This Clever Browsing Tool Lets You Replace Banner Ads With Images You Actually Like

Alas, it's not free

A new company is hoping to put an end to obnoxious banner ads by letting viewers choose images they want to see instead. But ultimately, you'll have to pay for the privilege.

Adieu, a browser extension that aims to outbid brand marketers for ad space when viewers load a webpage, is the first product from Fair Tread, a digital media company founded by Matt Mankins, formerly chief technology officer at Fast Company.

A trial comes with a $2 credit. Afterwards, users have to cough up $5 for about 500 blocks. (Adieu says most people will use less than $3 a month, but it's easy to imagine heavy browsers burning through much more). Upload images you'd like to see instead—e.g., family photos or your calendar—or pick from a collection offered by the company.

It's an intriguing idea, even if it's not entirely clear why people would want to pay to see something other than an ad—and have to think about what that something is—rather than paying to see nothing at all. (You could just upload a gallery of white space, I guess.)

The promised benefits include faster browsing and stopping marketers from tracking your behavior. But the company is also pitching the product as a more ethical (and less shortsighted) alternative to free ad blockers. "By using Adieu, you're contributing to a fair Internet that rewards good content," reads the promotional copy.

Unfortunately, the idea runs up against some of the same fundamental issues as other micropayment models. Viewers don't necessarily know if content is good—i.e., worth buying—until they're already on the page (fee paid to replace it with a picture of a cute kitten), a consideration that creates an extra hurdle. And lots of people really just don't want to pay for news content, now that they expect to get it for free.

But kudos to Adieu for trying, and for a Grade A multilingual-layered pun of a brand name.