Advertisement within libre mobile apps

Hello all! The other day I talked about ideas on paying to download open source linux mobile apps.

Now, I have been thinking, what about ads in app?

I believe that almost all of us here are getting away from the full page “ad will be skippable in 5 seconds” experience, so that is a no go for me.
Also, mentioning ads served from google’s network would be just a bad joke for our universe here, so let’s just leave that off the conversation.

However, what about privacy friendly ad networks?
Like: and, plus

Or not through networks at all and directly negotiated, for example I sell a space in my app and hardcode a text with a link to the buyer’s offer.

And about how invasive would you accept it to be? Considering you would accept any sort of for-profit external link being displayed in the app of course.

Would you be okay with an image as a banner at the bottom?
And what about a one line text and link at the bottom?

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I despise all ads. All of them are a nuisance and a distraction. If I can’t turn off the ads, I go away.

Edit: spotted some bad spelling, and fixed that.


As I see it, this goes against the idea of free/libre software: the point is that using free software means that my computer does what I want it to do. That’s very different from the world of proprietary software where the computer does what the people who made the program wants.

With proprietary software it is possible to have ads, it’s something that the program forces on the user, the user does not want to view ads but has no choice.

With free/libre software, I can anyway change the program’s source code to make it behave as I want. For example, if someone makes a program that shows an ad banner at the bottom I can just remove that. So it does not make much sense to create such a program in the first place. Better to focus on making software that does things that people want.


I might accept that if the ad is relevant to my interests. I enjoyed ads from Project Wonderful because they always linked to realy good stuff (but it was still an ad network). Ads in paper magazines were generally passable, even though I never actually took advantage of them.

Recently I found some offline documentation reader in the repos, and after installing, it immediately served me ads from my network. Those were not ads for other projects related to the project whose documentation I was reading, so it went out the window.

I think it’s basically: the ad must expand on the content for which I came. It should not connect me with a third party.

This “old media” condition already eliminates 99% digital ads.

Now, if I’m not interested in exploration, there must be no ads - there’s no way in hell I’d expect an ad in inkscape, where space is already limited, or my IDE, which I use daily.

This, on the other hand eliminates some 90% of the software.

I think Firefox played it reasonably well with the Pocket ad in Firefox. I don’t care about it, and it doesn’t bother me, but it’s there, and I sometimes misclick “add to Pocket”. Tbh, I wish it was gone because of the misclicks.


Somewhat acceptable would be sponsor logos on the splash screen and sponsor links on the help / about sponsors page.
However, there’s a much better alternative over tainting a beautiful app: a pay-what-you-want app store. Or Patreon or similar.


Yes, that would be great. Ideally including some way for donations to reach not only visible “apps” but also libraries and things used behind the scenes, all the free/libre software that is used and needs resources for maintenance and development. With transparency regarding where donated money actually went.


Indeed. And it might actually come at some point.


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There’s also the question of whose servers the ads would be coming from. Google? The phrase “No way in hell!” leaps to mind.


Great that you mentioned this!

It prompted my brain to recall something… I once read a marketing book and during the book the author mentioned other relevant books and explained why the specific book was interesting, plus appended to its concluding chapter was a list to other awesome books.

It is talking about other people’s offers, but does not feels like those ads that are cognitively forced upon us when visiting a news site. To avoid these I use an adblocker. I cannot navigate the web without one :sweat_smile:

@Caliga I too was interested in the pay what you want model from appcenter, but I read their public messages and they say that almost nobody selects to pay, almost everyone types in zero, I forgot the exact numbers they shared about an app, but if my memory is correct it had 300k downloads but less than 1% paid downloads.

Due to this, I do not believe that voluntary payments (donations or pay what you want) are a model that will give a developer the economic calculation numbers that justify creating an app, much less give him the ability to keep maintaining it over time, like fixing bugs, answering support questions, adding new features, creating new screenshots when GTK changes, updating the app to newer GTK or Flatpak versions and more.

@dcz And others too:
Still in that line of context-relevant ads that are actual expansions of the current content, maybe they look more like external references to get more instead of general ads.

If I placed a one line text at the bottom of the app, let’s say a rule of 3 calculator, displaying something like “See my other calc apps” or “Get more calc apps here!”, would that be interesting?

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… which could mean about 3,000 to 30,000 bucks in total.
For people who want to make a living from that, it most likely won’t work.
But for those creating apps in their spare time, that at least wish to recover infrastructure cost etc., it might already be quite satisfying.
It also depends a lot on the app. For a calculator, if 1% gives a buck once, the might be okayish.
For other things like Inkscape, I’d assume there are 90+% of people who use it occasionally and are satisfied and don’t really see a need to invest in it. And then there are some who use it professionally and make a living from it. They might even find a one-time payment of 10 or 50 bucks a bit weird.

