Some time ago, we announced that certain SE sites will have advertising enabled. This has gone well and we're extremely thankful to everyone for their support and feedback. Because it has been successful so far, we're going to be extending the program to the majority of our graduated sites. Well, we've pretty much already done that, but there are quite a few sites that have ads enabled, yet still display nothing.

The thing is, we don't really have an abundance of clients offering products that a bunch of really good cooks would find relevant, but Amazon has stand mixers, a selection of super fine chinois, deliciously sharp cutlery and enough cast iron to fill the Gulf Of Mexico with red-eye gravy.

Beginning as early as this week (week of 5 February 2018), our ad team is going to be hand selecting affiliate ads to be displayed on select sites. The use of inventory will of course depend on the availability of relevant ads to display which means:

  • Some sites might see very few, if any ads. Some topics simply don't come remotely close to orbiting anything worth advertising. Furthermore, while graduated, some sites simply don't have enough activity for ads to make sense.

  • Since these are hand-selected, it could take a while for ads to appear initially.

  • These would of course yield to inventory from clients if clients had products that were relevant to any given topic.

Nothing changes when it comes to the reduced advertising privilege. If you're used to occasionally seeing a community promotion ad, you'll just notice that you'll also occasionally see an ad for something that is likely to be of interest to someone interested in the topic that your site covers.

In fact, to be clear, this is simply a continuation of the announcement we made in November of 2016. We just wanted folks to know that we're going to be continuing the program where there's good potential to show relevant advertisements, even if we don't have clients lined up with a demand for it.

Where can I give feedback about a certain ad on [site]?

Open a meta post on your per-site meta and let us know. Please remember, the bulk of advertisements are an effort to get something small back from folks that hit the sites through search engines and are extremely unlikely to ever become contributors. Their soufflé stopped falling, and we'll probably never see them again. Maybe we can get a few bucks once they realized that copper ions help egg whites stiffen properly and buy a bowl or a proper bloom whisk.

However, you're the experts on these topics and we're very likely going to listen to you.

What sites, specifically? Are any sites exempt?

If you're a former Stack Exchange 1.0 site and / or subsequently joined the network under a special charter, nothing changes - don't panic :)

For the rest, we're just extending what we're currently doing with ads on graduated sites to also include those where there's an opportunity to make sensible use of affiliate ads. If a site has less than 15k (average) daily visits, or fewer than roughly 50k combined total posts - it might not yet be time to invest in selecting ads to be shown there. But, part of this exercise is also seeing what works best.

I don't really have feedback, just some suggestions

Ads aren't just an opportunity to sell stuff, they're an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic. That, of course, makes suggestions from people that do that stuff every day quite valuable. Post on your per-site meta and our community / ad critters will take a look.

Questions? Comments? Kvetches? Let us know in an answer or comment below.

If anything about the plan changes, we'll update this post to let folks know.

