I have a confession to make: I've been stealing from Google. With $1.578 billion in revenue last quarter, the company is unlikely to miss the pennies I've denied it. Still, I feel I owe an explanation: I'm "adnorant," which is to say I ignore online ads.I've been using a Firefox plugin called CustomizeGoogle to block Google ads and generally improve the search experience.
CustomizeGoogle has a lot to recommend it beyond its ad blocking abilities. My favorite feature is its placement of links to other major search engines on Google's search results pages. It lets you try your search query on Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, AllTheWeb, Teoma, MSN, Lycos, Technorati, Feedster, Bloglines, and Altavista.
There's also a very useful option that adds links back to the Internet Wayback Machine -- which hosts snapshots of Web sites taken at different times in the past -- in search results.
I can't imagine that Google is thrilled about this plugin because it undermines the company's business model. Then again, a lot of companies probably aren't thrilled with Google for that very reason.
I'm not thrilled about online ads. In fact, I can't think of the last product I purchased as a result of an online ad. I'm skeptical of sales pitches and I'm generally contrary -- the fact that someone wants to sell me something makes me disinclined to buy it. Obviously, someone is clicking on Google's ads but it's not me (And to compound my crimes, I've been skipping commercials on my TiVo.)
It's arguable that I'm violating the unwritten contract to be receptive to advertising when accessing ad-supported content. I don't buy that argument, but there's a certain logic to it.
Is it wrong to fight for control? Content providers do their damnest to control consumption of their content through copyright law and technical measures. Media companies frequently talk about "fighting for eyeballs," as if eyeballs were objects to be bought and sold.
Do those eyeballs have the right to look away?
As penance, I could try clicking on some of Google's ads, but then I'd be committing click-fraud by clicking without any intent to buy. It seems I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.