UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Will Cookie Legislation Mean That Ads Will Become Prevalent?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 14 February 2012

Today I launched Firefox for the first time in a long while in order to make use of a Firefox plugin for analysing cookies.

Since the browser was open I used it, rather than Google Chrome which is now my preferred browser, to view one of my blog posts. I found myself looking at a Valentine’s Day advert which was embedded at the bottom of the blog post.

I don’t normally see such ads as they are not displayed to logged in users. The advertisements are used to cover the hosting costs for the blog, and I don’t feel that it is unreasonable for WordPress to recoup their costs by providing such ads. The WordPress store states that:

We sometimes display discreet advertisements on your blog—this keeps free features free!

The ad code tries very hard not to intrude on your design or show ads to logged-in readers, which means only a very small percentage of your page views will actually contain ads.

Since I am normally logged in to WordPress I don’t see ads provided on other blogs hosted on WordPress.com either. Which suggests that a cost-free solution to avoiding ads on WordPress.com blogs is to sign up for a WordPress.com account and ensure that you are always logged in – that would seem to mean that you will have an ad-free environment, but you don’t need to create a blog.

However I suspect that people won’t be motivated to subscribe to a free service simply to remove an ad. After all, ads are common on many web sites and we tend, I feel to ignore the less intrusive ads.

It should also be pointed out the ad providers are aware of the risks of serving too many ads to visitors or of serving inappropriate ads which is why there will be cookies associated with ads. Such cookies can bring benefits to the visitor, by keeping a record of the numbers of ads being served. And just as many users won’t sign up for a service to avoid seeing ads I suspect they will be reluctant to click on Accept cookies messages whenever they visit web sites.

Of course, we could simply configure our browsers to discard any cookies which are being send – which will probably mean that we are treated as a new visitor each time we open a page on a web site and are presented with a steady stream of ads.

I wonder if the cookie legislation will adversely affect the user experience, with users having to choose between clicking on Accept cookies on not every time they visit a web site or rejecting all cookies and having lots of ads to view on commercial web sites?

Am I along in regarding most use of cookies I encounter as benign and wishing that the EU had spent more time in drafting an EU directive which addressed misuse of cookies whilst leaving the user interface environment which is currently enjoyed by large numbers of users alone?

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One Response to “Will Cookie Legislation Mean That Ads Will Become Prevalent?”

  1. Onion said

    Cookie aren’t bad. You mentioned that you can discard cookies so that every visit to the page means you’re treated as a new visitor, without any information about you the adverts you’ll; be shown will be extremely generic and most likely extremely irrelevant to you. Have you tried deleting Google’s own advertising cookies and then viewing webpages with google ads? I tried this and immediately noticed the difference, instead of getting advertised books and films which google has correctly assumed I like, suddenly I started seeing adverts for casinos and teeth whitening which I have absolutely no interest in!

    What the cookie law means is that consent has to be given to set cookies, there are many horrible javascript popups that some websites have started using (only a few so far because they’re hideous and ruin the user experience). One of the best ways to gain consent is to get your users to register and login, and get the consent through your terms and conditions. This is how I think will change in the near future, we’ll be asked to login to services a lot more than we are currently.

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