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    Is there a particular tag you'd like people to use on per-site metas, to make it easier for you to find and respond to these posts? – Monica Cellio Feb 7 at 21:30
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    @MonicaCellio I'd think "affiliate-ads" would be a good counterpoint to the existing "community-ads"? – Catija Feb 7 at 21:41
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    I suppose this one is targeted at your 'ad critters': Is any consideration given to advertising affiliates targeting particular geographical regions? Big worldwide companies like Amazon is one thing, but what if a company is only relevant to one country? Are worldwide visitors going to see companies that don't offer services outside the US (or vice versa)? Can say a UK-centric company become an affiliate, and can/will their ads be restricted to that region? – Robotnik Feb 8 at 1:32
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    “we're extremely thankful to everyone for their support and feedback.? So everyone was supportive? Where was the opportunity to register our dissent and lack of support, for the toxic ad-based revenue model? – bignose Feb 8 at 4:46
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    @bignose SE's always been very accomodating to the ad-blocking crowd. You never have to see an ad, if you don't want to, and these are in places you already see things like community site ads, and such. TBH, stuff like this is good cause it brings a focus back - in terms of revenue to Q&A sites. Which might turn out to be good. – Journeyman Geek Feb 8 at 4:48
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    @bignose - Ad-based revenue is not inherently toxic. Sure, certain implementations of it is but ads on SE are non-intrusive, static images that don't flash, follow you around the page, or do anything nasty like popover/under or autoplay audio/video. SE even automatically removes their most intrusive Ads for every user over 200 reputation, and they don't do anything sneaky like detecting adblockers and refusing to serve pages until it's disabled. IMO, SE sites are among the friendliest sites when it comes to web ads. – Robotnik Feb 8 at 6:05
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    "Ads aren't just an opportunity to sell stuff, they're an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic." Come on. I'm more than happy to contribute back to Stack Overflow and its network by having ads, but: they are ads, no more no less. No matter how curated, ads are borderline malware. – Sklivvz Feb 8 at 7:26
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    This post suffers somewhat from nerdview. It would be more intelligible to the average contributor (i.e. one who doesn't work in advertising) if it didn't use jargon meanings of words like inventory. – Peter Taylor Feb 8 at 9:36
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    "Ads aren't just an opportunity to sell stuff, they're an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic.". Gah. Understanding a topic is fine, just don't try to understand (profile) me. Frankly, I loathe adverts in all forms. You've built up a lot of good will so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but don't abuse it. – Basic Feb 8 at 17:03
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    Why has Tim Post NOT responded to ANY of the prior comments (which were ALL posted before his current "last seen" timestamp)? Aren't comments intended to get clarification about the question being asked? Or is this just not a question at all? – Pierre.Vriens Feb 8 at 22:07
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    Stackexchange has adverts? Sorry I've never noticed them. Ablocker for the win! – Criggie Feb 9 at 0:08
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    Just a comment: imho you're assuming a fair bit of knowledge about how advertising works, especially terms like "clients" and "affiliate ads" (and whatever horrors you're promising to avoid by "hand-selecting"). I can kind of deduce what you mean, but maybe some more background info would be helpful next time. Also "an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic" - who are "people" and "we" in this sentence? – Steve Bennett Feb 9 at 8:25
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    @Robotnik - "Ad-based revenue is not inherently toxic"; intruding on a population, taking their limited attention, manipulating them to extract money short or long term. Even the nicest, least spyware, blandest ads must do that. Whether that's toxic to a population is not as clear to me. Less so than dumping mercury in drinking water, more so than leaving people alone. "relevant adverts help" falls flat for me - look at this post, who honestly knows a good cook who doesn't already know about the existence of shops selling cast iron, sharp knives and mixers?? – TessellatingHeckler Feb 9 at 21:31
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    @Pierre.Vriens I'm sorry, I was out sick half of Friday and then the weekend arrived. Is there something in particular you'd like me to address sooner than the rest? I'm working on responding to things now. – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:20
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    @TessellatingHeckler In the long run the choice isn't between Stack Exchange with ads or Stack Exchange without ads (we'd all prefer the latter) but between Stack Exchange with ads or ::crickets::. Servers and bandwidth don't grow on trees. Unless you know of another revenue model that will bring in the needed dough? – dmckee Feb 12 at 20:51

17 Answers 17

Even Google has an imperfect record on filtering malware out of the ads they serve. (E.g. recently YouTube was serving coin-mining ads).

  1. What measures are you taking to avoid hand-selecting ads which conceal malicious JavaScript content?
  2. Is the JavaScript content that is served as part of the ads going to be hosted on Stack Exchange domains?
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    To add a more basic question: Will the ads be flat images like the community promotion ads, or will they be able to serve JS? If so, will they be allowed to track me before I click on them? (I also have no problem with ads to finance SE, I just dislike the tracking and security implications of advertiser JS in my browser). – malexmave Feb 8 at 12:26
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    I'm also concerned about ads that hijack the page using untrusted script sources. IMHO ads on the network shouldn't be anything other than images. – Chris W. Rea Feb 8 at 12:58
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    This comes in light when SE allows clients to run their own JS client side (when SE at first said that it would be text and image only, no interactive), which would be particularly worrying. – Braiam Feb 8 at 14:55
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    SE sites load blazingly fast (for me). How will the added JavaScript affect people with (much) slower internet connections or computers? Sure, there's background loading, but on many systems, that still (sometimes) causes a noticeable and frustrating slow down. – Zach Mierzejewski Feb 8 at 15:45
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    I would prefer the option to use a javascript miner for stackoverflow (like the pirate bay recently implemented) in lieu of ads. Or, at least, I think it'd be cool to opt-out of ads with the understanding 20-30% of my cpu would mine for stack overflow. I rarely use my CPU and I hate ads with a fiery passion. Just my opinion though..... – cegfault Feb 9 at 1:52
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    I immediately had the mental image of an untrusted third-party script being served to the security community and doing something shady. This sounds like an easy way to get a lot of bad PR. Best to stick with static images or pre-screened scripts, all served from SE's servers. – bta Feb 10 at 0:44
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    "even" Google? Google is the worst because they are the largest (so #1 target) and they open their platform to third parties who resell the slots to fourth parties who in turn resell to 5th parties who are utterly evil. The chain of trust is too long. Wow, Google's halo effect is persistent! – Harper Feb 11 at 20:26
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    @Harper, "even" because (a) advertising is Google's core business; (b) as the biggest advertising company in the world, Google has more resources to put into tackling the problem than anyone else. I don't really think talk of a halo effect is called for. – Peter Taylor Feb 11 at 20:45
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    Riffing off @malexmave: GDPR is coming! I wonder how SE will respond? – ptim Feb 12 at 12:48

After reading all of the existing answers, I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation. I generally hate advertisements. I use numerous ad blockers and tracking prevention mechanisms such as Ghostery and AdBlock. But, since I became involved in the Stack Exchange Network, I turned off my ad blockers for all the network sites, because I understand that Stack Exchange Inc. needs to make money to keep providing amazing Q&A. I understand the need to display more ads to make more money, and so even if there were more ads, I still wouldn't turn my ad blockers on.

