Firefox = Stealing

17 August 2007

Well, this is an example of cuntiness of the highest order. Some webmasters are now parsing the user-agent string of your browser, and if they detect it’s Firefox, the redirect you to WhyFirefoxIsBlocked.com, a barely-literate rant againsts Teh Evils of Firefox and the Mozilla Foundation. You have to read the copy to believe it:

Software that blocks all advertisement is an infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers. Numerous web sites exist in order to provide quality content in exchange for displaying ads. Accessing the content while blocking the ads, therefore would be no less than stealing.

That’s right – shoving nasty flashing animations of smileys and Crazy Frog ringtones isn’t just a model of revenue, it’s a goddamn right. It’s what we’re fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan! Anyone who does it differently is, is, is, a a thief! Yes, a thief! Just like those commies who get up to make a cup of tea during the advert breaks on TV.

Well, at least we’re not being called terrorists. Yet.

Adblock, by the way, is awesome. Not because I hate ads, but it means it can block any kind of content – images, Flash and JavaScript. This makes it useful not just for getting rid of ugly ads but also visually offensive avatars, garish background images that give me a headache and crappy scripts such as Snap Previewthe most hated Web 2.0 function in the world (officially). I totally recommend using it, if you’re not already.

Funnily enough the site takes pop at anyone using Adblock to block banner ads and interstitials, but not anyone who uses browser extensions to prevent popup adverts. If advertising is a right that should be guaranteed, why aren’t popups as preciously protected? Why aren’t browsers that block popups banned as well? Nothing to do with the fact Internet Explorer would then also be blocked, would it? Even by blocking just Firefox users, the makers end up shooting themselves in the foot:

Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers.

No demographics or statistics are given up to back this assertion, but even if this were the case then these people are idiots. If Firefox users are less likely to be a source of revenue online, then blocking the adverts is unlikely to do any harm either since they were never going to be the target market – if your adverts work on a pay-per-click basis, they were never going to click anyway. On the other hand, if you’re working on a pay-per-impression basis then banning all Firefox users will only reduce the number of views the ad gets as it will withhold it from all users of the browser, not just those who block those adverts, and reduce your revenue correspondingly. In either case, blocking Firefox does not prevent you from losing revenue, quite the opposite, actually.

Anyone who reads Cory Doctorow or the ORG‘s work will know this idiocy is just the latest salvo in a war of control of online content and what you do with it, between providers and users. The data your web browser receives should not be mandatorily mediated in any way – you should be able to choose what you do with it. It is up to you how those data are rendered: If you’re partially sighted or blind and want to have it read out loud, if you want it tweaked so it’s rendered more conveniently, or if you don’t want certain bits of content withheld such as adverts, you should be free to do so. Can you imagine a magazine that wouldn’t let you skip the advert pages before getting to the content, or a television that pinned you in your seats during the commercial breaks? Of course not. The banner ad model combines the worst of both worlds, a business model designed for the previous century together with a nasty and spiteful means of coercion enabled by the technology, that only serves to piss off the very people whose goodwill and money you rely on.

By the way, like most anti-fair use technology such as DRM, there’s an easy way of getting round it. If you do encounter a site like this in Firefox and despite being mortally pissed off at them you still really really need to see what it has to say, then don’t fret too much. You don’t have to use IE or any other browser, just download the User Agent Switcher extension which allows Firefox to ‘pretend’ to be any other browser when visiting a site. Happy browsing.


6 Responses

Can you imagine a magazine that wouldn?t let you skip the advert pages before getting to the content, or a television that pinned you in your seats during the commercial breaks?

Let us not forget a genuine real-world implementation of this – that most beloved of features, the unskippable track at the beginning of a DVD. Because if I don’t want to watch the trailer for Will Smith’s I, Robot before watching Master And Commander (great audience targeting there, by the way) then I am stealing food from the mouths of Fox executive’s kids.

Iain

I’m surprised they haven’t gone the DVD route of forcing all IE users to watch a 30-second lecture on the evils of using Firefox as well. Because that’s what you do to your non-’stealing’ customers these days, apparently.

Frankly, though, I’m suprised there aren’t people DoSsing the site right off the net as we speak; clearly no-one interesting enough to actually get up peoples’ noses has done this yet.

[meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0"]

Says it all, really.

I’m actually glad they’re doing this.

Why? Well, any site that does this is likely to be chock full of pop-up generating crap. So it saves me the job of configuring the browser to do it for me. If that’s the kind of operation you want to run, I don’t want to go there and you’ve just done me a favour.

Thanks guys, for slitting your own throats.

As for the DVD thing, isn’t that the point where, as you’re waiting for the main menu, you depart to get the drinks and nibbles? Can’t say I’ve watched one of those patronising loads of old toss for ages now…

They have the right to put ads on their pages.
We have the right to block them.

They need to get over themselves. Some people have a fundamentally broken idea of how the internet works…

hahahahaahahaaaaaa!

Willingly direct millions of potential customers away from your website! That’s bound to make you more revenue than you would have made from irritating adverts that bring you nothing but bad will. What could possibly go wrong?