An Ethical AdBlocker - a Bitcoin killer app?

Ads suck. TV ads suck, internet ads suck, pretty much all ads suck (well, perhaps except for some Super Bowl ads and a few rare gems). Moreover, ads don't work as well as they used to, so they have to get more aggressive. We hate ads, so we create software to block ads, and the software creators then charge a toll to let companies display us ads anyway.

A lot of content creators need ads to support their work, they appeal to their viewers not to use adblocks, and some websites make half-assed attempts at getting us to pay instead of viewing ads.

If you don't use adblocker, your viewing experience on most sites is abysmal, and the loading times, especially on mobile, are abysmal. If you use adblock, you feel bad for not supporting the content creators. Perhaps instead you decide to use "ethical adblocks" and only view websites that are not ad supported?

All in all, the current ad industry is a struggle between ad creators that want you to see their ads, content creators that don't want to show you the ads but have to to earn a living, and the viewers that don't want to watch the ads but still want to support the content creators.

Perhaps there is a way to support the content creators AND not have to rely on ads? There have been many approaches to this in the past, so lets see what we can learn from them and what can be improved...

Tip-based support

One of the first ideas that come to mind when one thinks how to support a creator is tipping. The idea is not new - companies like Flattr have been around for many years.

The problem with tipping, is that quite often you have to set a tipping jar up first and hope your users will be using the same platform. Without critical mass, you don't have much. This seemed to be the reason Flattr failed - it hasn't reached a critical mass, so it fizzled out mostly.

A better idea came around with BitcoinTip and later ChangeTip - tipping solutions where you could tip anyone, even if they haven't set up an account with the company. Combining that with being able to tip anyone on various social websites like Reddit, Twitter, Twitch, etc. Now suddenly you were able to even tip famous people, such as Garry Kasparov, and know they would receive their bits.

However, tip-based support also has a downside - you can't make a predictable living with them. They are by their very nature a flash in the pan. Moreover, just like upvotes on Reddit, short, witty jokes and memes might get content creators more tips / upvotes than large submissions of substance. We need something better that encourages creation of "wholesome" content, not just pictures of cats.


An alternative to tip-based support is patronage, made especially easy through such platforms as Patreon or SatoshiVote. This form of support is suitable for a much broader set of work - from hobbyist book reviews up to high-quality educational videos.

This models fosters consistently high-quality work. Creators get paid more the more people enjoy their work on a regular basis. One-hit wonders don't translate directly into money as it would with ads on a highly-popular video, but the extra exposure can translate into a bigger stream of money down the line.

While this model is good for continuous series, it might not be ideal for infrequent releases that get a lot of views over time (say, the song "Friday" by Rebecca Black is getting a good amount of searches every week on Friday), or frequent but very minor releases (such as most of the top contributors to Reddit).

Subscription model

Similar to the patronage model, in the subscription model every user pays a certain amount per month to view a website (usually, but not always ad-free). While this model can work pretty well if the user consumes a lot of content from the same website, it doesn't work well if someone visits a page only a few times per month. Since one can only pay for so many subscriptions per month, it tends to promote only the biggest, most established content hosts (similarly to subscription-based MMOs being replaced by free-to-play ones).

A tipping adblocker

A possible solution to most of those problems could be a combination of a few of the above technologies.

The starting point for the solution would be an ad blocker - not necessarily designed to sell your data nor to take bribes to get ads through, but focusing on being the best ad blocker out there - no compromises, user experience comes first.

From there, the software would start tracking which pages its users visit and for how long. All of the time would be divided based on the content consumed - length of the video watched, which submissions on Reddit were upvoted, etc.

Once the data is aggregated, the users would be able to donate a certain amount of money per month. Like on Flattr, the donations would be divided up between the content consumed, but without the extra hassle of having to click on special buttons and so on. Some portion of the money could go to the company maintaining the whole software product.

The content creators would receive the aggregated donations of everyone from the system. If they provide a Bitcoin address - the money can be sent automatically. For websites that support it, the money could be deposited to user's account like through ChangeTip. Other websites could embed payment details directly into the html code, which can be easily scoured like ProTip appears to be doing. If a website doesn't have a payment setup yet, the donations could be stored for the time being. Websites hosting content could divide the revenue up - YouTube could get a cut of the tip, while the video creator could get the rest.

Everything could be optimized through some Interledger-like cross-currency payment protocols if someone doesn't like Bitcoin. Users could also add weight to various sites they are tipping - perhaps prioritizing blog posts over Reddit and so on.

All in all, this setup would improve the user experience by eliminating ads, replacing the revenue stream content creators and hosts lose from the removed ads by essentially donate-per-view (which could be more than a few cents an active user is generating per month). This means a user doesn't have to commit to a subscription if they don't visit a site frequently, they reward the content creator whenever they view the media, not "once-per-video" like Patreon would, and adding an extra tip every now and then would be seamlessly integrated into software (since it already tips everyone anyway, might as well make it easy to tip a bit extra).


Nobody wants to watch ads, thus adblockers are popular. If the adblockers would incorporate some universal tipping solution to replace the revenue stream from ads to support the content creators, it could be a win for both the creators and the users (although not so much for companies that need to advertise). Bitcoin could allow for anyone to receive tips, but different payment solutions could be introduced as well.

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