Yahoo to Ad Block Users: No Email For You

John Lister's picture

Yahoo has confirmed it has blocked some users from accessing their email if they are running ad-blocking software. It describes it as a test for a small number of users.

Several users reported seeing a message reading "Uh oh... We are unable to display Yahoo Mail. Please disable Ad Blocker to continue using Yahoo mail." Ironically one of those affected was a former Yahoo executive who at one stage was in charge of revamping the Mail service. (Source:

Ad-Blocking A Hot Topic

The move has proven controversial even if it isn't a first. Many sites are set to detect if a user is running ad-blocking software in their browser and then display a message requesting the user whitelist the site (meaning ads can be shown on that site alone) or requesting a voluntary donation or subscription if one is available.

Some sites go further and try prevent users from accessing content if they use ad blockers. The Yahoo move has been seen as a step further than this, however, as in this case the blocked "content" is the user's own inbox.

The problem for users is that they don't necessarily have a right to access these messages on a free email service. Being forced to allow ads to be displayed could be argued as the price of using Yahoo Mail in the same way that allowing messages to be scanned to improve targeted advertising is "part of the deal" in using Google's free Gmail.

Yahoo Calls Move 'New Product Experience'

Yahoo itself hasn't gone into detail on either the practicalities or the ethics of blocking access to email. It's simply saying "At Yahoo, we are continually developing and testing new product experiences. This is a test we're running for a small number of Yahoo Mail users." (Source:

Opinion among users of ad blocking software varies widely. Some believe they should be able to block ads simply as a matter of principle. Others say they only want to block ads where there is an excessive number on the page, where they get in the way of content, or where they may pose a security risk.

Critics of ad blockers believe that seeing ads is part of the deal when viewing free sites or using free services and argue that blocking ads deprives site owners of revenue and could ultimately threaten the existence of such sites.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Yahoo right to stop ad blocker users accessing their messages? Does it make any difference that this involves user emails rather than simply web pages? Do you consider ad blocking a black and white issue, or does it depend on the nature and extent of the ads on a particular site?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Sites with too many advertisements make me angry ( is a really good example). When I come across sites like this, I exit the page as quickly as possible and try to find similar content somewhere else. If enough users do this, it will count against the site and lower their search engine ranking. (That's because Google can measure how long users stay on a page using JavaScript and the user's browser).

As for blocking ads: that is a hot debate all things considered. As the site owner of Infopackets, I can say that if you block ads on our site (which only make up 3 per page), we won't generate any revenue and would be forced to shut down the site. The same goes for the email newsletter. That said, some people just can't understand that fact and believe everything on the Internet should be free and delivered on a silver platter. I'm here to say that we barely make enough revenue as it is to stay online, and you're doing a major disservice to our site by blocking the ads.

For those who argue "surely there must be another way to generate revenue and keep things 100% free" - I'm sorry to say that there really isn't. Donations definitely help but are not enough. Ad revenue is at least steady, providing traffic levels remain constant.

As for Yahoo blocking emails due to ad blockers: blocking access to a users' own content seems a bit harsh, but I wouldn't be surprised to see other sites follow suit - some way or another.

NickyK's picture

Thanks. Since studying Web Development, I've become more aware of the importance of advertising for web-sites. It is the life-blood of many sites.

wolfinkw's picture

Been a yahoo email user for over 10 years.
Every since they started screwing with
with their email system about 2 yrs ago,
I've been looking to change. If they inforce
this ad-blocker restriction,
BYE-BYE Yahoo.
It's not free email anyway. Not only have they
got those multiple obnoxious ads on the side
but also include ad emails in your inbox.
So Marissa Mayer keep it up and you too can
join Steve Balmer and his Vista success.

