Yahoo Mail Ad-Blocking Move Angers Users - InformationWeek
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11/23/2015
04:05 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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Yahoo Mail Ad-Blocking Move Angers Users

Earlier this month, Yahoo began blocking some Yahoo Mail users if they had ad-blocking software turned on. Yahoo has been struggling to keep its Mail users, but the move has been derided on social media.

7 Hot Advances In Email Security
7 Hot Advances In Email Security
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A new skirmish has broken out in the ad-blocking wars, this time with Yahoo and its ubiquitous Yahoo Mail offering.

On Thursday, November 19, Yahoo started blocking some US users' email views in different browsers -- Chrome, Firefox, and Safari -- if AdBlock Plus, one of the most popular ad blockers, was enabled.

There's no way to say for sure if this is the first time users' email has been held hostage because of a site's ad-blocking policy, but another example doesn't come to mind quickly.

This action by Yahoo was first reported in a thread on Adblock Plus's message board.

It appears that Yahoo thinks access to its dwindling base of users' email will be more important than having to see ads. In 2013, Yahoo had about 96 million email users in the US. However, by August of this year that number was about 71 million, according to comScore numbers quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

(Image: Nicolas McComber/iStockphoto)

(Image: Nicolas McComber/iStockphoto)

In turn, the move has been met with derision on social media.

One Twitter message that can be printed went like this:

So @YahooMail has blocked my inbox for using an ad blocker. It was a good run, I guess. Goodbye! Hello Apple Mail, as much as I hate it. -- Andrei Herasimchuk (@Trenti) November 19, 2015.

It should be noted that Herasimchuk is Yahoo's former senior director of product design and was involved in redesigning Yahoo Mail, which makes the irony palpable.

Most other tweets invoked profane suggestions as to what Yahoo could do with its mail service, as well as multiple threats to find another email service.

Yahoo representatives have issued this response to the matter:

At Yahoo, we are continually developing and testing new product experiences. This is a test we're running for a small number of Yahoo Mail users in the U.S.

Yahoo representatives did not return InformationWeek's multiple requests for comment.

While dedicated mail clients like Apple Mail or Thunderbird do not seem to be affected, it is unclear at this point the exact "small number" of Yahoo mail users being blocked.

The blockade message can be invoked regardless of whether the ad blocker is enabled by appending "reason=ADBLK_TRAP" to the end of a mail message's URL.

Alternatively, changing the Viewing Mail choice in Settings from Full Featured to Basic can also defeat the mailbox block, according to users on the AdBlock Plus message board.

Not all of the Yahoo hosting activities are affected by this move. The "att.yahoo.com" mail service is unaffected, for example.

(Image: AdBlock Plus)

(Image: AdBlock Plus)

Yahoo is not alone in trying to come to grips with the rise of ad blocking. The Washington Post is experimenting with several approaches to create an anti-ad blocker. It's not clear yet whether it's working, or how readers at large feel about the approach.

[Read how Apple is dealing with ad-blocking software.]

The Washington Post is not the only publication trying to find a way around the blocking. City AM, a London financial newspaper, has been blocking the text of stories on Firefox browsers with ad blocking enabled since October.

Ad-blocking software can do more than just prevent an ad from showing on a page. It can prevent tracking scripts that are embedded in the ad. Malware has also been served up in some ads, as happened to Yahoo. This is where the rubber meets the road: Protecting users on one hand, and allowing users to employ the technology they want on the other.

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Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2015 | 8:37:36 AM
Re: Crocodile tears
Well, I think what he means is that local markets arent commodity news.

TV shows that a local newscast can succeed going up against CNN or other major players.

Local stuff remains of great interest no matter how its delivered.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2015 | 8:34:12 AM
Re: Economics
@Joe

Think they ever will?

Will someone else try to buy it when they carve up Yahoo?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2015 | 4:30:08 AM
Re: Crocodile tears
I'm not sure the situation is analogous.  With Ivy Leagues and MOOCs, the Ivy Leagues (and MITs, Stanfords, and similarly placed schools) recognize that they're already getting a great deal of their bread and butter through donations -- so they can afford to take a hit on tuition in this way because it will only strengthen their brand while actively hurting the "little guys" (if a college charging $30-60k/year for tuition can be called a "little guy").  In this way, democratization helps both customers and market leaders.

With news sources -- WSJ and NYT and other top outlets compared to "the little guys" -- it's different.  News in this Buzzfeed age has become commoditized, and people take a "This Six-Second Video of a Baby Squirrel Will Shatter All of Your Preconceived Notions about Gun Control" Upworthy blog as seriously as they do a NYT piece.  The market is different, the price points are different, and the margins are razor thin.  Why contribute to already thinning margins?  It makes no sense.  Better to work to widen the margins.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2015 | 4:22:51 AM
Re: Crocodile tears
*snort* at $1/day.

I'm old school.  I balk at paying $1 for a regular newspaper.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2015 | 4:21:09 AM
Re: Economics
The great thing about Tumblr is that you can do almost anything with it.

The terrible thing about Tumblr is that you can do almost anything with it -- and therefore there is a lack of focus (thereby making it trickier to market and monetize).
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:26:11 PM
Re: Crocodile tears
progman, I would use this analogy. WSJ and NYT are like Ivy League and Standford. They need to recongize that the world is changing, and explore options like MOOCs and paid online learning. But these new technologies aren't existential threats to gold standard brands, as they are to middling and lower level colleges. Just like the WSJ and NYT aren't quite as in danger as mid-city and small-town newspapers.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:15:53 PM
Re: Economics
I remember the old days when Yahoo was new and interesting. It's too bad they have lost focus in recent years.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 7:20:09 PM
Re: Crocodile tears
Both the WSJ and the NYT have had their share of issues in the past several years and are no longer the golden standard of journalism IMO. I kind of viewed their subscription services as one of their last ditch efforts to save a struggling brand.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 7:15:46 PM
Re: Crocodile tears
Yes,social can make you or break you.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 7:10:16 PM
Re: Economics
@Michelle Yes, innovation would be much preferable.
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