Online advertising is often described as the “original sin of the Internet.” We’ve become used to getting content for free, but ad tech has emerged in ways that many feel violate their privacy and sometimes even safety (advertising has been used to deliver malware). Anyone that’s ever used an ad blocker also knows that most websites load more quickly without ads and look less visually cluttered.
But… ads are a big part of the reason the internet is full of so much stuff. While some big-name publishers can get away with putting their content behind paywalls and charging a subscription price for access, many ad-supported sites (including Liliputing) probably wouldn’t exist without ads.
All of which is to say that I’m both intrigued and skeptical buy Mozilla’s new “Firefox Ad-free internet” concept.
Earlier this year the folks at Mozilla announced they were partnering with a startup called Scroll to explore alternate funding models for web publishers.
The idea is that users would pay for an ad-free experience, and the money would be distributed to publishers.
Now Mozilla is starting to give us an idea of what that would look like. A landing page for Firefox Ad-free internet says that for $4.99 per month, users get access to content from “some of the world’s greatest publishers to bring you a better journalism experience,” with payments being shared “directly with the sites you read.”
Subscribers would also be able to listen to audio versions of articles, an app “that helps you find and finish great content,” bookmark sync, and other features.
The service would be cross-platform, allowing you to read ad-free on a phone or PC. And it doesn’t matter how you run across an article — clicking a link from Twitter or opening the website directly should still be ad-free.
There are some things we still don’t know. I assume that you’ll either need to stay logged in to an account, use a certain app or set of apps, or use some sort of VPN service for this to work.
It’s also unclear whether $4.99 distributed across a whole bunch of sites you visit will result in enough revenue for publishers to make up for (or exceed) ad revenue.
Some big names in publishing including Vox, Gizmodo Media Group, Slate, BuzzFeed, USA Today and the Atlantic seem to be on-board with Scroll so far, but without a critical mass that just means some of the sites you visit would be ad-free, while most others would not.
This is all something I’ll be keeping an eye on. But for now, the best way to visit Liliputing without seeing ads is probably to use an ad-blocker. If you do that, please consider making a donation from time to time to help support the site.
And if you want to offer feedback to Mozilla on the idea of Firefox Ad-free internet, there’s a survey you can take.
via /r/Firefox and Hacker News
I have problems with these sorts of package deals. If I bought into Youtube Red, I’d be funding a lot of content I find objectionable. Same goes for this: I wouldn’t want my Scroll bucks going to BuzzFeed. Maybe if they allocated funding by user and usage of sites I could buy in, but if it’s anything like Red’s model, I’m going to have to rule it out. I hate having to run ad blockers and manage a bunch of different donations to individual sites, but at least I know what I’m supporting and it’s all transparent to me.
It’ll either fail, either cripple uBO and/or uMatrix in order to succeed.
Essentially it’s a Patreon scheme which raises quite a lot of idle questions about these publishers’ business model.
Does a fraction (share) of a fraction (participating users) of a fraction (1/8-1/10) of their audience times five bucks make a difference?
If it does, maybe “quality journalusm” isn’t that expensive. If it doesn’t, that leads to my knee-jerk reaction in the beginning of the post.
The original sin of the internet was letting you lie with incredible ease, and to only talk to people you like, allowing you to hate and fear everyone else. And you are not an exception. You are not above hating. You are not immune to propaganda. You are not immune to those who would exploit your hatred and fear for money. You are not immune to those who would amplify your hatred and fear. And you are not above loving those who abuse you like this.
Although really, the automobile and cities designed around it have been causing that problem already. Our social abilities really haven’t evolved to handle this. It’s just that before the internet, you still had to GO OUTSIDE and INTERACT WITH PEOPLE to accomplish things, and lying was harder.
Advertising meanwhile is a problem everywhere. A more powerful entity would have to intervene and change the game to fix it. Mozilla is not that entity.
Sorry buddy, but people being able to easily lie means they show their true selves by exercising that freedom by lying. Because of localised social pressures, people cannot be honest of how they truely are locally. I have people close to me in life that can tell if I’m lying but will know exactly why I chose to lie to them and forgive me for it etc etc so I can truely be honest with them in showing what I really am.
You being against these things from my perspective eight now is you are projecting yooooooooo
My first concern is how people are becoming more bitter, antagonistic, unempathetic, miserable and afraid and I can see how this really began to take off with the internet. I admit that I am projecting there, but I’ve seen more than enough to know I’m not the only one who is so affected. Hence all the words I wrote for that.
Then I remembered how easy it is for me to lie if you can’t see how nervous I get when I lie. Others can lie more easily than me, but lying is nevertheless a sin, and is something the internet has enabled since it’s inception.
