UPDATE: Three will run a 24-hour ad-blocking trial in mid-June to those customers who opt in to its invite.
Three has announced that it plans to roll-out mobile ad-blocking on its network, following successful implementation in Three UK and Three Italy. The move is likely to cause protest from mobile advertisers and online communities.
The company has collaborated with Shine Technologies, with the aim of reducing mobile advertising experienced by customers browsing when using the Three network. Three says that blocking at a network level is more effective than at an app level on individual devices.
Mobile advertising is something of a hot potato. Online advertising has appeared in many and varied forms, from the clever and informative, to the excessive and intrusive. With increasing numbers of users browsing websites via a mobile network, rather than just through a desktop, this is a debate that's likely to rage for some time.
Three's position is that mobile advertisers shouldn't be degrading the online experience and that customers shouldn't be paying for data that's then supplying unwanted adverts, rather than the content they were looking for.
"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," says Tom Malleschitz, chief marketing officer, Three UK.
The issue of ad-blocking is a serious concern for those publishers and industries who provide services for free, based on advertising. Many websites use advertising revenue rather than subscription or other revenue to fund those businesses, from niche fan interest sites and forums, to huge news websites, to those wanting to promote their online boutique store.
Advertising is part of the online ecosystem in many more ways than annoying spam pop-ups and there are both good and bad examples, from websites that only exist to push adverts with no content, to those websites serving quality content funded by display advertising. The risk here is that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater and sources of online content are eliminated along with the adverts.
Three details that the "objective in working with Shine is not to eliminate mobile advertising … but to give customers more control, choice and greater transparency over what they receive", with three major aims: shifting data charges away from customers, protecting privacy and security, and avoid the "excessive, intrusive, unwanted or irrelevant."
On a surface level those are reasonable aims, although it's currently difficult to see who will police online advertising and whether a working balance will be struck, or if this will result in some sort of whitelisting system.
While Three's statement appears to be about seeking a working balance, Shine Technologies pushes a more militant line: "Carriers can now stop Ad Tech dead in its tracks, protecting infrastructure and delivering an advertising-pollution-free user experience for Subscribers."
Three says that more details will be provided in coming months as to how the company will provide a better experience for its customers, but we're left wondering how that deal will work out for online content providers and communities.