Advertising is in crisis. Coders and a generation are turning against tracking, profiling, segmenting and even spying.
There appears to be an unfolding ideological attack on advertising. Self interest might be the main driver, but it appears what may well be very smart coders are tearing apart the automated advertising model and quite effectively.
“Malvertiser behind 100+ million bad ads indicted in the US,” says the latest headline. The article says:
“Hey, your ads are being flagged as malware, the ad company told Ivanov – repeatedly. He allegedly denied any wrongdoing and talked the company into continuing to run the malverts – for months.”
Arguably that makes this advertising company complicit. They were clearly aware they were serving malware and yet continued to do so.
This Ivanov guy, moreover, is probably just some fall guy or a low level copy pasting non coder. That’s because such malware ads continue to be served.
Even by Google and on Google searches. Just this Monday it was revealed that an ad for Ebay at the top of Google searches, which when hovering showed as going to ebay.com, actually redirects to a virus site.
This is probably not incompetence. Again one can very easily argue Google is complicit because preventing the above with their immense resources would be relatively easy.
Nor has Google said anything about this malware infestation. Yet there is a very effective attack ongoing that is creating a narrative: ads are malware.
When you speak to the ad industry, after so many words they effectively say there’s nothing that can be done.
They’re laying down and taking it, without even trying to come up with a solution.
Part of the reason is because creativity and innovation has died in this industry as Google has basically monopolized advertising for site publishers. All the ad networks and all the rest are just Google’s clients.
Online advertising moreover is a close knit industry that dances in groupthink. They’re all doing the same thing. Millions of copy clone human bots waiting to be disrupted while they check their 9-to-5 cubicle cards.
Three decades in this space is comparable to living in the stone age. Yet no thinker, no semi-genius would bother with the ad industry as it stands, so arguably they lack proper talent.
The talent appears to be at the other end, with whoever or whatever group is coming up with these exploits to bring the advertising industry to its knees.
They probably think tracking, profiling, and all the rest, is itself malware. They’re showing it by inserting actual malware, which is a big problem for a publisher.
It is publishers that get the blame as at the end of the day it is publishers that are serving this malware, although very unintentionally.
Ad networks get the money anyway and they have publishers enslaved, so they rarely even get shouted at, hence are complicit as we saw above.
While Google, the chief culprit, is so arrogant it doesn’t even talk from their ivory towers where they are facilitating the infestation of the internet.
This is an industry desperate for disruption with both publishers and advertisers now shouting.
On the publishers end, beyond outright malware the biggest problem with advertising is that publishers have no bargaining power nor control. They do not know what ad is shown.
The same problem applies to advertisers too. They also have no control. They do not know where their ads are shown.
It is Google that has total control. It is with them that advertisers have a relationship and it is with them that publishers have a relationship, with Google here used to include ad networks that basically are Google’s clients.
Yet why is Google needed in an exchange between a publisher and an advertiser? Well because Google hosts the code, the algorithm. Advertisers complete some form, while publishers copy paste a few lines of code that calls to Google’s servers.
So let’s kick Google out and let’s get publishers and advertisers to talk directly and solve their problems by not inventing anything, but by putting current tech together in a wholistic system.
First, we sort of copy paste Google’s code. That’s both easy and hard. Hard because it’s not open source code. Easy because there’s plenty in the industry who can write it from scratch.
Now we need a server to run the code. A server is basically a laptop. So we turn this code into a downloadable software that can be installed in a laptop by anyone who wishes to. Thus, now Google is out.
To finish it off we need a browser. That’s very easy too. What’s special about this browser is that it is outside of the internet as we know it. This browser is incorporated in a blockchain. The software you downloaded is a blockchain node. Your installation of it creates a distributed server. Advertisers and publishers can now talk with code.
This blockchain would be specifically for advertising and nothing else. It obviously can’t run on ethereum because it would have its own storage requirements and its own considerations.
In particular, it would need a specialized browser because then it can automatically collect necessary data like what page was visited for how long, with such data anonymized through zksnarks for privacy.
Such data would be all open source and stored in whatever laptop wants to run the ads blockchain. Every now and then at whatever parameter is collectively desired, the data would be discarded from the blockchain.
