back to article Blocking mobile adverts just became that little bit easier

For those mobile operators wanting to block adverts and prevent them reaching subscribers' screens (all in the name of reducing bandwidth usage and saving customers’ money of course) Israeli tech company Shine can make that happen. “There is a lot of grey in there between advertisers and publishers,” said Roi Carthy, the …

  1. Vimes

    Presumably this would involve both the interception and examination of personal communications.

    This is a value added service, and as such would presumably require the explicit and informed consent of the users concerned.

    Come to think of it, wouldn't that sort of interception require permission from both sender and recipient? Too often the sender is ignored in this equation, and their rights forgotten for the sake of expediency.

    In addition when it comes to filtering, more often than not the interception occurs even when the filtering is turned off. Bluecoat based filtering would be a good example of this. Can we be certain that the interception that forms the basis of the blocking will also be off when the blocking is switched off?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To a large extent this will just be blocking ad domains and cdns, surely. No need to parse the content then. There are very few in-lined ads in mobile (though numbers would rise pretty quickly if the networks did start blocking ad servers).

      1. Vimes

        URLs *ARE* part of the content.

        Don't believe me? Take something like acme.com?userid=99&fn=Joe&ln=Bloggs. Are you honestly going to tell me that contains no personal information or content of the communication?

        URLs can often include PII (and for that matter even the domains in question can reveal to some extent what you're doing online, since they would all need to be checked to see if they fall within a set of listed domains).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Vimes, Every URL you ever go to is "checked". DNS translates these into IP addresses. Every time you do a DNS lookup (which is pretty much constantly) the owner of that DNS server knows where you're going. They have to.

          So what's different about this?

          1. Vimes

            You're assuming I'm using the DNS server provided by my ISP. I'm not.

            For that matter just because they use the information for a legitimate purpose does not automatically give them the right to extend that usage to cover whatever they deem fit.

            1. sabroni Silver badge

              re: URLs *ARE* part of the content.

              Don't be obtuse. The network doesn't need to parse the content. The browser on the device parses the content and requests the ad. The mobile network blocks the ad networks IP address. No need to snoop on any content.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > So what's different about this?

            Here is a summary, in broad lines still current, of the state of play:

            http://www.linklaters.com/Insights/Publication1403Newsletter/PublicationIssue20081001/Pages/PublicationIssueItem3513.aspx

            In fact, Vimes is posing the right questions here. There is massive potential for deliberate or accidental abuse of this capability, once the user has given its consent to the data interception necessary (yes, it is necessary) to implement this.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              re:Here is a summary, in broad lines still current, of the state of play:

              Great. Doesn't explain the mechanisms used by the company in the article though so not a great deal of help in determining how intrusive this is.

              Gor any relevant links? One from SHINE explaining what their stuff does for example?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I use my own DNS at home which blocks all the ad servers. Of course, this only works in the house, but it does mean I get no ads on my phone unless I'm out and about. And I get few of those as I generally don't bother with apps which have ads.

        1. Sebby

          DNS at Home

          I too have ad-blocking DNS at home (and a few blanket bans on toxic wastelands such as Facebook). All I need to make it work is the host name of the machine I'm connecting to. Soon I will set up VPN access from outside so I can get the same benefits (and no video/image compression, thankyouverymuch, O2/giffgaff) while on the go.

          While I think it likely the mobile providers are purely in it for themselves (it's their bandwidth too, and you know how tetchy they get about congestion that could be easily minimised if they only invested more into their networks and/or provided in-house services that consumers actually wanted to use) I can't help thinking the ad men have had it coming for a good long time now. Finally the crow is coming home to roost. :)

          1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "toxic wastelands such as Facebook"

            Liked that

        2. choleric

          @vimes "Of course, this only works in the house..."

          So set up OpenVPN on a device on your home network and run the OpenVPN client for Android (dunno about Apples, sorry) on your mobile phone or tablet. That way you get all the benefits of your custom home dns system AND the remaining "good" data gets compressed automatically, saving you valuable mobile data bits.

          An added bonus is that you can use the same system on public/hotel WiFi safe in the knowledge that the only people tracking your browsing or whatever are NSA/GCHQ (naturally) and your home ISP.

          The system works well from all corners of the globe in my experience.

          Edit to say: Sebby posted while I was typing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > To a large extent this will just be blocking ad domains and cdns, surely.

        Or in other words, you don't actually know?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or in other words, you don't actually know?

          No I don't, like everyone else commenting. However, I do work in mobile advertising (not a choice I actively made ok!!!) and understand how it currently works, so I'm not just making shit up for a laugh.

