Increased advertising pollution on wordpress.com

wordpress.com is the hosting service associated to the WordPress free software blog platform (WP for short). I often described this combination as virtuous, as it permits users to open easily and swiftly a hosted blog, while letting them move it easily to a self-hosted or other host solution using the same software. The growth of wordpress.com hosted blogs has been accompanied by a growth of blogs using WP with a hosting solution that is directly under users’ control.

However, the small world of French-speaking literary blogs, many of which use (or used see below) wordpress.com has suddenly discovered that there is another side to the coin. Hosting is not a zero-cost activity, and wordpress.com paying hosting services, though more costly that some offers on the market, are not unreasonably priced. However, if wordpress.com became one of the highest traffic site in the world, it is because it offers a free-of-charge hosting service. The terms of use of this service have always stated that ads could be placed in blog posts as wordpress.com saw fit, and that they would try to avoid as much as possible being too intrusive..

De facto, (at least the French) low frequentation blogs (for which ads bring little revenue to wordpress.com) saw (almost) no ad placement. Since last week, one witnesses a massive irruption of ads on French blogs. Authors of literary blogs, who are often very concerned with the visual environment of their writings, suddenly realized that they had entered into a fool’s bargain by believing to the good fortune of a free service offer.

I do not know if the increase in ad placements is due to a new agreement with advertisers in France or to a change in wordpress.com policy in order to induce more users to opt for the paying service. The result however is not doubtful: unless there is a strong reaction of the user communities, the demanding and broke – or reluctant to paying services – bloggers will not only leave wordpress.com but also switch to another sofware platform, which is too bad, since WP powers today many interesting (form-wise and content-wise) blogs.

How can one react to such a situation? As usually a combination of education, grassroots resource pooling and pressure on commercial players is needed:

  • Education, because one must help these bloggers realizing that indeed they were fooled, but even more they fooled themselves. If you can afford it, always prefer a paying free software offer to a free-of-charge one, and in all cases refuse to put your dearest productions in a proprietary platform that will make everything to prevent you from exporting them out again.
  • Grassroots resource pooling by building multiblog hosting whose costs would be shared as to help broke bloggers to keep having access. I will see what I can do on this front for some literary blogs.
  • Finally, I invite all WP developers (including theme and extension developers) to pressure immediately wordpress.com so that they abstain of ad placement on low traffic blogs and warn users in advance of any (technical or commercial) change to their ad placement policy.

This post is also available in: French

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