Very recently Marco Arment published an ad-blocking app from the iOS App Store. This application was called Peace and it used the Ghostery ad and tracker database at it's core to decide what would be blocked. I won't go into many details, as you can read about it in the article linked to above, but after 36 hours or so he also pulled the app from the store and pledged not to support it any further.
This undoubtedly ruffled a few feathers in the tech and tech journalism communities. It also got me thinking about the whole premise of ethics, feelings and beliefs surrounding ad-blocking.
What it got me thinking about is how much it reminds me of opinions and ethics surrounding eating animals/meat for food. People are often self-proclaimed animal lovers and would never hurt an animal. They could never deal with the thought of their precious fluffy were to even come to harm. Then once lunchtime rolls around, the same animal lovers don't even think twice about the fact that the ham sandwich they are dining on was once a living, feeling, loving pig.
This is in the same vein as people often citing that ad-revenue is much of what keeps smaller developers (not to mention giant ones) afloat in the internet age. They want to make sure the dev's kids are fed, how can people block the same ads that keep their favourite sites running?
However, these same people go on to install an ad blocker to keep the annoyances of that revenue generation to a minimum. They might make exceptions for certain sites and allow the ads to be displayed (fluffy), but for the most part things get blocked...it all just happens the way Ghostery (or whatever other database) has decided. Comfort comes from turning a blind-eye to the black box.
This is where Marco's reasoning for not wanting to be the arbiter of what gets blocked really struck the vegetarian metaphor for me. When he was suddenly at the front lines of ad-blocking and was having to do it from a first-hand perspective, he saw how gruesome and unethical it really was. He didn't want that dark cloud hanging over his head. The responsibility of being the ONE who decides who gets money and who doesn't Just doesn't feel good.
Marco decided to step away, turn a (somewhat) blind eye to the black-box of ad-blocking and let someone else do it.
You see where I'm going with this?
I bet if most of the population of the First World had to actually process their own ham, starting with the killing of the pigs, Tofurky sandwiches would start to look pretty tasty. The harsh reality of taking away somethings livelihood for the betterment of your own, really puts things into perspective (not that I've ever done any slaughtering). This is basically the main reason I don't eat meat -- it's easy to imagine what it would be like dying just because someone wanted something from you. Trying to see things from the animal's perspective really helped me change directions in what I eat.
That being said, I still use an ad-blocker (hypocrite!!). For the most part, as Marco states, there is a war going on, a war against the garbage piles of internet advertisements. I agree, there are good ones, but there are far too many bad ones out there to forego blocking ads just to let in the very few decent ones.
This is because, unlike the taking of actual lives, I have not yet been able to see things from the perspective of a company that has failed due to ad-blockers...in fact I can't seem to find any instance of it happening on the internet. Marco deserves some credit for listening to his conscience over the deafening cha-ching sound of money rolling in. He's definitely seen it from a different perspective and did a full 180 (and even offered refunds). I am a little envious that I have not seen the light, because I feel like maybe I'm still being a scumbag by blocking ads, but I will continue to keep using ad-blockers until I know better.
Anyone know if Marco is a vegetarian?