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  • So is macOS High Sierra Dangerous to Online Advertising?

    July 14th, 2017

    Let’s put this all in perspective, shall we? macOS High Sierra, sometimes known as macOS 10.13, is currently in the hands of developers and public beta testers. Assuming a high participation rate for the latter, the number of users may have reached hundreds of thousands of brave souls.

    I say “brave” because it’s fairly buggy, particularly on my aging MacBook Pro. For me, and I gather others, Sleep mode merely freezes up the computer, requiring a forced restart. So when I’m done with it, I just shut it down. After three releases (including two public betas), I had hoped Apple would have eradicated that one. Downloading messages in Mail also stalls for some reason.

    But after a few more weeks, it’ll no doubt smooth out. Since I don’t travel as much as I used to, installing a beta OS on that notebook is not going to crimp my work style. I’ll hold off on the iMac until I’m confident that it’s reliable for a production machine, meaning real close to release.

    One of the most significant changes is the addition of something really essential for your online comfort. It doesn’t hurt that Apple’s claims of superior Safari performance appear to be borne out in early benchmarks. Take that Google!

    The feature? Well, if you have a wide diet of online watering holes, no doubt you’ve run into some where a video starts playing when you open an article. Such sites as CNN, Macworld and USA Today are guilty. There are many others, and you have to wonder about the desperation of some marketing departments to impose this intrusive behavior on their readers. I do wonder how much traffic they lose as a result of this offensive maneuver. All right, I just turn off the video, but it’s embarrassing to have it start when I’m busy recording an interview for one of my radio shows. I use some of these sites for online research.

    In any case, there’s a published report suggesting the move, which was applauded by those attending Apple’s WWDC, has already “struck fear into the hearts of some advertisers and publishers.” The reason is that Safari has a feature that stops auto-play dead in its tracks. It’s up to you whether you want to play the videos manually, or just bask in the glow of silence.

    Now this doesn’t mean those videos don’t contain useful information. For a cable TV network, you may see the original story as featured on your TV, or a short segment from it. It will usually be preceded by an ad, the better to play the bills. But you shouldn’t be forced to jump through a hoop to keep it from playing, or install a browser add-on.

    This is quite different from YouTube, where it’s all video and you expect things to start playing when you open a channel or playlist. Since I have been posting episodes of some of my radio shows there, I want you to listen, but you’re dealing with a site where auto-play is expected.

    So should advertisers and publishers be afraid that Apple has decided that its customers come first? What about Google and the Chrome browser? Well you can expect the very same capability there too.

    The other feature that has been added to Safari is the ability to stop online tracking. You won’t confront situations where online ads follow you, ghost-like, for days and weeks after you visit a site to check a product, or click through an online ad.

    So the logic behind such behavior is that if you, say, decide you want to buy a TV set and click an ad or visit an online store or manufacturer’s site, you may, for weeks thereafter, continue to see relevant advertising about similar products. It’s done in the hope you’ll click on some of those ads, which will enrich Google or some other ad network.

    I would rather think that, if I want to check out a product, I don’t need constant reminders. The other day, for example, I recorded a segment on ransomware for the tech show. I did some research about the latest infections, only to be followed around by various offers to help me fight such dangers for several days thereafter. I was even presented with a banner for a Dummies book on ransomware. Give me a break!

    Now I’ve tried hard to make sure that the ads I run on my sites are mostly passive. If you ever feel they are intruding on your privacy, you don’t need an ad blocker. Just tell me which ad, and I’ll look into it. So far as I can tell, the ads are just there, with limited animation and not much else.

    By breaking the rules, and failing to consider the rights of their visitors to be able to visit a site and not be assaulted by offensive advertising schemes, they deserve to lose business. Unfortunately, they also encourage the use of ad blockers. which means that even the acceptable online ads, the nonintrusive kind, are blocked. We all have the right to make a living, but not at the expense of virtually yelling at people to get their attention.

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