5 Ways You’re Using The Web Wrong: Avoid Frustration & Embarrassment

Ryan Dube 16-05-2014

With millions of spam emails, thousands of malware websites and an unknown number of cyberattacks taking place on the Internet every day, traveling safely through these interwebs is no easy task. Thankfully, MakeUseOf is here to help.


Being a newcomer on the web these days isn’t always a pleasant experience. Setting aside the fact that you’re trying to learn how to do new things like using email or using your new Facebook or Twitter accounts, there are also threats from all sides that you may not be fully prepared for. In fact, the people behind these threats count on people who are more naive about web safety etiquette.

It’s not only security threats that newcomers to the web should be aware of. There are other types of basic etiquette that you should know when starting out your online experience with services like Facebook, installing web apps, and navigating the Internet in general.

Here at MakeUseOf, we’ve offered a number of etiquette guides for things like BitTorrent BitTorrent Etiquette: How to Avoid Getting Banned From Private Trackers Read More , using emails and forums 7 Netiquette Guidelines For Writing Emails & Forum Posts Netiquette is short for network or internet etiquette. It encompasses the special set of social conventions found in online interactions. While netiquette is very similar to good behavior or etiquette in offline encounters, there are... Read More , and even Facebook etiquette 5 Important Wall & Security Etiquette To Avoid A Facebook Divorce Using Facebook as evidence in divorce cases is an increasing phenomena. Facebook posts are even becoming common grounds for breakups. These situations are avoidable. Here are some quick Facebook tips that will help you avoid... Read More . In this general mini-guide, the focus will be more about the issues and problems that Internet newcomers commonly face, and how to avoid or deal with them.

Understanding Advertising

One of the most basic parts of using the Internet – browsing websites – should also be the easiest, right? Sure, but it’s not.

When it comes to navigating through websites, there are a lot of landmines and trap doors in places where newcomers find themselves stumbling onto a website that they didn’t intend to visit. How can that happen? Well, most of the time it comes down to how online publishers advertise.


In order to stay in business, websites place advertisements interspersed with content, and unless you know how to recognize those advertisements, you could find yourself clicking on one of those links and ending up on some annoying, spammy sales page. The easiest way to recognize ads is to look for the small blue triangle in the corner of the ad box, or look for some text like “Ads by Google” that identify the area as an ad.


You’ll usually find some sort of indication, because Google has started penalizing sites that try to “camouflage” ads – so some text indicating that it’s an ad area or “sponsored links” will usually reveal the ad to you.  Here’s another example from a mainstream site like the NY Times, so as you can see these sorts of “blended” ads are very common. Learn to spot them.



Another tricky sort of ad to watch for is the pop-over ad. Basically when you glide your mouse inadvertently over an ad, it slides open in a much larger area, even covering some of the page content sometimes.


When this happens, you can just about always find an “X” in the corner of the ad, and most of the time that “X” will actually minimize or close the ad window so you can see the content again. This is even the case when the pop-up ad takes over the entire page and covers up all of the content, like this weird full-page ad at wiseGEEK.



Again, look for the “X” in the corner. It isn’t always easy to find, but it’s nearly always there and usually works.

Some people would say that using something like Adblock is the best solution – but as Chris Hoffman, a former Adblock filter developer explains Please Whitelist MakeUseOf In Adblock: A Plea From a Former Adblock Filter Developer It’s no secret that we’re not huge fans of Adblock here at MakeUseOf. But we know that some of you won’t let go of Adblock until it’s pried out of your cold, dead hands. If... Read More , blocking all ads can end up doing a lot more harm than good. In fact, if the usage rates for Adblock software continue AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery - The Trifecta Of Evil Over the past few months, I've been contacted by a good number of readers who have had problems downloading our guides, or why they can't see the login buttons or comments not loading; and in... Read More along the trend they are headed today, the Internet will likely become another corporate-run medium, because start-up bloggers and website owners won’t be able to afford launching new content anymore if advertising no longer pays the bills.

So – instead of contributing to this problem by installing Adblock, just learn what ads look like and how to avoid them as you enjoy all of the fantastic free content around the net.

Understanding Fake Websites

One of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen when introducing someone to using the web for the first time, is that they’ll often mis-type the address of a web page.  This was worse years ago when you had to type in the three letters “www” before every web address, but these days web browsers are intelligent enough to understand that “” and “” is the same thing.


In fact, in Chrome and many other web browsers, the URL address bar now doubles as a search box using whatever default search engine is set up in the browser settings. So when you type a single word like “fish” in the URL field, the browser recognizes that this isn’t a web address, so it’ll return search results for that word.

However, it’s still possible to mess up. Type in “” (a common error when people try to type “” too fast, and you’ll see what I mean.


This is called a “cybersquatter” page. Pages like this are purchased and parked by people or businesses hoping to make a few cents from the unsuspecting people who mistype these website addresses. If you’re lucky it’ll just be a page filled with ads. If you’re not lucky, it could be owned by someone who created a fake page meant to look like the original. You’d find a number of these at web addresses with close spellings to websites like, or, for example.

