Ad-blocking box maker seeks funding

AdTrap is a planned $150 firewall box for consumers. Plugged in between your internet connection and router, it strips the web of advertising without requiring a moment's configuration. Unlike browser-based plugins, it covers the whole pipe rather than a single app: every device in the house managed from a single setup screen.

It's open-source and hackable, too, but the moral hazard with these concepts is always the same: the more successful they are in becoming a de facto middle-man between readers and publishers, the greater will be their incentive to research their way to concluding that you like some advertising after all.


    1.  Yeah, file this one under “disruptive”, meaning the originator doesn’t care what happens as long as they make money.

  1. Did they do any market research, or is this another of those “I know better” startups?

    $150 hardware for something software can do for free.
    Adding a filter on your network, when networks are already too damn finicky for the technically-inclined, never mind the average consumer.

    It’s a more complicated way of solving a problem that’s already been solved.

    1. It’s might be easier to sell your defaults to whitelisted advertisers and networks, cynically speaking, as a remote-managed box-per-IP rather than as software per-client app. (Not that they are planning to do this)

      1.  I like your thinking. But could we go one better, and inject news stories about how you need [sponsor here] to stay alive?

      2. A repository of like minded consumers that would collectively bargain the whitelisted sites they see. That would be my ideal.

    2. I agree. This got me thinking “would I use this it it was free?”. And I think not. I mute television advertising, but if I see something of interest, I unmute the TV. Not being able to pick and choose would bother me, and there are sites with budget needs that I want to support.  Not for me.

      1. I use AdBlock, and I don’t own a TV, and not being able to pick and choose doesn’t bother me one little bit.

      2. To be honest, I did use AdBlock stuff. Not anymore, 50% for the same reasons you outline, and 50% because most of the time I have highly developed ad blindness.

        1.  It’s not about the ads, for me: it’s more about the scripts that the ads bring with them. If a website cares little enough about me, and enough for its advertisers, that it allows them to run script injection attacks on me, then it doesn’t deserve my being counted in its ad revenues.

          The majority of viruses I see and have to clean are from ad scripts, where they steal the web page and claim there’s some virus or something that you *have* to install their software to clean.

          1.  That’s a good point, a lot of sites display absolutely no morals in what they embed. Torrent sites are especially bad, in my experience.

          2. Some of the worst ones I’ve seen have been cases where a reputable ad network was hacked in some way (often not actually attacking their infrastructure, but just reverse-engineering the precautions they have against script attacks, and finding a way to evade them).

            Then the malware stuff ends up on large-audience websites you can’t expect even the most conscientious users to avoid – the local newspaper and such.

    3. Software cannot solve the problem AdTrap is solving.  AdTrap works for ANY device on your network, something that is impossible for a purely software solution.  Who’s removing all ads on mobile devices, that would be news to me.

  2. A resounding pfft, to the moral hazard argument. 

    Yes, if everyone used ad-blockers then ad-funded sites would founder. First off, the vast majority of readers just don’t care enough to actively get them (and I suspect that group are the ones who are more likely to buy from those ads as well). 

    Even if more and more people actually took the effort to block the ads the blame should not fall on the consumer. Maybe, just maybe, that means that the people who are putting ads out there are not doing a good enough job putting the right ads, or quality online advertising to people, and that they are shooting themselves in their collective foots int the process. Host better ads, watch the equilibrium shift.

    1. If advertisers didn’t have to compete for eyeballs, all commercials would simply display 30 seconds of static images like this;

    2. Still, the concept that you should pay someone a wad of cash for a clunky box that does nothing except saving you from ‘paying’ for actual content with a smidgen of your time (and possibly slowing down your connection in the process), that IS an hilarious idea on a lot of levels. 
      Like everyone else said, if you just don’t care for ads, there is Adblocker and TiVo already. So this proposed gadget must cater to those who are vehemently passive-agressive.

    3. Hardly anyone cares about ads per se. The problem is ads with buggy scripts that stop your page loading.  Or animated ads with inadequate servers, thus stopping/slowing your page loading.

