If you normally run an ad blocker and you’re reading this article on Forbes.com, then you probably had to turn the blocker off to access this content or any other on the site.
Grumble if you will – but put yourself into Forbes’ shoes for a moment, or any other firm that depends upon ad revenue. Ad blockers cut directly into that revenue. Who suffers in the end? You, the consumer, because without ad revenue, many online firms would cease to exist.
In fact, Facebook FB -0.25% has been struggling with the problem of ad blockers – in particular, ad blocking technology from eye/o, a German company that produces Adblock Plus, a popular ad blocking application.
In a well-publicized dustup in August 2016, eye/o upgraded Adblock Plus to block all ads in Facebook. In response, Facebook tweaked its code to defeat Adblock Plus a few days later.
Many observers of this curious riposte point out that the publisher vs. ad blocker battle is a long-running cat-and-mouse game, as ad blockers improve and publishers respond in kind.
From Cat-and-Mouse to Extortion
But there’s more to this story, as ad blocking need not be an all-or-nothing affair. Israel-based Shine, for example, is rolling out ad blocking technology for mobile carriers to install on their networks – giving your phone company the ability to choose which ads you see and which you don’t, regardless of the intent of the publisher.
For its part, eye/o is also offering advertisers the ability to ‘whitelist’ their ads for a fee, adding to the cost of running the ads in the first place, a move some people liken to extortion.
The result is a subtly complex ethical dilemma. “I have no argument against anybody using adblockers because there is a kernel of right when it comes to the impedance of user experience,” Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg said at a 2016 TechCrunch event. “But as I’ve said before, this is an extortion-based business and hurts publishers.”
Adding extortion to the ad blocker cat-and-mouse game muddies the ethical waters to be sure. Should advertisers have the right to push ads on consumers whether they want them or not? Should consumers be able to turn off all ads, even though doing so impacts the ability for content publishers to create content profitably? Or should ad blocking companies or mobile carriers control which ads you see and which you don’t, for a fee?
Putting Publishers Back in Control
It’s not my place to answer such a controversial question in this article. However, it’s clear the extortion-based business models lower publisher profits, thus potentially impacting the quality of their offerings. The approach may also raise prices for consumers, as phone carriers may now be able to charge us all for an ad-free experience.
To disrupt this messy state of affairs, Silicon Valley-based Instart Logic has introduced its Ad Integrity offering – essentially, ‘ad blocker unblocking’ technology that enables publishers to detect whether a user has ad blocking software installed, and if so, still serve them content including ads that ad blockers cannot block, at least by using the blocking approaches in use today.
Instart Logic’s platform is an application and content delivery network (CDN) – and yet, the vendor recognizes that basic CDN capabilities have now been commoditized. As a result, it has developed value-added innovations in two broad areas.
The first is its endpoint-aware application services platform. In addition to the scalable network and storage-driven caching capabilities that characterize most CDNs, Instart Logic adds scalable compute power – now cost-effective due to the ongoing progress of cloud computing. General purpose compute provides the ability to add new services as enterprise needs evolve.
The combination of the Nanovisor and the endpoint-aware network, in turn, combine to provide the ability to create a broad range of disruptive offerings, such as Ad Integrity, as well as new ways to improve the security and performance of web and app interactions.
Because the Nanovisor runs in every web page that a publisher serves via the Instart Logic CDN, it can detect an ad blocker. If it finds one, it signals the web endpoint to send encrypted traffic that the Nanovisor then decrypts in real-time. The ad blockers, therefore, see only encrypted content, and cannot distinguish an ad from the rest of the content.
The Power of the Platform
Most CDN vendors focus on network and caching infrastructure, while web performance vendors offer techniques for serving up content faster. Instart Logic, in contrast, connects both ends. “Instart Logic focused on software and an end-to-end solution down to the device client,” says Shailesh Prakash, CIO and EVP Digital Product Development for the Washington Post, an Instart Logic customer.
Shailesh Shukla, CMO and VP Products at Instart Logic, agrees. “When the edge becomes software-defined, we can write code around it and take completely new approaches to site delivery, optimization and personalization, enabling us to very quickly build solutions for better performance, bot defense and Ad Integrity,” he says.
In fact, Instart Logic’s security capabilities include defenses against denial of service and botnet attacks, two of the most challenging cybersecurity threats facing enterprises today. “We call this the ‘power of the platform’,” explains Shukla. “Deploy once and leverage for a variety of use cases to generate a variety of new revenue.”
Customers are understandably impressed with Instart Logic’s capabilities, beyond the Ad Integrity offering. “Instart Logic’s ‘power of the platform’ solution provides Edmunds with cutting-edge performance backed with solid security and reliability,” says Paddy Hannon, CTO at Edmunds.com. “We were able to replace our three CDN vendors with a single platform that actually works better and delivers more value.”
As for the ad blocking cat-and-mouse game, will an ad blocker be able to defeat Instart Logic’s Ad Integrity? Perhaps – but given the power of the platform, such a workaround is unlikely to last for long.
This article is a major revision of an earlier article.
Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, Instart Logic is an Intellyx customer. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: JD Hancock.
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