What Is The Cost of a Free Internet?

Our everyday activities are littered with advertisements of all types: in physical spaces like bus stops, billboards lining the highways, and pages of magazines. Online ads are no exception and show up on our favorite websites in great number. What is more worrisome, however, is that online ads aren’t just an annoying interruption to our browsing experience, they can sometimes be misleading and even malicious. 


Have you noticed that the space on websites you visit has become increasingly crowded with ads? It seems, at times, that website designers and publishers have gotten carried away and has led to a sharp uptick in the number of ad-blocking options, which number in (at least) the hundreds. Analytics company PageFair estimates that 615 million devices blocked web ads in 2016, and another firm recently estimated a quarter of all Internet users were using blocking software in some way. Not surprising, when you consider the internet user’s experience: browsing can slow significantly, and even clicking on an ad that may interest you could be detrimental to your device’s safety. 

Advertisers are nervous – and rightly so. While a free and accessible internet is important, creating a fair playground is paramount for success and safety for both sides. Publishers get paid for serving you ads, and if you’re blocking them, you’re not seeing them. Some ad blocking software creators allow ads through that meet certain criteria, while others charge a fee to the advertising entries to have ads “whitelisted.”

(Editors note: if the idea of a whitelist that you don’t control  rubs you the wrong way, give Adaware’s Ad Block a try. It’s free, and available as an extension for both Firefox and Chrome.)

Here are some “ground rules” we think can contribute to a healthy online ecosystem for all.

Running a Website Can Be Expensive

Not all website owners are serving you ads for completely profit-making purposes despite what you may think. Depending on the type of website, ad revenues might be paying for the operations of the site and to keep the site free.

For example, online news sites might be using ad revenues in order to pay its writers, or a gaming site may use money made to pay for bandwidth for gamers. This content might otherwise be inaccessible unless you pay for some type of fee without ad support.

Some websites go as far as blocking your access. Financial publication Forbes is one website that blocks visitors from viewing its content with an ad blocker activated. In many cases though, most sites will only show a limited amount of ads, so turning your ad blocker off is not too much of an inconvenience. It’s only one click away with our ad block; simply turn the Power button off to whitelist a website (and no – we don’t monetize from whitelists, so you always have control over who’s on it).

Advertisers Are Making Their Ads More Relevant

Just a few short years ago, advertisers used a much less targeted strategy in serving you ads. This meant you saw a lot of ads for things you probably weren’t all that interested. These days, you will see ads for things you’re much more likely to buy thanks to better ad serving technologies. Since advertisers have a variety of websites that their ads are served on, your web usage patterns can be analyzed and better ads served to you.

With more relevant ads and a higher chance that you’ll click, websites need less of them. 30 percent of those using ad blocking software block ads because there’s either too many of them or it’s slowing down the page, so targeted ads help in both respects.

Security Concerns Still At Large

30 percent cite virus and malware concerns as their motivation for blocking ads, while another six percent say privacy worries are the reason they use an ad blocker. While there are risks, there are simple ways to protect yourself, like through products from adaware.

With ad block and antivirus Total, you get the benefit of adaware Cloud Services (ACS) which continuously monitors URLs for anything malicious and blocks you from accessing anything suspicious before you can get infected. 

You’d End Up Paying For It (A Lot)

If advertising was completely barred from the Internet, it would raise the cost of Internet access. A 2014 survey of UK Internet users speculated that it would cost an additional £140 yearly (about $175 USD) per year for access to web content.

With US Internet access costs in many cases already $50 or more dollars a month, most of us would balk at paying any more. Ads play a large role in keeping content free, so it’s better to work on ways where ads are less intrusive and more relevant rather than trying to get rid of them altogether.

It’s All About Balance

While we’ve listed here why having some online advertising is a necessary evil, we wholeheartedly agree that advertisers and website owners must also be accountable. Popups are annoying, and we shouldn’t have to scroll or click page after page just so we can be served with more ads.

We also see the need to make advertising more targeted to give advertisers more return on investment, but at the same time we shouldn’t have to worry about our personal information being pillaged. Recent concessions from the industry on eliminating shady tracking efforts are a good first step, but we have a right to expect this to continue. Those websites that don’t run the risk of driving away users.

While we do hope to one day see an online landscape that doesn’t need ad blocking, that day seems to be a ways off. In the meantime, our ad block is a fair solution, allowing you to easily support sites that are on the right track  (serving quality ads), while staying clutter-free on sites that don’t “get it” just yet. With the added feature of cloud-based protection, you're always safe whether you're allowing ads or blocking them.