adtrap illoThe 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.


  1. I don’t enjoy web ads, but until every site starts bombarding me with auto-loading audio or video ones, I wouldn’t even think about paying money to block them.

    I assume that most sites make money on a pay-per-click basis, and I doubt the people who would buy a $150 box to block ads would have clicked on them anyway. So it’s probably not a big loss for publishers.

  2. It should never have gotten to this point. We have the technology, resources and research to make ads helpful, non-intrusive, that people would actually want to have avaiable to them. And yet content providers constantly fall for the snake oil of pushing ads that try to get in people’s way, then complain when people find ways to work around it.

  3. Rashkae raises a good point. I regularly visit one site where I’d never dream of blocking the ads. They’re visible but don’t get in my way, they’re non-animated, they’re generally attractive ads, and most importantly, they’re for items that interest me — not only have I clicked through, I’ve bought. Yes, that’s in part because the site has a fairly focused audience rather than Everybody On The Internet, but I’ve seen many other sites that are focused on a particular interest or hobby whose ads are generic at best and actively annoying at worst.

    Advertisers, if you must gather my personal information and trace my web activity, then at least try to show me ads that are relevant to my interests. Hint: all the variants on “you’re fat and ugly and have no libido, and our Bogus Magic Product will cure that!” — not relevant to my interests.

  4. Also, moving/flashing ads make your site inaccessible to people like me, who have a neurological disorder. Unless your site has information I really want to read, I’ll just wince and reflexively close the page. If I really want to read your info, I’ll use Safari Reader or Readability, which eliminates the ads.

    OTOH, static, well-designed ads for things which might actually interest me (as Castiron says above, that excludes all the snake oil) will be read.

  5. RE: Frank Lowney’s suggestion, that actually could wind up punishing the web site, and in far worse ways than simply depriving them of ad revenue: it would look remarkably like certain fraud techniques. Ad agencies would probably not bother investigating whether the fraud came from the web site or its users before crying “breach of contract!”

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