Lichess: Block Ads and Trackers




I like this.


Lichess and it's author are so cool that I subscribed to monthly donation even though it gives me literally nothing.


Trivia: Lidraughts was created taking inspiration from Lichess, and this is acknowledged in In the spirit of Lichess, they too keep the source open and avoid serving ads. Draughts, unfortunately, does not enjoy the same status or fanfare as chess and seems to have more following in poorer countries (except for Netherlands and Russia). I feel that it needs all the help it can get, and Lidraughts is a big relief.


I see Frysk is on there. That game is wild.


Did you know Lichess is built in Scala 3 ;-)

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Lichess is truly amazing.

I am a monthly Lichess donator, and you too can donate via




A more apt analogy would be someone giving away snacks in a park, and they have an advertisement printed on the snack wrapper. However, when you take the snack, you hold it upside down in your hand so the advertisement is obscured. Are you doing something wrong by holding the snack in that manner?


Anybody who publishes any kind of media can insert advertisements that are unblockable. For example if your content is in text-form, you have to make the ad a part of the body text, just like I do while I sip from a refreshing and healthy Dr Pepper. Of course you can not track, spy, or install malware on your visitors machines with such in-content ads, but there are other ways to check if the ads work.

Readers of this comment can get a 20% discount on their next Dr Pepper order using promotional code "Hacker1338". Limited time offer.


I think your analogy is not suitable. Doing physical exercise does not have risks of infecting your body with viruses (malware). And will not invade your privacy for sure.

I am amazed at the fact the ublock origin is the best security defence we have. I install it on my relatives machine and most of their problems dissappears.


You've got the analogy right in that the internet is like a public park. Where your analogy goes wrong is in the fact that these service providers have set up a bakery in the park, and are trying to charge anyone who merely smells the bread, and then accuse people of stealing when they refuse to pay for the act of inhaling while walking through the public park.

The internet is a public resource. Your website is a guest on my computer. I will do with your website what I will. The one and only choice you have is to not serve it to me. Once you have served it to me, you don't get to dictate how I use it.


Sites don't require advertisements around links to their sites. Once you follow a link (scent) to the destination that is when advertisements are shown in exchange for allowing you to access something of value.

>Once you have served it to me, you don't get to dictate how I use it.

If you do not have a license to modify the site that is copyright infringement.


> If you do not have a license to modify the site that is copyright infringement.

It is fair use.

If I buy a physical copy of a poster, and draw on it before I hang it on my wall, it's fair use.

If I buy a CD and it includes an instrumental version of a track and I badly sing to it, it's fair use.

If I buy a designer brand table and decide it's too tall, I can saw off 5cm from its legs, and it's fair use.

If I download a freely distributed document from the Internet, to display on my computer's screen, and decide not to look at a part of it - it is fair use.


>If I buy a physical copy of a poster, and draw on it before I hang it on my wall, it's fair use.

It's not necessarily fair use.

>If I buy a CD and it includes an instrumental version of a track and I badly sing to it, it's fair use.

Unless the venue you are at has paid for the performance rights of that song that is copyright infringement.

>If I buy a designer brand table and decide it's too tall, I can saw off 5cm from its legs, and it's fair use.

It's not necessarily fair use.

>If I download a freely distributed document from the Internet, to display on my computer's screen, and decide not to look at a part of it - it is fair use.

Considering removing ads hurts monetarily I definitely don't think it could be fair use.


> It's not necessarily fair use.

Please elaborate, "no u" is not an argument.

> Unless the venue you are at has paid for the performance rights of that song that is copyright infringement.

That "venue" is my home. The instrumental mix was included on the CD for the sole purpose of torturing my cohabitants with my awful singing. Why else would you include an incomplete mix? It doesn't add to the listening experience. As an artist, you could have released an "alternative version" as a bonus track (e.g. with a guest singer, or acoustic instead of electric guitars), but instead you intended to let the listener play the artist. It's not just fair use to use the track in that way, the entire intention for its existence is fair use.

> Considering removing ads hurts monetarily [...]

Money changed hands as a part of a deal, and I was not a side in that transaction, even though the subject of that transaction was my attention - something that I have a very limited amount of, and something I should have full authority over. You never asked me if you can redirect my attention in that way, not until you have already showed me the ad.

If it hurts you monetarily when I use your service and then not look at the ads, then don't provide me with the service. I'll move on, thank you.


For personal consumption?

I modify the ebooks I read, changing the font and other formatting, reducing the size of images or removing them entirely, and removing advert pages (sometimes, not compulsively). I do this for my own readability preferences (I don't have a formalized disability, just preferences at this point). As I am not reselling the artist's work, I consider this fair use. To what degree am I wrong?


Personal consumption doesn't make copyright infringement okay. It just makes it harder to be caught.


> If you do not have a license to modify the site that is copyright infringement.

Do I infringe copyright if I rip out the ads in a magazine and throw them in the trash?




Quoting as this is the best phrasing I’ve heard, thank you.

> The internet is a public resource. Your website is a guest on my computer. I will do with your website what I will. The one and only choice you have is to not serve it to me. Once you have served it to me, you don't get to dictate how I use it.

And completely agreed. Put simply, if you don’t want to give something away for free, don’t give it away for free.


It isn't theft, that's a gross exaggeration. Alas it's a popular one.,news-20...

> These days, most Web publishers rely on advertising to pay the bills. Some charge subscription fees, but for the most part, readers have shown that they aren't willing to pay for access to Web content. Even if they earn revenue from subscriptions or e-commerce links, few sites can turn a profit without running a substantial number of ads.

Boo friggin' hoo. If you don't like it, shutter your site. Since 2015 when this article was written, ads have gotten worse, and the blame can't be placed entirely on people using ad blockers. FWIW I don't use one, I use the ad blocker in my brain (the article says "However, trying to actively filter ads from websites is stealing" and that's what I do when I ignore ads). I guess by their logic I should stop doing that and read every ad or else I'm tantamount to a burglar.


