Advertisers have been baying for Microsoft’s blood this week following the software giant’s announcement that its latest browser, IE10, will automatically default to Do Not Track.
This latest move comes after months of wrangling between advertisers and Internet communities to implement an opt-in Do Not Track (DNT) function across all browsers by the end of 2012. By making such a strident gesture, Microsoft may well have set a precedent and in doing so could potentially be waving goodbye to any ad support for its products going forward.
Immediate Dialogue Requested
Even though advertisers have begged Microsoft to renege on its decision, and despite the best efforts of Joe Liebowitz, the Federal Trade Commissioner chairman, Microsoft dug its heels in and defended its strategy.
Corporate VP Rik van der Kooi said: “Microsoft has a clear point of view around consumer privacy that is expressed through the activation of the setting in Internet Explorer 10.
“Instead of debating whether DNT is “on” or “off,” we should redouble our efforts as an industry and educate consumers about how advertising pays for the free Web experience we all now enjoy; how much richer people’s Web experiences can be if they share their data with trusted partners; and how they can increasingly manage the data they generate.”
In their panic, the board of directors of the Association of National Advertisers requested an ‘immediate dialogue’ with Microsoft. The Association represents 450 companies and 10,000 brands and denounced the decision as ‘ill considered’.
Wasted Work for Advertisers?
Presuming those who currently use IE automatically upgrade to IE10, that’s 18% of all Internet users who would now have to choose to be tracked. Will they choose? Will they heck. And it’s this that really annoys the advertisers, because they’ve put time and effort, not to mention billions of dollars, into creating smart programs that can recognize what a browser’s interested in, and throw up ads that match those interests when a user lands on their site.
By having Do Not Track as a default, all of this time and money spent on such programs will effectively be wasted – for IE users at least. What’s more, many experts feel that by switching DNT off, websites will return to the dark days of banner ads when no one quite knew who was clicking or why and needing lots of clicks to generate any worthwhile traffic.
What Do the Cynics Think?
Despite the very valid arguments around protecting the privacy of Internet users, the more cynical among us may feel that it’s not the advertisers that are shouting the loudest. It’s the advertising companies. Those firms who plan complicated campaigns and promise such things as ‘added value’ and use complex technology to target ads will simply become sellers of space in the ether. Those jobs that specialize in tracking would quickly become superfluous to requirements and the added value would see its value rapidly diminish.