There's one thing that I am not OK with. That is allowing arbitrary scripts to execute when I visit Stack Exchange. I don't want my browser fingerprinted by advertisers. I don't want the risk of malicious scripts being injected. I don't want the slower load times. Because of that, I use NoScript. If SE chooses to allow JavaScript to be served with their ads, no matter how much I want to help the company by seeing the ads, I can't, because I will not turn off NoScript.

TL;DR Static (or dynamic) images are fine, and I understand and accept the necessity of advertisements to the well being of Stack Exchange Inc.

But please, do not allow advertisers to inject JavaScript.

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    +1 I can't think of a legitimate non-user-hostile reason for an advertisement to ever come with JavaScript, and it's a privacy and security nightmare to let ads execute JavaScript. – doppelgreener Feb 11 at 20:36
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    I agree, however the issue is when not allowing intrusive javascript ads, your ad pool goes from 10 feet to half an inch. – mxmissile Feb 12 at 14:47
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    I just wanted to add a link to a relevant security.se question. – thesecretmaster Feb 12 at 15:23
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    This gets my vote. I block ads more or less everywhere because they're annoying, often irrelevant, they obscure and distract from the content I'm interested in, and they do things to my internet security and privacy that I'm not comfortable with. As long as SO's ads are unobtrusive, relevant, safe, and respectful of my privacy, I'm happy to leave an exception in my adblocker for SO, to support a site that I find useful. – anaximander Feb 14 at 14:40
  • No ecmascript, no tracking, image only. See How does Google track a user?. – Alex Vong 24 mins ago

I think enabling advertisements is a good thing, maybe we could even love it. Stack Overflow is a company after all and we all like to have our precious site hosted in the nearby future. We don't want SE to end up behind a pay wall, like Experts Exchange and others do.

I understand that the Stack Overflow site will yield the most revenues, not only by ads but also Jobs. However, I think it is good that other sites 'contribute' too. It shows to the company they deserve their place on the web, development time to create cool new features that suit those sites and so on.

I know the stance of Stack Overflow to the type of advertisement they want for their readers: relevant ads that aren't annoying. If that keeps the way it is, I think it is a winner for everyone. So yes, continue placing relevant ads.

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    It’s one thing to say ads are a necessary evil to have things function, but it’s wrong to say we should all love them. I don’t and I block them everywhere and that’s not antithetical to SE’s purpose. – bjb568 Feb 8 at 4:12
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    “Stack Overflow is a company after all and we all like to have our precious site hosted in the nearby future.? — That implies there is no down-side to selling advertising space; clearly that's not true, and there is a wealth of reasons to hate advertising even on sites that we love. – bignose Feb 8 at 4:39
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    There ain't no such thing as free hosting either. And considering how (sometimes) it felt like SO, and jobs got all the love, smaller SE sites earning their keep is probably going to mean a little more love from our corporate overlords. If you have any brilliant ideas on alternate revenue sources especially considering SO's recent organisation.... yanno... – Journeyman Geek Feb 8 at 4:52
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    @bjb568 I agree that loving is a strong word, but had you rather pay for SE, like EE or other sites? I guess not. That is why it is a better alternative than pay walls. – Patrick Hofman Feb 8 at 8:04
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    "I think we should all love ads[...]" That is literally the second worst thing I saw written on this site in the past few years. (of course the champions are still undisputed; #JS) While it's true, that ads are, in many cases, the necessary evil, we should all at least try to make The Internet a little bit better place to live. Everyone should promote supporting the free sources they use everyday to make work easier. I cannot imagine myself using wikipedia at least once a week for the entire year and then not willing to support it and lying to myself that 'I cannot afford it' – Skipper Feb 8 at 8:51
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    So this change influences mostly the users that are passing by from Google. They will see much more ads than us as active contributors. They will 'pay' through ads, we 'pay' through making it relevant to be found using Google. And in my experience, the SE ads are much, much better than those of all those other sites. So I can say I love them: they make me use SE for free, and they are not as bad as others. @Skipper – Patrick Hofman Feb 8 at 8:53
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    I would agree with the "smaller sites earning their keep" sentiment if they got the needed support from SE, but that's not the case. – Mego Feb 8 at 11:42
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    The first sentence sounded like hilarious and scathing sarcasm. I was very sad to learn it wasn't. – Code Whisperer Feb 8 at 14:40
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    "Everyone hates ads until they want to sell their refrigerator." – Fattie Feb 8 at 16:56
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    I'd rather much pay a reasonable fee for the service. I mean, it's a fundamental service and it would be OK if they made it "free for personal use, 5$/m for professional use". Servers aren't free, maintenance isn't free. – Sklivvz Feb 8 at 22:19
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    @Sklivvz erm. Kinda like EE? And a lot of folk don't have accounts, so getting them to pay seems.... implausible. And bigger sites have had ads for a while no? – Journeyman Geek Feb 8 at 22:56
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    You seem to think that ads create revenue and you don't have to pay for it. That is not so. Ads make you buy things that you otherwise would not have. That's the whole purpose of ads. SE land just increased the taxes. It might be necessary, but people definitely should not love it. – nwp Feb 9 at 0:20
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    @nwp I consider this less of a intrusion than say, the rather intense focus on SE's job sites over the past few years. – Journeyman Geek Feb 9 at 0:21
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    Too much administrative hassle. Also, SO has a policy to not let us pay for content provided by the community. @mali – Patrick Hofman Feb 11 at 15:07
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    @JonKiparsky .... SO has always had ads. Like from the beginning. They just have an enlightened approach towards adblockers and alternatively, really unobtrusive ads. – Journeyman Geek Feb 12 at 0:15

