Ethical Advertising

Read the Docs is a large, free web service. There is one proven business model to support this kind of site: Advertising. However, instead of using Google, we are building the advertising model that we want to exist. We only work with companies we like and respect, and offer products that are relevant to developers. We hope that you’ll discover new products and services that are relevant, and also new companies that care about supporting the open source community.

We’re building an advertising model that respects users while providing value to advertisers. We feel like this is something we can be proud of, and we can start leading the ad industry in the right direction.

We talk a bit below about our worldview on advertising. We’re a community, and we value your feedback. If you ever want to reach out about this effort, feel free to shoot us an email. You can also opt out if you prefer.

If you’re a marketer, we have information on how to get in touch with us about running ads.

We have gone into more detail about our views in our blog post about this topic. Also, Eric Holscher, one of our co-founders also talks a bit more about funding open source this way on his blog.

Our worldview

We’re building the advertising model we want to exist:

  • We don’t track you
  • We don’t sell your data
  • We host everything ourselves, no third-party scripts or images

We’re doing newspaper advertising, on the internet. For a hundred years, newspapers put an ad on the page, some folks would see it, and advertisers would pay for this. This is our model.

So much ad tech has been built to track users. Following them across the web, from site to site, showing the same ads and gathering data about them. Then retailers sell your purchase data to try and attribute sales to advertising. Now there is an industry in doing fake ad clicks and other scams, which leads the ad industry to track you even more intrusively to know more about you. The current advertising industry is in a vicious downward spiral.

As developers, we understand the massive downsides of the current advertising industry. This includes malware, slow site performance, and huge databases of your personal data being sold to the highest bidder.

The trend in advertising is to have larger and larger ads. They should run before your content, they should take over the page, the bigger, weirder, or flashier the better.

We opt out.

  • We don’t store personal information about you.
  • We only keep track of views and clicks.
  • We don’t build a profile of your personality to sell ads against.
  • We only show high quality ads from companies that are of interest to developers.

We are running a single, small, unobtrusive ad on documentation pages. The products should be interesting to you. The ads won’t flash or move.

We run the ads we want to have on our site, in a way that makes us feel good.

Join us

We’re building the advertising model we want to exist. We hope that others will join us in this mission:

  • If you’re a developer, talk to your marketing folks about using advertising that respects your privacy.
  • If you’re a marketer, vote with your dollars and support us in building the ad model we want to exist.

Community Ads

There are a large number of projects that we care about in the software ecosystem. A large number of them operate like we have for the past 6 years, with almost no income. Our new Community Ads program will highlight some of these projects each month.

We’ll show 10% of our ad inventory each month to support an open source project that we care about. Send us an email to be considered for our Community Ads program.

Opting Out

We have added multiple ways to opt out of the advertising on Read the Docs.

Users can opt out of seeing paid advertisements on documentation pages by going to the drop down user menu in the top right of the Read the Docs dashboard and clicking Settings, or by going to On the Details tab, you can deselect See paid advertising.

Project owners can also disable advertisements for their projects. Options to control advertisements can be found on the project admin page, by clicking on the Admin dashboard link on the project page and selecting the Advertising section.

Project opt out options include:

  • Supporting us financially with Read the Docs Gold. This will disable all ads from showing on your project’s documentation.
  • Supporting us with your time by contributing to the project.
  • Moving to our paid product over at
  • Opting out without doing any of the above. This will make us a little sad, but we understand not everyone has the means to contribute back.