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Doc Searls: Why ad blocking is good

Doc Searls: Why ad blocking is good


So the title is why ad blocking is a good thing and how many people here are running ad blockers on their browsers? Who’s not? A few of you,
ok. Ad blocking is a thing…ad blocking is a thing. And it’s also a controversial
thing. If you look up ad block war you’re one of the people who started
looking it up after 2012. Before 2012 apparently according to Google Trends,
this was not a term, not a search term that was searched enough to make the cut. Ad blocking is…has grown I think because of something. I have a thesis here and my thesis is that ad blocking is a response to surveillance
which is also known as tracking and surveillance is a thing. Surveillance
is a huge thing in our society right now. It’s a huge thing in business; it’s really out of control. And advertising online is one of the places
its most expressed. There is a colleague of ours…I knew…I met Christian, by the way, when we were both fellows that the Berkman Center at Harvard. And also there is this
person named Shoshana Zuboff. She’s a professor at the business school
at Harvard Business School and and she’s written a number of books. One was called
‘In the Age of the Smart Machine’ back in the 1980s. A more recent one
is ‘The Support Economy’. But back in the age of the smart machine, as far back as
that, she was…she had formed something she calls Zuboff’s Laws. And what they
say are…and actually with all the trouble of making that useful but it’s too small for me to read, so I’ll just read it with the rest of you. You know what is…the first one is
whatever can be digitized will be digitized and the second is what ever
could be informated will be informated meaning all the digital stuff that could
be put to use will be put to use as information. And the third is…and it’s
it’s almost a logical leap but she thinks this is a natural almost a causal thing that’s going to happen…every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control. And so
she’s been studying this more recently a lot and these are two things that she
says they’re going on right now. That we’re living in the age of the big other like big brother watching us all the time. Google is big other when they’re busy
following us around and telling us where to eat lunch. And what she also calls surveillance capitalism and both of those I think are better titles for her book next book than the one she is going to use which is ‘Master or Slave?: The Fight for the Soul of Our Information Civilization’. That’s coming out
next year, but what she’s outlining here that the sort of inevitability of
surveillance, I think, is a huge question. Are we going to get out of that? Are we
going to have enough personal agency in the world to fight this? To carve out a private space of our own? It’s important to remember that privacy is a
very highly developed a set of social norms that we’ve created over millennia,
where we’ve had the internet for about 20 years. In fact the internet in its
current form was born in April 30th of 1995 when one of the networks within the
internet called NSF net that prohibited commercial activity shut down, commercial activity was made possible and the internet exploded in more or less the form that we
know now with ISPs and browsers, email and and the rest of it. So what we have with
just twenty years of the Internet is we’re still in Eden and we’re still naked basically. We don’t have clothing and shelter yet. I mean this is…I’m wearing privacy technology. All of us are wearing privacy technologies here and we take it for granted. And we have social norms around us. We don’t
you don’t, you know, plant a tracking beacon on people and follow them around
in the everyday world. So…but in fact we do this online. So there’s… she talks about how everything that can be digitized will be digitized and so, sure enough, we have this thing called
big data. Big data became a thing too and about at the same time as ad
blocking became a thing. Starting to hockey stick as it were as a search term. It
has always been around, apparently. Before that we call it data processing back in
the old days but big data became a hot term really in 2012…2011…2012. So what
happened in that time? So I’ve looked at a lot of this stuff to see what was going
on. McKinsey, which is this, you know, big research organization that’s used by business and government, but mostly business, produced a document called ‘Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation Complexity and Productivity’ that made a big thing about big data and it was widely sourced. And an interesting thing about that is that IBM, a few months before this came out in
June 2011, made a big thing about big data and then it kind of fell off. If you
look at…if you look at this graphic here you see this is where IBM started talking
big about big data in late 2010 and then the McKinsey report comes out in June
2011 and IBM starts spiking as well and and continues to make more and
more out of big data and they’re selling big data solutions, putting
enormous bucks behind this. And their competitors also fell into line. If you
look at searchers for SAP and big data and HP and big data and
Microsoft and big data and Oracle and big data you see that all of them