Maybe we just don’t agree on what lying is?
On the flipside, anonymity has allowed marginalized groups to express themselves more freely. Granted, that includes, say, political dissidents under repressive regimes as well as Nazis.
The point is, not all lying is bad per se, and the internet has opened up the world to tons of people with, for example, niche hobbies where they wouldn’t necessarily be able to find others “outside”, or introduced them to a new idea in the first place.
IF it works as advertised I am in (caveat below)! How well it works remains to be seen.
Would I have to turn off all my other protection software for it to work? Ads are one thing, but there are all kinds of tracking and other mischief going on. I want to be able to protect myself but still allow Mozilla’s ad-free service to work.
Is Mozilla partnering with only the big outlets? How does that effect sites like Liliputing or other smaller providers? What good is the service if you only get the benefit from a small list of sites?
How log before someone figures out a work-around? It can be as simple as just inserting images of ads into the page that are hosted by the website itself.
We shall see.
I’m not American but I wish I could pay for Buzzfeed, Gizmodo Media Group, and Vox.
They made their bed, and must lie in it.
It started out fine, but then these sources got very political from 2014 onwards. And they also get very greedy, where clickbait became a de facto method. And eventually exaggerations (and no journalistic integrity, and fact-checking) turned into what is accurately described as “Fake News”.
One hopes these outlets suffer huge from their finances and reputation, but that leads them to return to proper journalism/higher-quality news. If they cannot or will not do that, then we’re better off not having them around or be prominent.
I also think they should have better source of income than just relying on Online Services, as simple algorithm/policy changes within YouTube, Google, Facebook, etc etc can leave them vulnerable. And sometimes its just evolution/human behaviour. They need a less riskier form to have income, otherwise its like working for free and living on tips, not knowing if people might just give up on coming to your little cafe and leaving you starved.
I appreciate the downvotes, folks, but here’s a radical idea: How about forming your well though out arguments for your disagreements with me instead?
That’s a pretty sad bait, mate.
Okay, you asked for it. You ever hear the phrase “if the service is free, you are the product”? That applies to all outlets that make free content (websites, TV news, radio broadcasts) too. They rely on advertising, and selling user data to advertisers. The gain or loss of one reader doesn’t really affect their bottom line as much as a subscription service does. So they don’t really have to care about you, or giving you what you want, especially not if what you want is the truth. This is because you are not their customers. Their shareholders, and their advertisers, are their customers. Outlets have to pander to these people in all things. Advertisers want more readers yes, but they want those readers to think what the advertisers want them to think, and that’s not the truth, because the truth isn’t the most profitable thing for you to think. Advertisers want you programmed, and so do the outlets they’re customers of. Advertisers wishes don’t just affect the ads. They affect the content, where the content is, and what order it’s in.
That’s why I don’t think supporting them would be doing any good.
Even so, angering readers too much by pandering to advertisers too hard will lose readership which will cause the advertisers to pull out. It’s not the advertiser’s job to maintain a readership, so if they just go along with everything they want, they probably will lose readers.
OK, but Buzzfeed, Gizmodo Media Group, and Vox? Meh.
We agree on what you have said, I agree on what Kangal has said, it just seems we are talking past each other. I just don’t feel like I’m the target market for said three media outlets in particular based on what I’ve experienced of them, regardless if it’s an ad sponsored or subscription based model.
Did Kangal not respond to you 4 hours before you posted this “radical idea”?
He didn’t downvote me.
Yeah you know how many ads are on one page? My ad blocker counted 57 on just one. There used to be just one ad WTF is happening? Most often there is more ads than content.
There was never just one ad, but there also aren’t 57. Your ad blocker is probably reporting the number of scripts it finds, not the number of individual ad units.
Industry studies have shown that the average internet user generates $35 per month, across all platforms, in ad-revenues for the publishers. So, from the start, FireFox seems to be *way* under-funding the project, thought $5 per month might go far with the limited publishers they have so far.
Still not enough, I think, for me to switch to FireFox though I do have to say I am getting a bit weary of the bloatware that is Chrome.
Switch to Edge Chromium, its all the benefits of chrome without the Google’s crap.
It is going to be a decent browser but Opera is far better right now.
Safari on Mac OS X is passable.
I agree, Chrome has become just as bad on Windows as it is on Mac’s.
Or epicbrowser.com/ for privacy.
This week’s Ask Jack column in The Guardian (UK) is all about privacy and advert avoidance on the mobile phone.
And back in 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2018/sep/06/how-can-i-fix-my-laptop-browser-firefox-microsoft-edge
And in December 2018
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