Published 2020-12-01

The waste of internet advertising

Here is YouTube's video ad specification:

Format H.264 (MP4)
Aspect Ratio and Bitrate 720p or below is required, the optional inclusion of 1080p is recommended (…) mediafile under 1000kbps
Audio Format MP3 or AAC preferred
Frames per second Up to 30fps
Maximum file size 10 MB

To put in perspective, this is how long it would've taken to download this ad over the past decades:

Technology Year Download speed Download time
Modem (V.34) 1994 28,8 kbit/s 00:48:32
Modem (V.90) 1998 56,6 kbit/s 00:24:57
ADSL (Consumer) 1999 256 kbit/s 00:05:27
ADSL (Consumer) 1999 512 kbit/s 00:02:43
ADSL (Consumer) 1999 1 Mbit/s 00:01:23
ADSL (Consumer) 1999 2 Mbit/s 00:00:41
ADSL (Max) 1999 8 Mbit/s 00:00:10
ADSL2+ 2008 24 Mbit/s 00:00:03

Who would have waited 24 minutes to watch an ad @ 56k? Even the 41 seconds @ 2M is absurd, considering the average user attention lasts 10 seconds.

No sooner than 2008 is when the strategy of pushing video ads with this quality starts to be viable, and although 10 MB of unwanted data might not seen much, it is still a lot - it's about twice the size of Shakespeare's entire work.

What about decoding this video? The CPU/GPUs we had back in 2008 did not have hardware acceleration for H.264, and the computers we had in 1998 for sure couldn't decode anything with 30fps in realtime.

CDN stands for "Clogged Delivery Network"

Essentially, unsolicited internet advertising has been constantly leeching* a percentage of an increasingly larger bandwidth available to content consumers as part of it's business model. As the ad-blocking arms race continues and ad clickthrough rates plummet, the shift focuses to different media, like video, and it now also exploits the available CPU/GPU. Where does this industry go from here?

© Henrique Alves <henrique@nowhere>