Major ISP Charter Communications is indefinitely suspending its use of NebuAd, a tool that would use customers’ browsing habits to send them better-targeted ads. Charter’s move is a response to the vast criticism and threat of regulation it faced.
Ryan Radia reports that concerns over NebuAd were overblown. As his C:\Spin with Wayne Crews argued, advertising is critical to the survival of free content on the internet. Charter’s partnership with NebuAd would have given the company another source of revenue, allowing it to reduce internet service prices for consumers. Further, better-targeted ads are better for consumers. I would rather receive ads about libertarian conferences or cheap flights to San Jose or KitchenAid mixers than about breast implants. Targeted ads can be much more useful and less annoying than dumb ads.
Nonetheless, Charter’s move supports Ryan and Wayne’s point that the blogosphere can be a tool “to collectively signal discontent” with new ad programs like Facebook’s Beacon – and thus convince companies that they would risk losing customers if they implemented the new programs. This mechanism works better than government regulation.