Why don't websites simply refuse to serve ad-blocking users?

First a question: How do sites know I’m using an ad-blocker? I use Firefox. It would seem that Firefox could “accept” the ads coming in and simply not show them to me graphically, and thus the sites would never know. But I don’t know the mechanism.

I’ve had sites berate me for not seeing their shitty ads, but until a couple days ago, I never encountered one that simply refused to open until I turned off my blocker. (I did NOT comply.)

But here’s my main question for you: Why doesn’t, say, Facebook say, “If you have the blocker on, you’re not playing in this sandbox.”

Thanks for your answers and ideas!

Don’t give them any ideas! :wink: What, do you WANT them to start getting around ad-blockers?

(The only time I ever had that happen was a game I played – it tended to lag when you used an ad-blocker. Since there were no-ads in the game, I felt safe making that particular site exempt. But that was about it)

I’ve received a message to turn off my ad blocker from a site when I wasn’t using one. It said they get their revenue from ads, so they wanted me to disable it. A bogus detection, but at least they tried.

Because in the end, there’s no difference between a user blocking ads and a user who doesn’t use the site.

Combination of these two things, IMHO. Particularly for social sites, even users that don’t see ads contribute to the network effect of the site and are hence valuable.

The other thing is that advertisers and ad-blockers know that the advertisers can never truly win, because as you said Aeschines, the browser could simply accept the ad and not display it. It’s an arms race but with one inevitable outcome, and so there’s no use in applying additional pressure.

I’m curious why it doesn’t work that way right now, then. Could you explain that part for me?

I actually don’t even know how the site knows I’m using an ad blocker.

Someone who is going to the trouble of blocking your ads is unlikely to respond well to attempts to get pushy. Perhaps it’s better to settle for the neutral response rather than actively alienating a potential customer.

I’d guess that the server gets an error message when the script to load a new window or re-direct you to another site fails. NBC’s site chastises me for using an ad-blocker, but it doesn’t block their own ads, just external ones.

Much of the reason for using ad-blockers is to save bandwidth. Fetching an ad and throwing it out doesn’t save anything, so it’s not as good as just not fetching it in the first place.

I’m not sure myself, but it could be done either on the server or client. Either a piece of Javascript that tests if an image has been loaded, or something on the server that gives you different content based on whether it saw an ad request from the same client. I’d guess that it’s mostly on the client side these days, but in principle it could be either.

Along the same line of thought, I’ve encountered sites that refuse to load the main content until after all the ads have loaded.

You can see it down in the status bar:

…waiting for adservices.something.com

…waiting for metrics.google.com

…waiting for vouchers.scams.net

…waiting for bullshit.clickbait.com

Yes I made those up, as I couldn’t remember the real names. But all too often the page refuses to load until after all of that peripheral bullshit has loaded first.

If you use NoScript, many sites will refuse you because they require Java. Some like Fark have a polite message asking you to turn off AdBlock, and some don’t work properly, although I think that’s usually unintentional. The paywalls that some news sites use is kinda what the OP is talking about. They might let you read one or two, then block you until you pay up. That’s usually my cue to use a better news site. Some use a nice, unobtrusive “answer this one poll question to read the rest of the article.” They get something out of you, and you don’t feel put out as much.

  1. they don’t want to be as unreliable as an advert website

  2. They don’t want government (eg DoJ ) saying that they have to stop … They keep the “we let people block the adverts” as a defense.

  3. They like to say the adverts are out of their control - independent.

As soon as someone invents a way to block ad-blocking users from viewing a website, makers of ad-blockers will invent a way to block websites from blocking users of ad-blockers.

And thus, the arms race that has persisted ever since some guy in 1999 got tired of pop-ups shall continue unabated.

Also, they may block ads on one platform (for example their home computer) and accept them on others (smartphones, tablets, etc)

I think it probably already is technically possible to intertwine ads and content in such a way as to make it impossible to block one and not the other, but it seems like a losing strategy in everything but the very immediate context - it essentially entails treating the customer/reader as adversary - and everything tends toward a downward spiral from that point.