You use the ad blocker in your brain?? Have you forgotten what computers are here to do in the first place?


> I use the ad blocker in my brain

Blocking ads is about more than just not perceiving them (although that's a tremendous benefit). Ads are actually hostile: they often ruin the UI/UX, make the site harder to use, can install malware of all kinds, and/or directly harvest data from you for profit (which could also be called stealing, to use the language of the industry).

Ad-blocking software is simply form of self defense.


So to confirm, whenever ads come on on the TV, you sit and diligently watch them? Wouldn't want to steal the tv show after all.


I already had massive respect for Lichess but this is just incredible. I wish them all the success in the world.


> It's important to note that blocking ads is NOT theft. Don't fall for this creepy idea, which is the criminalisation of the inalienable right to privacy.

This is something I've never actually focused on but it's wild the amount of people I've installed AdBlock and ublock for who think it's something nefarious.


Ads and targeted ads aren’t the same thing, so idk if I agree that ad blocking is per se a privacy right.

Practically, of course, it’s a different story.


Untargeted ads are still a security nightmare. Why would I permit loading and executing scripts / resources from arbitrary domains? Ublock is layer 0 defense against malware and viruses.


Why would an ad need to run a script, use meaningful resources or even be from arbitrary domains?

Those are all practical arguments, but the point I'm making is that advertising doesn't have to be this way; it's the implementation that's the problem, not the theory.

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>'s wild the amount of people I've installed AdBlock and ublock for who think it's something nefarious

Because it is? Ad blocking is arguably at least unethical.


If a person followed me everywhere, took extensive notes on every facet of my life, and also got in my face constantly trying to sell me goods and services by means of shoving fliers in my face and yelling at top volume, you'd call it unethical of me to close my eyes and cover my ears. That kind of behavior is grounds for restraining orders, detainment, and prosecution, and is part of why we have concealed carry permits. But somehow it being digital makes it all okay in your book.

You are being deceptive if you try and paint contemporary web ads as these cute little fairies that just want to help separate you from your money. Ads on the internet these days are by default stuffed with cookies and trackers they don't need in order to psychologically harass people who don't want to be subjected to that pollution.

Maybe instead of it being incumbent on the less-powerful end user to be perpetually disciplined where businesses aren't, businesses should stop employing invasive tracking and psychological warfare, and maybe if they don't choose to do that on their own they should have their business crushed under twelve-digit fines that come with the same penalties as US student loans until they decide to play nice with the rest of society. One investor did say we need to see more pain in this economy, and although this wasn't what he meant by that, I like my idea much better than his.


Not more unethical than making money off of manipulating people, spreading malware and viruses, etc.


I would support legislation to hold advertisors accountable for distributing malware, even if just negligence. Yet that case can probably be made with existing laws. Perhaps the US DoJ will finally awaken to the threat.


Nope. My attention belongs to me and me alone. It's not currency to pay for services with. Ad blockers are not only ethical, they're justified self defense.


This stance is absurd. It's your device, you choose what content you want to consume on it. Do you imagine a world where you buy a monitor and once every hour it shows you fullscreen ads from the device manufacturer without your consent? Maybe you do, but for everyone else that's a dystopia.


I think you are overreacting

> This stance is absurd.

It's not 'absurd', because he did say "arguably", meaning that there's an argument to be made for either side of the issue (and a poster below makes an argument).

Pointing out that ad-blocking is arguably unethical is fine. If he had said "it's unarguably unethical", then sure, that's absurd, but the poster qualified his statement quite nicely.


Visiting sites consume resources. If you walk into a store and take a gift card you're still consuming resources meant to be paid for, even if they're mostly digital resources. Regardless of the car or shoes you used to do it.

I don't welcome a world of paid products that also include ads. Yet ads do make some paid products cheaper, like say a Kindle or a TV. Folks blocking ads from a premium product probably have a stronger defense. Those blocking ads from an entirely ad supported service less so.


This is misguided. Just like visiting a site consumes resources on their server, visiting a site consumes resources on my system, in fact, if I don't block ads it consumes even more resources. In many cases I would argue that fetching and rendering the whole flashing shebang of ad garbage some sites ship these days consumes considerably more resources than simply serving the files on a server.


> This is misguided. Just like visiting a site consumes resources on their server, visiting a site consumes resources on my system, in fact, if I don't block ads it consumes even more resources.

Did the site force you to visit?


Seeing billboards and print ads consume brain cycles. Walking into a store takes energy, even stealing some prepaid cards consumes calories. That they require you do some effort doesn't mean it's ethical to consume their resources without exchanging a bit more.


By your logic not looking at billboards would be unethical. Surely you can see how that makes no sense. Just because someone spent energy on something doesn't mean you have to want it in any measure.


> Yet ads do make some paid products cheaper

1. Companies selling paid products see ads as an additional revenue and not a way of filling a hole in the budget caused by price reductions. The price wasn’t reduced. That’s a fairy tale.

2. Even if (1) wasn’t true, the consumer seeing ads ends up spending more. They pay for the goods and services being advertised. If they didn’t spend more the whole ad business model wouldn’t work.


A false equivalency. Websites want to entice you to visit, stores do not want to entice you to steal gift cards.

As for whether you can make blocking ads an ethical imperative, I'd agree that without ads, there likely wouldn't be an incentive to provide helpful, free services. If anything, it's theft of the value that other ad-consenting visitors are providing.


Stores want to sell you gift cards paid for by your money. Websites want to 'sell' you website content paid for by showing you ads. Some sites even sell you the content ad free by paying them directly.


Just because a company has found a way to make money off of ads doesn't mean we're morally obligated to look at those ads, nor even incidentally be exposed to them. Consider an example applied outside of the internet.

