Ad-blocking by Sledgehammer

Posted on 6 September 2003 in Internet (No comments)

Reading through NTK is not something I do regularly. However this week I did, and found an interesting link to a CSS file which you can use severly reduce the number of adverts you see - assuming you use a Mozilla based browser that is. It's at http://dion.swamp.dk/stuff.html - scroll down to Mozilla ad blocking.

You simply install it in your browser profile and it kills loads of adverts. It works because web advertisements are generally implemented in a similar way. When I tested it on the The Guardian's website it blocked out every single ad.

It also blocks all flash - the author really doesn't like Flash by the looks of it, which is a shame as there can be good uses of Flash, and just killing all Flash regardless is just a little extreme.

To banner or not to banner?

More amusingly, huge numbers of header images on the BBCi website (like Dr Who, Gardening and Food) are also blocked.

Unfortunatly the CSS searches for images whose file name contains the phrase 'banner' - as in banner ad.

Unfortunatly for as long as I've been at the BBC, and longer, we've called header images, banners. Indeed I also got into the habbit of doing the same on my personal sites, so when you use it the 'ad' blocking, both Planet Bods and Bods Central loose some of the heading images.

I wanna be... Sledge hammer.

All this means that pretty innocent sites can have page furniture blocked by a rather heavy-handed catch all method. No real surprise that that is happening really - when you try to crack a nut with a sledgehammer, expect to break the table as well as the nut.

But there's also a lesson to web developers in there as well. Unfortunatly some people will try to crack nuts with sledgehammers. And in their attempts to do so, they will break semi-useful things like section heading titles.

Perhaps we should err on the side of caution and take account for things like this, and use non-ad related terminology when naming files and links. Let's face it, we ain't going to stop people from wanting to block ads, but we can try and prevent at least some false-negatives.

Of course this is (unfortunatly) the ad industry will also be able to learn from some of these lessons - but that's a different issue, as is the fact that certain websites rely on the funding from advertising from business, and that by not occassionally clicking on the ads, are we not helping to make unviable the content we so freely desire? But that's a subject for another day...

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