Don Marti

Wed 12 Nov 2014 06:14:15 AM PST

Interest dashboard?

Mozilla's Interest Dashboard is out. Darren Herman writes,

The Content Services team is working to reframe how users are understood on the Internet: how content is presented to them, how they can signal what they are interested in, how they can take control of the kinds of adverts they are exposed to.

This sounds like vintage Internet woo-woo. Seriously? "take control of the kinds of adverts they are exposed to?"

I want to see ads for scientific apparatus, precision machine tools, spacecraft, and genetically engineered crops, because those ads tend to be interesting. But I don't actually buy any of that stuff. So why should advertisers care what I'm interested in? They care what I'll actually buy. (what I actually buy: burritos, coffee, and adapters for connecting one computer thingy to some other computer thingy.)

The "users will take control of advertising" concept is just as unrealistic as the "Big Data will enable ads that don't have to pay for decent content" concept.

The sad part is that we don't need to go chasing new user control stuff to make the needed fixes in online advertising. As a user, I wonder why Mozilla is pursuing new features while leaving known bugs unfixed.

Offline, we had an advertising model that worked, based on signaling by supporting content. As advertising moved to the web, advertisers chose to abandon signalful advertising and pursue user tracking instead, by exploiting the third-party cookie problem. Netscape's privacy flaws (copied by other browsers, and still in Mozilla) created a problem for journalists, brand advertisers and everyone on the web except a vocal group of adtech firms.

When a software company comes up with a nifty new feature without fixing old bugs, users get mad. Before chasing after fancy new dashboards, please fix the known fingerprinting and third-party tracking bugs. The brokenness of Internet advertising is because of flaws in things that the browser needs to get right, not because we have been short a dashboard.

More on all this: Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful