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Free in France freezes out adverts via firmware update
Friday 04 January 2013 15:05:15 by Andrew Ferguson

The online advertising model is still very young but that has not stopped the boundaries being pushed, as was the example with Phorm. The second largest broadband provider in France looks set to re-write the advertising model completely and in one small update reduce the visibility of adverts to a large number of users.

Free has apparently issued a firmware update to its customers ADSL routers which are now blocking adverts by default, with users having the option of turning back on adverts via the routers built-in web configuration pages. The result of the blocking is that when DNS requests for services like Google Adwords are made, the router intercepts the request for the advert and returns a blank section.

Ad blockers are nothing new and many people use them to curb the excesses of sites that use adverts that pop-up or under the main content page. A broadband provider effectively blocking them for all customers though is a very different prospect and with many blogs and other free services relying on advertising income the removal or at best a major reduction in revenue could cause many smaller sites and services to cease operation, The advertising world which is populated by creatives is not likely to sit dormant, and one could expect that things like sponsorship deals, or paid content articles to become more prevalent if banner adverts vanish.

What is unknown is why Free has made this move, possibly the intention was to allow customers to have the option of blocking content and the upgrade enabled the feature by mistake, or maybe at some future date a Phorm type operation will start with the providers own advertising being inserted. For now the New Year is not looking good for many websites in France, whether donation buttons where adverts used to be would form a credible source of revenue is something we expect some to explore. Another option if this blocking is permanent would be for sites to explore a subscription model, but this will only work for sites with large user bases or very niche sites that have a small but very loyal following.

One interesting aspect of this is that the French telecom regulator is already looking into why YouTube is performing so badly on the Free services, and therefore it seems the ad-blocking (for which Google Adwords will be the largest advert provider) may be linked to the net neutrality debate in France, where some providers feel they should be paid for carrying traffic.


Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
Muppets. They clearly don't realise that half the content on the net worth viewing is only free at the point of use because advertisers pay for it. So not only are they putting the sites at risk, but people's jobs as well. We have customers employing 30-50 people, funded from advertising on their content sites. Without it, those people would lose their jobs.
Posted by stevenfrenchy over 4 years ago
brillant that company !!if i lived in france id defintly go for it!! their deal is amazing my mom got it , for 37 euros (includes phone line) a month, you get router with blueray player ( no joke ), that also makes your tv smart, hd channels through internet, unlimited calls on mobiles in france ,usa and canada and unlimited calls on 105 countries on landline
dont know why uk is not taking that direction(all internet providers have similar offers in france), uk orange few years ago started doing so with unlimited calls to 100 countries but stopped after a while,
quel dommage
Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
Great deal, until you realise that if all ISPs did it then it'd kill off most the sites you visit or you'd have to pay to visit them - then it's not such a cheap looking deal.
Posted by stevenfrenchy over 4 years ago
those deals have been for at least 5 years now i doubt it'll change even with that new free rule,
Posted by asylum_seeker over 4 years ago
Well done Free! Does anyone know if any standalone router in the UK can be used to block ads?
Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
@stevenfrenchy - you're missing the point. The deal Free have been doing may stand, but it's not such a good deal when all the sites you get for free right now start charging you to visit them because they have no revenue from ads.

Perfectly possible for them to implement it just for visitors who are blocking ads. In fact I know some people who restrict content available to people who block ads already.
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
the inoperable Youtube streaming would put me off this business model as a customer
Posted by stevenfrenchy over 4 years ago
KarlAustin no i got it but just ignoring that side i am guessing but maybe it just a trial,somehow youtube is not loading great on free, maybe this might help
Posted by Dave2150 over 4 years ago
Sounds like a great idea to me. Worthy websites will still manage to run, based on the quality of their content. The smaller ones will close, though not having to wade through all those adverts outweighs loosing the smaller websites.

Only a matter of time before other ISP's follow suit.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
all ym own websites are true free, no adverts or fees. Although I am considering some advertising now for my own personal revenue, the sites wouldnt be pulled if the ads didnt generate income. The vast majority of websites will have low running costs, the exceptions will be media heavy sites or very popular sites like twitter.
Posted by comnut over 4 years ago
People seem to forget, how bad, ugly, totally disturbing ads can be!!! Do you want a bit of quiet midnight surfing to be interrupted by some loud bloke shouting the benefits of shampoo, or worse???

