Have you noticed how difficult it’s become to do simple stuff on the web, such as doing a search, reading an article or clicking on a link to read a news article? It seems anything we try to do is met with in your face advertising and a myriad of requests that get in the way. It’s become impossible to escape the ads that intentionally cover up what we’re trying to read, ask you to fill out an opinion poll of the site you just landed on, ask to subscribe, or require you to enter an email address to proceed. It’s gotten so bad, that I’m constantly leaving the sites to avoid their asks. Companies are now trying to get our email address and phone number to capture our identity in order to be able track us and bombard us with 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. Much of this is the result of now being able to opt out of being tracked surreptitiously from our apps. As a result, these sites are just 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 to sell 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 to track us. You can turn the request off 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 your default browser when you open a link from Gmail? Why does it ask all the time after knowing I have no interest and said know a dozen times? We’re hearing all about artificial intelligence, but Google behaves with no intelligence at all and no memory.
Another scam are the sites that try to attract us 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 is filled with ads and unreliable answers. You can often spot these because the writers take a long time to get tto the point and provide useless suggestions. These are sites that make Google search even less useful and the web more frustrating.
I despise 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 whose idea was it is to text me ad messages? Our mail has gone from a convenient means of communication to an advertising-filled collection, requiring us to filter and constantly unsubscribe. Now they’re ruining the usefullness of text.
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.
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.