How do you know if the website you’ve visited is actually real and not some fake site? Look for the padlock. With most legitimate websites where your private data is at risk, like banking sites or online email services 6 Most Popular Email Providers Better Than Gmail and Yahoo Mail Each free email provider listed here offers different benefits and all of these email services are popular choices. Read More , you’ll find a padlock displayed in either the bottom status bar of the browser (typical with Firefox) or to the left of the URL location field (typical with Chrome).


This status should be displayed somewhere on the browser menu or on the browser status bar itself, not inside or on the web page itself.  Typing in the actual URL of a website you want to visit is usually the safest way to access your accounts (rather than clicking on an email link) – so typing URLs is still your safest bet, but just be very careful about your spelling.

Another security measure you’ll find on a number of banking sites is something called a SiteKey. This was developed as a technique by banks to stop the sort of “fake website” hacking that was going on and particularly targeted bank accounts.



When you set up a SiteKey on your bank account, it isn’t just meant to be an annoying extra step in the login process. It’s meant so that you know you’re accessing your own account, because fake website owners would not be able to display the correct SiteKey image for your account, since every account would have a different SiteKey image.

Phishing Emails

One of the most common techniques hackers use to draw people to their fake websites is a technique called “email phishing What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More “.

Phishing is a very old technique scam artists have been using for many years to try and trick people into thinking that an email they’ve sent you is from a legitimate business.  These days, online email services are very good at identifying these sort of spam emails and automatically filtering them How to Set Up Email Filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook Here's how to filter emails in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook so you can better organize your inbox and stay productive. Read More  into to a spam folder. However, you may still receive some of them in your inbox, and they can look very convincing.


A few things to watch for are links inside of the email telling you to log in to confirm the ID and password for your account, or to otherwise confirm something about your account. There will often be a threat that your account will be frozen or closed if you don’t confirm immediately. PayPal is the most common target for phishing, but major bank customers are commonly a target as well.


Look for unusual links in the email (why would Discover customer service send me to a website link with in it??). You may even notice legitimate-looking things like a company copyright notice – people aren’t allowed to print that unless it’s legitimate, right? Nope.

Your best bet, and the advice that even the bank customer service will give you if you call and ask, is that you should never respond to anything via email when it has to do with logging into any of your accounts. If there’s an issue, you can open up a browser and log into your financial accounts directly. Most banks have an internal messaging system inside of those accounts that they use to communicate with customers. If you don’t see any message there, then you know for certain the email is fake. If you have any doubts, call customer service, but don’ t ever click on an email link to log into any of your online accounts.

Downloading Free Apps

Another area of Internet use that new users often run into issues with is downloading free software 14 Free and Open Source Alternatives for Paid Software Don't waste money on software for personal use! Not only do free alternatives exist, they most likely offer all the features you need and may be easier and safer to use. Read More .  The Internet is filled with really cool free web apps, free services and applications that you can download and install on your computer. Most of the time these applications are completely safe to download, but other times they are infected with viruses, malware or adware that you want nowhere near your computer.

You can play it safe by first researching the software How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software Before downloading a free program, you should be sure it's trustworthy. Determining whether a download is safe is a basic skill, but one everyone needs -- particularly on Windows. Use these tips to ensure you... Read More that you want to download to make sure it’s safe.  Even though, there are a few roadblocks you’ll run into even when you’re downloading legitimate free software.

The first problem is that the sites where you can get the free software are oven very manipulative about how you actually go about downloading the software itself. Even a legitimate, credible website like CNET has six buttons on the download page that appear to be a legitimate download link, styled just like every other download button on the site.


Only one of the download links is actually legit. Can you guess which?

The secret is to hover over the button and make sure the link it goes to (displayed in the browser status bar) isn’t linking to some ad network, and that it goes to another CNET download page.

An even worse website than this is Softpedia, which places legitimate download buttons dangerously close to the Ad download buttons.


Most ad links on the page also look like they could be links to download the software  you’re looking for. They’re not.

Then, on the actual download page, none of the “Download” buttons are actually legit. The download page is actually the “External Mirror” link – which doesn’t stand out nearly as much as those big green Download buttons.


It’s obviously a technique to trick visitors into inadvertently clicking on ads instead of clicking on the legitimate download links. Google, in all its wisdom, still hasn’t done anything to punish larger websites and companies like CNET that still put this sort of ad trickery into practice on its website.

So, be aware that this goes on, and carefully analyze where those buttons link to before actually clicking on them.

Free Software Crapware And Free Trials

One more issue you need to be aware of if you’re planning to download and install a lot of free software off the Internet is the fact that even safe, “legitimate” software comes with a few strings attached. Often one of those strings is that the installer wizard you need to use to install the software has a step embedded into it that will install extra software that you don’t want, if you’re not careful.


The trickery here is that the option selected by default is to install this software – called “crapware” by those familiar with it, because the extra software is usually very low quality and only meant to do things like track your browsing activity for advertising purposes.

The sad part of it is that it’s very easy to prevent this garbage from getting installed on your computer. Just click the option that doesn’t include the installation of that extra software. The problem is that most people just blow on through these installation windows, clicking next-next-next without giving it much thought. Suddenly they discover an odd new adware toolbar in their browser and wonder how it got there. Joining the fightback against these sneaky methods Begin The Fight Back Against Toolbar Installer Bloatware! [Opinion] Recently I had cause to install some free video conversion software and was amazed to find so many attempts to fool me into installing additional software, not to mention attempts to upsell at the end... Read More is the only way to realistically combat them.