Let's say I open a restaurant that advertises itself as "FREE PIZZA", and I give them a free pizza if asked but I also hand them a 2cm thick stack of ad flyers. Is it morally wrong to take that stack of advertising and just throw it away without looking at it while still eating the pizza? I (and I think most people) would say that throwing away the ads is totally acceptable; they're the fools giving away the free pizza with the hope that they'll drive business for the advertisers. If the free-pizza shop goes out of business because everyone throws away the ad flyers, that's something we consider totally ok because that's probably not a great business approach.

The only reason we consider ads online different is because it's become so normalized. We the users have come to expect many services for free, and the folks making their money by including the ads have become vocally entitled to users eyeballs and the money it makes them. They say "my business will fail if you block my ads; you owe me your eyeballs." Yeah, that's not my problem; I'm an audience member who owes the content-provider/service nothing and who's agreed to nothing (TOS's and EULA's have tried to move the goalposts on this after decades, don't be fooled), the only party the content-provider/service is actually doing business with is their advertising network, so they should figure it amongst themselves.


This is an interesting, yet bewildering take. Do you work for Unity by chance?

Most stores will gladly have you enter their store at a cost, the hardest and most expensive part of the process is getting you there.


I work for a company that helps sell ad free and bonus podcast content. Yet I've had these opinions far longer.


> Visiting sites consume resources.

Less if you block their ads and JS.


but are ads actually served using resources of the site? i just assumed that the ad was served from the ad provider. the only resources used of the site was the initial JS code. redirecting through the host seems very inefficient.


Ads are displayed on my machines. Using the processor cycles and RAM of my computers. Powered by my electricity. Consuming my limited attention span. Injecting information I didn't ask for and do not want to remember into my mind.


So avoid sites with ads?




Why not? Do you prefer they keep making the ads worse to compensate? Or they paywall more? Or make the ads 'native' and indistinguishable from useful content?

People don't want to work for you for free.


> Why not?

Because I don't have to.

> Do you prefer they keep making the ads worse to compensate?

They'll only be punishing users that haven't installed uBlock Origin yet.

> Or they paywall more?

No objection to that.

> Or make the ads 'native' and indistinguishable from useful content?

If I figure out someone is doing that, I'll never trust them again. I'll literally blacklist the site and if I see it posted here or anywhere else I'll point it out.

> People don't want to work for you for free.

They should start charging money then. Return 402 Payment Required instead of a free HTML page. If they send me ads, I will delete them. I won't be losing even one second of sleep over the matter. I'd delete real life ads too if could get away with it.


> Visiting sites consume resources.

Not our problem. They're the ones sending free web pages to any client who requests. Their servers are free to return 402 Payment Required if they require payment.


I think a more fitting analogy would be walking into a store to sit down and cool off with no intent of buying anything. You are "taking" passive resources (air conditioning, space, potentially employee attention). Would you consider that to be unethical?

Personally, I don't believe ad blocking is unethical because I don't believe the ways in which advertisers collect and sell their data is ethical.


Our data* It's not their


If you could loiter in a store and automatically bypass seeing anything being sold there then that would be unethical. Some places even have rules against loitering because they just don't have capacity to serve as a hang out spot for all the people living nearby.


Is it also unethical to not read the ads in a newspaper? Or to not watch the commercials on TV?


If it was automated and you still consumed the other resources (paid largely or entirely by ad impressions) then that case could be made.


I actively avoid ads in print and other media where it's not possible to just block them, and skip through paid for posts in Telegram channels without reading a single word from them. Once you get used to doing this, it becomes second nature — pretty much automatic behavior.


Why does it matter whether it's automatic?


Because if you have to manually notice, recognize, then look away, then arguably you've already paid with your attention. If someone or something is doing it for you (and others) automatically then it eliminates the 'payment' and undermines producers ability to produce.


> If someone or something is doing it for you (and others) automatically then it eliminates the 'payment' and undermines producers ability to produce.

Doesn't it also undermine producers ability to produce if you just get really good at quickly looking away?

It seems from your argument the "case could be made" that it's at least a little unethical to not spend at least a little while paying attention to each ad when reading a newspaper.

Like there's some scale where the left side has "0 attention spent, 0 ethical" and the right side has "maximum attention spent, maximally ethical".


Fair point. I think advertisers understand people will learn to gloss over and mentally filter yet the impression is still something. And in aggregate that's enough. I don't think anyone expects people to feel like consumers must give their full, undivided attention, with eyelids taped open and hands bound.


For the record, a lot of ads in newspapers are in separate inserts which easily be separated and tossed out. Grocery store bundles for example.


True but that still requires the would-be reader to take action, and likely read something printed on them


One way to figure out if a case could be made, or if something is “arguably” true, is to try and make a case or argument and see if it works. Just speculating that it might be possible to make a case is kind of weasel-wordy.


Actually NOT blocking ads is at the very least morally evil and degenerate.

You are a very bad person if you think adverts are morally justifiable in any form.


Flyers mailed by local grocery stores regularly let me know when stores I don't normally shop at are having a sale on something I need, which lets me save money. How is that immoral?


Thinking differently makes me a bad person. That's not a very convincing premise.


Being thoughtless and pushing thoughtless or poorly examined morals onto others is a harmful action.


By what logic am I being thoughtless and in possession poorly examined morals?

Is expressing a different opinion "pushing morals"?

So many accusations here. Apparently I'm subhuman, a bad person, and of low moral character. All because I think the exchange of ad impressions for otherwise free access to content is a tolerable bargain, and that subverting the trade is problematic.


I said nothing of your character. I only commented on the action itself. We are human and we make mistakes, but we're not defined by those mistakes.

Advertising is unethical. I would encourage you to start with considering that position, read some opinions on this topic, and spend time considering the harm that advertising causes not only directly on the human, but also the incentives and ecosystems and structures of capitalism that advertising enables and perpetuates that also harms humans.