Absolutely possible - the problem here is the reason that ad blocking on most sites is relatively easy - a combination of trust issues and the way ads are sold. Ad blocking would fail or be much more difficult on many sites if the ads were simply loaded up from the same domain as the content, ie all content comes from either facebook.com or from eviladnetwork.com. The problem with that is either loss of control for facebook.com (if they put all content on eviladnetwork.com), or trust issues and problems with the way ads are sold if they put all content on facebook.com. IE, if eviladnetwork.com uploads all their ads to facebook.com, they have to trust facebook.com to report correctly the number of ads shown, etc. And they have issues with the way ads are sold because there are complicated algorithms and relationships on the backside where they try to display ads that are high value (somebody paid for white balding males in their 50s in nebraska to sell rogaine), and if they don’t have any for you they may have to go to other ad networks to find ads. That kind of thing would be hard to do without essentially making facebook install your entire ad server and it’s software internally.

One of the chess sites a few years ago told me to disable my ad blocker or I wouldn’t be able to use the site any more. When it finally stopped letting me use the site I stopped going. Why would I want to try and play chess with a stupid ad dancing around the board?

OkCupid, a dating site, actually did something smart. They would put up a window saying, “We get money from our ads, you’re not looking at them, which is fine, but if you pay $5 you’ll not have to worry about them any more.” For $5 I paid up. There are some sites that I would pay $5 or so, then there are others that I would just stop going to if that were the case.

That’s much more complicated than necessary. All they generally do is include a fake ad that actually has the content. It may or may not have a legitimate ad attached to it.

Or in the case of just displaying a message, the message is already there, and loading the ad replaces that message with the ad.

There used to be an adblocker for Chrome that went ahead and loaded the ads in the background. It existed because, at the time, there was no way to actually block content in Chrome. But it did tout its secretiveness as a feature. Once content could actually be blocked, this went away.

A problem with merely hiding ads is that you effectively are lying. The browser is telling the server that an ad was served when it wasn’t. This then gives money to the main website. In a way, you can see that as fraud, similar to click fraud where you click on an ad with no intention to buy anything. Advertisers tend to include in their service contracts that there is no intent to defraud the system.

In other words, modern adblocking is actually honest. The visitors effectively announce that they are using adblock, and the site decides whether to still serve them content.

Another reason that hasn’t been mentioned–right now, only the most disreputable sites tend to do this. The most common are the types that make you fill out a “survey” to get some free item, with the survey basically meaning you have to sign up for some non-free service.

Only the most disreputable sites do this, as their semi-legitimate nature helps keep people from ratting them out. For example, a fetish porn site can get away with yanking your chain more easily because you will likely not go around telling other people about your experience.

Legitimate websites don’t really want to be associated with these types of websites. So they do everything they can to avoid actually blocking content. Especially since there are many people who will turn off adblockers for specific sites but not in general. They just only want to financially support sites they actually support, and not just any random site they open.

By and large, they don’t. Even these days, browsers and web servers are not truly interactive - it’s click/serve, click/serve, over and over. What you might be thinking of as “They know! They know!” are the sites that block out ad space with a fixed underlying graphic saying “Please don’t block our ads.” When served, the ads overlie that graphic and you don’t see it. (Yes, there are some script tricks that can detect that remotely-served ads are not being loaded. I’ve seen sites that apparently use the ad-server to load menus and other control panels.)

This is why sites break even short articles into multiple pages and things like best-10 lists and slide shows are so popular… they force the viewer to click many, many more times per unit of content, and ever click is an invitation to load more ad content.

Uh-huh. Some bad man came into their server farm and held a gun to their heads. Help, they’re trapped in a Chinese fortune-vending redirector.

Oh, please. If they were “honest” they’d serve the ads themselves, rendering them essentially immune to blocking.

Ads can only be blocked if they are served from a third-party source, meaning the site owner has willingly given up control of his user content. Visitors owe neither party a damned thing. If the content is so valuable as to require payment, then be truly “honest” and put it behind a paywall.

I have nothing against content and service vendors attempting to make a buck on the net. I object on many levels when they try to squeeze, tease and jerk money out of the system just because we visit their page and they found they can trade their integrity for remote-served e-goons.

Somehow that doesn’t bother me a whole lot. Those poor, poor advertisers who don’t get my eyeballs and don’t even know it. There’s some kind of justice if they end up paying for it anyway. In other words, the system works!

Advertisement pricing is based on the number of people who view an ad. TV shows with high numbers charge more for ad space than tv shows that nobody watches - and advertisers are willing to pay more if they believe that their ad is getting in front of more eyeballs.

On the web, site owners talk about how many unique hits they get everyday and how many clickthroughs their ads get. If website owners stopped letting adblock users on the site, they would get fewer hits overall. They would also lose the chance of convincing some of the adblockers from whitelisting their sites.

It’s better to lose a little bit of ad revenue than to lose the traffic over all.