Another mistake newcomers to the web make when dealing with free software is signing up for a free trial – using a credit card or PayPal account – and then completely forgetting about signing up until the second month comes along and you discover a new charge on your credit card for the software “membership”.


Keep an eye on the sign-up process if you do ever decide to sign up for any soft of “free trial” – whether it’s free software or a free web service. These free trials are usually provided because they count on people forgetting to cancel the recurring charge. Don’t be one of those people (unless you really like the software) – set a calendar reminder to cancel the trial in good time.

Using Social Networks

The last set of common mistakes new Internet users make is on social networks. We’ve actually published a lot of stuff on MUO about Facebook etiquette, but probably the single most common faux pas new users make is posting private information to the whole world.

You see, Facebook has a quick and easy way to see and change whether individual posts are going out to the public, or only your friends and family. It’s that little icon next to your name and date for each post. If it’s an image of people, then it’s only going out to your friends. If it’s the image of a globe, then you’ve just posted that update to the entire Internet.


Hopefully, you didn’t just discover that you’ve been accidentally posting very private information to the world! Luckily, you can go back and change those. Also, if you go into your Facebook settings and click on “Privacy”, you can change the default for your posts from “Everyone” to “Friends” (a very smart thing to do).



There are all kinds of other behaviors to avoid on Facebook, so I highly suggest you browse through our many articles about Facebook behaviors and etiquette How To Drive All Your Facebook Friends & Twitter Followers Crazy Have you ever wanted to drive everyone crazy on your social networks? For a long time this has been a goal of mine that I have aspired for. It takes a lot of hard work,... Read More .  Thankfully, it’s usually easier to stay out of trouble on social networks – they’re nowhere near as dangerous as email phishing or fraudulent websites.

Being new to the Internet doesn’t mean that you have to be afraid whenever you’re online. Just being aware of the sorts of issues outlined above will go a long way toward staying safe and having fun on the net without the danger of putting your identity or your computer at risk.

Related topics: Facebook, Phishing.

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  1. KT
    May 24, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Ad block will not be the downfall of the free internet. The FCC and big money will be. I hate taking money away from the hard working honest types. But I love keeping my money away from the corrupt types. It's a hard moral choice.

  2. Zach L
    May 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    May I ask for clarification: as I understood it, you have to click through the ad to get the site owner paid, not just look at the ad sitting there on your monitor. If I'm correct, then the act of merely allowing ads to show on the webpage isn't enough to keep the content creators' lights on, we all have to click through. So, unless there's a way advertisers can recompense site owners for eyes and not click-throughs, then just admonishing people not to use AdBlock is not enough. You should be encouraging people to click-through to help content creators rack up the money. And that's just not going to happen, at least not from my end, considering the malware you could download if you clicked on one of those crappy, flickering, dopey things.

  3. Mark M
    May 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Trickery abounds on "da net"...knowledge is a surefire way to combat it, thanks for this informative article...

  4. Antony
    May 21, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I expressed my personal opinion. If adblock will cause the end of the web free, then do not complain if you see a content you will have to pay a subscription. From what you say, you seem internet savvy, but apparently always end up on sites that display annoying ads, which are usually the websites that they visit the nobs and those with wrist tennis player.

  5. Zach L
    May 20, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    No, Antony, tell us how you really feel! :)

    I'm not the demographic anyone is looking for -- I'm a good 20+ years past the 35 year old age mark advertisers use as a cut-off. So why shouldn't I use AdBlock? None of the adverts are aimed at me and I wouldn't buy anything off the web via a click-thru on a dare anyway. I also use Ghostery and SuperAntiSpyware.

    Every now and again for some reason or other, I'll have to suppress AdBlock for a site and I'll see the ads... and boy howdy, internet ads are for the most part stupid. I don't understand how they get a single click-thru, which makes me wonder how they make any money at all, although I suppose "there are a ton of people on the internet who really shouldn't be allowed out without a minder" is the sad explanation. One ad for continuing educational courses said that scholarships were possible, and asked you to click on your age-group to find out what you might be eligible for, but it was easy to see there was no way to click on an age-group, no matter where you clicked, you'd be sent to the same website. The moving gif used in this ad for "continuing education" was a boozy-looking woman in a low-cut dress and loose up-do with her bangs falling into her eyes, a martini in one hand and her other hand waving around in front of her face. How that image related to continuing education courses is beyond me.

  6. Antony
    May 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

    If all users use adblock this means the end of free content on the web. Who uses adblock is a noob who can not distinguish the good from the bad publicity and not disitngue the good sites from the bad ones. Users who use adblock most go on porn sites or with sexual content. These users to masturbate on the PC are killing the web free.

    Who uses adblock is an idiot, irresponsible, selfish, opportunistic, ignorant, and with the wrist like a tennis player, as a cause of jerking free without ads on adult sites.

