Demonoid Blocks Adblock Users – Fair or Fail?

Demonoid, once one of the Internet's most popular torrent sites, is now barring users who try to visit the site with advert blocking software Adblock installed. The move raises some interesting questions, not least the value of revenue to torrent sites and the intricacies of whether or not content really should be 'free'.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or the so the saying goes. Nevertheless, every day millions of people use online services such as Google without paying a penny. It’s a situation the Internet generation has become very accustomed to.

For millions of BitTorrent users, things move to the next level. After using any of the thousands of available torrent sites for free, content such as music, movies, TV shows, software and games flood into homes around the world, without cash directly forming part of any transaction.

Of course, none of these mechanisms are truly free and for most public torrent sites it is advertising that provides the fuel to keep things running smoothly. While torrent site users don’t usually pay for access directly, by being a viewer of torrent site advertising and therefore a potential consumer, a convenient business arrangement allows ‘free’ access to ‘free’ content.

Unless you’re a user of the semi-private tracker Demonoid, that is.

In recent days Demonoid, once one of the most popular sites on the Internet, implemented new terms of access. If users don’t wish to contribute to revenue streams by viewing embedded advertising, they are now completely barred from the site.

demon-block

Disabling the popular Ad-Block browser plug-in does re-enable access to Demonoid but of course with that comes the reappearance of sometimes intrusive advertising, something which users of Ad-Block wish to avoid.

Aside from familiar ‘fake’ buttons emblazoned with the words “Play” and “Download”, a strip of gaming focused ads adorn the site’s main page. While these aren’t too bad, annoying and rotating full-screen pop-under ads also make an appearance.

For Demonoid and the majority of other similar sites, having users view ads is a vital part of site operations. Even if there is no intention to turn a profit, servers and other infrastructure still has to paid for and advertising is the number one way to make that happen. Just lately, however, even that hasn’t been as easy as it once was.

There is a concerted effort around the world to stop major brands from advertising on so-called ‘pirate’ sites, so the pool of agencies willing to place ads on sites like Demonoid is dwindling. Solutions are still being found (Demonoid ads include well-known gaming outfits and large betting companies) but with site blocking around Europe and measures by Google to downrank sites, overall traffic is dwindling.

With reduced traffic comes reduced revenue, a situation that may have prompted Demonoid to introduce its “No Ad-Block” policy in order to maximize returns, but even that has its unintended side effects.

One of the pages that doesn’t carry ads is the “upload page” where Demonoid users can upload content to the site – content that arguably keeps the site going more than the ads do. Whether that’s intentional is unknown, but at least one user with 500 plus torrents to his name tells TF that he won’t be using the site or seeding while the Ad-Block policy is in place.

“Some of us support the site by uploading content. Now I haven’t uploaded in a while, but I still support some 535 of my past Demonoid lossless torrents with a fast connection. Torrents I uploaded some three to six years ago,” the user says.

“For now I think I will boycott the site. The few lossless people that post only on Demonoid aren’t posting right now. So I can get content from KickAss.”

Of course, there is another large can of worms to be opened. By blocking non-contributing users because they aren’t ‘paying’ for content, some might argue that Demonoid is submitting to similar methods currently employed by the studios and labels when they apply for ISP site blocking injunctions.

In both cases perceived content free-loaders are being barred from the system. Granted, both can overcome blocks relatively easily, but it’s nevertheless interesting how torrent sites and their arch enemies feel compelled to take similar steps to protect revenues when the going gets tough.

Update: Demonoid informs TF that ad revenue has decreased a lot plus the site has had difficulty collecting money from affiliates. The site can accept donations via Bitcoin but Demonoid says that users are reluctant to use it.

“We need to implement some measures, or we face closure,” the site concludes.

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