Have you noticed Meebo, that annoying bar on the bottom of some websites like Men’s Fitness and TVGuide.com? Of course you have. It spits up ads and nags you to share stuff on Facebook while you’re just trying to read. It’s a website add-on increasingly used by publishers who hate their readers.
Here’s how to banish it from your life forever.
Look, I’m all for advertising. I know who butters my bread, and I want content on the web to remain free. The only way that happens is with ads. But Meebo crosses some subtle line. Its impact on design, its distraction factor, and the creepy way it tries to trick you into giving it the keys to your social media accounts are just too much.
Ostensibly, Meebo is a way for publishers and advertisers to drive engagement. And like many things that use the word “engagement”, it means it’s a ploy to get you to “interact” with “content” like some sort of brainless, soulless “eyeball” disconnected from any humanity, or feelings, or intelligence, or even reality. You are just a monkey with a mouse. Click the Meebo bar, monkey. Click it!
Sadly, Meebo is just the latest in a long line of tools that publishers use because it gives them some abstract value while actively alienating and infuriating their audience in a concrete manner.
Meebo promises publishers to deliver “high quality advertising revenue that won’t impact user experience”. But, really, its ads are explicitly designed to impact user experience. It’s what they do.
To anyone not already familiar with Meebo, it’s not even clear that you’re seeing an ad from the publisher, and until you do “interact” with it, it isn’t even clear how to hide the damn thing. In fact, the only reason this story came up for me is due to a frustrated chat I had with my wife yesterday on IM:
Her: How come sometimes when i go to a website this bar comes up at the bottom called Meebo? I hate it, it sucks….
Her: do you know what i’m talking about?
me: some sites (like sfgate.com) use it
Her: is it something on my computer
that is what i was just looking at!
me: No, it’s wmbedded on the web pages
Her: gonna get my news from nytimes from now on
In short, my wife, who is not only a long-time reader of the San Francisco Chronicle but also a subscriber decided to ditch her favourite newspaper altogether. You hear that, Chronicle? You used Meebo to ruin your brand. Congratulations.
Sure, her story is anecdotal, but there are many more like them. For example, here’s what a quick Twitter search reveals about how users feel about Meebo on a few popular websites.
Thankfully, it’s super easy to turn off. There are a few ways to go about it, but the easiest is likely Ghostery. Ghostery is an add-on that works with all of the mainstream modern web browsers and blocks all manner of ads and tracking that publishers dump on their websites. (Meaning, as a side benefit, you’ll ditch a lot of other web tracking by doing this as well.)
You can set Ghostery up to allow ads and tracking on some sites (like this one) and not others, or allow some services to load on any site. It’s delightful.
If Ghostery isn’t your speed, there are all kinds of other ad blockers that will do equal damage to the Meebo bar. But the best way to get rid of it, permanently and web-wide? Every time you see it, be sure to let the publisher know you won’t be returning to that site until it’s gone.
Update: Boston.com decided to remove the Meebo bar after just 48 hours due to all of the negative feedback from its readers. It’s already been vanquished from most of the site. Feedback works!
Update 2: Meebo says:
We built the Meebo bar to help users find content they like on a web site, whether that’s recommended by friends, or trending content at that moment. We’re trying to get better and better at this. The hope is that this helps both users and publishers.
As far as the ad in the bar goes, my viewpoint is that Meebo’s ads are actually pretty decent. They aren’t deceptive, don’t block other content, and don’t send you away from the page you’re on if you click on them. In the pantheon of historically awful choice for publishers looking for extra revenue, Meebo is benign.
The current version of Meebo’s bar is a new design that we’ve been releasing over the last few weeks. Any user can close the bar today by rolling over the square on the right and clicking the hide button. We’re working on a global close button that won’t require any script trickery or browser plugins.