to get the ads, but you don't see them. If the server is willing to unstall the content as soon as ads are requested, then you drop the connection on the ads asap. Using such a proxy, the server is unable to detect that you didn't actually see the ads. You at least went through the pretense of downloading the ads.

    I don't see any counter-counter-measure that the evil advertisers could employ. From their point of view, you are a normal browser, downloaded both the ads and content. How can they further tell that you can't see the ads without going to more invasive techniques like Javascript?

    I've often wondered about using javascript to deliver the content. You send down a javascript program that writes new content into an <ilayer>. But the javascript can be obfuscated. Even the "content" can be compressed with the javascript effectively unzipping it as it writes content into the layer. This almost certianly requires real javascript running in the browser to render the content part. The javascript could attempt to detect that the ads have been rendered first.

    Now the counter-counter-counter-measure. Let the javascript and rendering happen in the ad busting proxy. The proxy is designed so that its rendering engine renders a data structure in memory. You then run filters on this data structure. Pattern matching. (Lisp anyone?) It's like a regular expression, but without the same kind of syntax. You do the recognition on the final page, which is expected to be structured a certian way. The ad, which falls in a familiar place is removed, and then new html is written from the in-memory data structure rendering of the original html. The new html is sent from the proxy to the end user.

    Then what about a counter-counter-counter-counter-measure? Well, the evil advertisers could start sending you the content as a java applet. The applet contacts the server via. a non http stream and gets the content through a secret non-standard means. But only if the ads were delivered.

    But then the counter-counter-counter-counter-counter-measure is to run the applet in a faked environment that fools it into connecting to the server and think that the ads were deliverd on the local page.

    But then the counter counter counter counter counter counter measure is to serve both the ads and content together in a single big applet which uses a proprietary non-standard means obtain both the ads and content over a special stream from the server. Any attempts to circumvent this is a violation of the DMCA. They automatically record your IP address, look up your location, and to an XMLRPC call to the local FBI office's server to send goons to your door.

    Then the counter counter counter counter counter counter counter measure is to stop visiting such sites. (And to bitch and complain on slashdot.)

    Then the counter*8 measure is to lobby for custom legislation that requires you to browse to their web site if you were a regular visitor before, and to watch their ads. Alternately they can send party comrads to your home to force feed you the ads.

    Finally, you must download and install their TeleScreen(tm) applet which uses your computer's usb camera and microphone to give them two-way telescreen access to your home to ensure that you are watching your dialy minimum recommended allowance of ads, as determined by federal standards.

    What is the counter*9 measure?
  • by Jonathan C. Patschke ( 8016 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @04:11PM (#2368718) Homepage

    I'd like to address the "just view the damned ads, you freeloading hippies" crowd.

    Personally, the reason I started blocking banner ads (a little over a year ago) was because of one very specific ad--that stupid "punch the monkey ad".

    It managed to crap more web no-nos into an ad than I ever though possible:

    1. I froze my browser, as my browser had to load the Java runtime to display it. This is nontrivial time under Netscape, and used to be a lengthy wait under IE, as well.
    2. It moved. Quickly. Very distracting when you're trying to use Altavista to look up a particular bit of LaTeX wizardry.
    3. If my mouse cursor hovered over the ad, the ad captured mouse focus, and caused my mouse cursor to not always move as it normally would (largely due to the overhead by the Java runtime, I'm sure--I was using a SPARC LX at the time).
    4. It would frequently cause Netscape to dump core, and would occasionally cause IE to just freeze-up completely.

    At the time, it was a very popular ad. I don't know what I was typing to into Altavista to make it trigger (LaTeX->latex? Monkeys? WTF?), but I seemed to get it every five pages, and Netscape dumping core every five pages was not conducive to my finding out this LaTeX technique, which I needed right then to finish a CS paper (I'd have used Fondren Library, but this was before the Rice campus library stayed open 24 hours daily).

    So, as a temporary fix, I disabled Java (I didn't need it at the time), used a different search engine (Google), got what I needed, and then installed Squid []+Cameron Simpson's [] Ad Zapper [] (once I'd turned-in my paper), and the problem went away. I could have Java as I needed it (Rice's CS departmnet loves Java. Turning it off in a web browser meant not being able to do certain coursework), and my browser didn't crash because of stupid monkeys.

    The clear message I'd like to deliver is I don't mind non-intrusive advertising. In fact, most banner ads are very interesting, so long as they don't flash or titter about annoyingly, and don't stupidly try (and fail) to look like dialog boxes (looks really stupid under OpenWin). Occasionally, I click one. However, if it pops up in a separate window, if it spawns things in other windows, if it creates offscreen windows, if it crashed my browser, if it litters my hard drives with cookies, if it prevents me from clicking on your page, or if it dances around like a stupid monkey, I will disable it, and I will go elsewhere.

