Welcome to Riding Free, a new site devoted to following the phenomenon of ad avoidance (ad-blocking, tracker-elimination, identity-obfuscation, etc.).
Web users have been actively avoiding online advertising for almost as long as there have been Internet ads, yet it remains a somewhat taboo topic. Which should not be a surprise as almost every commercial website that would naturally write about ad-avoidance depends itself on advertising. It’s just not in those sites’ best interest to draw attention to the fact that many web surfers are opting out from ads.
That is not to say sites never write about ad-blocking browser extensions, but they usually do so only when the topic forces itself into a broader conversation. However, in my opinion, it takes something extraordinary to happen in this realm to draw media attention.
There are no sites, at least that I’m aware of, that primarily focus on ad-avoidance, the technology, the economic effects, the ethical implications and the cultural impact. That is my goal with RidingFree, to create a site that covers the ad-avoidance phenomenon and invokes a conversation about what it means.
I have been blocking ads in my Internet usage for probably over fifteen years, from long before there were Firefox extensions, before there even was a Firefox! I don’t actually even remember any longer what the tool was called that I first used, but it worked on Netscape Navigator if my memory serves. From a practical standpoint, I made my decision long ago and have not ever even really considered going back to an ad-infested internet. Yet, I am an occasional content creator, I am friends with many content creators and I am absolutely not blind to the difficult economic and moral issues about ad-avoidance.
I want to signal right from the get-go that I recognize the “free rider problem.” I’m just not sure it really trumps all the other things that motivate ad avoidance. But I do intend to discuss what it all means, at both an individual and social level, and try to decipher what we can learn from ad-avoidance. I hope you will participate with me in that conversation.
I sincerely thank you for your attention.