Clarity Ad Blocker for WordPress announced, receives mixed reactions – WP Tavern

Stanislav Khromov announced Claritya plugin to hide intrusive banners, via Twitter and the Advanced WordPress (AWP) Facebook group today. It was first pushed to WordPress.org about a year ago, but the developer seems to have only just released it.

the Clarity website describes its mission as follows: “Ads, upsells, and analytics banners have been plaguing our WordPress dashboards for far too long. It’s time to put them away, once and for all.

Clarity doesn’t come with a settings screen. Once users enable it, it tries to hide banners and other notifications that fall outside of its “acceptable ads policy”, which is currently a draft which Khromov encouraged comments on. This policy covers plugins that ask for reviews, notify users of discounts, or prompt them to upgrade to a commercial version.

The purpose of the plugin is to hide these notices unless they are:

  • Displayed only on an options page belonging to the plugin or theme and nowhere else.
  • Displayed only to users in the administrator role.
  • Not intrusive or distracting.
  • Not displayed in the main column, but rather in an “aside”.

The plugin includes a link on the plugin management screen to report unwanted banners. It leads to a template issued pre-filled on Clarity’s GitHub repository.

Report spam banner link.

The announcement was well received by many on AWP, judging by the likes of the members. However, several have expressed their opposition to the idea. Some have called it “unethical” and “damaging” to the ecosystem.

Ads are part of life. They generate the revenue needed for companies to continue to maintain their current products and create new ones. The WordPress industry is no different in this regard. However, these are often small businesses where a poor placement in administration can mean the difference between creating new jobs and barely getting by.

Freemium products are one of the ways stores provide free features to end users while creating a commercially viable solution that keeps their business running. Banner ads and user reviews are often the most effective methods of making a sale or generating more interest in the project.

“By creating an ad blocker – your selfish disregard for the commercial realities of [open-source] damages a fragile ecosystem,” wrote a developer[1] in the AWP thread. “If you use a free product, pay for it by tolerating a few nags.”

“The idea of ​​taking someone’s work product, but bypassing their advertisements, is unethical at a minimum,” wrote another developer. “No one is obligated to capitalize on the fruit of someone else’s labor.”

Free software means giving users the freedom to change all that. If another developer comes along and blocks the behavior these users want, it’s fair game. Playing in the free software sandbox means accepting that others can and will change the code you write from time to time. WordPress makes this even easier with its hook system.

Clarity is just a small fish swimming in a vast ocean of plugins. If it had more than 1 million active installs, it might be realistic to cut profits for some commercial stores. However, this is not the case. Any claim that it is damaging to the ecosystem is tiptoeing into hyperbole.

If there were so many active installs, it might be a wake-up call for developers, a warning that users want to see change.

The question is: Do most users need such a plugin?

Maybe not, but it depends. Directory guidelines require that any admin notices – where most “offensive” listings are – must be revocable. However, the standard is relatively vague in its definition. Some plugins display the ad to every user logged into the admin, forcing everyone to dismiss it. Others refresh on plugin updates, requiring additional user action. If a plugin is updated several times a week and adds a new admin-wide banner each time, it almost feels like it is breaking the rules, only a little.

Ads and other notices can also be problematic on client versions. Freelancers and agencies sometimes get that frantic call when a plugin update displays a new professional upsell message to clients who thought they had already paid what was needed for their site. There are ways to mitigate this, but not all of them are 100% foolproof in all scenarios. Clarity would be just another key in the old toolbox to tighten up those client sites, creating additional peace of mind.

The plugin itself is not “smart”. It does not learn and grow on its own, evolving as new plugins are created. This requires a manual process of creating a curated list of selectors to target via CSS. The plugin hides banners based on this custom set of definitions.

As long as third-party developers do not create ad blocker method in their own plugins, Clarity should keep some of the notifications remote. It’s unlikely that most even knew about this project until it was announced. Now that it’s in the public sphere, I have little doubt that some will ignore it. This may depend on individual positions on users’ choice in advertising.

Clarity provides a method for plugin and theme authors to opt in to having their own ads blocked. They only have to check a PHP constant to do so:

if ( defined( 'CLARITY_AD_BLOCKER_ENABLED' ) && CLARITY_AD_BLOCKER_ENABLED ) {
        // You should not serve ads or upsells to this user.
}

I doubt most would buy this system willingly. However, I like the idea. Users who bother to install and activate an ad blocker plugin are not the target audience anyway.

Clarity is a decent option for users who want to find some quiet amid the noise, but it does have its limitations.


Esther L. Gunn