View Full Version : USA Today on ad blocking software

04-19-2001, 06:05 AM

04-19-2001, 08:36 AM
Isn't this the type of product that needs to advertise online in order to get the word out that this software exists?

...somehow I don't think any ad company will run a campaign for them though http://geekvillage.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

04-19-2001, 09:17 AM
That explains why they're sending out so many press releases and striking up these controversial deals with modem makers, magazine publishers and the like.

It's a threat that seems to be growing rapidly, but will still have a negligible effect for most for some time. (Tyme excepted - he mentioned on SitePointForums that 22% of his users employ ad blocking software...poor guy!)

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Aaron Dragushan
04-19-2001, 10:14 AM
If the software does become prevalent, it will drive more sites to charging for content, since they have fewer ad spots to sell but no change in server costs. This is a trend we're already experiencing, though as it stands it has the ability to swing back and forth (paid vs ads) depending on the ad market.

At first my thinking was that if ad-blocking software continues to grow, it will remove one of the two alternatives, leaving only paid content. However, the laws of supply and demand say that as supply drops demand will rise, leading to higher prices paid for advertising.

It would most likely balance out in the end, over the long term. We tend to see such quick trends in the online world, but the 30,000 foot view is that over time we'll find balance.

This software also has many many weaknesses, and ways that webmasters can defeat it. The simplest is to change the size of images, so that there is no "standard" to block. Looking to the future, I'd hazard a guess that these companies will start blocking images coming from servers from big advertisers like DoubleClick, or images that link to items at CJ. That way they'd be blocking only ads and not images. I haven't checked out the software recently so perhaps they can already do this...

The solution is to take more control over advertising on your site. Varying images sizes and linking to CJ through redirects, etc. You could draw parallels to Napster vs peer to peer. Napster is like DoubleClick - if you block images from their servers, you block billions of ad views very efficiently. It's much harder to stop the peer-to-peer model though, as it has no center to aim at.

04-19-2001, 12:07 PM
Originally posted by Ralph Slate:
The amazing thing is the arrogance of the people who are behind the companies. Their attitude is "We sellt this software because people shouldn't have to view advertising if they don't want to". When asked about the financial viability of a site that has all its ads blocked, their response is "that's not our problem".

GUN ANALOGY!!!! We sell this software (gun) because people shouldn't view advertising it they dont want to (be afraid of street violence). If you shoot people with this gun, which is made for that purpose only, and they get injured or dead by getting shot, that is not our problem.

Ad blockers are here because ads got too annyoing. It was bound to happen.

04-19-2001, 12:39 PM
Even CNN had a review of this kind of software on their dotcom program, these guys are really hungry for attention.

Visitors just don't realize that notting is for free and that it has to be paid for one way or the other. And if it is really free, you'll get what you paid for...

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04-19-2001, 12:55 PM
This is a joke.

We should start a petition against this. This could ruin many businesses. I like the part where they said: "We sellt this software because people shouldn't have to view advertising if they don't want to".

Well, it's our website and that's how we pay for them to look at it.

Maybe someone should send this quote into them: "Well it's our website, and if they want to visit it, this product should not be on the market."

How gay.

04-19-2001, 06:39 PM

The problem with your analogy is that guns DO have uses other than murder/violence. This ad-blocking software only has one purpose, to deny webmasters the right to advertise on their sites.

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04-19-2001, 07:14 PM
What you would hope, is that advertising companies would band together in blocking people who are using this software (giving code to network or affiliate members that block people using the software from viewing the wesbsite). This is, of course, if the software can be detected. I don't know much about javascript, but I would think that would be best language to use in this detection.

If this blocking was popular, then these ad blocking companies would have no reason to exist. Take for example if all doubleclick, engage, 24/7 media, etc websites plus big names such as aol and yahoo blocked these people from viewing any content...the results would be fantastic.

I would probably compare this to software companies vs crackers. The crackers *always* come out with something to get around a software company's anti-piracty technique. Why can't this apply to these anti-ad software companies?

04-19-2001, 07:26 PM
"Banner ads are not a technology that is going to survive," says Horst Joepen, CEO of Webwasher.com, which sells Webwasher.

If this guy wants to ***** over thousands of people, he is doing the right thing. Think about what happens when software like this gets even bigger, its going to be pirated all around. Thats going to cause even more people to use this. Think about when you only get 3/4 the impressions. He might as well come up with something that blocks tv ads and replaces it with something else. Question: How do they justify online advertising for a program like that? Anyhow programs like that should be illegal. Im just ****** because someone would make a program like that.

04-19-2001, 11:41 PM
I don't know if this is of any interest within this thread or not, but we operate an image heavy site and found we were a big time target of image harvesting programs/robots such Telport Pro, PaqRat, GoZilla, etc.

We set out to find a solution to block this kind of thing and came upon a small piece of software called BotBuster (99 bucks). Turns out this software is actually preventing folks from accessing the site if they use programs like WebWasher or similar ad blocking software.