          It would be needlessly complex to try and parse Ad content out of a page without breaking the page or it's layout. It's a trivial task to block all requests to known ad networks. Which one are you likely to try first?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Or in other words, you don't actually know?

            > No I don't

            I do appreciate your admitting it. It is important however to make it clear when one is speculating. lest people assume they just missed something in the original source and take one's speculations at face value.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It is important however to make it clear

              Which is exactly what the word "surely" on my original post did.

    2. The Mole

      Well it is being done by an Israeli tech company so I'm sure they've thought long and hard about interception.

      As well as the interception issues there are likely to also be copyright issues for the operators. Unlike home users modifying the content on their own machines (probably covered under fair use/private copying type provisions) the mobile operators are modifying the page content for profit (through reducing costs), at the same time they are depriving the content providers of advertising revenue meaning there are actual damages that those content providers will be able to claim for. Personally if I were a mobile operator lawyer I wouldn't want to go near it because of this reason.

  2. illiad

    to advertisers...

    If you do not want your advert blocked, DO NOT use flashing , noisy, or huge ads.. and DO NOT use ONE 'provider' to send them out! That provider also sends out rude, NSFW, etc ads, so will be blocked without recourse..

    ... and DO NOTE that the ADBLOCK addon WILL ALLOW certain ads through!!

    1. Vimes

      Re: to advertisers...

      What I don't get is why people think the death of advertising will automatically be a bad thing. It may or may not be, but what people tend to forget is that we end up paying one way or the other.

      Do you think that the CEO of Microsoft is personally paying for all that advertising or is he handing the cost on to his customers? We end up paying for 'free' services one way or another, just in ways that tend to be more opaque and more difficult to measure.

    2. John Lilburne

      Re: to advertisers...

      "and DO NOTE that the ADBLOCK addon WILL ALLOW certain ads through!!"

      Not if you take the whitelist supplied by ADBLOCK and add the crap that Google paid them to allow through to the blacklist filters. No more doubleclick and no more adsense crap. Alternatively invoke deleteme which gets rid of anything that ADBLOCK misses.

      1. illiad

        Re: to advertisers...

        Do remember it is UP TO YOU what you add.. it is YOUR PC!!!

        BUT then you may just be an IDIOT who has NEVER USED IT!!!!

  3. Arnold Lieberman
    Headmaster

    So what differentiates a "technology" from a service?

    To my ears, the "T" word seems to be overused these days. Transistors are a technology. High K dielectric transistors are another technology. Ad-blocking is not a technology. Possibly a set of techniques applied in a novel manner.

  4. RyokuMas
    Thumb Up

    Just on the web?

    ... or in-app as well? I'd be very interested to see what happens to the mobile gaming scene if the "free-with-ads" monetization model was suddenly no longer an option...

    1. JetSetJim

      Re: Just on the web?

      Not sure about apps you install after this one, but the ones before will probably just keep running their last cached ad, or just stop working completely (if they've any sense).

      For example, Real Racing 3 won't even work without an internet connection to download new ads every time you fire it up (not sure what would happen if I bought something from their store which in theory removes all that).

  5. kryptonaut

    Conundrum

    So how will content creators be rewarded if their revenue stream is choked off?

    Nobody wants ads, everyone wants free content, but ad-clicks are what makes it (often only barely) worthwhile creating the free content in the first place.

    Maybe ad-blocking should be a paid-for service, with some of that payment being compensation to the businesses whose (paid-for) ads are being blocked, eventually trickling down to the content-providers. I realise that would be unpopular among the entitled generation (and I can't really see how it could be made to work anyway), but in reality you don't get something for nothing - blocking ads just pushes the burden of payment onto someone else, or puts content-providers out of business. Until some other way of financing web content exists, ads are pretty much a necessary evil.

    Would The Register exist without its advertising revenue?

    I expect downvotes for this post, but I would prefer to see some *reasoned* arguments in favour of ad-blocking or suggesting a viable alternative revenue stream for web authors. ("I don't like ads and I demand free content!" does not count as a reasoned argument.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Conundrum

      I won't downvote as your points are valid and well argued...ahh on here, that should result in a down vote...Ooo what to do.

    2. Vimes

      Re: Conundrum

      "I don't like ads and I demand free content!"

      How about 'I don't like ads and am willing to pay'?

      The argument that it will either be free or won't survive isn't really that realistic IMO. Services like Spotify prove that, with people willing to go beyond the freemium model and pay for the service. Netflix and Amazon Instant take this even further since they have no free option and yet they are still a success.

      Lack of advertising does not necessarily equate to lack of success, and advertising is not the sole form of funding available.

