Why Firefox is blocked dot com

Some webmasters are apparently redirecting Firefox users to WhyFirefoxIsBlocked.com, although I’ve no idea how many sites are doing it [Update: as Charles Arthur points out in the comments, the answer is “one”]. So what’s it all about? The evils of Adblock Plus.

The Mozilla Foundation and its Commercial arm, the Mozilla Corporation, has allowed and endorsed Ad Block Plus, a plug-in that blocks advertisement on web sites and also prevents site owners from blocking people using it. Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing. Millions of hard working people are being robbed of their time and effort by this type of software.

Blimey. As someone who (a) runs ads on a website and (b) loves AdBlock Plus with all my heart, I think they’ve lost the plot.

Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers..

The spending thing is a fair point – the people who use ABP aren’t the sort of people who’ll be clicking on your ads anyway – but given the insignificantly small cost of serving up web content to visitors, there’s no reason to block them either. If you’re serving up high-bandwidth content such as video, stick the ads in your clips. You can’t ABP that.

I don’t know about other ABP users, but for me I use the plugin not to block adverts, but to block bad adverts. You know the ones: the noisy, irritating in-your-face ones that jump in front of the content, blast you with sound effects and generally get in the way. The ones that replicate the real-world experience of trying to read while an idiot screams in your ear and pokes you in the stomach.

If site ads didn’t treat me with contempt, I wouldn’t use an ad-blocker. So in some respects ABP is the symptom, not the problem: people are blocking ads because some sites can’t or won’t use them responsibly.

I’ve been thinking about advertising a lot lately, because I use ads to pay the hosting bills. The revenue isn’t much, but the hosting bills aren’t much either. I’m quite happy with that, but I do wrestle with the dilemma of how best to do it without alienating people (and without dumb-as-rocks contextual ads promoting the very people I slag off in blog entries).

I’ve come to the conclusion that affiliate ads are the way to go – a kind of online tip jar, if you like. So for example if you like the sound of BioShock – which you should – or this autumn’s Girls Aloud album – which you should – and my blabs convince you to buy them, clicking on the Play.com ad over there means if you buy them from that site, 10p to 40p goes into the web hosting tip jar.

(incidentally the ads so far are just me mucking about – I’m going to whittle them down so the only ads are for sites I actually use or things I think are good, eg Future’s mag subscriptions, Play.com, things like that. I haven’t had time to do that yet)

What I’m not sure about yet is the best way to do it. I know I don’t want banners, or invasive Flash ads or anything like that, so for now I’m experimenting with relatively small, easily blockable box ads kept separate from the actual blog content. That way, people who find the ads annoying can zap ’em with ABP, or just use the ad-free RSS feeds to access the site. The other alternative was to use text links, which is less visually disruptive but which wouldn’t be blockable. What do you think?

What I don’t really understand is the attitude behind WhyFirefoxIsBlocked.com, though. With any site, a significant number of your non-Firefox, non-ABP-using visitors don’t give a shite about your ads and won’t click on them. Why single out the Firefox users and cause bad feeling by locking them out?