At first I was concerned that I'd tick off folks if they could not access the site but after thinking about it more, we bust our butts each month to provide a content heavy site that relies on advertisers to cover costs. So the folks who use ad blockers have zero desire to view or ads and therefore are absolutely useless to us.

Anyway, if anyone wants to check it out, the BotBuster home page is over at www.botbuster.com (http://www.botbuster.com) I know it's worked well for us. It's not a wonder solution, but at least gives us half a chance to make a living.

Ralph Slate
04-19-2001, 11:50 PM
The amazing thing is the arrogance of the people who are behind the companies. Their attitude is "We sellt this software because people shouldn't have to view advertising if they don't want to". When asked about the financial viability of a site that has all its ads blocked, their response is "that's not our problem".

The best analogy I've heard is that people who use these tools are like litterbugs. One piece of paper on the highway doesn't amount to much, but when 10% of the people start littering there's a problem.


04-19-2001, 11:52 PM
sorry, I must have hit the submit button twice. Dupe post.

[This message has been edited by robwod (edited 04-20-2001).]

04-19-2001, 11:53 PM
Just came across another article on this kind of software. It appears its use while growing is still reletively small overall. Definetely something to keep an eye on.


John Kelly
AdRatesOnline (http://www.adratesonline.com)

04-20-2001, 09:19 AM
Thanks for the link, robwod.

BotBuster looks like a step towards what ryanw is proposing, but is obviously not specialised enough to target these technologies alone. What I mean by this is that such a broad-based approach may not differentiate between attempted hacks, ad-blocker usage and legitimate search engine bots, which is clearly problematic for web publishers.

The other problem is that, since Webwasher and others make money through the sale of their software, they will fight to stay on top of ad-blocker-blockers, in an attempt to keep their software relevant. As ryanw mentioned, this will create a never-ending battle between ad networks and ad-blockers, much like the game of one-upmanship played between virus creators and virus scanners. The truth is, the WebWasher CEO (despite his quote above), loves banner ads. If, as he predicted, banner ads were not built to survive, then neither would his business, since there would be nothing to block.

Czar Net-Ads - Online Advertising News & Reviews (http://www.net-ads.com)
The iOnline Network (http://www.ionline.com.au)

04-23-2001, 10:26 AM
If there's any ID in the browser string that suggests ad-blocking software (that I know about), I use Apache's mod_rewrite and redirect them to

Unfortunately some of those programs don't identify themself in the browser string, and in others there's the option to remove the ID...


Arie Slob,
InfiniSource, Inc.
Internet & Windows Resources

04-23-2001, 06:32 PM
How can I find out how many of my visitors block ads?

How do you set that redirect up? Does it work for pop ups too?

Help much appreciated http://geekvillage.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-23-2001, 11:14 PM
On one of my sites which is getting at least 12k daily visitors only around 50 visitors are using ad blockers which is catched by Webtrends (you can this from the referer stats).

Not a very large part of the visitors but it still annoyes me http://geekvillage.com/ubb/smile.gif

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Ted S
04-23-2001, 11:18 PM
If webtrends can tell that the software is in use then why not just block it from accesing your site? I might be a little slow on this technology but getting around this cant be too hard, can it? (not that we should need t get around it)

04-24-2001, 02:56 AM
cyburrr you need Apache with mod_rewrite to have the best solution.

I have identified 3 ad-blockers by their HTTP_USER_AGENT string so far:

Ad Muncher

This is the Rewrite I use:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT** ^.*Ad.*Muncher.*v4.*.* [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT** ^.*NetCaptor.* [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT** ^.*WebWasher.* [NC]
RewriteRule ^/(.+) [L]

I'm also bloking a great number of e-mail harvesters and site download programs from my site, but these will just get a 403 (Forbidden) error.

Then users who use browsers which don't send a HTTP_USER_AGENT string are also redirected(because some e-mail harvesters do this) to http://www.infinisource.com/cgi-bin/noID.cgi

Yes, I know, there are only around 50 users or so a day using ad-blocking software on 25,000 users, but I'm not going to wait till there are 1,000 a day.....


Arie Slob,
InfiniSource, Inc.
Internet & Windows Resources

06-30-2001, 06:32 AM
Thanks Arie, sorry I missed this post. And thanks Czar for pointing it out.

I'll have to contact tera-byte to see if and how I can implement this.

I have no idea what mod_rewrite is all about.
Does it mess up WebTV? (everytime I add anything, I get mail from WebTV folks complaining)

06-30-2001, 11:04 PM
I don't know anything about WebTV... It's a dead-end technology AFAIK and I don't get any substantial # on my site (< 1%).

Read more on mod_rewrite here: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html


Arie Slob,
InfiniSource, Inc.
Internet & Windows Resources

[This message has been edited by Arie (edited 07-01-2001).]

Aaron Dragushan
07-01-2001, 01:17 PM
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but since there's no authentification on the http protocol, doesn't that mean that the client program can emulate any one it wants? So once we all start blocking something that identifies itself as Webwasher, they'll just add the option to identify as IE.

I believe the Opera browser has an option to identify itself as IE, simply so that sites which are expecting either IE or Netscape won't ***** up. In the long term, I think the solution will be to use ad sizes which are non-standard, and to use redirects for any links coming from or going to ad agencies.