      I've suggested this before for this site. There shouldn't be a pay wall but why not at least offer the choice to users to pay to remove all advertising and any scripts related to that? Unfortunately nothing seems to have happened with that idea. Which is a pity since I probably spend more time here than on the newspaper websites. If I'm willing to pay for those then why should come as such a surprise I'd be willing to pay for this too?

      1. Russell Hancock

        Re: Conundrum

        @Vimes - i would also be happy to pay a small* premium to have an advert free version but i would probably take it a step further...

        Have a "premium" app that you can download that costs to access / download. this version can have extra features / no adverts / read offline / archive / notify me / cook my dinner and get me a pint thrown in... if the pricing was right i would happily pay as all too often O2s network is so poor i can't access it anyway and having the offline mode would be worth it!.

        would also have to let me on the site without the ads as well.

        What's that, the moon on a stick - OK, i'll take 2 as well!

        * not sure what level the premium would need to be but i am sure that the el reg head honchos know exactly how much an average reader is worth (in my case probably not a lot!)

        1. Vimes

          Re: Conundrum

          (in my case probably not a lot!)

          But then that's the advantage of giving the option of paying but not forcing it: those that don't want to pay for access could continue to view the version with the adverts. People willing to pay would get the opportunity to get rid of them without any possibility of feeling guilty about it. In both cases the website remains accessible to everybody.

    3. Rob

      Re: Conundrum

      Completely agree, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

      I tend to ignore most ads unless they interfere with my scrolling ability on a mobile device. I've been suffering from banner blindness since the term was first coined.

      As someone mentioned earlier, perhaps this is the stick we all need to get advertisers to produce non intrusive ads.

      At the end of the day, it's IT, it won't be long before someone finds a workaround, whack-a-mole with Advertisers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Conundrum

        Yes but boot, other foot. Why should advertisers assume that they are entitled to spew, on the basis that they are generating revenue for the carrier/source etc., their pathetic, banal, bandwith hogging crap, ads for deals that aren't, putrid video pratt-verts, etc. and expect the rest of us to read it?

        There's only one party responsible for folk employing things like AdBlock and Deleteme - Mindless advertisers themselves.

      2. John Lilburne

        Re: Conundrum

        Ads on websites were simply put there back in the mid 1990s because the payment processors were crap so the average website couldn't provide a paid version. Since then the Ads have become ubiquitous. Businesses have evolved to track people across sites, and profile them to better target ads or sell on the users data. Mobile carriers also users charge for the unwanted ad bandwidth, this leads to walled gardens being setup such as facebook zero.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/technology/personaltech/banner-ads-the-monsters-that-swallowed-the-web.html?_r=2

    4. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Conundrum

      I'd pay the content provider but paying the advertiser to not advertise? Bollocks.

      1. Vimes

        Re: Conundrum

        I'd pay the content provider but paying the advertiser to not advertise? Bollocks.

        That's not what I was suggesting. It would be the website not the advertiser that gets the money.

    5. Richard Jones 1
      Flame

      Re: Conundrum

      If the ad is NOT obtrusive and does not demand more bandwidth than the site itself and I I was silly enough to use a pay per byte service than it might be OK- ish. However, none of those appear to apply, I am certainly not interested in paying twice for content that I do not want, (once in terms of my wasted time and again for the bandwidth). As for the putrid video pratt-verts, it is time for the fools that make them to be publicly disposed of.

      I am able to avoid their annoyance by avoiding the use of any and all so called smart (alias money grubbing) mobiles, though I do use a mobile phone.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Conundrum

      "compensation to the businesses whose (paid-for) ads are being blocked"

      If a business pesters me with ads then I'm much, MUCH less likely to buy from them. Less as in "if there's an alternative I'll go for it". Less as in "I've taken my business elsewhere from services who thought that my being their customer entitled them to pester me".

      It's to the advantage of any business that thinks it wants to sell to me to have ads that I might otherwise get being blocked. So maybe "compensation" should be negative and such businesses should pay the ad-blocker a fee to block them.

      The truth of the matter is that I'm far from alone in this attitude. The situation is that the advertising industry makes money by charging advertisers to piss off potential customers.

    7. Haku

      Re: Conundrum

      "Maybe ad-blocking should be a paid-for service, with some of that payment being compensation to the businesses whose (paid-for) ads are being blocked"

      Are you fucking serious? That's a mafia tactic!

      "Say that's a nice clean fast mobile device you got there, it'd be a shame if something were to happen to slow it down, use up your monthly data allowance and clutter up the screen pestering you to buy things all the time..."

