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Block that ad!

IndiaTechOnline Special Focus
Harassed Net surfers will hail  Opera's   new browser with a native ad blocker,   but   can expect a backlash.
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore: As a student in the UK, in the mid 1970s, I remember  a  phenomenon  that foxed me  Twice every week, without fail, the lights in all rooms in our  hostel --  would dim briefly for a second or two.  My  English  flat mate explained:  All over the UK, people tuned into what still  remains the  world's longest running TV soap opera -- ITV's "Coronation Street"-- with the fervour that we used to bring to viewing "Ramayan", and "Mahabharat"  on Doordarshan.  
When the advertisement break came, half way through the ITV serial, Britain collectively quit watching,  to  switch on the kettle for  making tea.  This caused a country-wide   surge  in electricity demand.  Nobody  gave it fancy names like ad blocking -- but that is what it was,   pre-Internet era style:  customers  deciding  they wanted to take a break during advertisements that interrupted their entertainment.   Then  the West came up with products  like TiVo  which allowed you to record TV programmes  but  skip all the ads.   Advertisers  didn't like it --  but they could do  nothing: the customer held the remote .
As Internet became all -pervasive,  the  maidan for paid messages has embraced the new medium and some would say, engulfed it.   Because we do not pay for a lot of what we search for and find on the Web  ( we do pay for connectivity!),  Web site owners, content creators and  publishers assumed they could make as much money as possible, by   making us watch advertisements  before we could access the free stuff. They overdid it -- and how!
We all have the experience:   advertisements pop up even before we finish entering a domain name,  all flashing animation and graphics. Sometimes they cover  what we are trying to read and closing the ad window is not always easy or even possible.  They are disguise to deceive.  If you download  of a tool or app, you often press a wrong key for another software, that changes or   even takes over your tool bar.
Which is why so many of us  install special software  to block these intrusive ads.  Most anti-virus  software brands also offer an ad blocking utility. 
If things are  bad enough on desktop, they are a bigger pain on phones: intrusive and unsolicited ads,  take up much of the screen;  they take so much time to download, we are eternally waiting  to do what we started to do... and worst of all,  every ad  eats into the data plan we may have paid for  and  we end up paying  for stuff we never wanted.   And the irony is  if we go for faster 3G and 4G connections  we end up   paying more,  since the ads download that much faster.
The ad blockers  help --but   it's a pain to download and set them up.
So last week's  launch by  the Norway-based browser, Opera  that  it had made  an ad blocker,  native to  both its  desktop version and the Opera Mini for  phones and tablets,   is big news. It comes integrated with the new versions of the browser and all you have  to do is  to look under  the 'O' for Opera sign and click on "block ads'.   Easy! 
There could be  some good ads you want to see -- and Opera allows you to deactivate  the blocker for any special sites.
There is a bonus to  using such native ad blockers: they do the job faster.  Just by blocking ads, Opera claims pages on our phone or desktop will download 40-80% faster.
Content providers are fighting  back. Already  sites like New York Times and Wall Street Journal  detect if you have an ad blocker installed and ask you to disable it before you can view their content.  Some other sites are  working to create ad block blockers.!
Some  embedded media organs are suggesting that by blocking ads we are somehow taking roti out of the mouths of  poor content creators. This is nonsense.  Monetizing the Net is legitimate -- but  it has to be done  without  making users see and pay  rubbish they never asked for.
Opera will inevitably  see other browser follow suit. And why not?   TV Remote or mouse or forefinger -- the customer will always be -- and should be--  in control.
Link for  Opera  desktop: www.opera.com/              Opera mini: www.opera.com/mobile/mini

May 9 2016

 




    


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