Step 2: Visit those sites and see a pixelated box or a thank-you message where you’d normally see an ad.
Step 3: Enjoy your cleaner, happier, less distracted Web-browsing experience, while basking in the satisfaction that you — yes, you! — have helped “directly support the people who create the sites you visit each day.”
The launch of “Contributor” is not particularly surprising, given that web ads are almost universally recognized as the Internet’s foremost aesthetic scourge. Users rejoiced when one of Google’s ad servers went down temporarily in early November, causing advertisements to disappear from a number of major sites. (“Historic … Enjoy the webs as they used to be before ads!” one woman tweeted, gleefully.) And when the banner ad celebrated its 20th anniversary on Oct. 27, the inventor of the genre — Joe McCambley — was conspicuously absent from the festivities. Since he made the first banner ad for Wired in 1994, McCambley claimed, the industry has devolved into an ugly, cheap, click-grubbing thing.
“Hundreds of trillions of rotten, crappy banner experiences have taught us that even looking at the right hand column of a web site is dumb,” he wrote at the Guardian last year.
And yet, until someone finds a way to replace the $46 billion industry with something more attractive (and equally profitable), banner ads and rail ads and even those super-annoying interstitial ads — which, I suspect, will interrupt your reading of this very article — are undeniably here to stay. There are “experiments,” of course: Google’s Contributor, membership programs, and the late, great return to paywalls, which sometimes supplement, and sometimes take the place, of ads. (“Rejoin the party,” reads the pop-up at the newly re-paywalled, largely ad-less NewYorker.com, which makes up in readability what it lacks in actual carousing.)
But at the end of the day, the surest way to an ad-free Web is that old, proven standby: the ad-blocking plug-in. (AdBlock, which has 20 million users and versions for Chrome, Safari and Firefox, is a good bet.) Advantages include (a) the fact that it already exists and (b) the fact that it costs no money.
Of course, a tool like Adblock will not leave you with the warm, fuzzy feeling that you’ve contributed to the health/sustainability of the Web economy. But it will eliminate atrocities like this one — and that, at least, is something to cheer.