Marco Arment on whitelisting good ads by default in Peace:
In Ghostery’s desktop-browser plugins, users can selectively disable individual rules, so you could, for example, whitelist The Deck if you find their ads acceptable. Peace 1.0 doesn’t offer this level of granularity — you can whitelist individual publisher sites, like Marco.org, but not ad rules across all sites. That wasn’t an opinionated decision — it was simply cut for 1.0 to ship in time, and I’ll likely add it in the first update.
Whether such “good” ads should be unblocked by default is worth considering. In the past, ad-blockers’ attempts to classify “acceptable” ads have been problematic, to say the least. I don’t know if that can be done well, but I’d consider it if it could.
I hope Marco makes an effort to find a way to whitelist the good guys by default — he’s a very smart developer, if anyone can do it, I expect he could. In my eyes, the primary reason for installing an ad blocker is to improve the browsing experience, not to punish publishers who are trying to make an honest living. That is, unless those ads eat up outrageous amounts of bandwidth, kill battery life, and get in the way of content.
The Deck doesn’t do any of these offensive things and instead simply hangs out on the side of many of my favorite sites’ webpages while displaying tasteful and respectful ads — I think most reasonable internet users would consider them one of the “good guys.” But I can see why Marco shied away from whitelisting The Deck out of the gate. He would be leaving himself open to criticism for favoring The Deck in his very popular ad blocker while running a site that generates revenue from the same ad network.
As for future versions of Peace giving users the ability to decide what ad networks are acceptable, that’s a big step in the right direction. And at the very least, I hope the app encourages users to allow ads from networks like The Deck and Carbon Ads.
I’m beginning to feel a bit more hopeful about this “cause.” John Gruber proclaimed that ad blockers should display The Deck ads by default, Marco is open to the idea of doing so in Peace, and the developer behind Purify plans on adding it in the 1.1 update. Maybe publishers won’t have to uproot their entire business model and can just start displaying more respectful ads — writers will be able to continue making a living and readers will be able to browse the web without being bombarded with junk.
Update: Marco has pulled Peace from the App Store. He’s also published an explanation as to why he made the decision on his weblog:
Peace required that all ads be treated the same — all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white. This approach is too blunt, and Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough. If we’re going to effect positive change overall, a more nuanced, complex approach is required than what I can bring in a simple iOS app.
I completely understand where he’s coming from. I’ve never used ad blockers until earlier this week because I’ve always felt that online publishers should be able to earn a living through advertising. I’ve installed and tested several ad blockers over the past five days, but I haven’t felt comfortable about it.
That uneasy feeling I’ve had is what sparked my interest in the conversation and why I’ve come to the conclusions that I have — ad blockers should whitelist networks like The Deck and Carbon Ads by default and only block ads if there are more than three on a single page. But that’s based on my level of tolerance and interests in ensuring that folks who publish on the web are able to make money doing so. It’s going to be different for everyone and I agree with Marco that a much more nuanced, complex approach to the situation is required.
I wholeheartedly respect Marco for making a decision like this. He’s leaving a lot of money on the table and many of us wouldn’t have been able to do the same. I hope that the developers behind other content blockers take notice and think deeply about whether or not a blanket, all-or-nothing approach to ad blocking is really best for everyone.