start falling in line after 2011, after this report came out from McKinsey. And again, whatever can be digitized will be digitized, whatever can be informated will be informated. Well, they went nuts with this and and they’re so detached, frankly, most of
these big companies, from the everyday world and even from themselves that it was possible for IBM to work with a company called Aberdeen and come up with this
big poster called ‘The Big Datastillery’. And I wanted to show you this because of
the level of detachment and arrogance that’s involved in thinking
about human beings in this context. So they’re showing this big hopper which
they called the datastillery and coming into it are campaign metrics, transactional data, ad impressions marketing history, social media, SEO data clickstream data, CRM, customer sentiment, email metrics. All of this, for the most part, is based on
surveillance, is based on following people one way or another. Maybe they’re buying broker data, maybe they’re following you with trackers online. Whatever it is, it’s perfectly ok with them and it all goes through this thing at the
bottom of it, it looks like this. There’s a big…there’s a lot of plumbing above this that’s not worth visiting. What is important here is that if you look at these two spigots that are pouring stuff into beakers, one is called customer
interaction optimization and marketing optimization. These are the right person
with the right offer and the right channel at the right time. Those beakers are human beings. They’re you and me. That’s how they’re thinking about us. We’re just empty vessels into which marketing goop can be poured so they get some results out of it. The level of casual contempt is almost
immeasurable here. And so, you know, at the other end of this thing they show, you know, the the last of these is…second to last of it is farting upwards some some
combustion that goes back up to the top of this by the way where it says campaign metrics. That’s where that goes. Ok so…and if you look at the numbers, which I think are totally specious, but they try…hundred and thirty-seven is a big number, but if
you start unpacking it a bit, the actual results are less than 10% and in fact the click-through rates in the world for the most part are
taken for granted tend to be, and they’ve been flat for years, at about 0.2%. They’re very very low. In other words, we’re being bothered by this
stuff without actually benefiting from it for the most part. So naturally
there’s been…there are responses to this. Now, here are three guys Sid Stamm, Dan Kaminsky, and…Chris Soghoian who was a colleague of ours also at the
Berkman Center. And I remember when Chris, who is the guy on the right, sitting around a…the table at a fellows meeting at the Berkman Center in 2007 saying let’s
do ‘do not track’. Now already there was this thing called the ‘do not call’ list.
And so the idea behind do not track is let’s…there were already some activist groups saying we need a ‘do not track’ list just like we need a ‘do not call’ list. I want to be on the ‘do not track’ list. Please don’t…please don’t track me. That
proved to be a kind of a hard thing to do. So what Sid Stamm, the guy on the
left who worked for Mozilla’s Firefox, said was, you know, I could just put a little
bit of code into a browser. That’s called an http header. When you use your browser
and go to a website you are requesting the content of that site. You go to the
New York Times, you’re expecting the New York Times to give you their editorial
matter and maybe some advertising. You’re not necessarily asking to be followed,
that’s not what you’re asking for. So they wanted to put a specific message in
there that said do not track, I don’t want to be tracked off your site. Nothing wrong with
being tracked on the site, so you can keep track of where I’ve been in this my
state as they call it in the business. Dan Kaminsky is another hacker privacy
expert. But they came up with a spec for doing ‘do not track’ starting in 2007,
presented it in 2009. I want to follow the Google Trends on this. So they started
talking about it in 2007 and I’m going to go through a series of events that
happened and ending with my own involvement with it. First is way back. I can’t even find the beginning of this. Apple has been blocking third-party cookies, which is most the ones that are tracking you by default in Safari for a long time.
They do not have a stake in the advertising industry. They’ve a thing called
iAd which is a very…it’s like .001% of their their actual revenue. They could afford to lose it and
they don’t care very much. But in October of 2007 these privacy groups called for the
‘do not track list’ which I just said. You see that little bump. In 09 Firefox turns on the first do not track in its current form as an http header, still there. Wall Street Journal starts the what the
know series at this short URL. It’s absolutely brilliant. A woman named Julia
Angwin who is now with with ProPublica started this at the Wall Street Journal.
Considering how much it attacked the Wall Street Journal’s own business
online, it was remarkable thing. It only ran
for two and a half years or something. It stopped just before Snowden which is
too bad. She left to write a book and go to ProPublica. But…but it’s a good series to
watch. The FTC announces do not track support it which means they published a
paper saying we support it. Microsoft introduced tracking protection which is
different. It actually looks at tracking and tries to block it. Firefox reveals its.