velcro1000's picture

I, too, have been a yahoo user for more than 15 years. 2 years ago I cancelled my paid service because of constant program changes. If Yahoo enforces the ad-blocker restriction for everyone, it is also a BYE YAHOO for me. The only reason I am still with Yahoo is that everyone of my contacts has my yahoo email and every merchant site I am ordering from has my yahoo email address as my user ID. If yahoo gets its act together with a well designed program, I don't mind paying for the service.

dbrumley3077's picture

I have been using ad blocking software, but after considering your comments, I have decided to do so no longer. I like your site, and appreciate the hard work you have put into it. I have donated to you, but after reading and considering what you have said, I now understand your side of the question, and will no longer use ad blocking software. Weather others will continue to do so or not is up to them; all I can say is try to put yourself in the website owner's shoes. If you visit the site often, and would like to continue doing so, you need to be supportive.

NickyK's picture

I agree. If it is a site I like and trust, then I disable Ad-Block Plus. T tend to rely on Ad-blockers when searching because one cannot always be sure how safe a link in a search can be (even when using something like WoT).

infopackets.com_4228's picture

As a webmaster myself I have no problem seeing adverts on other people's sites, and will click where relevant.

I support Yahoo's decision. If you want to use their free service, abide by their rules.

What annoys me is the ones that play sound or a video automatically. Nothing makes me close an entire page faster than it suddenly playing sound.
Oh, adverts that expand in size or otherwise become more apparent when your mouse moves over them are annoying too.

rwells78's picture

Dennis - Your online adverts ARE minimally intrusive and I can live with them. As you and others have noted other sites go way overboard and are why ad blockers were invented and are so widely used.

PS he also earns revenue when people download the free ebooks, so please consider doing a download of the ebooks to support Dennis.

tarza177_2334's picture

When Yahoo rewrote and restructured their email a little over a year ago, they really made a mess of it. I noticed there where hundreds of thousands of complaints at that time. They still don't have it right. Yahoo mail still has more than it share of bugs. I switched to gmail and found it easier to use, much more friendly and more capable. Now users have another reason to leave Yahoo behind. I know Google reads the mail. They probably all do it. If Google pulls a stunt like this, Thunderbird is my next stop.

nate04pa's picture

I am sure most of watch television and listen to the radio. Other than for "premium" content, that content is delivered free of charge but we have to watch and listen to the commercials. This scenario has worked for many years so why should we expect websites to be any different.

That said, there are times when the commercials DO get in the way of the programming or become obtrusive. In those cases, it would be nice to block them.

sirpaul2_5841's picture

I'm between a rock and a hard place. I use an ad blocker for a different reason - I'm prone to seizures.
Internet ads have caused four of my seizures, so I use an ad blocker unless the site specifically states 'no flashing (or dynamic) ads', or 'all ads are static'.
No one actually does that because they usually have no control over the ads displayed - so until it's addressed by all advertisers, I can't take a chance on viewing Internet ads (or playing some video games ~ boo-hoo!).
I certainly won't use Yahoo without an ad blocker, as an ad displayed on their site caused one of the seizures - so see ya later Yahoo!
I can watch most TV OK because the television industry has policies in place to minimize this, but Internet advertisers have no such policies.

NickyK's picture

I was very interested in what you have to say. I think there are "add-ons" on various browsers (such as Firefox) which will stop things like Flash (or similar) playing without your permission.

David's picture

I use browser ad blocker ad-ons, browsers with built-in ad blocking, and previously had all my internet traffic filtered through Proxomitron. Ads are blocked, for good or for bad. But I also use these methods to block unwanted page 'features' like hovering windows ('do you want to chat?', slide-out nags ('like us, please!!!!'), page-loading nags ('subscribe!'), and so on.

