Might a $150 ad-blocking proxy endanger web publishing?
November 12, 2012 | 11:42 pm
The Internet has a love-hate relationship with advertising. Many users of the web consider web ads obnoxious. Many publishers of content on the web consider them vital. And as a result, there’s been an arms race between ad purveyors and ad blockers for as long as ads have been around, despite content publishers’ insistence that the lost revenue could cripple them.
The latest shot fired in the war is a Kickstarter project for a device called AdTrap, Intended to retail for $150, available for $120 to early kickers, the AdTrap is a little open-source box with two Ethernet ports on it. It sits between your modem and your router or your computer and gobbles up any and all ads that come through it (save for specific exceptions you can choose to configure).
And it does this for any device connected through your router: desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, you name it. No more messing around installing ad-blockers on every device—just plug the zero-configuration AdTrap in and off it goes.
How badly do people hate ads on the Internet? Well, only five days into the project, it’s already almost halfway to its $150,000 goal. With 25 days to go, I don’t expect it will have any trouble meeting its goal and more. And who knows? Perhaps it will inspire a raft of copycats that do the same thing for even less. It seems like a pretty obvious idea when you think about it.
But if the technology becomes widespread, it could mean even more trouble for web sites that rely on ad revenue to keep going. And even if its users are scrupulous about allowing ads from their favorite sites, I doubt enough scrupulous users have enough favorite sites to keep them all funded.
On the other hand, how widespread could this technology possibly get? Are there really enough people who hate ads badly enough to pony up $150 for a device to block them? Does the average person even care? I suspect there will always be a lot more people who are apathetic about ads, or who don’t even know they could block them, than those who do. So maybe AdTrap and its ilk are a tempest in a teapot.