(How) Will we know what ads are going to be hosted?

Presumably there won't be any sort of approval via per-site meta voting, as there currently is for Community Promotion Ads; this is something for you (SE/SO the company) to sort out with whoever you're running ads for. But will there be any sort of announcement on meta beforehand about what ads are going to be run? Or do we (the site communities) just wait and see what pops up, and only post about these ads on meta if something problematic arises?

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    (This isn't meant to be a complaint or anything, by the way. I'm fine if you don't give us any warning beforehand; posting to meta every time you host a new ad on any site would be a lot of work and hassle for probably very little gain. I just want to be clear on where we stand.) – Rand al'Thor Feb 8 at 2:27
  • With how dynamic ads usually are, I don't think they're going to be running them by the community before they start running on the sites... hence why you can post about them on your child meta if there are issues. – Catija Feb 8 at 3:01
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    I think that this is an extremely important question. OP says ads are "an opportunity to really show people that we understand a given topic", which might be the case, but if all the people with the know-how have site privileges that mean that they don't see the ads, how are they to tell that there's a bad apple that got through? It doesn't need to be fancy, but having some form of rough review queue that shows all the ads that are live on the site (hey, it's even more advertising, right? it might even end up with reviewers deciding that that egg beater really does look nice) would do wonders. – E.P. Feb 8 at 15:37
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    If we don't have a say in what ads make the cut for display, at the very least we need a safety valve to remove ads that shouldn't have made the cut. – corsiKa Feb 8 at 18:04
  • @corsiKa From the question: Where can I give feedback about a certain ad on [site]? Open a meta post on your per-site meta and let us know. Seems like that's already there? – Catija Feb 8 at 21:44
  • @Catija So it would seem. I'm not quite sure how I missed that. – corsiKa Feb 8 at 21:47
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    Even if you can give feedback when there's a problem and don't have any say in what ads are chosen, then a list of the ones that did get chosen might still be a nice idea. If you're afraid of paranoia, then make it mod-only or whatever. But some kind of record for reference somewhere seems like a reasonable idea. – Christian Rau Feb 9 at 14:07
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    @ChristianRau Mod-only is rather too restrictive. If restrictions are desirable, then a threshold at 2k reputation (or heck, even at the 200 rep threshold where users start seeing less ads) should be more than enough. – E.P. Feb 9 at 14:14
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    All of the feedback here just got itemized and passed on to the team actually responsible for handling the ads and stuff, and we let them know that we (community growth) would help out by monitoring closely for any feedback or bug / issue reports. We don't anticipate any problems as we roll this out due to the hand-selected nature of it, but we'll be listening for any reports and acting pretty swiftly if anything happens. So, just let us know on the per-site meta (or any other way you like) and we'll look into it quickly. – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:18
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    Having a first-ads review queue would be cool... – Alex Vong 19 mins ago

You guys obviously know your business better than I do, but good luck with Affiliate ads. I am sure with your clout, you have more power to get an arrangement that suits you.

In my (bitter :) experience, prospective buyers come onto my websites, click on the affiliate ads and then go browsing for prices on the affiliate wesite. They hardly ever make an immediate purchase, but when next online, they go straight back to the widget maker website and I get zilch.

There are few more upsetting things in running websites than getting a breakdown of the leads that I gave the widget makers, but having it also confirm that I actually received nothing in return except a lost website visitor.

I gave up on them after 3 months and went to AdSense and direct payment for placement with reputable companies.