If it wasn't for the relentless attempts to analyze everything I do online in order to show me 'ads I might like' (no, there is no such thing), an activity that I call a gross invasion of online privacy, ads themselves might not be an issue.

brigadand's picture

I pay for the premium service on Yahoo and as such I don't need to be barraged with ads on my email site. I they start doing so I will discontinue being a subscriber. I do white list sites such as yours that need the revenue to continue contributing valuable content.

pmuise_3482's picture

A number of sites I donate to keep remove ads free and support the click support. For TV I pay an extra 3 dollars for Hulu Plus to watch shows with no Ads or interruption I won't go back.
The problem is the advertisers who abuse the system. I also use ad blockers for safety. I use one Blocker Adblock Plus because at least there are some rules and guidelines and filters. I believe they are trying to adopt a fair middle ground

NickyK's picture

It seems that the problem is not really the adverts themselves, but their abundance and/or the way in which they are delivered.

If Yahoo and other sites limit themselves to “discreet” advertising, then fine. However, pop-ups, nag boxes, flash vids playing or animations immediately playing, ads that zoom when the mouse is over them, sound or music playing, ads on top of other ads, ads that won’t “click off” when they pop up or slide in (or when they are there to begin with, a page that won't let you progress unless you "sign up" etc etc… Well, that’s invasive and, basically, rude. Sure, pop-up blockers help with a lot of this.

I fully understand the importance of advertising for a site’s continued existence but I can also understand why a lot of people lose patience with less “professional” sites and stick in an ad-blocker.

Advertisements work best as follows: 1. The product IS good; 2. The advertiser tells the viewer why the product is good (without fanfares, choirs, flashing images and fireworks). Yes, a certain amount of creativity is often necessary to get the viewer to notice the advert, but simple is best.

Too much advertising "noise", and the site becomes unusable. If Yahoo go that way (I doubt they are that stupid, but one never knows) then people will go elsewhere very quickly.

PS - I was fascinated by the comment concerning some flash or similar ads causing seizures. That had never occurred to me although I do have some knowledge of why it can happen.

RobinUK's picture

I installed the HOSTS thingy that was mentioned here a few days ago, and it has transformed my local news sites from unusable to sensible. (wish I could say the same about what they write). They lose nothing because I would never visit with all the pop-ups and shufflings. An unintended effect of this is to also filter this page's adds. Is there no way you can test for blockers, and supply small unintrusive, text based alternative adds that no-one would devise strategies to avoid, and which might even be interesting? Sounds like a marketing gap for someone.

David's picture

I like your thinking. It should be relatively simple to determine if an ad blocker is in use and deliver 'alternative marketing solutions', by way of unobtrusive, text-based advertising content. And by 'text' I don't mean script!

Please take a moment to visit our sponsor at:
http://fully_visible_url_here (no tiny url's)
We think they have something to say that would
interest our visitors, and it helps to keep
this content free. Thank you.

This would sure beat out any flashing / scrolling / sliding / hovering / screaming ads. Insert it somewhere in the middle and end of the content.

matt_2058's picture

I figured the free email providers would lock people out of their email to charge a fee, not for blocking ads. It is smarter to do it this way, since a user can decide to let the ads through instead of opening their wallet.

I used to like reading the news at Yahoo, along with 2 or 3 other sites....back in 2000 or so. Once the advertisement revenue stream was figured out and incorporated, it seems like there was no restraint. At first it was just a pain in the behind to use the site and I began to shy away. Then the browser started crashing from ad overload and it was time to try something else.

I wonder what all the businesses that are too cheap to have their own email or pay for service will do. Pay for a service or waste time trying to work?

spike_536's picture

I had a Yahoo account for years, then one day I couldn't use it. This happened about 5 years ago. I tried setting up a new account. After filling in the information, it welcomed me and when I tried to use the account, I got an error message saying try again later, unable to connect now. I tried several times and finally gave up.

pkwesi77's picture

I use ad blocker plus, serves my needs quite well but I've began to whitelist sites that have 'easy ads' - not the kind that is always in my face preventing me from doing real work.

I mean days of screaming, flashing and those weird warning scripts should be over by now.

PS: Infopackets is whitelisted :)