  3. I *do* like seeing some advertising. 

    I don’t want to see advertising for things I don’t want or care about — and I especially don’t want the ads to start talking loudly — but I like ads about stuff I’m actually interested in.

  4. I’m not going to pretend to like advertising. I would prefer not to see any, and with a few exceptions, I do surf with an adblocker. Would I buy adblocking hardware? Not at that price, but I would be willing to pay for something that ‘just worked’ across all devices (maybe I haven’t done my researched, but adblocking options are limited on my non-PC electronics).

    I’m not worried about an ad-blocking arms race just yet. Adblock (whatever it is called now) users are still a minority of internet users, and that’s a free product. But I could see this changing. TIVO and DVR has allegedly change TV viewing habits enough to place more importance on product placement within the show (cite: read it somewhere, could be bollocks, and I’ve never used a DVR before).

  5. Also, adblock reliably screws up, and needs to be turned off for, a fairly high number of sites.  When this is a button in the corner of the screen, that’s fine, but dealing with a low-end router configuration page to unblock content sounds like a nightmare.

    1.  I don’t think that’s an accident, it’s a small matter to check if ads have been loaded, and break the user’s experience if they haven’t been.

      It would also be damn easy to apply similar solutions for sites viewed with this box on the line. ( if ads are on the page, show content, kind of thing)

      See how long people use this thing thing if Facebook and half the news sites they use spit the dummy every time.

      1.  You misunderstand how adblock works. It can be configured to either not load blocked adverts, or to load but not display blocked adverts. The latter is an end run around checks for ad loading.

        1. That’s very interesting, and new to me.

          It can still be detected though. Css styles can be detected with javascript, and that’s what’s used to hide the content.

          In the FAQ:

          Having said that, there’s no extra money in making people who hate ads look at ads. The likelihood of adblocking users spreading articles around could be worth more in the long run.

  6. It would not be conceptually difficult to make a website’s content not appear if the ads are not loaded.  This already happens sometimes, though I don’t know if it’s intentional or not.  I suspect that this will happen eventually on a widespread basis.

    1.  The last I checked, ArsTechnica blocks their inline commenting if they sniff you’re running an ad blocker. There might be more handicapping, too. There also used to be language in their EULA that reserved the right to ban a member if they were blocking ads.

  7. I assume that the ads people place on their websites must work to some extent, or there would be no market for it. To me, it seems like an insane waste of time. Why even bother with an ad-blocker when I have trained myself to tune them out anyway?

    For people whose blogs I follow, I would never click an ad just because it is on a site I like. The only time I would consider that is if there really is a relationship between the blogger and the advertiser – but usually that is not the case.

    On major websites, I pretty much tune out the ads and the only time I click on one is by accident. I have found a couple of flash sale shopping sites through ads, but I just have to wonder what the rate of sales is on website ads that makes it worthwhile for people to advertise this way. It seems like there is so much noise that cutting through it is almost impossible.

    1. Why? Oh: because one might have an actual sense of aesthetics and the layout of, for example, the NY Times is infinity times more delightful without the ads.

      Also: how do you know you are tuning them out?

      1. put precisely. every so often i find myself on a netbook using chrome without adblock (i normally use firefox with adblock. it is amazing and disheartening and just plain incredible to realize “oh my, this is how the internet looks for most people”. and the NYT (and many others) with adblocks actually looks the way i expect a newspaper page to look (online at least). without adblock, too much of the internet just seems like an annoying irritant …

      2. Well, I have not bought any new mortgages on any of the houses I don’t own, I have not learned what that 1 secret to perfect abs is yet, I have bothered to look my perfect Christian wife yet, and my penis is the same size it has been since I finished up with puberty.  So, I don’t think the advertising is working.

        I don’t mind ads.  I just mind shitty ads.  If Google can read my mind (or e-mail) and knows that I will, without a second thought, buy next Laundry Files book that comes out and it pops up an ad letting me know it just came out and that I should buy it, I will say thank you and throw them my money.  I don’t mind ads in principle.  I want to know about stuff that I want to buy.  I just mind ads in practice.  A full screen video and audio ad for a fucking car isn’t information I want or care about.  It is just going to piss me off.