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    Hmmm that sounds awful, but that only happens when you go through a third-party provider. We've historically already converted book links to Amazon to include our referral tag, and that works very differently because users go directly to Amazon through their Associates program and have our referrer ID stored in a variable temporarily. It then doesn't matter what they actually end up buying, so long as the variable is still there when they complete the purchase. Have you considered signing up with Amazon directly? – animuson Feb 8 at 0:54
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    @animuson yes, thanks, i have tried Amazon but I find it's seasonal. I don't want to be unduly promoting AdSense, but I think it's in Google's own interest to get their 22% (or thereabouts) cut. Adblockers effect on my income seems to have levelled off, I thought they were going to be the end for me but some users don't like blank spaces, apparently. – Countto10 Feb 8 at 1:04
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    @animuson So policy is to disallow affiliate links (to quote Jeff We don't allow affiliate accounts, any more than we allow people to post overtly commercial links to their own stuff. In your own profile, you are free to do that of course. – Jeff Atwood Oct 22 '09 at 21:00. Despite that, you're apparently fine injecting your own ID in an attempt to monetise us? I'm curious how you find that even close to defensible? – Basic Feb 8 at 17:11
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    Well, @Basic, the idea was suggested by a user here on meta and got a fair bit of support, so... That's probably a good-enough reason to think it would go over well. It's been running for 8 years and generated far fewer complaints than any other form of ad, but if you dislike it feel free to propose an alternative here on meta just as the originator of the idea did. – Shog9 Feb 8 at 20:56
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    @Basic Simple. On your site, you decide who can post affiliate links and who can't. On this site, SE decides who can post affiliate links and who can't. – FTP Feb 8 at 22:15
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    @Basic aren't all the questions and answers licensed under Creative Commons? They're essentially monetizing to afford the servers running StackOverflow and the StackExchange network; that's why Jobs/Developer Stories exists, that's why there's some ads. It's all to make $$$ to pay for maintenance. – Rudolf Olah Feb 9 at 16:46
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    @if on my site, I provide the content. – Basic Feb 9 at 21:11
  • @Basic Weirdest definition ever. I comment on Facebook all the time, and am yet to have received a cashout. If you have some claim to domain/infrastructure, it's your site. Otherwise, you're using the site, as a "user". – FooBar Feb 13 at 17:52

Beginning as early as this week (week of 5 February 2018), our ad team is going to be hand selecting affiliate ads to be displayed on select sites...

My one comment or feedback item of this is, please be sure no tracking is occurring; and please ensure no other malfeasance is occurring.

If the Stack Exchange approves an ad, then it must own the content and be accountable for it. That includes all the tracking tricks advertisers use. It also includes all the games advertisers play, like injecting scripts where images are expected. If the Stack Exchange network cannot ensure the ad meets the site's requirements, then please don't serve the ad.

And we certainly don't want pages to slow down like detailed in Speeding up Stack Overflow page loads due to doubleverify.com requests?.

Stack Overflow is one of the few sites I feel comfortable visiting without worrying about looking over my shoulder. I hope it stays that way.

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In theory, this is a half a dozen comments/replies as a post.

SE isn't a charity, and least in the last few years, trying to find a reliable revenue stream has both been a focus, and an annoyance for some users. I find the expansion of ads a positive thing because it gets focus on the network back to the Q&A sites. SE's also had a pretty major reorganisation, and a major shift in focus (from careers to enterprise and QA feeling like the major focus) and this and/or channels working out is likely to be a good thing for the smaller sites, least in the eyes of our (benevolent?) corporate overlords.

For the ads are evil club, in addition to SE not being a charity, SE has had ads for years. Community ads are probably non evil, but the trilogy has had other ads for years and it's not that bad.

One of the benefits of high rep is fewer ads, and SE has always had a somewhat enlightened view towards ad blockers. SE has even had a blog post about why they don't care about ad blockers. If you're a technically adept user you'd have adblock anyway. On the other hand, someone walking in over Google might find ads (and more than you'd see), which isn't actually that bad. The dev, or technical poweruser is probably going to have half a dozen different ways to block an ad.

I'd rather much pay a reasonable fee for the service. I mean, it's a fundamental service and it would be OK if they made it "free for personal use, 5$/m for professional use". Servers aren't free, maintenance isn't free. – Sklivvz 1 hour ago

As for payment - eh. It's not really going to work. You'd need a fairly complicated payment system, you'd probably have most people use it for "personal use", much like all the people who still run WinZip and it's going to end up being an administrative boat anchor.

I'm not going to do what someone else did and say it's a great thing. However, considering certain aspects of SE, and the bigger picture, I think it's less bad an alternative than quite a lot of other options..

