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April 26, 2005

The one thing that Firefox does better than Opera, and why Opera can't/won't do anything about it

First off let me just say that Firefox in general is just ugly and that I find it's interface clunky and really a bit stilted. So there. It's not like I'm saying anything I haven't said before. So's yer face; *yo* momma - etc.

But what it does do remarkably well is use CSS to block ads. Not that Opera can't do this, it can, and it also uses filter.ini to filter out ad sites - but the Firefox solution is simpler and more effective - even if it doesn't actually save on bandwidth. Of course ideally we could use Proxomitron, but I've found that despite doing its job fantastically well, it can break certain pages in a way CSS blocking doesn't. Personally I don't see why people even bother with the ad-block extension.

Digressing a bit I'd just like to say that the mouse gestures extension for Firefox, while servicable enough, is annoying - I'm not able to just hold down the right mouse button and keep clicking the left to keep going back, like I would in Opera. What's that about?

But getting back to ad-blocking, apparently it's just a matter of time before Opera includes the compliance with CSS 3 (or whatever, I'm not entirely clear on the whole thing), as they would, being a standards compliant browser. But then I've been hearing that for a while now. I get the feeling they're not in a rush to get it done simply because there's no urgency to it, since IE isn't likely to be supporting it quite so soon, and just because Firefox has it doesn't necessarily mean much.

Which brings me to why Opera (supposedly) isn't eager to block ads by default/make things too easy for users to turn ad-blocking on. Obviously I don't know for sure that this is *the* reason, and I'm sure it's part of wider concerns, but I've heard it mentioned, and it makes sense:

Web publishers won't like it.

Web publishers (which oddly and peripherally includes me I suppose) tend to like advertising. It provides them with revenue to pay for bandwidth/content etc. And of course profit, if that's their intention. The concern then is that Opera's market is already often treated as insignificant such that when pages are developed they're not tested in Opera, and worse, some sites can explicitly block browsers other than IE/Netscape etc. Making ad-blocking too easy in Opera would make web developers even less likely to want to support Opera, or even make them want to block the browser entirely as leeches. Opera doesn't even have the niche stranglehold that Safari does as the default Mac browser, such that sites are forced to support it - which is almost absurd given Safari's market share.

What also figures in the discussion is that Opera's already been the source of controversy regarding it's browser, in a way that turned publishers off - its built in text ads. These work on the basis of site context, so for instance they'd advertise RSS readers if you were smurfing for Klipfolio. Webmasters accused this of stealing their revenue - since Opera was making use of their content, which has its own ads or sells its own products, to advertise similar things. That seems to have died down since, but I get the feeling Opera didn't like the way that particular conversation went.

Without going into my whole spiel again, I have nothing against advertising, but I have no qualms about blocking ads whatsoever. I advertise on my site, but very prominently place a link on how to use Proxomitron. I don't see how that makes me anything other than well within the realm of human rationality. Can you really imagine the morality spiels? - blocking ads is like stealing a CD from the shop.

Anyway, my point at the end of all that is to say this - calm the fuck down. People are fucking stupid. And incredibly ignorant. As a corollary to that, what I'd say is that as long as a browser doesn't ship with ad-blocking turned on by default - or with it as a setting you can just turn on and off like that, web publishers shouldn't be complaining about anything.

The only people I know personally to use ad-blocking do so because I set up proxomitron for them. The learning curve required to make things "just work" at the end of it appears to be too steep for the majority of people - and in this I'm including the people who don't bother with Firefox's CSS ad-blocking. People are too ignorant/stupid to set up ad blocking if it isn't spoon-fed to them.

For the publishers, this stupidity helps you in another way. The stupid people are the ones clicking on your ads. And from the looks of it, there are stupid people around.

But at the end of this, why should Opera introduce/make easier ad blocking? Because it can. Because advanced users will be drawn to it - and advanced users are the ones who tend to convince the people they know about new products. You might not be able to openly advertise it as a feature - but then again why not - Firefox certainly is, with ad-block. It's also one of the things that Opera can do that IE can't - because IE is tied to MSN. If you want, wait till you're big enough that people can't easily block you - and then turn ad-blocking on by default/make it easier. And really, advertisers just need to learn to stop pissing off their consumers and learn subtler ways of enticing users - like encouraging user communities, like My Opera, and getting bogglers to pimp for you. But that's a longer conversation.

To be honest, I'm starting to get a bit tired of me too.

Posted by subtitles at April 26, 2005 5:52 PM | Opera Boggling

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