What about mining? Do you allow that?
H. Nemesis Nyx

nderground is anonymous. There is no way to do what Facebook does, where they connect your Facebook information and identity with other databases of non-Facebook information and use this to target ads.

We’re not doing anything with ads right now. But I want to be honest with nderground users. Something has to pay the bills or nderground will cease to exist as our user base grows, since our Amazon Web Services bills will grow as well. There are options that I’d like to experiment with in the long run, but history suggests that ads are inevitable.

The gold standard of ads is an ad that someone is interested in. Amazon is really good at this. I buy a lot of books and other products on Amazon. Amazon is good at suggesting other products that I might be interested in. Often they are right. I don’t find these ads obnoxious since I am often interested in them.

To build the information to target ads that users might be interested in, you have to run algorithms on their content. Otherwise you end up running junky ads that everyone hates. Targeting ads well is, however, an extremely difficult software problem.

So to answer the question: we don’t run data mining algorithms now, but we may do this at some point. I’d like to provide a way that users can pay a modest subscription fee (something like $1-$2/month) to opt out of ads and the data mining algorithms. However, I fear that this will not be successful. Other sites have offered this kind of option and not succeeded (in particular a now defunct site named Glassboard).

I often conduct an experiment regarding people’s willingness to pay for web content or services. I ask people who use Pandora if they pay for a subscription (I pay for a subscription). I’ve run into very few people who have a Pandora subscription. This reinforces my fear that it is difficult to get people to pay for web content. Yet web content and services are not free.