Apple follows suit with Safari’s tracking protection. In 2012 Microsoft turns on
do not track by default. And now you see there’s a spike in 20…some spikes in
2012. The Digital Advertising Alliance… these are basically a
collection of advertisers and Google follows in in below the noise
level with kind of a half headed…half-hearted way with with its own sort of opt in tracking protection. Then in February of ’13 Firefox reveals plans to block third-party cookies by
default. IAB, which is the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is the big
kahuna among online advertising organizations run by a guy named Randall
Rothenberg. He’s a good guy, he’s paid me twice to speak to them, they didn’t
listen, but at least he did that. They go hard after Mozilla and actually I didn’t say here,
but Mozilla folds on this. They say ok ok and they backed off. But they not only did that but they
decided you know what, we’re gonna prove that you can do non-creepy advertising.
And so they came up with an idea called personalization that was basically you
personalize your own browsing history and and that data will be used to aim
ads at you, but it’s not based on anybody else tracking you. It would
be something was kind of quarantined or black boxed on your own browser, but
they never explained that very well. They have a new division called content
services. The proposed user personalization started working on a thing
called tiles. If you’ve a…if you have a Firefox browser and you have the default
opening page there are nine or twelve little little windows there that those
are called tiles. The one on the upper left will have an ad in it. That is what tiles is. Ads
based on not tracking ok so they did a lot of work on that. And in April of that year I wrote a
piece called ‘Earth to Mozilla: Come Back Home’, which basically told them don’t…please
don’t do that because it’s too hard to see. You’re not in the advertising
business, we need you not to be in the advertising business and…but they did
it anyway. In fact, they said wait a minute we read your book. We want to do
everything your book says but we’re starting with this. We just have to get
this out of the way. And so they hired me to help them come home. And then in
December just this year just now they’ve abandoned their ad plans. They’ve closed
that division. They’ve dispersed the people elsewhere. They’re still wanting to do
what I said in my book but with different people and a different
administrative thing. In any case, we’re right in the middle of kind of an
interesting mess with that. Anyway but they’re doubling down in tracking
protection. That’s the main thing. What’s happened is that ad blocking has become
so popular that Mozilla can’t ignore it and they shouldn’t be. They should be
right in the middle of it protecting us. But the important thing
about this particular graph right now… and I’m show you on the next graph, it’s going to turn red get small…is that it trailed off after 2013 because…because do not
track failed. It failed in the marketplace because nobody was
respecting it. None of the publishers we’re respecting do not track. They set
their…in fact they set their…purposely set their…their systems to ignore
it pointedly. That’s an enemy, we don’t like
that. We don’t want that. They basically gave the middle finger to everybody who
put do not track on, including those companies. So here is the same thing,
that’s the red one now. And ad blocker is a search term. So what you see here is ad
blocking is in fact been around for a very long time. Very long basically in Internet years. It
was actually invented, the first was invented by this guy Henrik Sorensen in Denmark as what he called a procrastination project when he was at a university there. And
that became ad block which is still here. It has like thirty million users…in 2002. Ad
block plus came along in 2006, no relation to ad block, by the way. But they kind of copy their logo and stuff, but
that became much more popular. There are now like 300 million users of ad block plus.
But nothing happened basically until… until 2012…2013 and that’s because do not
track failed. What happened was we took matters into our own hands. And that’s
the really important part of this. Oh and here’s our three friends there. Okay…so so now we’re in the dawn of what’s called ad tech because what happened is that ad tracking became
even more extreme over the ensuing years. And what I’ve done here…I can’t
search for more than five terms at a time on Google Trends but it wanted to
show you these because ad tech, tracking based advertising, has this
arcana the set of…bunch of arcane terms that were not used before these
times. So behavioral targeting was not uses attorney for 2007 and deal id not
before 2008 and clickstream data not before 2011…2012. But these are…people
searching for this basically are people in the industry. The industry is big
enough so that they, you know, they they move the needle in Google Trends.