It is possible you simply don't hold the same values as me and many other people. Namely that people should not be harmed, capitalism perpetuates a lot of harm, people have rights to protect themselves from harm, and whether the means justify the ends.

I wish you well regardless.


If anything it's ads that are unethical.


> Because it is? Ad blocking is arguably at least unethical.

If all an ad was was a static image, I might agree.

As it stands though, with RTB being what it is, ad blocking is the only means to protect yourself from a massive unethical, unconsensual breach of privacy.


Or boycott the sites. Or perhaps just boycott the risky capability like JavaScript.



Now, I get that you're probably coming at this from "But hosting costs money and advertising is a way to recuperate the cost, so visiting the site but blocking ads is leeching bandwidth from the host without providing value back in the form of ad revenue".

But this doesn't hold up. All the cards are held by the content provider. If they -actually- have a problem with this, they have ways to stop it.

1. A server will always serve a request. That's it's job. So there's some unavoidable up-front cost to being a server on the internet.

2. But once it gets the request, it might serve a response that executes client-side Javascript that detects that an ad-blocker is running. At this point the content provider has a decision. They could block the requester. For example, redirect to a "Disable your adblocker" page. Or even in extreme cases blacklist the IP the request came from (though practically this doesn't happen). Heck, if things devolved into an arms race around ad-blocking detection, you could probably detect this server-side with some mechanism around serving a request to a browser while at the same time issuing a request to an ad provider to see if they received a corresponding ad content request within a certain window and if not, you know the ad was effectively blocked.

Ultimately it's not an obligation to accept ads. It's the content provider's prerogative to decide to deny service to ad-blocking clients, but realistically most content providers want traffic even if it's not generating ad revenue because of those sweet engagement metrics. If they don't, they have the tools to stop serving those requests.


One can enter physically a theater and watch a movie without paying quote often. Depending on the timing and staff you may not be confronted for a long time or at all.

Does that mean theaters don't really care or obligate consumers to pay?


There is nuance because the behavior around physical spaces is well established by law and social norm. This is absolutely not true for the internet, as evidenced by this very debate.

If you will indulge the hypothetical, and we step back from the established social norms (people know you are expected to pay), who is responsible for making sure customers understand the need to pay? The theater. If the theater doesn't secure their doors and doesn't say anywhere "you must pay to enter," then it's a completely reasonable behavior for someone to enter and watch until they are asked to leave or pay. If they refuse to leave, they're trespassing. If they are told to pay before entering and they sneak in, this is clearly trespassing.

But this is not really the same thing as online advertising. Online advertising is more like, you ask them to deliver a DVD to your house, and the agreement is "we'll deliver the DVD if you also let us place a camera and microphone in your home to watch your reaction to the DVD." Then you allow the DVD in but refuse entry to the spy gear. It would be very problematic to try and force people to accept the spy gear, or prevent them from denying entry to the spy gear. It would lead to laws purposefully designed to deny people privacy and control over their own homes. A much better solution would be for the company to just not allow you to take the DVD unless you also take the spy gear and to create laws around that behavior if necessary.


Do you sometimes have trouble identifying traffic lights in photographs? Or perceiving character gestalts from distorted images?

After you confirm your humanity to the best extent you can, proceed to reexamine your ethics.


Accusing people with different opinions of being less than human (or out of touch with humanity) only harms and does not help your argument.


Easy now. It's not like I did anything mean like accuse you of being in ad sales.

Also, kettle, you're the one telling people they're behaving unethically.


I don't know how commentors behave. I'm just making the case that taking without paying is unethical, and ad blocking is exactly that.

If the very thought or argument makes people uncomfortable, even when they disagree, that is not my responsibility.


That's false. If you put something online without a specific paywall everyone can get it however they want. With or without ads. Simple as that. You want to get paid for your content - put a price on it.


I get where you're coming from. The free content is possible because of the advertisements, and you are sort of consenting to the ads when you choose to visit the site. It's not an explicit agreement but it is at least an understanding of what lets the wheels keep turning.

However, when ads are so obtrusive that they slow down my computer or ruin the use of the site completely, or if they have malware payloads (does happen) then I'm quite happy to use an ad blocker. I didn't use one until I started encountering this kind of nonsense regularly.


If we collectively boycotted the sites that allow such garbage then they would serve less obtrusive ads.

To consume the content without even considering ads makes it unethical.


Nothing at all unethical about it. We're not obligated to spend even one second looking at ads. They sent us free stuff hoping we were going to notice the ads they bundled alongside it. We're not obligated to do that though. It's that simple.


You're not ethical for consuming while also automatically bypassing even the possibility of an ad impression. It's the impression that pays for the content. No impressions. No content.


Guess the content just isn't gonna be paid for then. Not my responsibility to make their silly business model work. My attention belongs to me. I decide what I pay attention to. They aren't entitled to it. Sending me free stuff doesn't entitle them to literally anything.


Why do so many fail to also mention Pi-Hole? :(


Maybe it's a bit too much for non-tech savy users


> These don't benefit us, the website users, in any way

Except for, you know, allowing those websites to exist in the first place? Ads and data are nothing but a form of payment, the gold or salt of the internet age.

The alternative to ads isn't no ads, it's paywalls and subscriptions. If ads didn't exist or weren't as accurate as they can be with invasive tracking, we'd have far less content out there, and most of the existing content would be locked behind paywalls, making search engines even more useless than they already are. There would be no free video hosting on Youtube, no free music on Spotify, no free educational resources for those who can't afford books, and calling your friends on another continent would still be a few dollars per minute. The internet would be a much sadder place even if you were rich, and almost completely inaccessible to you if you were poor (or a teenager without a bank account / a resident of a sanctioned country / an undocumented and unbanked immigrant.)

Ad Blocking is a "tragedy of the commons" problem, your internet experience is better if you do it than if you don't, but if 100% of users were to start successfully blocking ads everywhere, the experience for those same users would quickly degrade.


