Why FireFox is Blocked: The Misguided Campaign to Stop AdBlock

closeThis post was published 11 years 11 months 5 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

Mozilla FirefoxImage via WikipediaYesterday I mentioned the Why FireFox [sic] is Blocked campaign in my post revisiting Explorer Destroyer. I said it was a subject for another post. This is that other post. I will deconstruct some of the reasoning behind the campaign, and will point out why it is flawed.

First, some background. The blocking campaign was most likely started from this long thread on AdsenseChat.com, where Danny Carlton and others presented various methods for catching AdBlock usage and redirecting them to a “Stop Thief!” page. Several rational-minded users tried to talk some sense into the Firefox-blocking fanatics, to no avail.

There is no attribution or statement of ownership on the Why FireFox is Blocked page, possibly because the owner does not want to reveal who he or she is. A whois lookup confirms this; the domain is registered to a company named Domains By Proxy, Inc., which obviously exists as a means to anonymize domain registrants.

Now, the campaign is based upon the fact that viewing ad-laden websites and blocking the ads is “stealing” from the site somehow. Even if it were, AdBlock is not the only application that blocks ads, and most Firefox users don’t use it. The fact that Danny Carlton was so adamant about blocking Firefox is because he didn’t want people viewing his site without the ads. Since AdBlock doesn’t provide a way to detect itself, he had to block Firefox (or rather, “had to”).

The problem with that approach is the fact that Firefox controls now about 15% of the browser market. What’s worse: Losing a few ad impressions to savvy Firefox users, or losing all Firefox visitors? Surely the percentage of Firefox users with AdBlock installed is lower than 50%, and it is probably much lower than that. Even with a liberal estimate, 25% of Firefox users, that’s still only about 4% of visitors. Is losing all the other innocent traffic worthwhile?

Internet Explorer also has plugins and addons to block ads, not the least of which is part of the Norton product family. Were Mr. Carlton to take his AdBlock-blocking campaign too far, he might end up with no visitors. Every browser has a way to block ads, whether it is built in or available via a plugin. Blocking Firefox solves no problem.

I’d also like to point out that throughout the page, the author refers to Firefox as FireFox, with two capital F’s. This is incorrect, and it decreases the credibility of the campaign (even further). At least, it does to me, hypersensitive spelling and grammar Nazi that I am.

So what can ad-using sites do to make sure their ads are viewed by their users? Nothing. Anything you do to try and block users who block your ads will almost certainly bounce back and hurt you in some way. Open-source browsers are especially likely, since they can be easily modified to bypass any restrictions set on useragents. Firefox can report itself as Apple Fireflocks 13.5, and that will effectively bypass any useragent-based filters, on server-side or in JavaScript. And for JavaScript blocks, it’s pretty easy to temporarily disable JavaScript, which usually hides the ads anyway.

Update (2008-06-21): I haven’t checked in a long time, but it seems that the Why FireFox is Blocked site has disappeared. I get a DNS error trying to access it now. I also just added the Firefox logo to this post, rather late.

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dgw

I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

2 Comments:

  1. Or rather, should I say, if I come across any sites which blanket-block Firefox.

  2. Hmm, my first comment got lost somewhere. I was saying if I come across any sites like that, obviously I should just install the “User-Agent Switcher” Firefox extension (It’s on the Firefox site) and pretend to be using Internet Explorer. 🙂

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