    • KT
      May 21, 2014 at 2:02 am

      LMAO! You found me. I'm that one guy on the planet Earth that visits porn sites. However, I have a strict "both hands on the keyboard at all times" rule I follow, so my wrists probably don't fit your description. Here's what I've noticed about dangerous and invasive ads from my 'noob' days BEFORE using ad blockers.
      1. Porn sites barely rank in the invasive ad category.
      2. Wallpaper sites are the worst, hands down. I'm not talking nudes, I'm talking kitties, puppies, unicorns, etc.
      3. Good intention sites like church, charity, and advice sites are a close second. They don't have skilled webmasters or security in place and their patrons are typically less tech savvy.

      A good ad blocker that allows non-intrusive ads is the best first line of defense, followed by good anti-virus, and malware/spyware/adware blockers. The web is a dangerous place for pc's and it starts with ads. Just because someone can fog a mirror doesn't mean that their blog about the relationship of aliens and pond scum is going to net them big ad revenue. A tangible product or service must be offered as a primary revenue stream and any ad revenue should be viewed as a secondary revenue stream. That gives the site owner control over what kind of ads they display.

  7. Barry Eslick
    May 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

    You pay for your connection, be it ADSL or cellular, you pay your ISP, and you pay for a certain amount of bandwidth, so ads are actually shoplifting from you, by using up bandwidth that YOU have paid for. I use Adblock and I whitelist sites that do not drown me in ads. If ads were less intrusive there would be no need to block them.

  8. Godel
    May 20, 2014 at 1:36 am

    With regard to Phishing emails, another giveaway that's shown in your examples is that the emails have the salutation of "valued customer',

    Legitimate emails, especially those dealing with money accounts, will use your full account name, for example "Dear John Smith".

  9. D Harries
    May 19, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I use multiple browsers. As recommended by MakeUseOf I use Aviator for just 2 of the websites I visit, and I find my laptop processor is quieter with less fan noise.

    [Broken Link Removed]

  10. KT
    May 19, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    After digesting the article and all the comments, I decided to think about what kinds of ads annoy me the least.

    1. Television commercials: They interrupt the flow of the programming and rarely show me anything I'm interested in. I skip them or channel surf until they pass.

    2. Radio commercials: Same as above, interrupted content, few products that interest me. Channel surf again.

    3. Magazine ads: The first 10-40 pages of most magazines are useless tree killing ads. The media itself is dying and I'm sure that the ad structure doesn't help. Not to mention, I already pay a subscription fee and still get bombed.

    4. Billboards along roads: They don't interrupt the flow, they are non-intrusive, and the viewer has the option of looking at them or not. The only traditional ad form that doesn't annoy me.

    The conclusion seems simple, sites that have a passive ad structure that doesn't interrupt flow and is non-intrusive should be just fine. It is up to the site's creator to determine what form of ads they allow. My blocker does allow passive ads, but greedy sites are cutting their own throats with sloppy ad management. I've read articles on this site already that advise against clicking those ads on the sides of a website.

  11. phillip
    May 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    how pathetic trying to guilt trip people into giving up ad-block, so what the author is trying to say is that anyone with a blog should get paid for content they are going to release for free anyway and then cry when they dont get rich from it. WHAT? not everyone acts out of greedy intentions pal, check your self!

  12. Cat
    May 19, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    I use adblock software a lot and recommend it, but still end up seeing ads that I ignore. I don't quite have it on all browsers. I truly despise the hovering pop-over ads that come up and block the screen especially on my smartphone browser, when it is harder to close the ad.

    • Cat
      May 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Also, ads wouldn't be bad if they were just innocent jpegs or gifs. They leave tracking cookies, have videos that play automatically sometimes and again, I'll mention the hovering pop-ups that block the entire page. If the ads were not invasive and intent on tracking me, or preventing me from accessing the webpage content, then I wouldn't mind them. Until then I will use adblock.

  13. Paul
    May 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    "I guess it depends on how you use the net. I personally never use Ad-block out of principle, because I feel like it’s essentially shoplifting..."
    Say what!
    I personally always use Ad-block out of principle! Better to shoplift than to be extorted or hijacked! (Not that looking at freely distributed content is shoplifting - if the creator really needs the revenue s/he is free to create a "pay for use" model, and let the marketplace decide the content's value. )

  14. Graeme S
    May 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    A really good Article, one I can recommend to my not so clued up friends.

  15. Ann S
    May 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Solid advice, Ryan. I learned some of these tips the hard way, and by now these are second nature to me, but I'm sharing so hopefully one other person is spared the annoyance. The tip of doing a custom install is really important. Some very legit applications have spamware attached. Also, checking out the URL is very important. Besides the padlock icon to show a secure site, if you're entering in personal information, always make sure the address has https, not just http in the URL.

    Finally, make sure if you want to visit a site to renew your driver's license, etc., it ends in .gov.
    There are a lot of imposter sites that impersonate driver license renewal sites, with very impressive looking "state seals" etc.

  16. Jc E
    May 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Ryan, I would like to say that you should at least consider the fact that a lot of adblock users are nowadays also using the Whitelisting feature!