        People bitch and moan about targeted advertising.  Fuck that.  I say bring it.  The day that the only ads I see are ones advertising books I want, board games I would like, and local nerdy events will be a happy day. Until then, I have to ignore 2 SECRETS TO A PERFECT SEXY BODY THAT THE DRUG COMPANIES DON’T WANT ME TO KNOW!!!!!

    2. Well, for starters, once I started using an adblocker, the number of viruses and malware I had to clean off my computer decline dramatically. As in, down to maybe one or two of the more minor ones a year? And I don’t visit shady sites- hell, ads on Yahoo were infected at one point. And two, my god, it speeds up the loading of certain websites by insane amounts. To the point that on my little old netbook (with an extraordinary small SSD, and not very powerful processor), running an adblocker was mandatory because otherwise most websites would cause the damn thing to lock up. 

  8. No thanks. The thought of having to periodically drain the sump of all the yucky linty goo that gets collected by this ad-trap. That’s what puts me off.

  9. Make a model that blackholes any ip address known to be used for tracking users with some kind of scheduled update of the list and I’m in. Maintaining my own hosts file is kind of a pain.

    Obviously that will catch most (all?) ads too, but I think befuddling sites that sell my info is a much more interesting problem. 

  10. If I were in the ad business I the first thing I would do is buy one of these, figure out how it works, and figure out a way to work around it.

    1. So, if you were a telemarketer, I presume you would also find a way to work around the national do-not-call list?

    2. Do you really think that will make you more successful? 

      I despise marketers who ignore my preferences. I’ve registered my phone number on the national do-not-call list and I still get calls. Stopping companies from sending me catalogs is truly sisyphean. I have severe ad-exhaustion.

      If you provide an advertising supported service and don’t want to serve ad-blocker users, then put up a screen saying just that. It really isn’t that difficult.

  11. “The moral hazard with these concepts” says the guy posting to a site festooned with ads. ;-) 

    The problem with blocking ads is that, at some point, if you’re too successful, nobody’s getting paid and the content the ads are wrapped around stops. 

    I agree with curbing the pop-up, pop-under, interstitials and other in-your-face ads. Publishers need a wrist-slap for inflicting those on their readers, and advertisers deserve to go to /dev/null for trying to force them on the audience. 

    But for those folks waving the “I don’t wanna see *any* ads!” banner – I have no sympathy. Either start paying directly for the content, or STFU. You really don’t have a right to get everything for free.

    1. What he said.
      Some sites I’d like to see do well are ad-supported. Hell, the company I work for is ad-supported. If everyone blocks ads, the ad-supported model will die. Moreover, we’ll go through a hellish middle period featuring an arms race between the blockers and advertisers desperately trying to get to your eyeballs somehow, which is a war that no one will win.

      If the ad-supported model dies, that leaves donations or paywalls as the only way for content providers to cover their costs. If people have to choose where to spend their paywall dollars, the big guys will take priority (“I’d really like to support Joe’s Tiny Little Website of Neat Stuff, but I spent my Internet browsing budget for the month on Hulu and the NYT”).

      I hate ads as much as the next person, but they can be a relatively unobtrusive way to support websites that have no other practical revenue stream. So I think the real moral hazard isn’t the blocker-makers figuring that it’s in their interest to sell selective access, it’s that everyone blocking ads might eventually kill some of the stuff that makes the Internet good.

  12. You know, since I stopped watching TV and started using ad blockers, I find that I spend far less time walking around wanting stuff.

    But then a few years ago, I started getting into old-time radio on .mp3, and now I find myself wishing I could still get Bromo-Seltzer in the original potassium bromide formulation. I find myself drinking Dr. Pepper of all things (thanks, 10-2-4 Ranch with Martha Mears and the Sons of the Pioneers!).