> The alternative to ads isn't no ads, it's paywalls and subscriptions.

Great. An alternative is an honest way to conduct business. We'll take it.

We could get rid of all that click-bait AI-generate crap and not waste everyone's time, among tons of other benefits.


This is clearly not true; Wikipedia isn't ad supported and is incredibly successful and prolific. You can use educational tools like WolframAlpha freely and pay (using a normal subscription model) for its more advanced features, no advertising required. KhanAcademy is completely free (yes I know they host many of their videos on YouTube; that's a minority of the content on KA these days and I suspect would be a relatively minor hosting cost at this point based on how tiny and easy to compress their video presentation style is).

The internet would be different, yes. We'd probably see much less of a gold-rush than we've historically seen. I think it would still be just as much of a treasure in learning and communication as it is today though.


Wikipedia has a somewhat unique architecture in that it's mostly text and most of that text can be cached. This is also true about blogs and sites like HN and Stackoverflow, but not social media sites, search engines, messaging services, video and image hosting sites etc.

Most Wikipedia visitors use an ad-supported search engine to find articles. All that Wikipedia itself needs to do is to find the URL in their cache and send the pre-rendered HTML page. For many requests, there are no SQL queries to execute and there's no PHP Wikimedia code to run, it's just finding some HTML in a glorified key-value store. There's relatively little code to run and relatively little bandwidth required, so the cost-per-user isn't that high. There's also very little technical innovation, the core problem has been solved and the community is just adding more content. Same goes for HN and Stackoverflow.

Not all websites can operate that way. Search engines need lots of compute for indexing and search, and lots of developers to fight SEO spam. Not all searches can even be cached, "nearby Sushi restaurants" needs to return results based on your location etc. Social media websites spend a lot of money on moderation, and all their users are logged in, giving them far fewer opportunities for caching. Pushing a Taylor Swift tweet to all her followers in almost real time is definitely no small feat. Messaging apps need to deal with a lot of push notifications and a much higher proportion of writes to reads (when compared to Wikipedia), also moderation, fighting bots etc. Video and image hosting websites need much more bandwidth and storage (and possibly compute for transcoding), and those aren't free.

The non-profit, no ads, free-for-all model just doesn't work that well for this kind of platforms.


> Most Wikipedia visitors use an ad-supported search engine to find articles.

Because Google spends billions of dollars contorting and manipulating the entire internet ecosystem to only work with Google's model of the internet.

There are really simple solutions how the internet can be ad free and function much better than it does today in terms of serving information people. The internet is far, far worse due to the financial incentives involved


In an alternate world where ad funded sites never took off...

Taylor Swift could publish an RSS feed, or pay Twitter since it's basically a marketing channel for her. Messaging apps could have been p2p (and maybe ISPs would've had a reason to get ipv6 working since otherwise you'd hear "IM doesn't work on Cox" etc. Or maybe ISPs could provide federated chat gateways like they did with email). ISPs might bundle hosting (they used to), or Microsoft would have had a reason to have built Personal Web Server into something everyone uses today. Maybe people would share viral videos they liked on something like gnutella using magnet links from forums.

It might not work for companies trying to corral the entire world onto their platform, but maybe that model isn't very good.


>The alternative to ads isn't no ads, it's paywalls and subscriptions.

You do realize Lichess is free has no adds / paywalls or subscription ?


Whatever. Let those spammy ad-funded web sites die. Nothing of value will be lost. It won't kill the web, it will fix it. Everyone should do their part to fix the web by driving advertising profits to zero.

The web was supposed to have real web sites made by real humans who actually have something to say. Not all this worthless ad impression maximizing clickbait spam. Remember, people used to pay for servers just to make their texts available over the internet. No one paid them for it.


Thibault (the creator of lichess) is a really impressive human being. I don’t idolize people but he is quite inspiring.

There’s an old perpetual chess podcast episode where he said he has never seen a single ad that was useful :-) Which is somewhat extreme and probably hyperbole but still his philosophy is loud and clear.


Not once did I win an iPod for punching the monkey.


> Which is somewhat extreme and probably hyperbole but still his philosophy is loud and clear.

Is it? I wish online ads that make it through would target me well.

yes, I use adblockers and I opt out of data collection. But any old-school advertisement such as print, TV, billboard, and prospect ads feel more targeted / relevant to me and guide me to a sales funnel than online ads.


On this subject, I did see an ad for a small music festival near my hometown, and i brought the ticket and had a good time. If i had not seen the add, I would not have known about the festival, so I actually did at least once see a useful ad


I used to hate ads, for the intrusion they made. Then I started to run my own ventures and realised advertising is essential: even finding friends and partners requires advertising of a sort.

But on the web, advertising doesn’t stop at attention theft. Most web ads are agents of surveillance networks, and also are software running on your hardware. Neither we should tolerate.


Yeah, I actually went to school for "strategic communication" which was in large part advertising/marketing/PR. I originally had this very naive perspective that these sorts of communication are important and valuable. Which is still true (we all engage in -some- form of self-promotion, even if only in how we choose to present ourselves to others), but with massive asterisks.

In my ideal, advertising and marketing are about really understanding what the other party needs and finding a truly mutually beneficial agreement that actually generates value through exchange (A has X but values Y more highly, B has Y but values X more highly, simply by the act of exchange, value is generated).

I was even pro-tracking at one point because the more you know about people, the better you can understand their needs so the better you can offer them something they'll value. In the abstract, I still think there's something here. But it has to be done responsibly and with a user-before-profit mindset.

By contrast, ad companies have time and again proven themselves irresponsible with this information, e.g. selling it to shady groups.


> I started to run my own ventures and realised advertising is essential

There are ethical ways to go about it. In certain contexts, what people think of as advertising is really just information. It's totally fine to inform people when they ask for it.