Here’s another 5. You know, demand-side platform, real-time bidding, programmatic marketing
comes up in 2014. The latest one is cross device tracking. That’s because you’re on
mobile now. They want to get you on your mobile devices and they want to know
when you…they want to track you from your browser or from your iPad to your iPhone to your
Android, whatever it is, but they want to do cross device tracking. Now this particular
graph just going to shrink when I show you the next one which is that…those are
down at the bottom now and I’ve added another one called retargeting.
Retargeting is the one form of tracking based advertising that we all know. It’s
the one that reveals itself in something other than geez I was looking at fishing
tackle over here and you know now I’m getting you know ads for Maine over here or something. This is…this is what retargeting is. This is an onion story that ran a few months ago. ‘Women Stalked Arcross 8 Websites by Obsessed Shoe Advertisement.’ And it’s not a coincidence that…that if…I think it’s not a
coincidence, you know. Correlation again is not causation. I’m enough into science to
know that, but there’s a lot of correlation here. That as retargeting grows so
does how to block ads. Retargeting is the one thing that really really creeps out
when…when we see this stuff. So, not surprisingly, what we have is, you know, here’s
the actual growth or hopefully the actual growth of ad blocking. PageFair and Adobe have produced these….actually PageFair has produced a series of these
reports. Another company called ClarityRay bought by Yahoo produced an earlier one
it’s probably gonna be dispersed with the rest of Yahoo. But but they are in the
business of fighting ad blocking actually. So to some degree these results
could be questioned. There have been no independent studies
on this. There really is a need for academic work on this. But nonetheless,
it’s..it makes sense that at this point they say at least as of last summer They’re passing 181 million. It’s actually way over 200 million now. In fact the pump past 200 million which is the highest point.
They’re growing by 41 percent globally year-over-year…47 percent I think in the US. There was a Reuters study actually they just said that there is 47 percent ad blocking in
the US right now. And this room is a little higher than that but I think
that probably nationally is pretty close to the right…to the right answer. In the
UK it’s growing at 82 percent. There have been some reports in the last few days that
basically it’s probably going to go close to a hundred percent, especially on
mobile. So I have a thesis about this which is blocking ads and tracking gives
individuals unprecedented leverage in the market. I don’t think it stops here. I
think that…and partly this is something I want to happen so there’s wishful
thinking here…but I do wishful working as well and I’m going to review
that. There’s no popular technology standstill. The ad blocking…the ad blocking
guys and the tracking blocking guys They’re EFF and others are tracking blockers
that only block tracking as well. Ghostery is anther one. Ghostery is a cool
thing that shows you all the trackers that are following you on you’re…on
any web page you go to. You see them load down on the right side of the page. That we can…what happens when we when we when we’re done with that and we say ok we’ve blocked the ads, we now have leverage, we now can use this to do something more than just
say we don’t want to see any more advertising. Maybe we can maybe we can
have a little bit more better service out of companies whatever it might be. So
some history here. Back in 2000…1999 I got together with three other guys and
we wrote a rant on the web called the Cluetrain Manifesto and that was…caught
fire and there was no social media there to speak of at the time but it still
spread like wildfire. My emails went from like 30 a day to hundreds almost
overnight because of that that completely wild document that we put up.
