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Why I changed my mind about ad-blocking software

From the Cheapskate: Ads are a necessary evil of the Web, and the truth is they're just not that evil, especially if they conform to AdBlock's Acceptable Ads guidelines.

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Is it time to start blocking AdBlock? Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.


I interrupt your regularly scheduled Cheapskatery to bring you this important announcement:

Web ads are not evil.

Please, put down your torches and pitchforks. There's bona fide logic behind this reasoning, and it starts with mega-popular ad blocker AdBlock Plus.

Perhaps you're familiar with it. Perhaps you're a user. I am, and yesterday I was greeted with this message from the developer:

AdBlock is now participating in the Acceptable Ads program. Acceptable Ads defines strict guidelines to identify non-annoying ads, which AdBlock now shows by default. This way, you can help support your favorite websites -- and if you still want to block every ad, you can disable this easily.

In case that wasn't completely clear, the developer of one of the most popular ad-blocking plug-ins has tweaked his software to allow "non-annoying" ads by default.

Why? Call it an act of conscience: Ads make the Web go round, and ad blockers make it that much more difficult for content providers to deliver content.

Case in point: This post. This site. I don't know about you, but I rely very heavily on CNET for advice when it comes to buying things like laptops, phones and wearable tech. And I know for a fact many of you rely on me for finding cheap deals on cool stuff. CNET is kind enough to pay me to deliver that content. Know who pays CNET? Advertisers.

Hey, this isn't a guilt trip; it's a reality check. And the reality is that most sites -- good ones -- keep ads where they belong: in the margins, or even inline between paragraphs of text. This is hardly different from the ads sprinkled through magazines and newspapers (remember those?), and they meet the AdBlock developer's definition of "acceptable."

It's ironic; I'm the Cheapskate, so by definition I love free stuff. Virtually all Web content is free, but by running ad-block software, I'm cheating content providers out of the revenue they need to provide free content.

And why? So pages will load a few milliseconds faster? So my precious, precious eye isn't momentarily distracted by a banner? How spoiled are we?

Too spoiled, I think. I installed AdBlock Plus as kind of a knee-jerk, ads-are-a-nuisance reaction to the early days, when a lot of Web ads really were obnoxious. Some still are, of course, and for that reason I'm keeping AdBlock Plus installed. But I fully support the new Acceptable Ads initiative, and I'm taking it one step further: Anytime I land at a site that provides me with useful content, I'm disabling AdBlock Plus for that domain. Because I want that content to continue, and I want the creators of it to be able to eat.

I know from whence I speak; I'm one of those creators. (And I really like food.)

Your thoughts? I know you've got 'em...

Bonus deal: Can we all just agree that iPhones are ridiculously overpriced? Like, ridiculously. Of course, some folks just gotta have 'em [raises hand shamefully], and deals are rare. So I can't not share this: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Boost Mobile has the iPhone 6 Plus (gold, 16GB) for $449.99 shipped when you apply coupon code B6677847 at checkout. This is a no-contract phone, though there's every reason to stick with Boost: monthly plans start at just $30.