Block around the clock

March 20, 2016

IOS 9 and related discussions got me started down the path of content blocking again. Right now I run Refine on my i-devices, a combination of Ghostery and Ublock in Safari and, for some reason, Ghostery and Disconnect in Chrome. All are, as far as I remember, set up with default or somewhat stricter than default settings.

Surfing with my blockers enabled, most sites work as usual, only calmer and faster. Sites tend to fall into three groups:

The first

Some sites nag me about blocking. In one case it actually feels warranted, and I am considering decreasing my blockage there.

For all others, I thought about it and realized I would rather not see their content than see it along with ads and (most importantly) tracking of my activities. I wonder if this is telling, that sites which are forward enough to complain about content blocking are also ones I have formed no attachement to in the first place.

The second

The interesting other side of the coin is that I should think actively about all the sites who do not complain. There are plenty of sites I want to support which depend on ads. Seems most of them are not affected by blocking though, since they actually integrate their ads or sponsorships nicely and unobtrusively with their other content. These nice sites decrease my sympathy for the other groups quite a bit.

The third

Then we have the almost amusing third group: sites which are actually broken by my content blockers. It is not common, but still more common than I expected. Being a developer myself, I can have some sympathy from a technical standpoint. I know how easy it is to tangle things up, and the case of users actually not loading all of your content is definitely not the thing you should focus most on. In other ways, I have no sympathy at all. Especially not when I consider that my blocking of trackers is probably what breaks the site in most cases. Falling over and dying when you can not load your tracking script amuses me, and makes me less likely to want to load your site with blocking disabled. My favourite worst is actually the site of a certain Swedish gym chain. There, the actual login breaks when blocking is enabled. And this for a site which does not actually advertise anything but its own services. A: Why are you tracking me in the first place? B: Why did you hang your non-ad-related functionality on this?

The end

You know, progressive enhancement is a thing. It would not hurt to apply that thinking to ad and tracking stuff too.