Without digital advertising, 90% of the web wouldn’t be able to exist. (Ok, maybe 90% is an exaggeration, but you get the point.)
Digital advertising has been critical to the development of the internet. It’s most significant contribution is so obvious, it’s almost easy to overlook – money. The revenue advertising brings in pays for most of the content we find on the web: whether it’s informative, educational or entertaining.
Digital advertising has also affected the web in other ways, many positive, others a bit less. I thought it would be fun to talk about a few phenomena influenced by web advertising.
The Speaker Icon
You know the scenario…you’re quietly with your computer and suddenly your speakers start blaring a musical advertisement for something important… like underarm deodorant. You quickly switch tabs or open your browser looking to close the offending ad, maybe you can’t find it, so you just close all the windows of your browser.
In response to this predicament, Chrome released in October 2013 the speaker icon. This visual indicator sits on the browser’s tab, making it easy to see which webpage is playing audio (whether intentional or not). For the duration of playback, the speaker icon appears and when the audio ends, the icon disappears.
This icon’s creation is a direct result of autoplay ads. The speaker icon led to the creation of other visual tab indicators as well: one for accessing your webcam, and one that tells you whether the contents of a tab are being shared with others.
The Rise of HTML5
Adobe Flash, the popular multimedia software platform, was released in the early 2000s and thanks to its powerful features, quickly became the standard for displaying multimedia content. When YouTube was established in 2005, it naturally chose the Flash Player as a means to display its compressed video content. At its height, 75% of web video was in Flash and it reached nearly 99% of desktops, laptops and browsers.
But HTML5 has largely replaced Flash as the web’s premiere multimedia platform – and digital advertising had a lot to do with it. First published in 2008, HTML5 includes features that allow for richer yet simpler interactive video than Flash, while giving designers vast new capabilities when it comes to responsive design and dynamic content. HTML5 is also optimized for mobile devices.
Unlike Flash, HTML5 is entirely coded into the digital ad or website itself. Flash, on the other hand, is a separate plug-in that isn’t supported by most mobile operating systems because of its substantial power requirements and slow load time.
Most importantly, Flash is known to have security vulnerabilities and has been exploited in many a malware attack. With the rise of malvertising, most publishers are turning to HTML5 ads which are, at least as of now, the more secure format for ad delivery.
Now Google officially stopped accepting new Flash ads into its AdWords network and YouTube, one of the last Flash hold outs, switched to HTML5 technology on all devices.
Ad Blockers Everywhere
Annoyance with increasingly intrusive, harmful and disruptive ads has driven the creation and growth of ad blockers. Many users now deploy ad blockers to block ads completely from their browsing experience.
In the USA alone, 70 million Americans use ad blockers, an increase of 34.4 % from 2015, according to eMarketer. That number is expected to grow another 24% in 2017 to 87 million people. That translates into 32% of all internet users in America. Meanwhile a PageFair report found that 22% of smartphone users globally use ad blockers. In fact, ad-blocking apps are now among the most popular downloads on Apple’s iPhone.
Ad blocking is especially prevalent amongst the younger generation. According to a study by Anatomy Media, two out of every three millennials ages 18-24 are using an ad blocker on their desktop or mobile devices. Most web browsers now support ad blocking technology as well.
Reversing a longstanding policy, Apple recently decided to allow ad-blocking apps on its iOS 9 browser, thereby joining Google’s Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera, which also allow them.
It is clear that digital advertising is an industry with large influence. To keep the industry going strong, we need to make sure to ensure a clean, safe, and engaging user experience.
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Do you have other phenomena to share about how digital advertising has influenced the masses? Please comment below!