Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Annoyance of Internet Advertising


The Internet is cluttered with advertisements. Banner ads are on your web mail, news sites, blogs, fun sites, everywhere. Advertising helps Internet companies subsidise its services. Every "free" service on the Internet - email, blogs, news, e-magazines, discussion groups, and many others - stays free thanks to online advertisements. And companies like Google's revenue comes almost entirely from advertisements. Google is not a search engine, but the most advanced advertising machine in the world.

However, the interactive nature of the Internet, combined with a deeper knowledge of the web has made online advertisements intrusive, aggressive and annoying.

If you watched the 2007 Cricket World Cup on TV, you have an idea of annoyance by advertising. Today's Internet advertisements are far worse. Banner ads take up more than half the readable space on some websites. Then there are pop-ups and ads that expand automatically and cover your whole screen. There are ads that start playing music, or distracting animation. The list goes on.

As if annoyance was not enough, Internet advertisements also infringe upon your privacy. Advertisers are able to track your behaviour and learn more about your preferences. It is like a billboard on the street that can keep a track of all its viewers, the make and model of car they were driving, where they came from and what places they have been to. Marketers track your browsing habits, searches, attention span and interest through banner ads.

Advertising may keep the Internet free, and may make Google its billions, but for end users it has become a bit of a nuisance. You may not be able to tear down all billboards or zap all advertisements from your TV channels, but you can eliminate a vast majority of advertisements from the Internet.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox 3.0. One of the reasons of Firefox's popularity is its add-ons, or extensions, that enhance your browsing - something that Internet Explorer doesn't have. My favourite extension is AdBlock. AdBlock scrubs a vast majority of annoying advertisements from the web, while leaving some simple, less intrusive ads in place. AdBlock gets updated regularly and is quite successful in eliminating over 90% of website clutter.

A detailed comparison of websites viewed with and without AdBlock can be found here. There you can also find links to download AdBlock and try it yourself. I recommend you should!

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