In a move which seems likely to cause consternation across the publishing community, mobile provider Three Group has announced its intention to block online advertising across all its European networks.

In a press release today the company, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holdings, revealed that it will work with Israeli start-up Shine Technologies on implementing network ad blocking. The ad-blocking will work both on web-pages viewed in a mobile environment, and in apps, so long as both of these use known ad-serving networks.

The release says that the roll-out of Shine’s adblocking will begin in the UK and Italy, and eventually will take in all the countries in 3 Group Europe, including Ireland, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. No mention has been made of implementing the system in Three’s Asian territories, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

The release indicates that the ad-blocking will not be absolute and non-negotiable, and lays out three goals for the transition: that Three’s customers should not pay data charges to receive adverts, the cost of which should instead be borne by the advertiser; that customers need to be protected from mobile ads which mine and exploit customer data without their consent or awareness; that customers should be protected from ‘excessive, intrusive, unwanted or irrelevant adverts’.

A spokesman for three says ‘Irrelevant and excessive mobile ads annoy customers and affect their overall network experience. We don’t believe customers should have to pay for data usage driven by mobile ads. The industry has to work together to give customers mobile ads they want and benefit from.’

Shine's estimation of what advertising costs consumers in a gaming app

Shine’s estimation of what advertising costs consumers in a gaming app

Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer at Shine, has compared mobile ads to someone siphoning off a dollar of gas when you fill up with $10, as ‘smog’, and as ‘ecosystem in which the cat has been allowed to protect the milk’. Talking to Business Insider last year Carthy said “We believe ad blocking is a right, full-stop. If the consumer decides to use it, we believe that it should be their right, and they should be able to do it with full integrity… There will be [casualties], absolutely, but I know I’m not losing any sleep knowing remnant inventory ad networks will disappear.”

Shine made its initial deployment to Caribbean operator Digicel last year, causing a storm of portents about the disruption the disappearance of advertising will cause to sites that rely on inventory systems such as AdTech and Google’s DoubleClick (banner ads rather than native text ads).

It is reported that Three may only target the most disruptive and data-gobbling of ads, such as autoplay videos – and, more cynically, that advertisers will actually be able to run anything they like; except that now it’s time to pay, both for the privilege and the bandwidth.

Further announcements on the implementation of Three’s ad-block will follow in the next three months, whilst sources told The Telegraph that the partnership will be officially announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Comment I’ve commented before that the critical mass which the subject of online ad-blocking is now reaching seems likely to presage a move away from server-based inventory advertising, where the originating URL is easy to identify and block, towards proprietary advertising served from the same origin as the website content itself. Since there are philosophical and practical obstacles to any hope that open source will provide a solution, it seems an opportune moment for a start-up to bring forth a workable and trustworthy solution that can provide trustworthy reporting and revenue generation – without leaving the home domain.


Also see:

Online ad czar berates adblockers as freedom-hating ‘mafia’
How open source could save us from ad-served hacking
Allegation that ad-serving companies deliberately slow down web pages to maximise profit
A Microsoft Research paper considers serving web-ads from your own computer