When people open a store app, it's because they want to see products. There's no ethical conflict when the store app does what people want it to do. What's unethical is the constant product spam when people are trying to do anything else.


How’d you get the ad? It seems like something that could be posted on a coffee shop bulletin board for example, or placed in the culture section of a local newspaper. In other words, environment and location are all that are really needed, we wouldn’t need to send somebody to stalk you (like Facebook or Google) in order to show you this ad.

Ads are only good for things with broad appeal like that.


ornicar if you're reading this, just know we all love you.


> Tracking sells our personal information to increase advertisement effectiveness

Saying this downplays the invasiveness and threat. That's not the only purpose.


The manifesto at the end is a thing of beauty. Cuts through the crap and really gets to the point.


I love their stance on adblockers and privacy. It's exactly how I feel and I refuse to have them in my home or on my devices. I also love how they go the extra mile to show people how to implement common adblocking techniques.


Does anyone know the difference between personalDNSfilter (recommended by lichess) and Blokada for DNS-based blocking? I use the latter on my phone.


both work in the same way, by setting up a proxy/local-vpn through which all traffic passes in order to filter ad hosts at the dns level.


Is BlockBear a good solution on iOS? I switched to iOS from Android because they were the only ones making a good, small-ish phone (on Android, I'd just use Firefox and uBlock Origin), but I had no idea what ad blocker to pick. What I have kinda works, but I do still see ads sometimes, and the app seems kinda skeevy. Would be happy to try something else if it is recommended.


I use 1Blocker and love it.


Yep 1Blocker is good, simple, and does Safari and DNS filtering. Devs are fairly responsive.

Adguard (which lichess lists on their site) has an iOS app also that can do Safari and DNS filtering as well.


You can also use DNSCloak, which can act as a VPN, and proxy all DNS requests to a trusted DoH server, like AdGuard.


Use Adguard for Safari and install an adblocking DNS service profile. This combo is the best for iOS user.


BlockBear is so outdated (last update was 5 years ago) that I have no idea how it can be recommended.

I personally use AdGuard in combination with Ghostery (but I also run PiHole, which I’m connected to all the time).


+1 for uBlock Origin and SponsorBlock.

Who are the people behind AdGuard and why should I send them all my DNS lookups?

I think it's better to use Pi Hole instead.




Interesting to contrast this with their main competitor at, which uses AdSense and tracks users with,,, facebook-sdk, and other third-party data sources.

uBlock is cutting off's Fastly CDN resources without loss of function, but is otherwise silent. Conversely, uBlock, Ghostery, and PrivacyBadger light up my browser like a Christmas tree when I visit

Yet another reason to prefer Lichess.


Sentry is not a tracker


I agree with this, but I think the impressive part about Lichess is that it's actually full of competitive users. is, by all measures, the "default" chess application. But you still see active GMs and a huge playerbase surrounding Lichess, which enables them to actually have their very open structure + lack of annoying trackers as features worth peering into.


And many GM's prefer Lichess, like Hikaru in this clip casually roasting


What's the issue with sentry?


I’m pretty curious about’s finances. I wonder how much they’re making from premium accounts vs ads. Can’t seem to find much online since they’re private.


We need more Lichess' in the world!


For the safari folks I've found Wipr to be very good. I just use the basic DNS block list and it ends up catching mostly everything while being super light and not changing the website I'm viewing in any way.


Lichess is so fucking cool. It's easily one of my top inspirations for building a company "right."

My favorite part of Lichess is their open financials. Check it out:

If you want to know the exact amount to donate to offset your gameplay - you can actually do that.


Being honest is if not the best quality a company can have in 21st century.


I love this part.

In contrast, I barely watch Youtube, so getting premium doesn't make sense and I know that everytime I get an ad Google is getting less money than what I'd need to bid to skip the ad. I'd like to be able to have a money pool to outbid ads that would be shown to me and get a decent experience instead.


Yet, I run a forum with a subscription option to remove ads. About 35% of our traffic blocks ads but we only have a hundred or so subscribers out of 150,000 unique visitors a month with a 40% return visitor rate.

People use lots of arguments on why to block ads and not subscribe at the same time.


Why do you permit ad blocking and no subscription ?


We tried asking people to whitelist th site a couple of times but it is not something (the asking) that people like.


I can't seem to find the income. Is this listed anywhere or is just the outgoing "open"?


It's not listed in this page because it varies month-by-month, but we publish our yearly books in a lichess blog post and on the government "Journal Officiel":



The TL;DR is that donations so far exceed our expenses, thanks to the generosity of our userbase, and thanks to the hundreds of volunteers doing work for free.


These types of businesses only work when they cater to a niche audience with a higher than average reasoning ability. Sucks, but it's still great when you find ones to be a part of!


props to founders & gov of France that has special funding for such institutions.


(I'm a Lichess sysadmin & trustee)

So far France has given us exactly 0 euros and 0 cents, but has required us to hire and pay an accounting company to certify our books due to the level of donations we're receiving.

We could maybe argue that being allowed to exist as a non-profit is something France deserves kudos for, if you're in a good mood.


Except if you look at their financials they are paying a huge tax being a French company. Their resources would go further if they left.


Not really. Taxes are so high because people get a lot of things for cheap/free like Healthcare and education. In countries where this isn't the case (USA for example) you'd easily pay 2 to 3 times the salary to get the same developer.

In this case even only paying the main dev a US wage would be more than the taxes on everything.




To be snarky:

How many US people who run non profits end up with a “major health event” and have to beg for donations for surgery or something?

While the EU people running non profits just… go to the doctor when they’re sick…


Lichess sysadmin (and trustee) here!

We're paying taxes on our employees, they're paid like regular French employees and therefore the employer is taxed accordingly. This is not income tax on our donations or swag sales.

I would prefer if the non-profit in France were "employer-taxed" less than for-profit companies, but no one seems to care.