It’s still there cluetrain.com and it was popular enough that we immediately
got a book offer and we wrote the book in the summer of ’99 and it came
out in January of 2000 and became a business bestseller. It still sells well
around the world in nine different languages. It’s it’s even part of the marketing
cannon in in many places. And I’m not saying that out of any vanity, it’s just it’s
it’s a kind of a phenomenon and yet the irony of it is that the alpha clue in it,
and this is one written by Chris Lock, one of the other authors of it, was this
graphic at the bottom and it was a graphic. He sent it around by email to
the other three guys and it’s really what galvanize this, it’s really what got us to write it. This statement ‘we are not seats or
eyeballs or end users or consumers we are human beings and our reach exceeds
your grasp deal with it’. And that’s what we felt at that time
about the internet. The internet was only 3…4 years old and we felt this sense pf almost
infinite empowerment and escape from all of the the giant controlling entities of
the world. John Perry Barlow wrote Declaration of the Independence of
Cyberspace and a brilliant essay called Death from Above, which I highly advise
reading. It’s still incredibly insightful. But we felt it felt we felt so
potentiated as independent entities in the world that we were bold
enough to say this. The problem is this wasn’t true and it’s still not true. Our
reach does not exceed their grasp or we wouldn’t be running ad blockers. That’s
basically what ad blockers do. its outreach trying to exceed their grasp. So by 2006
after seeing that this wasn’t true…and I and I got an appointment at the Berkman
Center. I was obliged there to start a project that’s what you did in those
days, you had to have a project. And so I said well why don’t we try making this
true. I’ve been an editor for Linux Journal for many years. I’m not an alpha
techie. The only code I know is Morse, which tells you how old I am. But what I saw
I could possibly do was foster development, foster development in the
world that moved in this direction. So to bring supply and demand by giving
customers tools and services for two things. One is independence the other is
engagement. I felt that we could fix markets from the customer side in ways
that sellers never could. What we’ve done ever since industry won
the Industrial Revolution, all of business has looked for more business to
solve the problems of business. And I thought, you know, wait a minute, we’re the
customers, we’re where the money comes from, we have the capacity to develop things that
make us independent and engaging. We did it with the web, we did it with the net, we did it with the email, we did it with a lot of other things
that made us fully independent. We could set up our own websites, we could do all these
things, we could do more. And so VRM stands for vendor relationship
management. I did not name it, somebody else did on a podcast that I happen to
be on at the time. And the named it as the customer side counterpart of
something called CRM. CRM is customer relationship management. Those five
companies that all do big data that I showed you earlier all do CRM. CRM is what
gives you junk mail. CRM is when you call a call center. CRM is interacting
with you there. It’s about a 40 50 60 billion dollar business and I felt it…
well we could do something from our side. So…so, I’ve been doing this. I’ve been
basically invading on behalf of the customer for the last now, nine years. And the
whole idea was to make good on a…the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto. The Cluetrain Manifesto had ninety-five theses because that worked for Luther and we
called it a manifesto because that worked for Marx. That’s how deep we were on that thing. But
the first thesis, which is one that I wrote was markets are conversations. And
that’s the one that marketers have picked up on. If you look up marketing and
conversation, I am the guy who promulgated that, who put that loose in
the world. And…but it’s been misused. But what I meant really, what we meant was
let’s have real connections with better signaling that goes both ways between
demand and supply. It’s interesting that James Denham Stewart who was the
first guy to utter the terms supply and demand it reverse he did it as demand
and supply. He was in the Scottish Enlightenment and a colleague of Adam Smith way back when. But he saw it back then as demand will
drive supply more than supply will drive demand. But most of business has been about supply
driving demand. So this was last week at Mozlando, which is this
gathering in Mozilla in Florida. I’m somewhere there, that’s me in there. But I
copied this, I did this on my iphone off the screen. I live my online life on my own terms. That’s what
they want to have happen in the world. Now there are on our project VRM list at
the Berkman Center a list of about 200 companies, mostly start-ups, that are
working on VRM. The hot spots for this right now are France, the UK, and
Australia, New Zealand. I’m not sure why, but that’s where it is and I end up traveling there a great deal. But having Mozilla on our side is gonna make a
huge difference. For the first time in nine years I feel fully optimistic about
where we can go with this because we have a giant… not a giant, but a larger
organization with hundreds of millions of users in the world that wants
this thing to be true. Something that I’ve been saying and my colleagues now
have been saying for some time. And their mission, which, by the way, this was on some
t-shirts that they gave away, you know, is, you know, individuals can shape their
own experience, an internet were people are self empowered, safe, and independent.