Then find that it is managed by the same company (yes, starts with G.. :/ ) as many other 'decent' web sites!

if you stop that 'rude' ad, you will also deprive the finances of the other good web sites...
Posted by comnut over 4 years ago

Do note that Firefox adblock will actually *allow* non-intrusive ads!! see the filter prefs.. :)

I have always said to complainers, IF your ad does *not* flash, move, make no noise, I WILL allow it... and you do not need fancy 'services' to do it!!!
Posted by comnut over 4 years ago
asylum_seeker: have you seen the length of my adblock list??????
6000 lines, a bit difficult to add to a hardware router, how long would it take you to type in, one website at a time???

Posted by SATSUMAS over 4 years ago
advertisers will always seek ways to stuff your pc full of ads as ever! you can get software (some from isp's) that block pop up's pop downs, transparent, and even rolling ad's...there are probably others too,these to name but a doubt we can expect other ad techniques..or even licenses to ad software to get thru the restriction/controls placed in free's routers! (licenses from free perhaps!!)
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
Someone also said elsewhere that they had also drastically cut their allowances. and also said they were the best ISP in France
Posted by ccohen over 4 years ago
It was on several front pages in France on Saturday, for instance in 'Libé' at!/0_0
Posted by MHMertens over 4 years ago
Ad blocking only ever works when the ads come from a content delivery network (CDN) or ad network. If a small site owner (as in Karl Austin's example) put their ads onto their site like they add any other JPEG pic etc nobody looses their job. But the power of the very large ad corporations might be curbed. (Power to the people, French people in particular and the rest of it, pretty much in line with common French thinking).

Posted by Mince1978 over 4 years ago
Stop me if im wrong but. The websites make cash by firms advertising on them. All the router does is block the ads at the user end. Therefore,the ads are still on the website and the websites owner still making money from the ads. Its not like the ads are being blocked at source. As long as everyone shuts up doesnt tell anyone they use an adblocker then Whats the problem? Adverts are the bain of mankind. Take TV for example! Prog starts, 30secs later 5mins of adverts. Program back for 5mins then 7 mins of adverts! Really!
Posted by Mince1978 over 4 years ago
Damned rogue capitalists! When will it stop.Most peeps got no cash to spend any way cos of the damned recession so the ads are a waste of time in the first place! Not rocket science is it! lol
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

The advert model does not work that way, adverts generally (but not always in the online world) make money for the website when someone clicks on it.

So if there is a blank box there is nothing to click on and so no advertising spend and no income. This can mean staff wages not being paid.

Which channel is showing 5min 30sec of show and 7 minutes of adverts?
Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
Not to mention any that are sold on a CPM basis will see the number of impressions drop as well - as the number of times the ad is displayed is tracked. Not just how many times it is clicked.
Posted by Mince1978 over 4 years ago
Ok..maybe a slight exageration of tv adverts but it wont be long before its like that will it.. I need a tv which automatically switches to surreal views and soft soothing music when the ad break comes on! lol :-) As regards the way ads worked on websites I had not fully understood there intricate workings.. I'll stick to playing World of Tanks and leave politics alone! Oh no, i gave someone free advertising..Bugger! lol ;-)
Posted by lunanbay over 4 years ago
You could say that under the present system advertisers are freeloading on content - they are like parasites. If advertisers were to deliver their own content almost no-one would want to see it (hence ad blockers). It is manufacturers who deliver "content" (aka products) which advertisers "sell". If the products were to compete on true worth rather than memetic marginality I wonder what that would look like. Is the information age really driven by dross?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
The rise of netflix and lovefilm is changing TV advertising, as for a few you can watch loads of stuff without adverts, and the rise of the PVR and fast forward.

Hence any drinks can will be visible in a show as product placement.
Posted by dragon1945 over 4 years ago
Freeride Games now have Banner Ads which make some games unplayable as they freeze while the advert is showing. (Particularly the Curry's one).I downloaded an ad blocker which solved that problem, but certain games (Moorhuhn for example) also stop the game to show a 20 second advert,as well as the banner ad, which states "Clicking on the ad will not affect game play" ignoring the fact that the game has already been interrupted. Sorry Curry's but I won't buy anything from you again. You Tube keeps buffering so I don't use it anymore.
Posted by Mikejc over 4 years ago
From my friend in France to whom I forwarded this link.

"Just got home after hearing on the car radio news that the French Deputy Minister for Small and Medium Businesses, Innovation and the Digital Economy met the head of Free this morning and has insisted that they disable (remove?) the Adblock function immediately (i.e. today!). There will also be negotiations with Google and the like before the middle of the month. I don't always believe what I hear on the news but at least it's a promising sign!"
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