After my previous article about banning Opera from sites, I have been thinking more, and have got a bit more information from the man behind the protest site, Kenneth Barbalace. First of all, what is the problem that has made him take the step of banning Opera?
The problem isn’t that Opera shows ads in itself, but the targeted ads. These works by letting Google read the visited pages, analyse them, and serve ads that are relevant for the content the user is viewing.
For a commercial site, these relevant ads may very well be a direct competitor. Whether this is a small or big problem, or maybe even not a problem at all, may not be the point. The fact that there is a potential problem, in that potential customers can visit a competitors site by clicking an ad when viewing your own site, is the point. While you don’t want to prevent potential customers to visit your competitors, you don’t want to advertise for them, either – but if your content is used to serve ads for competitors, this is basically what you do.
If you use Google Adsense, the ads served by Opera may be in direct competition and even identical to the ones on your pages. Unlike Google Adsense however, you don’t have the option to not showing competitors’ ads.
That’s the problem. If it is big, small or non-existent now isn’t important, the principle is. It’s a case of not wanting to “give the devil the little finger” out of concern for what the future will bring if you do.
Since it’s the targeting that is the problem, a solution could be to opt out of the targeting by way of a meta-tag or something like that. Initially it looks like a good idea. Maybe it is, maybe not. Technically, both Google and Opera could do this. Opera could implement it for the browser, Google could do it for everyone who use targeted ads just the same way.
Google however has a contract with Opera, and can’t just change the product they’re serving, so the ball is with the Opera guys. From their point of view, is it a wise move to allow opt out from targeted ads?
Two reasons why Google ads are popular: First, they’re unobtrusive, and don’t annoy with flashy graphics, sound, pop-ups and all that stuff that makes ad blockers a good idea. Secondly, they’re targeted. What would happen if site owners could opt out of the targeting?
Probably not much. But then again – what if this is another “give the devil the little finger” – what if everyone opted out of it? The consequences of that would be – well, who knows. Bit this isn’t just about Opera – targeted ads are being served visitors outside of content writers’ control in several ways. In browsers, browser shells and extensions, desktop applications, mail programs…
If targeted ads were replaced by generic, random ones, I’m sure they would lose popularity with users, and it wouldn’t be as popular scheme with the advertisers either. That’s my guess. Could it be raising trouble for oneself? But I’m just speculating.
The question is of course who would try the different things to get access to a site that ban them? People who use Proxomitron are normal people who use a nice tool to get access to sites with sloppy coding. Roughly speaking. adding a line to get past a ban is no different than adding a line to get past sloppy coding. Editing the UA.ini-file is no different. As for getting a script that hides unique features in Opera, so that the browser can’t be identified through them – such a script already exists, and has done for a long time.
Bottom line is, users who want to gain access to sites that ban them will manage, so it’s no use to put in too much work in the banning. Most users will probably just not care. Maybe they’ll be a bit annoyed, maybe they take time to choose the “report a site problem” option in the help menu, maybe they just go on to a different site. But as for making a statement, to make people and Opera aware of it, I believe it’s enough already.
Is it really a problem?
I understand the concern Ken is voicing, I really do, and I even can understand doing something like this in frustration of being ignored by the people at Opera. I don’t agree with him, though.
First of all, I’m not convinced there really is a problem. True – something outside of my pages may show a link to a competitor based on my content – but then again, maybe the competitor shows an ad for me the same way. If I have an ad with Google, that is.
And is the use of my content to show relevant ads a problem? I’m not convinced of that either. I believe the content on the pages, including the ads, is what gets priority from the reader. If it doesn’t, the problem may very well be with my content.
Secondly, is banning Opera users a good move? True, it does make a strong statement, but it also stir up a lot of feelings, and not only with Opera users. And a reputation can be torn down ten times faster than it is to build up. Luckily, I’m not the one to take that decision, and to consider if it’s worth it.
One thing I do know though, is the no matter how much you disagree with a person, don’t get rude with him. That way he just get his shields up instead of trying to see your point of view, and no one’s the wiser.
Anyway, I think what Ken wants now most of all, is some words from Opera about what they think about it all. 😉