If they lived in the US, they probably would have needed to draw a double or triple salary? So not sure if they really are paying that much more for being in France in the end.


go further and do what-hire one more dev?


> Their resources would go further if they left.

No, because they would have to pay on the open market for the things those taxes provide for. The tax they’re paying is insignificant compared to their costs.

You’ll note their developer costs are a fraction of what they would be in the US.


which is what enables the French government to fund companies like lichess in the first place.

>Their resources would go further if they left.

So, what, say "thanks for the funding that got us started, we're off to fill our pockets somewhere else now"?


… Absolutely yes? Governments are amoral entities, and this particular relationship is based entirely on power (pay us or else), not mutual respect or any of the other things that characterize human social relationships.

If we must anthropomorphize them anyways, then they have paid back in taxes many times more than they were given to start. Any such "implicit" debt was long since paid, so they could move with a clear conscience.


You do get back a lot from the taxes you're paying, at least in many European countries, where healthcare is widely available to all. I don't feel bad paying what an American would consider "a lot of taxes" because I know it could (but doesn't always) go to helping my neighbor who maybe wouldn't be able to pay for a hospital visit if not. I also use all the built infrastructure every single day, and maintaining it costs money, obviously.

How much money were they given to start? I looked around for the numbers but I couldn't find it, but seems you were able to, could you share the full number you found?


I don't even dare ask what your opinion would be of concepts as nation or homeland.


Not to take this conversation too far off track, but the reverse argument could just as easily be made. Companies are amoral entities, existing only to deliver whatever value their owners wish to extract. Governments, meanwhile, are just the manifestation of the will of the people who live in a place. Even currency itself is just a creation of the people by way of the government; no business has any particular right to it.


Not only just as easily, but much more easily assuming somewhat functioning democracy.


Because in ither countries you would not pay taxes at all…


No they are a non profit.


If you have employees you still need to pay employee taxes


Maybe I'm too European, but ~5K out of ~44K total per month doesn't seem too bad. It's also based on what they earn, rather than a static sum, so seems totally OK for what you get back from it.


I think "company" is the word that belongs in quotation marks. Not in any demeaning way, but, amongst coders, building something like Lichess is about as idolized and likely as becoming a YouTuber is for kids.

Also, the reality of trying is probably gonna suck super hard and require work and focus beyond what most people would ever be willing to do.

But it sure is easy to imagine how great it could be.


Creating something good and open source is not a delusional dream imo. Whether it catches on is another matter. But even a relatively modest following is a very fine result. I first learned of lichess some years ago when I was looking to make my own chess UI and discovered their high quality open source chess library


The special thing about Lichess is not that it's good and open source, but that it actually pays an okay-ish salary to work on fulltime, while upholding all those lofty goals. It's an actual job. Without the whole thing being paid for by FAANG.


>but that it actually pays an okay/ish salary to work on fulltime, while upholding all those lofty goals.

He pays himself a fairly low salary for the work he is putting in.


not for French devs who dont live in Paris or other big cities


Not really for you to decide, right? How much of your wage would you cede to not have any management? People answer that question differently.


Fascinating. Looks like the cost per game is $0.00028, or about $1 per 3,500 games.


Question from someone who has zero knowledge about managing infrastructure: is all of that absolutely necessary? Only one is marked "we can afford to lose", but $228/mo for a monitoring server seems extremely excessive. Even $44 for "private communcations" (I'm assuming something like RocketChat) surely have cheaper alternatives?


Lichess sysadmin here!

We're self-hosting most of our infra on bare-metal, on the best price/quality hosting provider I know of (OVH). I doubt you could store ~1TB of metrics going back 4 or 5 years on fast NVMe storage for less than this in the cloud.


why are the developers' salaries so low? $60k a year??


That is not a low salary for France, which is where the devs are.


That site inflates salaries because it oversamples devs who work remotely for American companies. For example the site claims Ukrainian devs make $57k a year.


That's how much I was paid as a dev in Chicago. I loved that job and would do it again in a heartbeat. It was for a midsized educational nonprofit, and I was one of the highest paid workers there already (excluding the C suite). We got so much shit done every day, and I learned and grew so much. Amazing coworkers too.

My next job paid $100k and had me working way way less, barely utilizing my skills. It was a bigger company that was very poorly managed. I spent more time there arguing about Jira points than actually developing anything. My skills and mental health deteoriated. It wasn't worth it.

Seems like Lichess hit that sweet spot of paying a livable wage (in a country where social services are actually a thing) while providing meaningful work on a passion project. Most developers aren't so lucky!


In most places in the world, that's nowhere near a low salary for a developer.


That's a very high salary in a lot of places, perhaps the developers don't feel the need to get 100k+/year...? .-.


That’s.. one way to look at it. Should read “perhaps the company doesn’t feel the need to give developers 100k+/year”.


Well, "the company" in that case is the "main programmer" being paid.

And then one has to consider value of social security provided when comparing with other countries. Health insurance, retirement funds, ...


Lichess is a non-profit with hundreds of volunteers, several part-time paid contributors/moderators and 2 full-time devs, not a company.


The amount they spend on server costs should be an eye opener to most enterprises who are spending 10x more and have 100x fewer users.


Kind of fascinating that their biggest cost is site moderation! This seems... odd for a site whose main mechanic really isn't social networking.


There is all kinds of player bad behavior that needs to be manually verified - cheating is the obvious one, but there's also smurfing, excessive sandbagging, clock abuse (e.g. letting your clock tick down to zero in a loss, just to be annoying).


What's smurfing and sandbagging?

EDIT: I ask because I was once accused of smurfing (I'm only a casual player) in the chat during the endgame.


Smurfing is when you disguise yourself as a noob on an alternate account when you are really more skilled.

Sandbagging is related: deliberately losing to play people with lower ratings.


