French ISP Free quietly blocks Internet ads for its FreeBox ADSL customers

French ISP Free quietly blocks Internet ads for its FreeBox ADSL customers

Advertising is largely an accepted part of the Internet and, though often unwelcome, most Web surfers understand that content producers and writers need to find a way to make money online, especially when core services are free. If you’ve ever wondered what the world would look like sans ads, then now’s the time to move to France and become a customer of Free, the second largest ISP in country which just began blocking ads across L’Interwebz.

French startup blog Rude Baguette reports that Free has made an update to its ADSL land-line service. The blog says that the ‘FreeBox‘ service has around 5.3 million users — France has a population of more than 65 million — all of which are seeing no ads on the Web. That’s actually somewhat untrue, as some websites appear immune to the ad culling., the website of one of the country’s largest newspapers — Le Monde, which Free founder Xavier Niel owns a significant share of — is still serving ads to some French Web users, although an Ars Technica reader has screenshots that suggest otherwise.

The block appears to be all or nothing — bar the few sites that have circumvented it — but Free customers that want to remove it can opt out of the block, as Rude Baguette explains:

For now, in order to undo the default ad block, users are recommended to go to, and then Connexion Internet –> Configuration –> Blocage de la publicité.

An ad-free Web is no utopia since most blogs, particularly small ones, rely on the likes of Google Adsense, other banners and links to make money for the content. Indeed, Rude Baguette is a prime example, and co-founder and editor Liam Boogar has a witty (and fitting) response to one comment that welcomes the FreeBox blockage as a move that will force content makers to find new monetization streams.

To that, Boogar says:

Great point Darryl – hope you enjoyed that Free Article you just read. Next time, before you read Rude Baguette, would you mind sending me $.99 via Paypal – I’m slowing weaning off our wretched Ad Model, and hoping you’ll be one of our early adopters.

The concept of media paywalls has been in the news already this year, most notably as Andrew Sullivan’s Dish Publishing project made an impressive start to life, netting $333,000 after its first day of launch. Despite that, and calls for new revenue models from some quarters, I suspect that most Internet users would happily tolerate advertising — which is fairly unintrusive — as opposed to being forced to pay to read news and access other content online. It remains to be seen how long the FreeBox service will continue to shut out advertising for.

We’ve reached out to Free for more details.

Headline image via Rob Cottrell / Shutterstock

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