The web has become an advertising dumpster fire

Have you noticed how difficult it’s become to do simple stuff on the web, such as searching, shopping, or simply reading a news article? It seems anything we try to do is met with in-your-face advertising and annoying requests that get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s become impossible to escape the ads that intentionally cover up content, ask us to fill out an opinion poll of the site we’ve just landed on’ve (but never used), ask us to subscribe, or require us to enter an email address to proceed. It’s gotten so bad, that I’m constantly leaving the sites I’ve just navigated to.

Companies are aggressively trying to get our email addresses and phone numbers to capture our identity in order to be able track us and bombard us with follow up email and text messages. It’s often done under the guise of sending us something free, getting a discount, or entering us into a lottery. Then there are the popups asking us to accept their cookie policy that require us to read detailed legalese to understand what their policy is.

Much of this is the result of our now being able to opt out of being tracked surreptitiously by our apps. As a result, these sites are instead coercing and bribing us to identify ourselves. The problem is once we do, the ads and requests multiply because more companies have access to our identity. Many of the sites are collecting our identity, also sell the information to data brokers who sell the information across the web.

Many of the tactics are blatent and obnoxious. Such as stopping us from reading an article or interrupting our activity with a distraction. Google has become one of the worst offenders. Notice how they now pop up a window asking us to sign in to a site using our Google identity? That’s not for our convenience, but another wau to track us, a trick Facebook perfected years ago with their sign-in option found on many sites. You can turn off the Google request somewhere in their settings, but it turns itself back on a few weeks later.

And notice how Google keeps asking us if we want Chrome to be our default browser when opening a link from Gmail? Why does it ask all the time after knowing I have no interest and said so a dozen times? We’re hearing all about artificial intelligence, but Google behaves with no intelligence and no memory at all.

Another scam proliferating the web are the sites that try to gain our attention when we make queries such “What are the best soundbars” or “CarPlay isn’t connecting.” More often you’ll be taken to a site that’s filled with ads and unreliable answers. You can often spot these because the writers take a long time to get to the point and often provide inane recommendations. These are sites that make Google search even less useful and the web more frustrating, because they often show up on the front page of search results.

I also dislike those product sites that offer a discount on their landing page before you’ve even read about their products. Save 15% by signing up. You need to think whether you should do it because that offer may disappear. And once you enter your email it asks for your phone number for texting to finalize your discount. Don’t do it. If it’s a one time offer, you can always use another browser to go back to the site to get the offer again. And who thought it was a good idea to text us ads? Our email has gone from mostly useful correspondence to one interspersed with promotions, requiring us to filter and constantly unsubscribe. Now the advertisers want to do the same with text messages.

The problem is that the engineers and marketeers that make the decisions to implement these tacticts rarely get much feedback on their decisions. They are rewarded for bringing in revenue, even if it means pissing off 100 of us to get a response from one.

Yes, I know there are ad blockers, but many of them have become corrupted by allowing certain ads through in exchange for payments. I’m going to try out some of the latest ad blockers and report my findings in a followup column.

by Phil Baker