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    I bet some folks would pay a fee to not see ads. – Owen Johnson Feb 9 at 20:10
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    I don't pay a fee to see no ads. And there's presumably administrative and accounting overhead. – Journeyman Geek Feb 10 at 0:33
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    Ads arent evil, but some people are evil. Those people make their ill gotten gains through dishonest advertising. – gburton Feb 10 at 15:57
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    If SE management was evil, I'd assume far worse – Journeyman Geek Feb 11 at 0:02
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    First: why the heck isn't SE a charity? Nonprofit guy here. If your organizational philosophy doesn't call for top-hats looking for a payday, a nonprofit structure makes a lot of sense. Second, the way SE turns evil is they go bankrupt: as a for-profit, the bankruptcy trustee is legally obliged to get max possible dollar for the creditors, period -- and will sell SE to the highest bidder. Not so for a nonprofit, mission and donor intent figure heavily into disposition. – Harper Feb 11 at 20:06
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    cause servers, CMs, and SREs at the very least cost money. Its always been a business, initially funded by venture capital. You can run a business and not go full facebook, – Journeyman Geek Feb 11 at 22:33
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    «cause servers, CMs, and SREs at the very least cost money» → charity doesn't mean not mean volunteer work or lent hardware. – tuxayo Feb 14 at 9:28
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    «You can run a business and not go full facebook» → if backed by venture capital then we have reasons to worry about successfully resisting to «legally obliged to get max possible dollar for the investors, period» – tuxayo Feb 14 at 9:30
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    @tuxayo not sure what 'resistance' is here. SE has always been a business, with a core of full time employees. I'm wondering if people even realise there was a big reorganisation - with quite a few employees I've had the pleasure of being assisted by, included in the folks who're no longer working at SO. Its very easy to talk about "volunteer" work or "lent" hardware but there is a pretty significant amount of organised work underpinning SE. – Journeyman Geek Feb 14 at 9:54
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    @JourneymanGeek: so what are the people sharing their knowledge, if not charitable? Would the website, would the company exist without those contributors? I doubt it. Hence Harpers question is a legit one and I also can't see why it can't be seen as a charity from that PoV. It's similar to the sentiment that Google's services come free of charge. They don't. You pay with your data instead of money. As contributor to the SE sites I hold that I already am paying in the form of sharing knowledge and experience. – 0xC0000022L Feb 14 at 13:46
  • @Harper that's a good question to ask and reassess regularly, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/79435/… But see recent layoffs meta.stackexchange.com/questions/303005/… techcrunch.com/2017/11/02/stack-overflow-lays-off-staff – Nemo 2 days ago
  • @JourneymanGeek nonprofit status is widely misunderstood. It does not mean "volunteers and Salvation Army office furniture" (though the neat thing is, if you're in trouble, you can roll back to that). UK's term for it is much more descriptive: Not-for-dividend. As a practical thing it makes the organization almost indestructible - but no dividends obviously. People still make money via salaries at industry competitive rates. Nonprofits include the Gates Foundation, the Vegas monorail and Vanguard Charitable. No volunteers there and you bet their IT is tip-top. – Harper 2 days ago
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    @Harper are any of those examples either a way to avoid tax, or don't have extremely deep pocketed patrons? Even the las vegas monorail is ad supported "The Las Vegas Monorail generates revenue from ticketed passengers and from corporate sponsors. Branding rights for the seven stations and the nine trains are available, ...." Gates foundation is basically money made off MS, used to do good and deduct taxes... I'm not sure how this is relevant to SE at all. – Journeyman Geek 2 days ago
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    And I get a general idea, and I'm going to be blunt here that many people somehow seem to assume cause its a site built around user generated content, somehow they've "paid their way" and the site will just run. Quite a lot of the hatred is for something the trilogy has had for years (watered down). SE's been open about VC funding, and how a good chunk of their revenue has been through careers and ads. – Journeyman Geek 2 days ago
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    @Harper not with you, no, but right now with other people? Yes. ;p. While I don't work for SE I've basically followed the trajectory of the site for years. As a bit of an insider I'm sure I've got a bit of a bias towards how things work now. On the other hand, a "SE Foundation" would end up closer to say, how wikipedia runs than a charitable foundation, or a railway. I do try to see things from other people's shoes, but those don't quite feel like they fit here. – Journeyman Geek 2 days ago

One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere here: will animated ads be allowed? It's very difficult for some people, including myself, to concentrate on the thing they're trying to read with an animation playing off to the side.

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    Why mention it? Animated ads were never allowed, that has not changed. I'm sure that if SE will change that policy they'll give us fair warning in advance, otherwise tons of people will get very angry, and rightfully so. – Shadow Wizard Feb 12 at 9:34
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    It's pretty reasonable to check that that's staying the case, though, with a new sort of ads coming into the network. +1 – doppelgreener Feb 12 at 11:47

Can we have the option to pay Stack Exchange to not see the ads?

I know the ads disappear if I accumulate enough reputation. I also know that putting money into the relationship with the users of this site could complicate matters, such as requiring a billing setup. Finally, I know I could passively provide revenue to Stack Exchange via the Brave browser, but Stack Exchange does not collect these payments.

However, I was wondering if you could link me to a previous discussion about why you continue to not offer this option. I'm sure you have your reasons and they're well thought out, but I'd like to know what they are.

