Ads vs. Snark: Ad blocking for the sympathetic web developer

January 23, 2017 - By

I started using an ad blocker a couple years ago. While I like to experience the web in the most common way that an average user does, I felt had to draw a line on one common offense: YouTube often overlays adwords on top of the video that I want to watch. The default video player takes up like 15% of the screen, so it drives me nuts when the known focal point – a minority of the screen space – would be covered. C’mon. Because of the ads on this tiny little region of one website I added a global ad blocker which affects all the websites. Maybe it is selfish, but is this adjective on the me as a user alone, or is the application of the ad in this way selfish too? YouTube is a free service (Red isn’t available in Canada), and this is how they monetize, they have every right to do this, and I’ve felt justified in blocking the ads.

My decision to use an ad blocker affects other sites, which isn’t fair to them since it’s only one kind of ad that drove me to blocking all the things. I didn’t think much about it until I started coming across the design pattern that I call The Snarky Modal™. It drives me bonkers to see a “Here’s the thing about ad blockers” condescension. My reaction to this kind of thing was to just bounce; a knee jerk closing of the browser and giving up on its contents. This went on for a while.

the modal that Wired has for ad blocking users

I started to see more politely worded variations of this sentiment, and thought back to my initial reason for blocking ads. I’ve come to rethink this extension, and am deciding to disable my ad blocker completely. It’s been a bit overwhelming in the short time since doing this. There are an incredible number of ads online ( as an example was jarringly different without ads blocked; so much so that I’m not going to make that a link)! So, snarky journals, and polite bloggers: you were right. I’m back, and happy to help you monetize that which you otherwise freely offer.

However, I’m not exactly tolerating the YouTube ads either. I don’t mind per-roll or the banners; but I still can’t stomach the video overlayed ads. Look at these examples:

YouTube with overlayed adwords

a ted talk video with a number of annoying-to-close links

YouTube with overlayed banner ad

Those screenshots are from a browser that is only a fraction of the screensize, but I do occasionally watch videos in this way when I’m also coding. My solution is to zap these with CSS on a one-off basis using this Chrome MyStyle extension. I web inspect the offending element, and add CSS (ctrl + m). In this case it’s `.video-ads {display:none!important;}` – this then persists whenever I visit YouTube.

This is also the closest I’ve come to proving that advertising is worse that snarking.

It’s been a couple months since I’ve enabled ads (well, disabled ad blocker is more accurate; but enabling interruption is how it feels), and it’s been weird. I’m glad to no longer have annoying “please enable ads” modals, but in reality I seem to just have different modals from the same sites.


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This post was written by ArleyM