Over the years, adblocking has taken numerous forms. Originally, adblocking was present on homemade or bootleg recordings of radio and television content. With various recording technologies, such as VHS and Cassette tapes from the 1970s up through the early 2000s, people could make recordings of their favorite songs and television shows for later playback. Creative playback, mixing, and audio engineering tools of the day would allow people to edit out advertisements and commentary from their recordings.
Since the early 2000s, following the adoption of the internet in mainstream society and everyday life, the term has been used most prominently to refer to technologies which allow one to block online advertisements from both websites and streaming video.
One of the earliest known examples is Firefox's extension, Adblock. Developed by Henrik Aasted Sørensen, Adblock was launched in 2002 as one of the first Firefox extensions. It allowed users to maintain a list of web addresses that the web browser would be prevented from loading - blocking the ad from being displayed on a given website. Over the years, many more adblocking technologies would be developed for a variety of different web browsers - including the successor to Adblock, Adblock Plus.
In 2012, Dish network began bundling their Hopper DVR with an ad-skipping feature that allows users to bypass advertising on their prerecorded programs. This particular technology led to a wide variety of lawsuits that are still in the process of being resolved. Currently, various court rulings have found this technology to be perfectly legal, despite objections from leading television networks. However, this has not stopped certain networks from threatening to drop their relationships with Dish Network if such technologies don't change to meet their advertising needs - which Dish has typically complied with. 
Ad-skipping can also be seen with a subscription like feature. Hulu, one of the most popular TV and movie streaming services offers an "Add-Free" feature for an increased monthly rate. The standard Hulu requires users to watch add intermittently through the screening of the TV/Movie, while with an increase of $5 a month, users can skip adds entirely. This is adding even more fuel to the "Fall of Cable" and transition to online streaming. This also is greatly affecting companies who tend to get the bulk of their advertising through Television.
Businesses and Advertising Revenue
One of the biggest ethical issues surrounding adblocking is the economic impact on advertisers. Many businesses rely on digital advertising to promote or support their products and services, and adblocking can adversely affect this process by disrupting the connection between paid advertising and viewers. For this reason, businesses are concerned with how adblocking software affects the value of users and how it impacts their marketing investments.
Many advertisements are argued to intrude on the users experience of platforms. Many times users are barraged with advertisements that either hinder the integrity of the website, slow down the ingestion of information, or simply irritate the user. Adblockers are said to improve user interface design to best maximize users' productivity and workflow.
Adblocking itself is now a business. It interferes with conventional digital advertising methods. People need ads on their page if they are to keep their site running, which creates the need to drive user traffic to their site. For example, when performing a search on Google, the first few results are usually ads. Companies pay for this and expect to get more commerce if their sites are first in the search. With adblocking, their money is going to waste. Companies are making their advertisements less annoying. Strategies like native advertising and sponsored content seek to provide advertisements that users may enjoy or more freely interact with. Erik Martin, a manager at Reddit explains the type of ads he avoids on his site. "We are all frustrated and upset when we go to a quality publication and see ads for flat belly diets or pop-under ads". This is one of the motivating factors that compel people to use adblocking tools. Users will be deterred from the site if they are annoyed by the ads. There must be a balance of ads, varying the levels of how 'obnoxious' they can be.
The president of Adblock Plus, Till Faida, believes adblocking software is a cause and a business. Faida claims approximately 6% of web users use the software. Many of these users consist of those who are less likely to pay services to block or remove ads. For example Spotify, originally free, can be upgraded to Premium to avoid ads. While around 6% of users employ adblockers, many websites lose up to 8% of their audience, which hurts not only the ad providers but the actual website. Adblock Plus attempts to aid advertisers in producing and implementing successful ads. Adblock Plus charges ad providers to un-block ads and to approve ads so that they will not be blocked by the software. This program is known as the 'Acceptable Ads' program, and it's standards make it difficult for businesses and sites to become members.
Arguments that those who use adblocking software are disruptive to a given advertiser's revenue stream - if they don't see an ad, they can't purchase the advertised product or know that the company exists in the marketplace. The people using adblocking software represent a large portion of consumers who may see advertisements but never convert to paying customers. From this viewpoint, these users could be seen as having a net neutral impact on the advertiser and their various subsidiaries.
Ethical implication comes into play with the rise of sneakier, click bait driven advertising to combat the use of Adblock software. What makes a website successful is revenue. Articles are becoming less about important stories and good journalism and more about suckering the user's attention by disguising advertisements into stories. Ethical concerns arise when advertising starts to prey on our smaller attention spans and slyly encroach into a world of online news. The future of advertising is well on its way past sidebar or banner advertising and into the sphere of online journalism. Soon there might be Adblock software that skims through an article to determine whether or not it is, in fact, a credible story or just another well-disguised advertisement.
User Privacy and Control
Overall adblocking software successfully allows users to tailor their experience best to themselves. Through filtering and removal of advertisements irrelevant to them, adblocking creates a better experience for the user to engage in.
- "Ad_blocking" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
- Lara O'Reilly · (July 14, 2015) · The inventor of Adblock tells us he wrote the code as a 'procrastination project' at university - and he's never made money from it · work · Business Insider · April 9, 2017
- "Hopper_(DVR)" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
- Mitchell, Robert · (2014-01-15) · Ad blockers: A solution or a problem? · work · Computer World · 2016-03-28
- Fisher, Ken · (2010-03-06) · Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love · work · Ars Technica · 2013-10-26
- Chappell, Richard · (2010-03-09) · Does Ad Blocking Hurt Websites? · work · Philosophy, etc. · 2015-06-17
- Robles, Patricio · (2010-03-08) · Is Ad Blocking Really Devastating to the Sites You Love? · work · Econsultancy · 2015-06-17