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    Some way of integrating Brave payments with SE would be cool too, and somewhat along this line. – ɥʇ?S Feb 8 at 23:52
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    Does Patreon fit the need here ? I want to make a (small) donation for the services I get out of SE. What about a bitcoin "donations" address? – Criggie Feb 9 at 0:11
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    Yeah...maybe not. People here already complain about all those apparently super terrible ads that SO allegedly throws into everyone's face every minute on every page. Imagine then how them offering a paid no-ad premium account would go over. – Christian Rau Feb 9 at 14:10
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    You can pay AdBlockPlus to block the third party ads. I'm just kidding, actually you don't need to pay them ;) – Harper Feb 11 at 19:56
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    Charging you to see the answers to questions is antithetical to the values that formed the site, we were the anti pattern to that, as sites (such as that dreadful hyphenated site were really spamming search engines with that sort of thing). At 200 rep, we show very reduced advertising so rather than pay us, we just ask for you to ask or answer a few questions. – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:07

I'll keep using uBlock Origin and a hosts file to filter commercial advertisements.

Not everyone thinks that X paying money to SO is a good enough reason for Y to view X's always biased and often manipulative "information" while using SO. If their information was truly useful and relevant to the site they could just post an answer or question.

While I don't get to chose what SO becomes I do get to chose what I read, what I view, what gets executed in my computer. Commercial advertisements go against that. I'm glad you let me use this otherwise awesome site with an advertisement blocker. I'd rather stop using SO, as I have with others which actively forbid such blockers, than watch commercial advertisements.

Godspeed to you.

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    That's totally your decision :) What code you permit to execute and display on your computer is entirely your business, and we'd never presume to tell you what you should be doing there. Well, okay, there are some exceptions ... if you're running Windows XP you should probably talk to a professional but I mean who are we to judge? – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:04

Will the ads be held to an accessibility standard, such as WCAG?

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  • I should have re-read the question when I saw this answer in the review queue. "Questions? Comments? Kvetches? Let us know in an answer or comment below." at its end does seem to condone the answer being given as a question. – PolyGeo Feb 12 at 4:06
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    This is actually a good question related to a recent blog post about our information architecture in general. It doesn't just apply to the types of ads mentioned here, but ads in general. I think it's probably worth asking this as a separate question entirely, as many folks might not know that WCAG and others exist, this would allow us to give a much more entailed answer other than "well yes, kind of, sorta." as a comment :) – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:24

Will access to the site require users to disable AdBlocker? Or will ad-free service only be available above a certain rep?

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    An ad blockers are already needed on Stack Overflow because of latency introduced by third parties. Also see Speeding up Stack Overflow page loads due to doubleverify.com requests? – jww Feb 10 at 23:18
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    The official position (at least of 2016) is that Stack Overflow Doesn’t Care About Ad Blockers. – FTP Feb 10 at 23:34
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    There won't be any change to our position on ad blockers, and site access won't be affected in any way. The site will continue performing in exactly the same way as it has for the past many years that we've had ads. We're only adding a new type of advertisement to the rotation. – animuson Feb 11 at 23:08
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    What you run in your browser is entirely your choice; it would be presumptuous and condescending to even contemplate a policy to the contrary. All we do is ask that you consider not using one, even if the answer at which you quickly arrive is 'no' :) But as others said, we don't care if you use an ad blocker. – Tim Post Feb 12 at 14:00

I don't like any kind of ads. I believe ads are one of the reason we always feel the need to buy new products, creating greed and envy. This is bad for personal happiness, and bad for the environment.

I'd be happy giving SE money whenever they ask for it (Wikipedia-like).

At least, I appreciate you respect ad blockers and hope you will continue having the same opinion.

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  • Note that Wikipedia is supposed to be run by a non-profit, unlike StackExchange. I understand the Wikimedia Foundation ads may look like paywall ransom these days, but it's still different from the situation here. – Nemo 2 days ago
  • Yes, it's a for-profit. But SE will get zero dollar from ads for me, so they might as well accept other forms of getting money. I wouldn't mind also paying a small premium subscription. – maxbellec 2 days ago

Why only graduated sites? Not enough traffic? I am a member of Woodworking (which is in beta), and a few tasteful ads for tools would be fine. (I don't have a tool problem, I can stop buying them any time I want; I just don't want to.)

OTOH, I find it hard to think of acceptable adverts on the "Law" site (although I am sure there are plenty of people who would like to advertise there).

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    I think it is not work the time investment to find ads for a site that might not exist in a few months. – Patrick Hofman Feb 9 at 7:54
  • TV commercial: "Would you pick a lawyer based on a slick advertisement in a magazine?" Me: "No, and not from a slick advertisement on TV, either!" Same principle applies to websites. – WGroleau Feb 9 at 15:29
  • @WGroleau - how about ads for products raised by your fellow community members and vetted by SE before appearing to you? – Robotnik Feb 9 at 21:55
  • Advertising has little effect on me. When I need something, I find it. If I notice an ad for something I'm not looking for, then it's something I don't need. If I see an ad for something I'm looking for, then I'm already looking for UNbiased info about it. – WGroleau Feb 10 at 4:40
  • Yes, seems as though it's traffic. As part of their post they said: "Furthermore, while graduated, some sites simply don't have enough activity for ads to make sense." ... which means a lot of not-graduated sites with even less activity wouldn't have ads either. – doppelgreener Feb 11 at 17:26
  • @PatrickHofman but you should be changing ads anyway every few months. – Harper Feb 11 at 19:52

Can I just pay a one-time fee to get a "premium account", which lets me disable adds and also disable Hot Network Questions?