So so how do we make that happen? So this is…I’m going to tell you a few of the things
we’re working on with project VRM that we’re hoping to see in Mozilla within the
next year and as well as some of these many start-ups that we have going. One
is terms. These are terms we can assert. Now we’ve all seen the terms,
you know, on our iPhone, they upgrade the operating system. You know, please read our fifty-page thing and, you
know, our Terms, and hit accept. Those are called contracts of adhesion. And
they were invented when industry won the industrial revolution because it was
the only way legally that a company could get scale. If you’re making one
thing for millions of people, you need one legal agreement with those millions of
people. But we should have scale as well. And so, these are some terms that customer
comments, which is a spinoff of project VRM, it’s a non-profit, fairly new one in
California. and these are straw man terms but we’re working on these. There’s the cyber law clinic at Harvard. We have students there at the…their clinical
program working on these terms. We have a professor at UW in Washington also
working on them. We talked to him earlier this week. But with this says here is that,
for example, when I go to a site on the first party and my terms are, you can only
share…I’m only sharing data with the second party, which is the site that I’m
going to the duration of this agreement is…or you can keep it saved for
infinity but I could say just for the session or just for say three months or
three weeks. The purposes is for the site’s use only, not for ads and not for the
transaction and that you respect do not track. Those are just an example of some of the terms that we can assert, but there is work going on for this now. Another one is called personal
clouds. A personal cloud is where your personal data that has commercial value is stored. This
can be your health data, this could be your transaction history, this can be
your Fitbit and Nike fitness stuff, it can be anything that you may need to
share with a company over the course of time. But you have full control of it.
So one of the things you can do with that, which I’ll come back to in a minute, is something called intentcasting. Intentcasting is where we do the advertising. So for
example, I need a stroller for twins in the central campus sometime in the next
two hours. Who’s coming through. And your’re anonymous
until the deal starts to happen where you’re in control of it, but you’re doing
the advertising to the marketplace and you’re doing it in a way that is outside
the control of any single vendor. You’re not doing it through Amazon, you’re not
doing it through eBay, you’re doing it in a secure way in the open marketplace. And you are what they would call a
qualified lead, but you’re qualified lead on your terms and not on theirs. In my
book, which I’ll visit later, we call this a personal RFP, but the market, as it were,
called it intentcasting so we’re calling it that now. Another is the Internet of Things.
You’ve probably heard this term a lot. It’s…it’s the everything that
is going to have intelligence on it and it’s just this huge big topic in tech right
now. But the Internet of Things should be your things. Now this is a guy named Phil Windley. He’s a computer scientist, PhD, teaches at BYU in…Utah. Brilliant guy and…I think the most insightful guy on this subject of the Internet of Things
today. He has…he created some code — and it’s open source code — for a
company that he ran for a short time. He couldn’t get funding for it, which is too
bad. But here are a few of my things. I have one of these tags called a square tag up here on this bag here. So let’s see where it is it’s there, ok here it is, right there. If you were to scan that…let’s say I leave this bag somewhere by mistake, I leave you here today, you scan that you’ll see it’s cloud.
That bag is a thing that’s now on the internet. That’s Phil’s insight. You can
take anything you own or care about and put it on the internet in a way that you control. You don’t have
to wait for Apple or Google or Facebook or GE or anybody else to make your
things smart and have them control it. You can be in control of it. So these are
all the things in his life that he has tagged with his own QR code that anybody
can read. But the important thing about it is that cloud that the thing has,
clouds for things, is a different…looks different to who’s reading it. If he’s…if
I’m reading…if one of you reads this thing about my bag, it’ll say Doc
Searls has lost this bag, please call him at this number or call his wife, I think
that’s what it says. But if I look at it, I have my own records about it, which is I bought it at OfficeMax, it’s a
particular Swiss Army one, and I can advertise to the Swiss Army company…that I have this and I’m willing to share with them my experience with it. What he’s designed with this is the conduit through which we can have
customer service that is common with all the different companies we deal with.