I might be wrong, but I think it's considered moderation (at least some of) the anti-cheating controls in place.

[deleted by user]

I play regularly on lichess. I got insulted a couple of times in the game chat. Looking at the scale of lichess, I am sure it adds up.


Have you looked at "Zen mode"? It removes the chat while you're playing ... you'll still see any insults after the game though ;)


I know Zen mode, however, most interactions are pleasant so I don't enable it by default, but typically when someone bothers me in the chat.


I've never ever looked at the chat. And knowing that it costs money, and quite a lot, to moderate that, I'll never report anyone. It's just vanity. I don't care what you write to me. I just beat you in the game. Just cry it out. There you go.


I report these people in the hope that other players don't have to experience their hateful comments.


Me too, but it's still much better on lichess than in my experience. Also, cheating is not as bad on lichess


Chess players are some of the saltiest people on Earth, people can get really mean in chat. Also cheaters galore


The saltiness is much, much less than in some games (shooters, mobas) but a portion of every playerbase thinks they are the worst one even if they are not.


Extremely good point, I don't really game outside of online chess so I can't say that I have a very wide sample pool. TBH the chat I used to see when my brother was playing League blew any chess experience I've had out of the water. I'd almost use a word beyond "salty" for that


Goes to show you how difficult and demanding moderation truly is, and why popular sites/services routinely fail to do it effectively. It's a quite proactive process.


That's an incredibly good point. I would think you'd need a pretty modest operation when it comes to that for a site like lichess, and the fact that it is the biggest expense really puts into focus the kind of scale the problem likely is at the bigger social media sites.


Nothing is modest at Lichess scale, we have a few million users, several thousand of them post in forums daily and chat with each other.

Also, we're a chess website with more than one million games per day, and some people like to cheat. We're classifying "fair play and anti-cheating" as "moderation" in our expenses because the two are intertwined.


I wish there was legislation to prevent TV manufacturers from turning TV's into ad-spewing digital signage in your home. It's completely out of control.

Yes, sure, you can, in some cases, plug in an external streaming device and, depending on the system, side step their incredibly abusive home screens full of ads and tracking. This might not be 100% possible on all devices. More importantly, you paid good money for a TV. You bought a TV, not a surveillance device and digital ad system to hang on your wall.

I am not one for heavy-handed government regulation, yet, this is so far out of control that it likely needs it.

The reason this is serious is because consumers have no control whatsoever. Also, most consumers have no idea what's going on. I have watch people innocently use home screens to search or click on things they don't know are ads. When you explain it to them, for the most part, they are incredulous. In a lot of cases they dismiss it with comebacks such as "you are just being paranoid", etc.

Companies like Vizio have introduced features where you get to upload your pictures to their servers to then share with others. Their TOS very clearly states they retain the right to effectively use those pictures as they see fit, including having employees look at them, and more. This is just crazy. People have no idea what is being done to them.

I highlight this because browsers on computers receive a lot of attention, while, TV's seem to be in this wild west mode where the manufacturers do anything they want with every update. Since you cannot install software to block anything, they are free to abuse and monitor your entire family as they please. This is wrong.


Yeah, this is a serious problem with modern TVs. I've read that LG panels can be hacked but that was years ago. Maybe they patched whatever vulnerability was being exploited.


>More importantly, you paid good money for a TV.

I doubt it. The profit margins on TVs are tiny, with some even negative with the hopes that the advertising revenues put them in the positive in the long run.

Maybe the high end OLED TVs from Sony/Samsung/LG that sell for $1,500+ earn some money, but otherwise, it is a pretty cutthroat business that is not likely to earn you any money. As evidenced by the fact that only a few companies even bother being in the business, with no new entrants.


I can think of plenty of new entrants in the last two decades:

HiSense TCL Vizio BenQ

Vizio has a 17% gross margin. Just because they mismanage their money doesn't mean I have to put up with their sob stories about not making $$.


Gross margin is not relevant here, profit margin is.

Benq is qisda, and it is a very established ODM/OEM. They have a measly profit margin of 3%. But they also sell a lot of other electronics than just TVs.

Hisense has been selling TVs since the 1980s, and has a 6% profit margin, although I don’t know how trustworthy the Chinese financial figures are. But they also sell a lot of other non TV items.

TCL is relatively new, although they started LCDs more than 15 years ago. But again, they sell more than just TVs. They have the highest profit margin at 10.7%, assuming their numbers are correct.

Vizio seems like the best company to see how much selling TVs earns.

>“For many years, TV making was limited to the few large consumer-electronics companies that could afford the investment,” says Paul Gagnon, senior research director for consumer devices at Omdia, a market research firm. But then it became easier to source components, which in turn increased competition and lowered pricing and profits. “For some brands,” he says, “the TV business here in the States was not profitable anymore.”

>Companies including JVC, Magnavox/Philips, and Toshiba exited the U.S. market, licensing or selling their brands to companies in China, Taiwan, and elsewhere looking to break into the U.S. market.


I think that LG, Sony and Samsung are doing fine making TVs, perhaps for the lower end, the influx of cheaper sets is pressuring profit margins for this segment.

And gross margin is very relevant. Vizio is spending a lot of money either on general expenses, debt, administrative expenses etc. If you compare LG Display to Vizio, Vizio is spending 2x on Selling General and Administrative expenses. If they matched LG, that's an additional $130M in annual profits.


Why would it be profits? LG display loses money every year.

How do you know which expenses outside of gross profit are necessary and not necessary? You don’t, so all you can do is look at net income / profit margin trends across many years for many businesses. If they are all low, then that means there is not much juice to squeeze.


I use plex on apple tv and i guess i rarely see a promo at the top of the apple tv when i rarely happen upon the home screen. and plex bugs me to upgrade to premium for stuff i don't need rarely. but other than that it's an ad-free experience (minus product placements) that i really enjoy.


can't wait for the Lichess for the Go world