    I personally use it on sites I enjoy(MUO being an example), and while I'm not sure if such a function exists on FF, on Chrome the ad blocker I use(AdBlock) also allows me to block a specific page(not the domain) or a specific Youtube channel. This way I can selectively support those whom I truly wish to support. (This doesn't detract from your point that in your opinion it's like shoplifting, but I'm just stating some additional information)

    If the site is good and the advertisements are good as well, you can bet that people will not block it with an ad blocker. The information about you that advertising companies sell and the annoyances of some advertisements(This is less than it used to be, but still present, such as that Vegan advertisement that now got removed from Twitch). And do know that there ARE alternatives to have your hard work pay off. The web comic Loading Artist recently removed some(if not all) advertisements from his sites, because he switched over to Pantreon where his readers pay per comic and even get exclusive content!

    I don't know about you, but while I can agree with you on many points, you should also come to terms that many people will use adblockers and you should always try to figure out a way to expand your views on how you can have your readers support you while not making their experience (very slightly) worse to that of people who don't support you.

  17. Howard B
    May 18, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    "...these days web browsers are intelligent enough to understand that “” and “” is the same thing."

    This has nothing to do with the web browser, and everything to do with how the site's server configuration (usually .htaccess) is set up. You can choose to a website with or without the "www." subdomain, and use redirects to switch from one to the other very easily (add it if needed, remove it if not).
    The "www." prefix was used in the early days of the Web to distinguish between FTP, mail, and other servers; today if you're browsing on port 80, servers are smart enough to know you want a webpage.

  18. Sam
    May 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Wow. Some differences of opinion galore! As an analogous concern with TV, I dropped DirectTV when I found out DISH offered a system to allow me to skipped paid ads . . . well, almost. It only works for some channels, in Prime-Time and gives the option (a good thing, I guess) before you decide to watch a show -- albeit 24 hours later (the fine print) and also that the first ad in each scheduled sequence actually STARTS (but is quickly interrupt by the ass-end of the last ad in the break) and so one suffers only a coupla 3 or 4 seconds of ads. It's far better than recording and blowing through TV ads . . . and it's also better than a poke-in-the-eye with a stick!! Very happy with the "Hoppa" (enabling technology) and found DISH a better value for less $ than DIrectTV --having done both...besides that, I was able to get the dealer to get me the local channels I want, unlike DirTV....anyway as for PC's I load-up on ALL SORTS of anti-adware SW, inclsive of Spryware Blaster and Spybot and much more, regularly cleaning files and registry entries. I HATE ADS and poop-ups (sic).

  19. Harpo
    May 17, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    "In fact, if the usage rates for Adblock software continue along the trend they are headed today, the Internet will likely become another corporate-run medium, because start-up bloggers and website owners won’t be able to afford launching new content anymore if advertising no longer pays the bills."

    Sorry - I have to call "BS" on this one. The truth is there will still be very good content, but it will be non-sponsored content from grassroots.

    • Ryan D
      May 18, 2014 at 5:16 am

      "The truth is there will still be very good content, but it will be non-sponsored content from grassroots."

      I call "BS" on that - the money has to come from somewhere. Regardless where the content comes from, you still have to pay for expensive web servers that can handle high-traffic to host it. Then there are CDN fees, designers and programmers.... Or maybe you live in an alternative utopian universe where everything is free.

  20. Eric
    May 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I hear you on using Adblock for security reasons. And the sneaky ways some sites place those ads is criminal and they should be ad-blocked all the way to Dirtville. But let me ask you this, if you go to Waffle House one day and you know the haggard waitress serving you is getting paid 2 bucks an hour plus tips, she gives you excellent service and you see her hustling the whole time to take care of you, when it comes time to pay the check do you write in a big fat 0 for the tip? Probably not, maybe you didn't realize they get paid so little, but now that you know, how could you?
    What about when you download a free app on your phone, and you see the little ad down at the bottom? Do you get furious and try to find a way to remove it? Most people would say no, because it is immediately clear that is the only way the person who wrote the free app you love so much will ever get a dime for all their effort. So you ignore it and game on. So Apple and Android have figured out for the most part how to keep ads under control. But in the anarchistic web there is no way to suppress ad-mongers.
    Still the rise of ad-blockers threatens to choke small websites out of existence. There will come a tipping point where it's just not worth doing anymore and we will all wonder why suddenly sites are dropping like flies.
    I have no idea how small web-bloggers make money at all off of their sites. I put some thoughtfully-placed, relevant google ads on my website that admittedly doesn't get much traffic, and you know how much ad revenue I've collected from google ads over the past 4 years? 33 bucks. Total.

    • Ryan D
      May 18, 2014 at 5:20 am

      "There will come a tipping point where it’s just not worth doing anymore and we will all wonder why suddenly sites are dropping like flies."

      I used to earn nearly $1000 a month. Still in the red because the costs for content, web hosting and other costs of running a high-traffic, popular site are higher than that - but not a bad start. Enter the Ad-block era and that has dropped down to $300-400. Hosting/server costs have gone up. People write all the time that they love the articles, the research and the content - but so few people really understand the harm Ad-block is causing.

  21. Datruth
    May 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    re: Blocking ads -- Look, if you want content, you need to pay for it somehow. I'm going to presume that you work for a living and expect to be paid for your work, right? Oh wait -- you see that differently, apparently. Newsflash: it's not different. If you can find what you want on sites that don't have ads, go for it. That's your choice.