    There are probably a lot of technically-minded users that feel the same way. I don't want to steal content--I don't have this need to remove all adverts from the pages I'm viewing (although, I will strip them out, if need to print the page). But, my computer is my computer, and if your website can't sit in its window and behave itself, you've just lost a viewer.

  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Saturday September 29, 2001 @05:02PM (#2368830) Homepage Journal
    The current state of web advertising is comparable to TV advertisements that come out of the TV, walk over to you or follow you into the kitchen or bathroom and tug on your sleeve whining 'buy me!'.

    That's bad advertising, plain and simple. It's been _proven_ through marketing research that if you get too annoying you unsell your product, most notably that's been proven through market research of particular sorts of TV advertising.

    We're not talking about 'just let these poor people make money, will you?', we're talking about enabling them to hose themselves through severely stupid and bad advertising. The people using ad blockers are doing advertisers a FAVOR- that is valuable data, that information. They often accompany this with other valuable data- announcements that "if it was all quiet well-behaved banner ads that didn't blink or flash or move a lot, we wouldn't feel compelled to be doing this". That's valuable information. Since when is a random consumer's browsing history more valuable than an outright, impassioned statement of that consumer's preferences on how they want to be courted, advertising-wise?

    Intrusive web advertising can be compared to billboards: the people attempting to use it can make a big fuss about how it's a moral imperative that they should be allowed to do this, but it's not only a lie, it's not even a healthy or useful thing to be doing. They are wrong in wishing to do it. If they are allowed to do it they will actually harm advertising in general- though this does create a window of opportunity for well-behaved advertisers, as well as substantially driving down the costs for well-behaved advertisers. Still... if you don't actively hate the entire field of advertising, it's hard to justify these abusive, useless practices, which harm advertising in general.

    David Ogilvy considered advertising the art of 'speaking well about' things. Abusing people to the point that they are blindly, acutely hostile to anything resembling advertising makes it that much harder to do it properly and sensibly.

    Just as restrictions are placed on the use of roadside billboards, I would like to see this abusive web advertising restricted by regulation and government oversight. It's plain that these people cannot and will not behave or police themselves.

  • by sinster ( 518986 ) <> on Saturday September 29, 2001 @05:32PM (#2368905) Homepage
    Ok, here I am, talking about advertising again.

    Assuming that the software works 100% (read: it blocks content if and only if the ads weren't viewed), then it will kill advertising revenue. The reason is all about click through ratios. It goes back to my previous statements: if someone doesn't want to view ads, then they aren't gonna be clicking on ads. And if they aren't clicking on ads, then forcing them to see the ad only lowers your click through ratio. And that means that you can't charge as much for advertising as you would otherwise be able to. So your costs go up, your revenues go down, and things are bad all around.

    This doesn't even address the repercussions of the simple fact that forcing your viewers to also view ads is gonna piss them the hell off.

    And then there's the technology itself. I could see it done in 2 ways: java/javascript and redirected frames.

    The java/javascript method would require the user to have java enabled. And if they don't have java enabled, clearly the system won't work. Trying to put up a website that doesn't work for users with java or javascript disabled doesn't work. There are far too many users out there who have them disabled. Hell, I wish all users disabled them, but that's just me.

    The redirected frame would be the best way. Make the ad server serve out an HTML frame that contains a link to the graphic and another link to a 1 pixel frame on the host's server. The host's server sits there and counts the hits on this other frame, and when it reaches the right number, serves out the content. But this doesn't prevent the user from blocking the ad graphic at all. It works if the user blocks the ad frame, but doesn't prevent the user from just blocking the ad graphic.

    The only way you could tell that the real graphic is actually displayed is to send out java or javascript that knows the checksums for the ads that the user is going to be served, and then compares the checksums before the real content is displayed. But once again that depends on the user having java or javascript enabled. And it also requires the ad host's webserver to be integrated with the ad network's webserver. Only really big sites can afford to do that integration, because it means that they have to own their own ad server and content server. Ad servers are highly expensive. Yes, there are freeware ad servers out there, but none of them have the speed that a high traffic site needs, or they lack reasonable targeting options.

    All in all, I'd say that this new beast is going to be a miserable failure. The problem isn't that this beast exists, but that someone actually thought it would be a good idea. That means that I have to get back into the propa^H^H^H^H^Heducation war again.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?