      1. kryptonaut

        Re: Conundrum

        It's not really as clear-cut as that. And if you read my original post you'll see that I did say I couldn't see how that would work in practice.

        What I was questioning was whether a method could be found so that content-providers would end up still managing to stay in business despite their revenue-stream being removed by ad-blockers. Since ad-blocking is a service that some people clearly want, and since using ad-blockers deprives other people of a source of income (the people who make the content you want to see), it seems to me that if ad-blocking were a paid service and some of that payment filtered through to the content providers, then the problem would be somewhat redressed.

        Of course a better model would be for a secure micropayment system to be available, so that content providers could choose whether to monetise their content using ads or direct payment. And the customers could choose whether to view ads or pay a tiny amount to avoid them, with the warm feeling of satisfaction that they were no longer depriving someone of their livelihood.

        Putting ads on a site is not something that web authors *like* to do - they want to get their own content seen, not have you distracted by someone else's ads - but it is currently pretty much the only way to make any kind of business out of providing general web content. Just hosting a website costs money, let alone developing it, and the cost has to be covered somehow.

        The truth is that advertising pays for content, and if everybody blocked ads then the vast majority of the web would become unsustainable. Including, I suspect, this site.

  6. Doogs

    Operators blocking ads

    and replacing them with their own?

    1. Vimes

      Re: Operators blocking ads

      ...and then offering the option to remove those additional ads as an extra paid for service...

  7. frank ly

    I've raised this point before, but ....

    "This would switch the blocking on by default, targeting Google, which the mobile networks want to encourage to share revenue."

    Imagine if the Post Office demanded a percentage of the value of goods shipped from Ebay purchases, because "ebay and its sellers are making a lot of money and we should have some of it".

    1. Russell Hancock

      Re: I've raised this point before, but ....

      While you are correct - have you seen the prices for postage recently? since on-line ordering became common postage prices have risen at a very nice rate - it is almost cheaper to use a courier now for anything other than a letter (unless you are a big company where it is cheaper to courier it!)... So Royal Mail (and the Post Office by extension) are doing this...

  8. Joe 48

    Irritation

    Ads might be an irritation but anyone they irritate, like us tech types, tend to know how to get around them.

    Guessing the general public don't really care anymore. They blend into websites like its the 'norm'. I might test this later by seeing if the wife even notices ad's in apps and webpages.

    Can't really see this fixing anything to be fair, except removing a revenue stream from a company who will be forced to come up with smarter ways of marketing, sorry, irritating us, and in turn we'll have to come up with innovative ways of blocking them again. If nothing else I suppose this will generate some smart ideas!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good luch dealing with https

    Nice snake oil. Shame about the encryption.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luch dealing with https

      If you block the ad site ip addresses the transport is irrelevant.

      Does anyone on here understand how internet ads work?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asia’s richest person Li Ka-shing....

    Had to search that to check it wasn't just El Reg humour...!

    maybe he has a cousin Ka-ching!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Asia’s richest person Li Ka-shing....

      Named after the sound of a cash register? It must've been fate!!

      1. David Roberts
        Coat

        Re: Asia’s richest person Li Ka-shing....

        No.

        He invented the Ka-shing server.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From a network's point of view...

    If the goal is to reduce bandwidth by not requesting unessential content, this has traditionally been handled at the endpoint, i.e., the user terminals. Given that the majority of those are provided by the network to their customers, and that they're in the habit of pre-installing various bits of software, what's to stop them from simply shipping phones with AdBlock & co. pre-installed?

    Note that the content is not just "blocked", it is simply not downloaded in the first place, but the client knows it's there and gives the user a choice to see it, should the user want to for whatever reason.

    It is also interesting to note that I haven't seen a single mention of "net neutrality" in the article or the comments.

    1. Vimes

      Re: From a network's point of view...

      I can easily imagine this extending to online services like Netflix, especially since they've already been seen to capitulate to the likes of Verizon.

  12. Big-G

    So it's really about carriers getting their share

    "......which the mobile networks want to encourage to share revenue."

    .. a form of corporate blackmail it would appear.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Open internet

    So the ISP would be treating content differently, depending on where it comes from, in order to only block ads?

    That's one way to ensure a whole ton of lobbyists pay our "democratic" leaders to keep an open and free (as in freedom) internet.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Open internet

      And Google certainly does a lot of lobbying.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/22/tech_firms_lobbying_washington_2014/

      I wonder how much they'd be prepared to spend over here?

  14. Haku

    Mobile ads? What mobile ads?

    Since I rooted my Android devices and installed AdAway along with AdBlock Plus on FireFox I see very few mobile ads in apps and on web pages.

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