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SE should have ads if they need it to be profitable and stay ahead of the competition. If they do the wrong thing for too long, the market will decide on another site. I have no problem with ads. If they ruin the SE sites, someone else will take their place.

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I think this is bad. (Note that the post above specifically requests "kvetches" like this.)

Some time ago, we announced that certain SE sites will have advertising enabled. This has gone well

Gone well for whom?

Certainly it has gone well for the advertisers, who now have Stack Exchange as a powerful ally to help them manipulate people who already trust Stack Exchange, into buying their product or service.

I assume it has also gone well for Stack Exchange's shareholders and stakeholders, who are sure to be enriched in the short term by using advertisements to co-opt some of the site's long term goodwill for a handy buck.

Has it gone well for the people who actually use Stack Overflow or the other sites? Where has the learner demand been for more targeted ads? Where was the demand there? Did anyone order this? Was the community as a whole even consulted?

As someone who's spent many hours contributing to this site by answering and asking questions, this is deeply saddening. There is no doubt that Stack Exchange will vigorously defend this decision, though, as it personally enriches their shareholders quite a bit.

Sadly, the real problem here is that no one, myself included, believes that these ads can be appropriately vetted. The promise of "hand-selecting" ads is surely just that - a fairly empty promise. It is impossible for us as the community to hold those who are "hand-selecting" the ads accountable, since no process has been outlined for the community to approve them.

Whose hand will do the selecting? How can we be sure they won't be biased by their own, all-too-human desire to enrich themselves?

All in all, this is a very sad and disappointing move. It spells the beginning of the end for this whole network. Advertisers, and the ads the purvey, are, if not evil, undeniably manipulative.

Who will get the profits from these ads? Will they be split among the thousands of contributors who spend their time answering and reviewing questions? Or will they be split among Stack Exchange's stakeholders, effectively cashing in on the open source work of others? It should come as no surprise that it is the latter.

Shame on you.

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    "as it personally enriches their shareholders quite a bit": That is allowed. It is a business after all. "since no process has been outlined for the community to approve them": the team does. Why would they need the communities approval to show an ad? – Patrick Hofman Feb 8 at 14:50
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    @PatrickHofman How do you account for the fact that the vast majority of the businesses 'content' has been submitted over many years by open source conributors? – Code Whisperer Feb 8 at 14:51
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    How do you account for the thousands of hours of power consumption, servers, network connection, salary of developers, etc? – Patrick Hofman Feb 8 at 14:52
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    @PatrickHofman Is there any public data detailing the "thousands of hours of power consumption" that me or other contributors could review, or should contributors take your word for it, and take your word that the ads chosen will not degrade into irrelevant content from the highest bidder? – Code Whisperer Feb 8 at 14:54
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    Sure. There are 34 servers running at the moment. You can imagine what power consumption that would have. – Patrick Hofman Feb 8 at 14:56
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    Are you aware that they had to lay off a sizable chunk of their staff in November? I'm pretty sure that they need any income they can get. You seem to think that the site is free to run but this company cares for their staff. I'd much rather see a few ads then have the entire network go under due to insufficient income. – Catija Feb 8 at 15:32
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    Ok... You know Stack Overflow has had ads for over 9 years now, starting with plain ol' Google text ads in the very early days? Because your answer makes it seem like you didn't know that. Which kinda hurts the rest of your arguments. – Shog9 Feb 8 at 15:46
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    when a post specifically requests "kvetches" , expect any kvetches to just be deleted. – Fattie Feb 8 at 16:58
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    "Certainly it has gone well for the advertisers, who now have StackExchange as a powerful ally to help them manipulate people who already trust StackExchange, into buying their product or service." So SE can make you buy something? o_0 – Almo Feb 8 at 18:37
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    Most of your argument here can be assuaged by simply looking through our past eight+ years of history in how we've handled advertising on our sites. Particularly how we've handled complaints about specific ads, which has always been swift and satisfying to the community. Don't try to paint people as evil, money-grabbing individuals when you don't seem to have done any research whatsoever into how we handle advertising. It's horribly unconstructive, and very distracting. – animuson Feb 9 at 7:05
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    A downvote for "shame on you". Wishing a psychological injury on others for disagreeing with you is not going to get your view heard or respected - I suggest you edit that out. – halfer Feb 10 at 17:41
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    sure, because SE just has such complete control over all of us expert contributors that them showing us an ad will make us blindly buy stuff everywhere, oh wait. Give people some credit, we're not idiots here and SE knows that. – Magisch Feb 12 at 9:40
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    I do not understand the shame part. – johnny Feb 13 at 21:42

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