Firefox / Internet · August 20, 2007 0

Firefox: If you can’t beat it, block it !

Firefox Blocked on SitesFor all the ardent Firefox users out there this might come as a bit of a shock – but did you know that for quite sometime Firefox is being silently blocked across thousands of sites !! This is an act of direct retaliation by a group of site owners, developers & webmasters who’s main objection is that Firefox actively endorses Adblock Plus, a plug-in that enables users to filter out any form of advertisements from a site.

Apparently most of these sites offer free quality content and in turn earn revenue by displaying advertisements. Since with Adblock Plus active, you get to see only the content (minus the ads), you’re “stealing” the content and stripping the site owners of their rightful income ! Ha ! They’ve even erected a site named Why FireFox is Blocked, where they’ve gone to the extent of saying …

While blanket ad blocking in general is still theft, the real problem is Ad Block Plus’s unwillingness to allow individual site owners the freedom to block people using their plug-in. Blocking FireFox is the only alternative. Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers.

Various BrowsersThis brings us to the big question – why Firefox ? As Abhijit Nadgouda at iface thoughts has pointed out, every major browser has some sort of “mechanism, extension, plugin or other ways for blocking advertisements.” Apart from that there are also the text-based browsers like Lynx and Elinks which filter out any sort of graphics on a site and show you pure text. If we follow their reasoning, then browsers in themselves should be banished out of existence. No browsers, no visitors, no need for websites. Kind of self-defeating, isn’t it ?

Their reasoning seems to have risen out of a declaration made by Judge Posner, elucidating the holdings of WGN v. United Video (1982) among others that goes like …

[Commercial-skipping] amounted to creating an unauthorized derivative work, namely a commercial-free copy that would reduce the copyright owner’s income from his original program, since “free” television programs are financed by the purchase of commercials by advertisers.

If we can apply the same line of thought to the remote controls of televisions which allow us to flick channels and avoid commercials any time, they should be banned too ! Eh ?

The need for advertisements is understandable but not the desperation behind forcing visitors to view / click ads. Most of the better sites serve ads in an unobtrusive way (e.g. contextual ads) – where visitors experience a rich mix of the best of both the content and advertisement worlds.

Moreover, it’s not that Adblock isn’t configurable. All it takes is a single mouse-click to disable it for a particular site. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen users turning off Adblock on sites which deliver truly great content as a way of supporting the site. In fact, tools like Adblock Plus wouldn’t have been necessary at all, hadn’t it been for the badly-coded advertisement-laden sites where the only block of information is stuck between a pageful of advertisements on free iPods and generic Viagra !

Care for a laugh? The blockage mechanism that the “Block Firefox Group” is employing relies solely on User Agent (UA) reporting services of a browser. The code that they’re integrating into their pages denies requests to any browser that identifies itself as “Firefox”. I don’t see this posing as a big problem for the computer savvy users though. There are ‘n’ number of ways to curb this. For example, there exists a Firefox plug-in called User Agent Switcher, which once again with a single mouse-click enables you to make your copy of Firefox identify itself as any other standard browser in the market. So much for their brilliant idea !

As a conclusion, I’ll say that this doesn’t seem to me anything more than a banal & lame attempt by a group of Firefox haters to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) regarding this widely-loved browser. Or perhaps its a late retaliation against IE blocking mechanisms that have been in existence for ages. What I’m sure of is that the blockage of advertisements is not the main issue here. If there’s any concrete issue behind this, it’s the gradual but steady increase in Firefox’s market share.

What say you ?


  1. Guardian Unlimited, Ad blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead
  2. iface thoughts, How Firefox Is The Culprit