    I can tell you where I work, were there no ad revenue being generated, content creators (aka actual people -- what a concept) would be laid off.

    So, go work for free and try to live, because that seems to be your attitude. Otherwise, your collective rationalizations are just b.s. , and were you either intellectually capable or honest, you'd admit as such.

    • Dmitriy T
      May 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Problem is that number of sites are careless about ads - and malware getting in ad networks is nothing new too. So AdBlock is like condom in that regard.
      Not to mention that days of simple banners are gone - people have very few problems with static picture they need to click for opening, but almost everyone hate large animated GIFs and sluggish flash ads.
      Another nuisance is that lot of sites tend to open 'befriend us at etc" right in your face at any possible moment. AdBlock cuts that annoyance too.

      As for revenues - there's busynesses, community services/volunteering and hobbies. Latter two are NOT expected to bring revenues or even be 'jobs'.

  22. Abraham Carrasco
    May 17, 2014 at 6:35 am

    *I leave adblock out

  23. Abraham Carrasco
    May 17, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Hey Ryan, I totally agree with not having adblock especially since I follow many people on and YouTube. A lot of creative people have used those mediums as a source of income. Unfortunately, YouTube and partnership companies are starting to give them less money, meaning they have to look for other ways to get income. I'm not talking about people that have millions of subscribers that expand their channel into a business, but people that have dedicated their full time to make content and barely making enough money to pay for their bills having to leave their channels to find another job. It is saddening to see this happen . I leave adblock on to support my favorite people or website no matter how big they are.

    • Ryan D
      May 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      Very nice to hear that Abraham - good for you. Wish there were more people like you on the Internet who really care.

  24. Ryan D
    May 17, 2014 at 3:44 am

    "Targeted advertising is invasive and annoying. If a business model depends on it, it probably is not a very value oriented model. A good website can take control and demand the ads be tasteful and non-invasive, but they are afraid to stand up to the revenue stream."

    I've always felt that way about television ads - but there they are. And why? Because the cable fee we pay each month doesn't support the cost of production - ads do. Would it be wonderful to remove ads from TV stations, from the movie theater previews, from radio, from newspaper....heck yeah. Of course it would. But for eons, advertisers are what have made it so that we can enjoy information. Maybe there's some other model that would pay the bills, and that's why I ask if subscription fees would be more palatable.

    On my own blog (not MUO), I just installed a huge, ugly red banner that blocks the whole page when someone is using adblock. I don't use annoying pop-up ads, so there's no reason for anyone to use adblock at my site - and I personally have no desire to build up a reader base who cares so little about the site that they wouldn't even be willing to allow the display of ads so that I can afford to pay the hosting and content production costs. I just don't get how people can be so short-sighted, to be honest.

    I use the Internet without ad-block, and have never had any of the problems you describe. The majority of ads I've seen are tolerable.

    • Ryan
      May 17, 2014 at 7:03 am

      The way I see ad blocking is this way: I shouldn't need to be told how to view the web. More importantly, my security shouldn't be at risk because some lazy dev didn't use safeguards. Given that I'd have to know someone personally to judge their coding smarts, browsing without ad-blocking isn't a risk I'd be willing to take. I don't care if you provide all of the services or information I want in one place; I will find that elsewhere.

    • Ryan
      May 17, 2014 at 7:19 am

      Furthermore, there's always a way to add exceptions. Adblock plus has an option to allow non-intrusive ads. Placing giant red banners on your page just makes me want to X out and remove the page from my bookmarks/speed dial.

    • Jonee
      May 21, 2014 at 1:05 am

      Ryan D,
      Please write an article on the "Big Red Banner" and how to put it on your website. I think that is awesome. And, if every legitmate web owner, and blogger who have valubale things to say and maybe some good things to sell to go along with it all so they could "keep the lights on" did that red banner thing, then there wouldn't be any good valid content for the likes of these ad haters. They would have to....what would they do??

  25. Keefe K
    May 17, 2014 at 3:43 am

    I can use this to educate my mom on how to use the internet, even when I'm busy at college! Thanks for the article!

    • Ryan D
      May 17, 2014 at 3:47 am

      Thanks Keefe! I'm so glad that you found it helpful!

  26. Ryan D
    May 17, 2014 at 3:37 am

    "Visitors do not owe you anything, least of all to render content in a manner that most meets your approval."

    I never said readers owned content creators anything. I said content creators can't work for free. I realize that's the value you're placing on their work by running Adblock software, but someone still needs to incur costs to keep the lights on, and that money has to come from somewhere.

    The donation option seems appealing - but probably more appealing to readers than to publishers, because I suspect most of the readers who run Adblock would just continue enjoying their free content as they did before and ignore any such donation buttons.

    • Zach L
      May 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      May I ask for clarification: as I understood it, you have to click through the ad to get the site owner paid, not just look at the ad sitting there on your monitor. If I'm correct, then the act of merely allowing ads to show on the webpage isn't enough to keep the content creators' lights on, we all have to click through. So, unless there's a way advertisers can recompense site owners for eyes and not click-throughs, then just admonishing people not to use AdBlock is not enough. You should be encouraging people to click-through to help content creators rack up the money. And that's just not going to happen, at least not from my end, considering the malware you could download if you clicked on one of those crappy, flickering, dopey things.