The blockchain software itself would be a specialized application that is run by primarily advertisers, maybe big publishers, and whoever wants to, but it would sort of be back-end, something for coders/businesses to bother with.
For the front end, as far as a reader or internet surfer is concerned, there would be a light browser that is as big and as heavy as current browsers.
Bitcoin, for example, has the full nodes that contain all the history, but the vast majority by far download a very light smart phone app called a wallet.
Likewise, the wallet-like browser would connect to the ads blockchain, making the front-end experience pretty smooth.
It wouldn’t be necessary to actually run the ads blockchain, but anyone who wants to can do so with the cost likely very minimal as hardware is very cheap, and certainly far cheaper than the 30% cut Google gets.
The point of all this was to get advertisers and publishers to talk, but not manually, through code. We can then build whatever we want, with the system running mainly automatically same as adsense does.
The difference is we would have full control over it. There would be no Google, there would be we the people. Thus publishers can vet ads or delegate it to someone else, while advertisers would have more control over where their ads are shown.
This obviously can be done and is being done in a centralized way, but there would be a big difference here.
The most obvious is, removing the monopoly. The somewhat less obvious is separating the market place from the servicing of ads.
In this peer to peer set-up, there would obviously be some problems. Small to medium publishers, moreover, have no time for managing ads. So ad management would probably still be delegated, but ad services would compete on who is best at vetting rather than who has the best publishers or best ads because they all would be on the same market place that runs on the blockchain, so providing a service on top of it.
In addition many tools can be built for publishers and advertisers to do it themselves in an easy and convenient way as this would be an open source platform. Thus one can easily innovate and build on top of it.
In addition, publishers and advertisers would have complete control. No more begging Google. They would also have access to all publishers and advertisers, rather than having to deal with different providers or with being at Google’s mercy.
Obviously access wouldn’t mean a deal. Publishers and advertisers would have the right to accept or reject each other’s offers.
For greater convenience, there would probably be services to facilitate such negotiation. There would probably be lists with “good” publishers and advertisers. There would be all sorts of things as this is an innovative, very new, open and direct marketplace.
Naturally with any new invention there’s skepticism and quite rightly because it hasn’t yet been proven so it is not yet known whether it would work.
We think it would work. Conceptually it makes sense, so there’s no reason why it wouldn’t and even if it didn’t, it would probably lead to something that does work.
Gartner recently announced that blockchain has just become an innovation trigger for advertising. That means there’s potentially something here, so it must be explored to gain advantage in a highly competitive market.
To facilitate such innovation, first the elected might consider breaking up Google. They’re too big, too rich, and it is too easy for them to buy an ads blockchain start-up with the aim of getting rid of it.
Second, big publishers and advertisers have to get together. They have to speak about cutting out Google and forming direct relationships through the blockchain.
Some sort of consortium maybe, or a conference, or a secret room, who cares just get the ball rolling.
Third, there’s potentially trillions to be made here in addition to making advertising something that serves society by subsidizing free speech while not annoying users and certainly not malwaring them.
Coders therefore will have to stand up too and consider whether it is time to shake up the advertising business not by attacking it, but by offering a better solution.
If such solution is developed, then its uptake might even be overnight because there is almost no cost to switching and for both publishers and advertisers there would be a 30%-50% incentive.
That means SEC and other regulators will have to mind their business if some smart coder comes up with a legit solution and funds it through what would be a coin sale.
A coin here would probably be needed to exchange value between advertisers and publishers. This would be a currency, not a token, so SEC would arguably have no jurisdiction and even if they do they have to consider public interest and exercise judgment in enforcement.
Now as nice as all this might be, it would probably take at least 2 to 5 years to even get out. In the meantime, Google has to explain why they facilitating these malware ads?
They sit on hundreds of billions and make billions in profits per year. They should be hiring some cheap labour to vet advertisers, and they certainly should not give them the benefit of doubt if they’re flagged as malware.
Publishers moreover, as well as advertisers, should be given more control by say showing who advertised and where with the option given to block.
The elected too need to start asking questions. It is shocking for example that this unnamed US based advertising network flagged the ad as malware yet still continued showing it.
So in the meantime Google has to answer for itself, but the medium to long term solution is a distributed Google owned by the people.