If you haven’t seen Brad Frost’s masterpiece commentary on the state of the internet, check that out before you continue reading.

I was fiddling around with a WordPress plugin recently and searched for some tips on how to add customized Meta Boxes to my plugin. Thanks to SEO the first 10 pages of Google are filled with sites that provided recycled bits and pieces from other blogs and the official WordPress documentation.

One of the biggest culprits in this type of “content” is a Sitepoint. It starts off pretty innocuously. When you first come to the site it seems pretty clean, useful, and distraction free. However, as you start to scroll through the article ads begin to pop up to the left, and then the right, and at some point (if you’re lucky) they just take over the entire screen.

Screenshot of Sitepoint that is covered in random ads

I only noticed this because I recently moved to a new Google Account and none of my plugins were synced up in Chrome. Including, of course, an ad blocker that makes the web slightly more tolerable. I’ve not browsed the web without an ad blocker for a long time. I am surprised at how bad things seem to have gotten.

In my mind, this is how the algorithm that shows ads at these types of sites work.

  1. User comes to a website to read an article. No ads are shown. The ad AI sends out the warning sirens throughout the network — “We’ve got a live one, no ad blocker! All hands on deck.”
  2. User is surprised not to see any ads. The ad AI begins its strategy — “Don’t scare them away, wait until they scroll down.”
  3. User scrolls down. The ad AI sends out a signal — “Let’s pop one out on the left, slowly, slowly, there.”
  4. User keeps scrolling. The ad AI is pleased — “Didn’t bounce, OK lets try an attack from the right this time. Go slow.”
  5. User becomes sad, but keeps reading. The ad AI is ready for the final attack.

Image of Mortal Combat video game. Shan Tsung is winning and FINISH HIM!! is displayed on the screen.

The entire screen is blanketed by ads, banners come up on the top, bottom, left, right, every single click just spawns more and more ads. User gives up, signs up for Square cash. AI retreats to its corner, waiting for the next poor soul to travel around the web without an ad blocker.