      • Ryan Dube
        May 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm

        Sure - you are thinking of pay-per-click ads. Google Ads are pay-per-impression (actually per thousands of impressions), so if a webmaster gets 10,000 pageviews a day, that's a lot of ad revenue. If 5,000 of those people use ad-block, it doesn't count as an impression and those 5,000 people just screwed the website owner out of 50% of his ad earnings. For many website owners it's the only thing that pays the bills. On a related note, Helium - a content network of writers, and a provider of free/interesting articles, just announced it's closing its doors. It's just the beginning.

        I myself have a fairly popular blog on alternative news, and will probably have to shut down my site in a few months if things don't change (or start a subscription based model, which is unfortunate for people who can't afford it). It's unfortunte, but this is what ad-blocking is doing. The only survivors will be corporate-run blogs and websites run and operated by the wealthy. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thank you ad-block users - hope you enjoyed your ad-free web browsing while it lasted.

  27. KT
    May 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Great article.
    1. It's a shame that ad blockers hurt the little guy, but until annoying ads get stomped out, I'm not surfing without it. A standard image or text link off to the side or below a page is o.k. but video and pop ups are killing the web.

    2. Always custom install and decline everything but the last page or you end up with about a dozen tool bars!

    3. You forgot about pc cleaner/pc faster scams. Avoid them at all costs, they infect your pc then you give them remote access to it.

    • Ryan D
      May 17, 2014 at 1:09 am

      The problem with this approach, KT, is that reacting by blocking all ads is essentially the same as stealing content -- the end result won't be that the web gets "killed", but the approach of visitors using ad-blockers will just force web publishers to transition to a subscription-bases system.

      I'm curious, what would be more annoying, dealing with occasional pop-up ads, or having all free content online disappear, replaced with only subscription-based content?

    • likefunbutnot
      May 17, 2014 at 1:41 am

      Responding to Ryan D's comment:

      Your attitude is utterly galling. There is no contract that exists between visitors using the open web and content creators that requires those users to view your ads, to accept security risk for your benefit or even to look at your content in the first place. Visitors do not owe you anything, least of all to render content in a manner that most meets your approval.

      As for workable alternatives to advertising, I personally would suggest a tip jar or donation model or an offer of service for hire, using the content you make freely available as a marketing tool to drive whatever business you might feel you're qualified to pursue.

    • KT
      May 17, 2014 at 2:03 am

      I see your point Ryan, but ad companies already have way too much control over what we see and hear.

      1. Terrestrial radio blows because blue chip companies won't advertise on a station that plays F*ck like a beast by WASP or anything remotely interesting.

      2. Look at DVR, tell me with a straight face that people don't skip the ads. When I'm watching tv live, I channel surf during commercials so I don't have to be annoyed with cell phone, car insurance, and junk food ads.

      3. Ad companies determine what gets signed and what gets cancelled. Bland and generic talent shows, check. Artistic and emotionally challenging creativity, no dice.

      I already pay to access the web via an ISP, I pay when I order something, because I know what I want and need. If I like the site and product I ordered from, I elect to get news letters or updates about similar products. I'll never need a deluxe cheese straightener or wombat repellant. Targeted advertising is invasive and annoying. If a business model depends on it, it probably is not a very value oriented model. A good website can take control and demand the ads be tasteful and non-invasive, but they are afraid to stand up to the revenue stream. Maybe it's my disdain for ads, but when I use a friend's computer that doesn't block ads, I don't even recognize most of the sites and I just don't want to be on the web at all.

  28. likefunbutnot
    May 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Use of Ad-blocking on the web is absolutely, utterly mandatory. I don't care if it deprives anyone of revenue. The world wide web is utterly intolerable without it. I also don't care if Adblock Plus triples memory utilization in your web browser. More RAM is cheap and the security implications and annoyance factors are too great to even bother with the alternative. Not using an Adblock derivative is in and of itself evidence of incorrect Web usage.

    Using an Ad-blocking hosts file is also a pretty good idea and works regardless of platform and or browser, though that does mean losing out on an easy way to stop blocking something if it is situationally merited.

    Ad blocking fixes many of the problems with confusing or bogus links. Probably configured ad blocking should also minimize contact with scam sites, but that brings me to point #2: You should be using software that provides some degree of prophylaxis against malware installation. For home users, I suggest using both SpywareBlaster and SpyBot Search and Destroy's Immunize function. Put together, those two things will actually prevent your PC from even communicating with many of the worst sites on the internet. They do so in a largely invisible fashion; your PC simply refuses to or whatever.

    • Ryan D
      May 17, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      I guess it depends on how you use the net. I personally never use Ad-block out of principle, because I feel like it's essentially shoplifting content that someone worked very hard to produce. Then again, if I were visiting gambling or porn sites all day, which are notorious for crazy pop-ups, pop-unders and other annoyances, I suppose I'd feel like I have no other choice.

