Nothing better illustrates the brokenness of the Internet's most traditional revenue model than the recent crop of ad-stripping services.
"Users want to have a clean layout to read a blog or news site," said TidyRead developer Matthew Chen. His Firefox add-on creates a sweet, hyper-relevant overlay as users browse through content, blocking out all the noise and distraction while leaving the cream of the content fully intact.
Like competitor Readability, TidyRead acts as a highly intuitive sifter, separating the wheat--main text, images, video, and bookmarking and social sharing functions--from the chaff, which runs the gamut from irritating, flashy skyscrapers to possibly interesting related links.
"For the algorithm," said Chen, "we use the DOM algorithm, example-based learning and extraction, rule-based unrelated content removal, simple-machine learning, and natural-language processing to try to recognize the text content and related images and videos.
"Sometimes, I am amazed that our simple algorithms work well when I test TidyRead on some complicated pages that are very hard for humans to read."
The implications of such services are astoundingly obvious for those who follow Internet business models: Ads don't work. Not only are click-through rates pathetically low AND inaccurate as engagement measurement; users are becoming more and more irritated with online display ads. Study after study shows that the user's eye is trained to tune out what is largely seen as irrelevant advertising while honing in on the actual content of a page. TidyRead merely facilitates this most common of user behaviors.
TidyRead is currently available as a Firefox add-on, working automagically to transform blog or news pages before the ads even load. "If we are not sure a page is an article, we don't automatically overlay the original page. We don't want to mess up a user's normal surfing."
Chen and team are also working on an Internet Explorer plugin, a Safari bookmarklet, and a Chrome add-on (Google's Chrome browser's add-on feature will be debuted in a couple weeks, said Chen).