Browsers without borders?

A DoubleClick executive landed in hot soup recently after suggesting browser makers should toe the line when it came to online advertising.

commentary A DoubleClick executive landed in hot soup recently after suggesting browser makers should toe the line when it came to online advertising.

Chief privacy officer Bennie Smith told ZDNet Australia's&nbsp Renai LeMay that browser manufacturers should not activate ad-blocking features by default. And if this became the norm, it would spell the end of free Web content, Smith warned.

He drew an analogy of the print medium, saying consumers would not stand for missing pages in newspapers if advertisements were omitted.

"You'd go to your local corner shop and buy the daily paper, and you'd have these large holes where the ads were.

"You'd somehow feel like your 25 cents had not gotten full value," Smith said.

He believes if a vast majority of Web users started blocking ads, publishers would have to charge for content. In an offline world, this is akin to a 25 cent newspaper costing $5.

Smith raised some valid points. Online publishers have to ensure their business is viable, and since advertising is the main source of income, auto ad-blocking features would be detrimental as this would hamper its ability to deliver on campaigns.

I agree that seeing holes in a newspaper would leave me feeling cheated [it's a good thing I do all my reading online] but what draws the ire of Internet users is the intrusive nature of some advertisements.

Those that pop-up in your face are the main culprits. They're annoying to the highest degree and any Web publisher worth its salt would stay away from this pest.

With newer specifications and technology, some ads can monopolise your entire monitor. Although these last for a few seconds, many surfers take exception to having no control over what they can and don't want to read.

How do we reconcile this situation? What would ensure a win-win outcome for all?

For starters, publishers rely on a loyal readership base to keep their business alive. While the lure of increased revenue from more in-your-face type ad formats may be enticing, the risk of biting the hand that feeds them is higher.

Publishers will have to be more creative in the way they make money.

To Web users, if you encounter an unpleasant Web experience, report it. Most publishers are grateful for feedback and will act swiftly to rectify the situation.

As for browser makers such as Mozilla, Opera, Netscape or Microsoft, it'll be a cold day in hell before they take advice from an online ad-serving network.

DoubleClick has chosen to put browser makers in the spotlight over this issue. But since technology evolves so rapidly, if pop-ups are today's menace, what will tomorrow bring?

Are you an avid user of ad-blocking software? Would you pay for content in exchange for an ad-free experience? Please send your feedback to or talk back below.

Fran Foo is ZDNet Australia managing editor.