What I’d find pretty awesome would be an app store that maybe once a year tells you, “Would you like to donate to the projects you are using? Based on your usage and/or based on project size/needs, we preselected w% for project x, y% for project z, … adjust the sliders as you see fit (like humble bundle had it) and enter the amount you’d like to give.”

Doing it this way round IMO makes more sense, not only because it conveys more the concept of supporting development of things you like/use, rather than paying upfront for something you might not know the quality of and maybe the weird feeling of paying for something that you don’t gain ownership of by paying.

To know this would it not require tracking your usage, kind of against the goals of many coming to Purism in the first place.

How would you have targeted advertising without tracking? It seems infeasible to have relevant ads without a way to know what is likely to be relevant.

I worded it as optional, and there are different approaches how to do that. E.g. count the invocations or count runtime. Anyway, obviously that data would stay local. That should go without saying :slight_smile:

That’s a good point. I don’t give a damn what is tracked (like log files) if it never leaves my computer, disk space notwithstanding.

Usage based nagging :joy: sounds like a good idea to experiment with, actually! I am placing it in my experiment’s list. Reminded me of Winrar.

Like I said, in a marketing book I found “advertising” in the form of recommendations of other marketing books. One idea is “get more of this” or “get more things that are auxiliary to this”. Sounds nice?

Also what Caliga said, it could help with usage based nagging. Local of course.

Absolutely not.
I was talking about the app store that could maybe once a year have the donations page open at startup, and make a suggestion how to distribute donations, based on different factors, one of which could be usage.

Ah, so instead of the app doing it, the app store would do it. Hmm, also a nice idea, more on the store side than on the app’s side.

Just like ads have always worked before the Web.

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This kind of advertising primarily stems from tracking people’s purchases to see what people buy that is associated with the thing being sold. Sure, some things can be associated without that, like shaving cream advertising with razor blades, but most of those related ads are based on “a large enough percentage of people that bought this also bought that so advertise that” which comes from tracking sales.

So targeted based on tracking the demographics of whom is purchasing the products and/or spray and pary advertising like billboards that are often unrelated to anything. The advertising that is most relevant and showing similar products stems from tracking what people are buying and correlating that information to see that if someone buys x product a large percentage of people that do that also buy Y product so advertise it with product x. That relevancy comes from tracking sales in a way that is not stored locally by the customer.

Also, how feasible is this for inside an application? I mean, billboard style advertising of irrelevant highest bidder ads is easy, but advertising things that are relevant based on the app itself (and no other information) is what I don’t see as feasible, or so niche as to be effectively no revenue and not a way for the developer to sustain themselves.

I don’t hate @Caliga 's idea of locally tracking application usage to then notify yearly a general idea of where might be the best places to donate, I do expect most people to not opt into that tracking when they don’t opt in to any other tracking and for them to complain that they were even asked since “I thought PureOS doesn’t track me why am I getting prompted for tracking…”

I think the only reasonable ads in this space are billboard style and irrelevant due to the lack of tracking. I’d rather have less relevant ads than the tracking that makes for relevant ads that I’m more likely to find useful.

Which then raises the question of: how would you know whose servers?

A lot of people on this forum (my guess anyway) would be blocking Google’s ad servers. In that sense, you know where the ads aren’t coming from, but things can be more complicated than that. When an app (or a web page) loads an ad, you can’t know for sure where information is being leaked to and e.g. due to HTTP redirect where the ad is coming from, and in any case your blocking of Google’s ad servers may not be 100% effective.

I’m fairly down on ads on the screen in a mobile app (or a web page). You are already fighting to use the 5" or 6" of screen real estate, so wasting space on ads is just annoying.


Wasting my life time with seeing ads somewhere is even more annoying - doesn’t care if picture is on 6", 30" or 100" screen or if it is somewhere in physical world. I definitely wont use apps with any form of ad.

I wish a donation system where I see some information to its project and company/organization behind. What are the costs for infrastructures, what are personal costs for developing, how much money they want to get in the whole year and how much they already got (update every month), same with last year. Also what else will be done with this money (Mozilla doesn’t need money only for Firefox, but also for other activities). Such things… should be standardized.

Many people don’t have enough money to spend it to each app they’re using. Such transparency helps to see what app is underpayed and which one is well supported. It helps to decide where my spend will be best placed. I only spend my money to organization who make transparency reports at least once a year and don’t see any reason why FOSS apps cannot do.
It also helps to visualize that even FOSS costs something.

I don’t want local tracking. I mean … why we would need for this purpose? People normally know what they have downloaded and how important it is personally.

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