Whitelist: Permission Based Marketing for the Web

It's time that we go beyond ad-blocking. We need to push the boundaries further in favor of the end user, the person in front of the touch screen. We should remove the focus from what the app is doing behind the scenes. And turn it back to the user; give them agency, and choice.

Imagine I had The Deck ads on this website, but you have installed an ad-blocker. You might see something like this, bellow the article you just read, instead of an ad:

If you find the information on this website useful, please add our ad network -connect.decknetwork.net- to your Whitelist to show your support.
We will always respect your privacy. You can review our policies here.
The Whitelisting process: request, accept, and done. 

The Whitelisting process: request, accept, and done. 

I'd like to propose a new industry standard for how to ask users for permission to run code on their browsers.

A whitelisting request as in the example above, should take the form of a hyperlink with the URL built like this:

  1. The URL Scheme "whitelist://"
  2. The domain name will match exactly the source of the code that will be loaded
  3. The URL Query variable "hostType" will match one of these: "Ad Network", "Publisher", or "Web Tool".
  4. The URL Query variable "publisher" will be the NFC compliant domain name for the entity requesting the new whitelisting.

This is not just wishfull thinking this is perfectly possible right now with the available technology. To prove it Inbuilt the app: Whitelist.

You can try this right now on any recent iOS device if you choose to install it: 1) enable the Whitelist content blockers in settings; 2) visit daringfireball.net; 3) see that The Deck ads are blocked there; 4) come back to this post and click the whitelisting request link above; 5) finish the whitelisting process in the app; 6) go back to daringfireball.net; 7) ads should be visible there after reloading.

Before and after Whitelisting; the ad is in the bottom left corner of each screenshot. 

Before and after Whitelisting; the ad is in the bottom left corner of each screenshot. 

We need to stop patronizing people. What may seem acceptable to us, will not necessarily be to all of them. We must let them decide.

It's reasonable to asume that by visiting a certain website, they are expecting that site's functionality to run properly on their browsers. So, code from publishers domains (primary or CDNs) should run without problem.

It's reasonable too for them to expect that some things they are accustomed to using on the web will work everywhere. There are certain services that are known to provide essential third party resources. All of these should be able to run too, within reasonable restrictions.

Beyond those two cases (first party and essential resources), anything else should be requested to users.

So let's provide them with a mechanism that enables this to happen seamlessly. And, if possible, that adds value to the rest of the industry.

That's where permission based marketing comes into play. In the words of reknown marketer, Seth Godin:

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them... ... It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention. ... permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious... Real permission is different from presumed or legalistic permission... Permission is like dating. You don't start by asking for the sale at first impression. You earn the right, over time, bit by bit... In order to get permission, you make a promise. You say, "I will do x, y and z, I hope you will give me permission by listening." And then, this is the hard part, that's all you do. You don't assume you can do more.

You should read the whole thing, its invaluable.

The industry would be wise to take this approach. Standardizing on permission based advertising for the web would cut down on the oversupply of ad inventory. Effectively stoping the race to the bottom of CPMs.

Advertisers could get a differentiated product where click-fraud and traffic bots are less of a problem or nonexistent. With people actually willing to pay attention to their messages.

You've got to love a solution that punishes the biggest offenders the most. Trackers and Ad Networks will not get unfettered distribution any more. There's no reason why publishers should just ask -for the good of their hearts- that readers whitelist any of them. They will be in a position of power; enough to strike deals and charge dearly for each whitelisting user an ad-network gets. Or they may choose to check their options and build their own ad-network -if their big enough for that-, or opt for a federated alternative similar to The Deck.

There's also nothing forcing publishers to always welcome every ad-blocking visitor. Whitelisting is a type of micropayment -a simpler one that deals with the valuable currency of users attention. Visitors could get a few articles for free before whitelisting becomes mandatory.

So there it is. I hope this proposal takes root.

And, if you're interested, you can find Whitelist on the App Store: Download on the App Store