    I think the old-time radio model of advertising is directly applicable to New Media. If an established company were to start producing free-as-in-free online content as reliably entertaining as The Jello Program with Jack Benny or Inner Sanctum Mysteries Presented by Carter’s Little Liver Pills, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

  13. there is one last problem… more and more Ads come over https and are encrypted and signed… such abox not locally running in your browser can’t fight such ads… without making security a mess…

  14. I’ve figured the niche for this. When you’re setting up your parent’s machine, and you don’t trust them not to balls up the adblock installation. Or your kids, I guess, but lets face it, parents tend to be the durpier ones, technologically.

  15. A better use would to have it contact the advertisers anonymously on your behalf, and scream at them the type of advertising that’s being black/white listed. This would be in the hopes that the Intertubes become less like MySpace/AngelFire and more palatable. Truly, ads are not the problem on the net. It’s how they’re presented. Without adblocking some site are horrible to read.

  16. Until its as feature rich as my adblock i would never use such a toy.

  17. This is crap. It’s a potential form of censorship. OK OK I know, lets create a black box that filters selected crap on the internet, we get people used to it, and happy and when enough people are using it we then filter everyone’s access of certain websites and filter access to any information about those sites and anyone who comments that we might be doing this also get censored while we are at it. Then we sell a secondary service to people who want to ensure that there brand of marketing gets over looked, or their choice of politics gets bias filtering.

    We call it the China Box. Huawei can make it for us.

    1. what in the F are you talking about? Where do you manufacture your slippery slope argument from? Your own imaginary censorship? 
      People are saying they don’t want advertising. Excuse me if I exercise that right because I care to see absolutely zero advertising on the web and no publisher has the right to force advertising on me, and I have no intentions of ever compromising on that view.  I have no sympathy either. It’s my money, and I’ll spend it however I goddamn please. That’s not censorship, that’s called free enterprise – and every publisher who says that they can’t function without ads is full of shit because thy all functioned before they had tons of ads, too.  

      1. You miss my point. It’s hypothetical, but if you design a device that can filter something that the customer doesn’t want and is willing to pay to block then the people who create the ad’s will workout a way to circumvent the block, so the device will need constant updates. These updates will be daily and can include any number of filters blocking any number of domains and sub-domains and or selected word combinations that the development team consider to be an ad. The device may become popular and then be dominating in this industry, and alternatives will be few and far between. The power to alter the filters lies with the developers and not the owners. This means they alone can decide what qualifies as an ad. They can then choose to filter keywords that are not ad’s but other potentially unwelcome items. Remember this device is filtering all internet traffic to you. So who is to say that company, the development team behind it couldn’t offer out a further service to filter out sites belonging to companies for a ransom to those companies or equally as bad, charge one company or site to block another, under the guise that the filtered company is producing material that may fit within some broad and generic rule. This sounds like a dystopian internet, unfortunately this is what the net-neutrality was all about in a broad sense and is precisely what certain (media/internet/press) companies have been wanting for the last few years – a way to block selected objectionable material, The problem is the definition of objectionable is subjective and objective. 

        Would you continue to use this device if they were blocking content that wasn’t ad’s? or if it blocked content that they were paid to block, and also blocking sites that could make you aware that it was doing this?

        1. You acknowledge the issue by your second sentence. It is indeed hypothetical. You don’t have to use this device, or buy it, or anything. 

          I would never begin to use this device, let alone continue. Neither will hopefully anyone with common sense.

  18. Peerblock does this on a computer-wide level as well. You don’t need a box.

    I tried to be good for a while there and not block ads on my mobile, but seriously… screw that. One too many ads disrupting the actual game play or interrupting the game with a splash screen was enough. I’m not going to install jewel defense, or whatever the hell it is anyway. I have never bought a product from something on a web banner and I would hate myself if I did. Surely I can find out what I want better than any advertiser considering I can research and buy *basically anything* while sitting right here.

  19. Block too many ad’s and the site you like and visit often go up in smoke. Websites that offer valuable services should adapt a pay and free policy – pay a fee and you get uninterrupted access, have the free version if you don’t, but you get a string of ad’s.
    Sounds reasonable to do this rather than a site going under due to lack of revenue to fund it.

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