This is how we get scale. If we had one way to get customers service, rather than
as many different ways there are companies, that will give us a lot more
leverage in the world. So for example, one of the many things that different
companies are working on…I don’t visit it here…but…in a slide…is that with…an
ideal thing that we should be able to do is say change your address or a last name
or credit card number for the company is that are relevant with it, one time
for all the companies we are dealing with. If you’ve ever had fraud on a credit
card that you used a lot on the net, you know what it’s like. You go from site
to site to site like a bee from flower to flower to flower changing your credit
card number with all of them. It would be great to do it once for all of them. What
he’s designed here is a base level, almost a protocol level way of doing
that and making that happen. And all that by the way would live in your
in your personal cloud, which is how that feeds back in. So ad and tracking
blocking gives us leverage to do all that stuff. So…this is a new
product that actually Mozilla came out with last week, which is called focus. And
what it does is it does content blocking. What Apple…this is really the
the thing that has the big companies most freaked out right now. Apple came
out with content blocking last summer. They called content blocking. It’s a
system-level way set of hooks that you can use as a programmer to put content
blocking, which is ad blocking or blocking anything you want, on to your mobile
device. And this one works only in… in Safari…you’re on Safari on your iOS
device. You can you can block ad trackers, you can block analytics trackers, you can block
social trackers, you can block other content trackers, you can block web fonts, you turn certain
ones on or off. And it’s a very simple and straightforward thing. And already one of
the things that it’s shown is that pages load so much faster. Your…you don’t run
up against your data caps as fast. It’s a really desirable thing to have. What it
shows is that ads that both ads and tracking take up a lot of data and a lot
of room in the mobile environment. And so the whole dream of advertising to cross-track you to mobile is not necessarily going to work out the way they want. So those are just some of the things we’re working on. But the…what I’m
expecting to see happen with ad blocking reaction to this kind of thing
is is better signaling from us for things like in intentcasting like we…where the ad blocking companies can help us say, to the intentcasting thing, where
we’ll say we’ll share only certain data with you on an as needed basis on these
terms that we’ve that you’ve agreed to and that will be better for business. And
so another thesis here is that a free customer is more valuable than a captive
one. And the notion of a captive customer has been common in business again since
industry one. If you listen to the CRM companies, they talk about us as targets
that they acquire and manage and lock in and control, which is the language of
slavery and animal husbandry. That is how inhuman we are seen systematically by
their systems. I believe, and the many companies that I’ve sort of called to
follow my lead on this like Pied Piper, is that this will be good for business.
This is not a threat. the Internet is the… the internet…people did not want the
internet…people do not want…big companies did not want PCs, they did not
want the internet. If you worked for a big company in 2008 and you said I want to use my
iPhone at this company, they said no, here’s a blackberry. That’s our company
phone. You don’t need an iPhone, you don’t need an Android. And now they all
depend on people having their iPhones and Androids. There is history here
of us having more and more liberation, and so I see another one coming here. But
I might not be right. I don’t know. So here’s this book that I wrote called ‘The
Intention Economy’. I actually finished it four years ago around this time. It came
out in May of 2012. And an interesting thing about that is that I would four years
later…almost four years later…I would not change a word in it, but I would
change the companies because most of the companies that uses examples are dead. The pioneers in anything tend to get
killed. Startups tend to die off. So that’s an interesting thing too. I think I
think when I came out with the book I thought I might be late and I realize
now it was way early. The older I get the earlier it seems. So I’ve been
writing about ad block…ad blocking, something I call the ad block war series. it actually has like 32 different posts and the last two were… oops, I thought I had them on there. The last two published pieces…one was in Harvard Business Review, the other one was in MIT
Technology Review…were both on ad blocking and say kind of what I just
went through…went through here. We go to Q&A now, but what I…the two things I’d
like to sort of put out there is one is that I might be utterly and completely
wrong. Correlation may just be correlation and
causation. The big companies may never stop winning. We may always be inside. You
know it could be that a free market will always mean your choice of captor, which
is what it means right now, by the way. And the other is that we need academic
research on this stuff. What I gave you was what Google will show us for trends
is the best I could do. There is no canonical work on ad blocking out there
right now. There is no canonical work on on tracking protection. There’s not
much on on surveillance as a topic in itself. There’s a lot of privacy. Pew has
done a really good job with that. But I think there really needs to be some
academic work on this. So with that said, open for Q&A.

1 thought on “Doc Searls: Why ad blocking is good

  1. Really enjoyed talk. Here's links from talk that I thought others would find useful as well:
    http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/big_data_the_next_frontier_for_innovation
    http://www.wsj.com/public/page/what-they-know-digital-privacy.html
    http://www.clarityray.com/ (now at Yahoo???)
    https://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/death_from_above.html
    http://www.cluetrain.com/
    https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/projectvrm/Main_Page
    http://phil.windley.org/ (BYU IoT)
    https://blog.mozilla.org/futurereleases/2015/12/08/announcing-focus-by-firefox-a-content-blocker-for-ios/
    https://hbr.org/product/the-intention-economy-when-customers-take-charge/an/12789-HBK-ENG
    https://blogs.harvard.edu/doc/2015/09/24/the-adblock-war-series/

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