Attention Mosquitoes

9th July 2023 from jc's blog

Let’s imagine the following story:

You open a link to a website and you are greeted with a “we would like your permission for…” popup, if you’re very lucky, they may even have a way to decline it without clicking through menus, if you’re even luckier, the menus might not even have some very strange “please wait while we save your preferences” delay. You get through the banner, or popup, or whatever, and the top of your screen flashes white, and then loads an ad. Sometimes it autoplays a video. Sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s “just” an “unobstrusive” banner ad. Half of your screen erased, you scroll down to read what you were coming for. Suddenly, something pops up on the bottom right of your screen: it’s an autoplaying video, completely irrelevant to the article you came for, probably because it ticks off someone’s “engagement goals”, whatever. Sometimes the audio of these clips starts automatically as well. You scroll down, and the left side loads one of those nice banner ads as well. This one actually gets the honourable mention for being the one thing on the page that has just used blank space and didn’t automatically start going on your nerves.

Nevermind, you think, and head off to Major Online Shopping Website, to search for something you wanted to order. You search what you were looking for, and you’re greeted with some brand selling - sometimes - just what you’re looking for, sometimes something different, then a row of products you’re looking for. But after closer inspection, you realize these are “sponsored” listings. The actual popular products that people rated highly are found below, and your first screen doesn’t even include anything that wasn’t an advertisement.

Except this wasn’t a story. This is the internet we all have to use every day, and I’m sick and tired of it.

Every goddamn website is trying to get your attention at every possible exit. Order something off the online shopping website mentioned above? “Oh, why don’t you check out our premium shipping subscription service. Just because you ignored it the last 50 times doesn’t mean we can’t piss you off another time, except this time we moved the decline button again!”. No, I still do not want “free and fast shipping”, because that’s literally the default for orders above a certain amount. Why do you advertise it like this?

How does the shopping website finance itself? Well, its core business is probably selling products, not advertising, but if we can make the money pot a bit fuller, let’s piss off our users a bit more to hit our Q3 targets. After all, some people will probably do end up subscribing, either because you annoyed them enough, or because they assume that they need to subscribe to have free shipping.

I’m tired of the internet we’re using today. Ad blocking is a must to get usable websites, if you do enough research into the topic to make sure that your ad blocker of choice hasn’t been bought up and turned into some form of advertising whitelist for “good” sites and “bad” sites.

People who are less technically literate often don’t have adblock, and they may not know that the top results on the biggest search engine out there are just ads, sometimes even malware!

I know this reads like I hate advertising, and in part that is true, but this is mainly about the presentation of the advertising. For example, there’s EthicalAds which, while its webpage suggests it is mainly geared at devs, it’s definitely on my list of “good advertising”. Ever visited docs on Read the Docs? The ads are unobstrusive but still gather your attention. For those gigantic banner ads, all I think about is how to get rid of them (when adblock is off).

Why do we continue putting up with this garbage?

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