Adland Goes Dark (Web)

Adland, one of the original international websites dedicated to advertising creativity, has entered the “dark web” on The Onion Router (Tor) encrypted network.

Founder, Åsk Wäppling, added a version of the site to live on the network in early January to serve readers looking to avoid advertising and protect their privacy.

Founded twenty years ago, (“Adland’s almost old enough to buy himself a drink”) and one of the top destinations for Super Bowl creative, Wäppling made the decision to put a version on Tor from some practical data after Apple iOS made ad blocking available on mobile phones and tablets.

“As soon as that happened, ad blocking went up from ten percent to sixty five percent on Adland,” said Wäppling. “And it’s not just the fact that I attract a different crowd — a gamer crowd that’s more technical — it’s because the industry creative Apple fan boys have easy access to ad blockers, and they’re using them.”

Seeing the uptick in ad blocking made Wäppling understand that issues around privacy had become more acute.

“When I saw that, I realized people really care. I know that people just don't care about hiding the ads that are an annoyance,” noted Wäppling. “They’re hiding the ads, because they are sucking up your online data. They're following you around, and they are leaking privacy information about you to other websites while you're minding your own business on the web. It's to take control of their devices again and their privacy. I thought the ultimate control here is an encrypted network that would have your privacy completely private — if you know how to use it.”

A long time user of Tor, the decision to add a version of the site was on Wäppling’s mind for a long time, but moving forward was sparked through a Twitter interaction on whether or not the dark web was responsive design and some nudging from a colleague.

“(A colleague) dared me to do it. I did it in under ten minutes. Boom. There it was. And I decided to announce it.”

Shortly after the announcement on LinkedIn, Wäppling realized that she had entered the dark web only hours after the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism site, ProPublica.

"Seeing that ProPublica did the same just hours earlier shows that the time is ripe for more news publications to enter the dark web,” said Wäppling. “I wouldn't be surprised if this became a trend, but you're not likely to find the CNN's or BBC's on the dark web anytime soon."

Overall, the reaction from advertising professionals has been positive so far — and Wäppling acknowledges the irony of an advertising-centric site eschewing advertising by being on the dark web.

“I’ve always loved advertising,” said Wäppling, “I always talk about ads and obsess over the little things that show the reasons why and how advertising works. I like facilitating that discussion. To some degree, it would make sense for advertising people to not worry as much about tracking and privacy. But the ad blocking numbers don’t lie and it made perfect sense to give people the chance to get everything Adland on Tor.”

Doug Zanger

I am the North America editor for The Drum. A geographic mutt, I was born in Minnesota (lived outside of Minneapolis until I was 12), lived in suburban Philadelphia, attended college in Denver and London — and have proudly called Portland, Oregon (and the Pacific Northwest) my home for 24 years.

Sadly, I love Philadelphia/Portland/Oregon sports and Arsenal.

I am deeply committed to telling the best stories possible, to not only legitimately engage, but to contribute something meaningful to the industry as well. Yes, marketing can change the world, and we will always do our best to ensure we are doing our part.

All by Doug