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A Lesser World

I had a lot to talk about today, after last week kept me from posting, and I will do that tomorrow, but today is for another topic. It’s one that, in retrospect, seems obvious, and more on that in a moment.

Project Wonderful is shutting down.

I actually had some advance notice, but when The Toronto Man-Mountain politely asks you to keep something embargoed, you do that. He is an infinitely kindly man, but not one to be gainsayed. So I’ve had some time to think about this.

It’s been apparent to anybody that pays attention to PW ad boxes that the average asking price has been steadily declining for years now; you can’t keep a service that involves people keeping it running on declining revenue indefinitely. And there were humans behind PW, which was a big part of the promise: they kept bad actors out of the service, which was a big part of its value.

But the garbage ads and the pop-ups and pop-unders and auto playing video and scams and JavaScript payloads that pull in virii and scamware came to dominate internet advertising, leading to an entirely rational profusion of adblockers. But adblockers can’t discriminate between garbage ads and PW, so fewer people see them which depresses the asking price and eventually makes the entire service untenable.

Ryan North (and others, but let’s let them decide if they want their names shared or not) gave us a service that put a lot of money into a lot of pockets, and yeah, he took a cut, but nowhere near as much as he could have. He achieved that most vaunted of internet superlatives: he disrupted the entire model of internet advertising, and he did it in a way that didn’t exploit the crap out of anybody. I’m pretty sure there’s a balance in the tens of dollars in Fleen’s PW account, which I do not intend to withdraw; I consider it a tip for North’s service to the community for the past dozen years and more.

Something new may replace Project Wonderful in a similarly non-exploitative manner, but I’m not holding my breath. Instead, let’s take a moment to marvel that we had something as useful, as benign, for as long as we did. Thank you, Ryan North; thank you, Project Wonderful. You lived up to your name.

Spam of the day:

Your Application Is Ready For Submission, baary

It’s Gary. G-A-R-Y.

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That’s a real shame. At least it’s shutting down gracefully, unlike RSSPect did.

Oh dear. Interestingly enough, I resisted installing ad blockers for the longest time, on the theory that if I did not like a site’s intrusive advertising, I would simply avoid visiting that site in the first place. And that is exactly what I did, and the sight of a site using Project Wonderful was always a good one, as it meant I could trust them, for instance, not to react upon me simply hovering my pointer over them.

It is Meltdown and Spectre (which, if you remember, has proof of concept exploitation through browser Javascript) that did it in: I have now ad blockers on all my browser on all my devices, but I made sure to put an exception for Project Wonderful where I could. But who else took the time to do so?

Now with it (and The Deck) gone, I am not sure what I could point to as a respectful ad network if I need such an example (e.g. to a site operator who has intrusive ads and saying “what can I do?”). It is truly a sad development.

I was shocked and saddened when I received the notification email about this. I always like to think that the good guys can always win just by being good, but sometimes the forces of evil and corruption are just too strong.

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