Monday, June 22, 2009

Opera Mobile 9.7 beta

Just a quick note on the Opera Mobile 9.7 beta I just installed on my phone yesterday:

  • It doesn't auto-zoom when in Mobile view.

  • It doesn't have the Wand to remember login credentials.

  • The progress bar is displayed too late, and only starts animating when the page has completely loaded.

  • It didn't auto-import my bookmarks from the existing Opera 9.5 install.

  • There's no longer a right-click > Open in new tab menu option.

..but it has Opera Turbo, which is really, really, really fast. Very promising. I hope the above list of issues will be fixed once it comes out of beta.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A sensible adblocking policy

Lately, multiple websites have been playing the 'WAAH LOOK AT MY ADS OR I'LL GO BROKE' card again. This surfaces once ever so often, mostly by websites that provide free content and thus feel that you are required to view their advertisements in return. They further imply that if you block their ads, you're making them lose money (or even steal their content) because they get nothing in return.

What do I think of this? Well, I've been blocking ads since Atguard came out and switched between different policies, ranging from 'ads are evil and waste my bandwidth, I block EVERYTHING' to 'meh, as long as it's not SUPER-ANNOYING it can stay'. I know for sure that there are people who follow the first philosophy because things like the IE-SPYADS blocklist and the Winhelp2002 hosts file exist, which blackholes hundreds, if not thousands of webservers that serve advertisements. Apart from it being a bad idea to abuse the hosts file (or IE Restricted Zone) for this and exposing yourself to memory problems, it's a carpetbombing attack and probably overzealous. After all, the hosts file can only block a complete domain, and not just the /annoying_ads/ subfolder of the news website you read.

The other end of the adblocking spectrum seems rare, in my opinion. When I visit friends or family that browse without an adblocker, ads immediately jump out at me because I'm not really used to them anymore, but other people seem to be able to ignore them. And I have to say, you eventually start skipping and ignoring ads in magazines, probably because of some subconscious learning process.

The major browsers have - or are really close - a built-in adblocker that can be used by anyone who knows it's there. Opera has the Content Blocker. Firefox has Adblock Plus (ok, not built-in, but it's the most popular plugin). Internet Explorer 8 has Private Browsing mode which has a domain blacklist. Originally it wasn't even meant as an adblocker. Chrome has a developer version in beta that allows loading of userscripts, with the first plugin being... an ad blocker.

But if everyone used the adblocking functionality of their browser, ad clickthrough rates would plummet and bad stuff would happen. A 'good' clickthrough rate already seems to be 0.50% at this point, meaning that for every 1000 visitors, only 5 click on an ad. It's still higher than spam (0.000008%), but not much.

I propose that everyone follows an adblocking procedure that will not only keep advertisers in business, but also promote them to make more userfriendly ads like Google does (i.e. text-only ads). In essence, if an ad on a website is annoying or distracting, block its origin. So if you see an ad that shakes around and warns you that 'YOU HAVE 2 UNREAD MESSAGES', throw whatever domain it's served from onto your blacklist. This will make sure that whatever marketing company that thought up that horrible ad will notice that their ad is not working, and that whatever other horrible ads that are on that adserver will not reach you either.

Usually, for me this means that whenever I lose my adblocklist for whatever reason, I start over with a blank one. If the ad cannot be blocked because it's served from the same domain as the website I want to visit, I stop visiting it - unless it's important enough, in which case I only block the folder the ads are in. Periodically clearing your adblock list also gives advertisers a chance to clean up their act and serve normal ads (by which I mean static ads).