Ultimately, this will not prove our undoing, I'm sure of that. If people got desperate enough, they could start making navigation buttons 88*31 (button size) and other tricks, so that if you're filtering all ad-shaped images, the site becomes un-navigable.

This would be a real shame for site design and usability, but if people are driven to it, it would happen.

07-01-2001, 03:11 PM
It seems to me that ALL adblockers are detectable because of what they do.

Specifically the whole purpose is to stop "wasting" bandwidth on downloading banners.

So what is needed is to record on the server whether a banner was downloaded or not and then act accordingly

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07-01-2001, 03:35 PM
It will not mess up WebTV, I send all my WebTV traffic to a WebTV sponsor (You can get a webtv emulator to test your pages - all you need is three lines in an htaccess file to send to an optimized page. Instead of blocking your adblocking visitors - I would direct them to a page with text ads. I mean really, if you get down to it - you are not getting paid for a heck of a lot more people visiting your site than the people using adblocking.

AOL users can't use popunders - $0.00 for popunder people.

Many out of the country visitors do not count for payperclick ads.

I would wager to say 50% of my visitors from my adult site - I could not get paid for for certain ads. Anyone from .es is getting sent to a spanish sponsor. I will have all languages set up by the end of next week I hope (You can't do language in Mod_Rewrite, but you can do country).

Anyone from aol gets pages without popups that miraculously tells of the "AOL Friendlyness" of this sponsor.

Oh, and if you come from 24.x.x.x you would be amazed that most of the sponsors you see, well they WORK EVEN BETTER ON CABLE modems. There is a lot you can do with Mod_rewrite. I have just started. Use it for good, not evil.

07-02-2001, 04:23 AM

Watching this thread with interest - I run a number of celebrity sites where anti-leech methods are a must.

Interesting to read Arie's post, regarding mod rewrite - I already use this for bouncing image links coming from none authorised domains but how do you detect that no HTTP_REFERER was passed in the request ? Currently I'm not blocking this (at least I don't think so)

Be grateful if some could post an example of the code for a suitable .htaccess file...



A sample of my work...

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07-03-2001, 10:29 PM

How do you redirect your webtv viewers? http://geekvillage.com/ubb/cool.gif

07-04-2001, 02:57 PM

It's just a small CGI script:


print "Status: 403 Forbidden\n";
print "Content-type: text/html\n\n";
print <<"EndHTML";
<TITLE>403 Forbidden</TITLE>
<H1 ALIGN=CENTER>403 Forbidden</H1>
This web server does not answer requests from browsers that do not set the
HTTP_USER_AGENT variable (the browser ID string).
Please try your request again using a properly configured browser.
The reason for this behaviour is that some email harvesters
programs deployed by people who operate SPAM e-mail lists) use this technique
to circumvent blocking methods.
-- Webmaster

I have it in the server config file like this:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT** ^-?$
RewriteRule ^/.*$ /usr/local/etc/httpd/sites/infinisource.com/cgi-bin/noID.cgi [L,T=application/x-httpd-cgi]

[This message has been edited by Arie (edited 07-04-2001).]

07-04-2001, 08:37 PM
Wonder if people will ever realize that when they ignore ads (whether by blocking or not), they're only ******** themselves.

If, as he predicted, banner ads were not built to survive, then neither would his business, since there would be nothing to block.

I was about to make the same comment.

I like that.

WebTV's dead, but we in the future will need to deal with inferior browsers in the PS2, GameCube, Xbox, and whatever the Linux console du jour is.

07-05-2001, 11:39 PM
Just want to say thanks to Arie for posting those Apache rules. If there's one thing I hate, it's regular expressions http://geekvillage.com/ubb/smile.gif. Much appreciated.

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01-14-2002, 09:51 PM
To Arie or anyone else who can explain. How does the following match browsers with no user agent? I understand the ^ means "starts with" and the $ means "ends with", and the ? mean a match of the preceeding character 0 or 1 times but what is the meaning/signifigance of the dash (-) in between them in relation to looking for browsers with blank user agents?

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT** ^-?$

01-15-2002, 09:43 AM
The significance of the dash is that's what Apache puts in as the user agent when the browser doesn't supply one.

I don't think redirecting on lack of a user agent string is useful though. Any tool with nefarious intent (ad blocker, e-mail harvester, offline browser) will have a way to set the user agent to match IE or Netscape. You're more likely to catch the innocent than the guilty.

01-15-2002, 03:50 PM
Thanks for the explanation. I thought the only software that did not show or allowed disabling of the user agent were those with nefarious intent. Which browser do you know about that shows no user agent or allows one to change it to nothing?

03-18-2003, 05:47 AM
Originally posted by Swamper
Isn't this the type of product that needs to advertise online in order to get the word out that this software exists?

...somehow I don't think any ad company will run a campaign for them though http://geekvillage.com/ubb/biggrin.gif
Well, this reply might be two years later, but burstmedia.com is now running ads for EarthLink's "Popup blocking ISP service".

Times, they are a-changin'...