NEW YORK: Pi-hole, a free, open-source software package for the Raspberry Pi basic computer, enables users to block ads and halt trackers across an entire network, potentially creating “a black hole for internet advertisements”.

A feature in Bloomberg Businessweek detailed the four-year-old technology, which differs from traditional ad blockers by working across a private network rather than on an individual device or web browser.

Whereas traditional ad blockers prevent the web browser from showing an ad, Pi-hole effectively prevents an ad server from being contacted in the first place. For users, this translates to reduced bandwidth use and faster load times for all devices on the network.

Notable exceptions, Bloomberg noted, are YouTube and Hulu whose ads can’t be blocked for technical reasons. Neither can it block Facebook ads, but it does halt the trackers that follow users around the web.

The PageFair/Adobe 2017 ad blocking report registered continued growth in the use of blockers worldwide. While its effects are strong in the US, where just under a fifth of web users have a blocker, in emerging markets, where data allowances are often lower and web use is mobile, use can rocket to as many as 58% in Indonesia, for instance.

“In the early days, it was privacy activists and people who had an objection to capitalism in principle,” PageFair CEO, Sean Blanchfield, told Bloomberg. “These days, it’s just average people.”

While Pi-hole is by no means the preserve of average people – installed on just 140,000 networks, helped along by a 22,000-strong community on Reddit – it is an aggressive inflection of a far more common reaction to online ads.

Fuelled by the growing public reaction to the perceived abuse of personal information by big tech firms like Google and Facebook, the problems of online advertising are, to many observers, legitimate.

Jacob Salmela, who designed Pi-Hole, explained that, alongside a distaste for visual clutter, his creation is about privacy. “It comes down to consent,” he said. “I didn’t consent to giving out this information to people.”

In an ironic twist, Salmela shared some advice for promoting a product. “If your product is actually good, your consumers will sell it for you,” Salmela told Bloomberg in an email. “We have paid $0 in marketing and advertising, and look what we’ve grown into. It’s not easy and not currently sustainable, but it’s the way it needs to be done.” Time will tell if such a strategy is ultimately sustainable.

Sourced from Bloomberg, WARC