Ad-Blocking is basically essential on the modern web
So, Google is going to limit the abilities of extensions in Chrome’s implementation of Manifest V3, which will mean that ad-blocking and privacy extensions will be less functional by 2024. Thankfully Mozillla will not be limiting extensions in this way in their implementation for Firefox. All this basically means that content blocking will be much more limited in Google Chrome and presumably browsers based on it, which nowadays is basically all of them.
There’s been a great deal of discourse over the years about the ethics of ad blocking and whether it’s good or bad for the internet. Some have claimed that it’s tantamount to piracy and therefor bad, that the internet depends on advertising to keep the lights on, that if you enjoy my content you should please turn off your adblocker to support me, ect.
Ad-blocking is often talked about as being a circumvention that people use to cheat their way out of getting ads, like hacking smartcards to get free satellite TV or disk swapping on game consoles to play burned games. While those things are awesome, I don’t think it’s a fair comparison to put ad blocking in this category.
Ad-blocking is about control
There are many reasons to block ads: To save bandwidth if it’s limited, to make a page more readable (couldn’t it be argued that Firefox’s “Reader Mode” is a sort of ad-blocker?) or accessible, to save system resources or to eliminate a vector for malware or surveillance. By ad-blocking, whether it be via a browser extension or some other method, I am exercising control over what is loaded on my computer and what isn’t. I strongly believe that this is an example of the fundamental right we have in the control of our computers. I am simply choosing for my browser not to display certain information, when data gets sent to my machine it is my right to process and filter that data however I like, that is all an ad-blocker is. By saying users should be forced to see ads, you are advocating we have less control over our computers and that the likes of Google should be given control over our machines instead. This is MY computer and I will decide whether it loads advertisements, if we lose that ability we lose freedom.
Ads are bad actually
Ads are annoying, but my reasons for not liking them and wanting to block them go beyond just that. Modern advertising is no longer a way of simply informing people of products and services that are available, but a predatory practice that psychologically manipulates people. One of the main reasons I block advertising wherever I can is because I think it is psychologically harmful and my being aware of that makes me no less immune to it, so I want to limit my exposure to it as much as possible.
But you get exposed to advertising on television all the time, how is that any different?
It isn’t, that is one of the reasons I rarely watch television.
No, the internet doesn’t need advertising
The internet needs advertising, how else are the companies that bring you the content you enjoy for free supposed to make ends meet?
I think the fact that for-profit companies have such a monopoly over the huge parts of the internet is a problem. Youtube is the place to post videos online, Twitter is the micro-blogging site, Facebook is the place to keep in touch with family and friends. Other sites like Wikipedia, here on Neocities and platforms like Mastodon or Peertube to name but a few, prove that when profit is not a motive, it is possible to run a site without the need for advertising. There was a time before advertising on the internet, in the early days before companies realised they could milk it of all it’s worth, making it a worse place in the process and turning it into just another shopping mall. These sites find other ways to make money and keep the servers running and you’ll usually find people are more eager to support projects like these because they’ve earned their respect.
Firefox is the only option now, and that’s very concerning
Since Chrome and it’s many derivatives will soon be unable to have effective ad-blocking, that pretty much leaves Firefox as the only alternative if you want any real control over your web browser. This is concerning because having Mozilla be the only thing standing between Google and total domination over the web is a very vulnerable position to be in and this fiasco demonstrates that pretty clearly. While of course I hope Mozilla sticks around, I hate to admit that I could totally see Mozilla not being here in 10 years time. I think in a more diverse browser space Google would have been more hesitant to make a decision like this, but they are being this bold because they know they can get away with it.