      The best way to prevent from "communicating with many of the worst sites on the Internet" is pretty simple. Don't visit them.

    • likefunbutnot
      May 18, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Ryan, if you don't like the arrangement that exists between web site visitors, advertisement networks and content creators, either find a different model for compensation or stop creating content. You are of course free to level any unrealistic ethical charge against a sizable minority of internet users based on what I'm relatively certain are entirely selfish motivations, but if your fundamental position is to ignore the best advice you could present to avoid just the sort of frustration and embarrassment that was the topic of this article, perhaps you were not the person who should have written it in the first place.

      Furthermore, as you previously wrote in this very article, it is incredibly difficult for many end users to determine exactly where they are on the internet. Since you're speaking from a position of some sort of authority, you are no doubt aware that any number of scripts might be run, often as a result of code delivered through content delivered via advertising networks that can cause a web browser to connect, silently download and execute something from a malicious web site. To suggest that end users have complete awareness and free will in all possible web transactions is beyond laughable.

      I'm sorry, but the wider need for security and the desire for a frustration-free internet experience trump your desire to earn fractions of pennies from advertisements.

    • Ryan D
      May 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      You're trying to create the position that Ad-blocking is the best tool for security and protecting against scripts. That's laughable. It is primarily to block ads - and the security angle is just an excuse you use to defend your use of it. There are countless other add-ons and fantastic security tools that can and should be used as part of browser security to protect against malware and other threats.

    • likefunbutnot
      May 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Ad blocking is not the best tool for protecting users from malicious scripting behavior. It is, however, one of the simplest and one which can be made to work across nearly all browsers and platforms. Even if I wanted to undertake the effort to explain why and when to use tools like Noscript, the simple fact is that most browsers (including all Webkit derivatives, which probably account for the majority of browsing done on the web at this point) do not have the ability to offer granular scripting control.

      On the other hand, blocking communication with advertising servers in the first place prevents the lion's share of malicious scripts from running in the first place and represents a simple and sane starting point for internet security in much the same way as locking car doors when parking and exiting the vehicle would.

      I do not believe that you are legitimately ignorant of this and you are at the very least being obtuse by not acknowledging that my position represents a better choice from the standpoint of web users who might be interested in reading this article. So far, from this exchange, you seem far more interested in preserving a broken revenue model than in addressing the security needs of end users, a quality I find highly dubious for someone writing posts with "Security Matters."

    • Ryan D
      May 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      "It is, however, one of the simplest and one which can be made to work across nearly all browsers and platforms."
      - I disagree. All you have to do is search the extensions database for "security" or "browser" security for tools that are not only as simple, but much more effective. What you mean to say is that it's simpler for you, because you want a tool that sort of handles security but also primarily blocks ads, all in one extension. If security was your real concern, you'd be using much more effective extensions.

      "On the other hand, blocking communication with advertising servers in the first place prevents the lion’s share of malicious scripts from running in the first place and represents a simple and sane starting point for internet security in much the same way as locking car doors when parking and exiting the vehicle would."
      - This is a general blanket statement without any evidence to support it. Malicious scripts can be embedded on any web page on the Internet without any display ads whatsoever. Tying malicious scripts to the display of ads is erroneous. Security tools or settings that block specific malicious scripting from occurring on the page (but still allow legit ads to display) are much more effective.

      "I do not believe that you are legitimately ignorant of this and you are at the very least being obtuse by not acknowledging that my position represents a better choice from the standpoint of web users who might be interested in reading this article."
      - I'm not, I'm just aware enough of the actual threats to know that you are trying to justify blocking all ads as a legitimate best-approach to online security when in reality all you need are effective browser security add-ons that recognize and block malicious scripting while still allowing you to experience the web in its entirely, legitimate ads and all.

    • likefunbutnot
      May 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      To my point regarding the availability of simplicity and availability of browser security tools: Most of those tools are functionally either Ad blockers, selective toggles for script access or simply verification engines indicating that some third party has previously vetted the content on a page. Browsers other than Firefox derivatives have very limited abilities to control script behavior and of course doing so requires a great deal of technical knowledge on the part of an end user and is therefore ill-advised as part of a general security practice. Content Scanners (WOT et al) typically scan first-party content and may rely on nothing but end user reports, but of course advertising content is served on a connection by connection basis and so it will not provide any help in preventing malware infection from advertisements in the moment.

      Evidence to support my previous statement regarding the utility of blocking ads as a means of preventing malware infection. The overwhelming majority of such threats are found on legitimate web sites but perpetrated through advertising services; it's highly unlikely that a web page serving up first-party malicious content would be so widely visited as to perpetuate said content.

      I see no evidence to conclude that any combination of tools other than ad-blocking provide protection that is as straightforward or practical as blocking advertisements. You did not put forth any examples either of software nor of the threats that you claim can be divorced from the overall problem of malicious scripts that are delivered through advertising networks. I believe the burden of proof at this point is on you.

    • Kelalole
      May 19, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      I fully agree about ad blockers. I have no problem with advertising on websites. The problem is when the ads are made to be obtrusive and/or obnoxious. When advertisers start showing some respect for people I'll stop blocking them and maybe, just maybe, I'd be willing to do business with them as well.