Ethical Ads

Read the Docs is a large, free web service. There is one proven business model to support this kind of site: Advertising. We are building the advertising model we want to exist, and we’re calling it Ethical Ads.

Ethical Ads respect users while providing value to advertisers. We don’t track you, sell your data, or anything else. We simply show ads to users, based on the content of the pages you look at. We also give 10% of our ad space to community projects, as our way of saying thanks to the open source community.

We talk a bit below about our worldview on advertising, if you want to know more.


Are you a marketer? Learn more about how you can connect with the millions of developers who Read the Docs each month.


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 opt out of having paid ads on your projects, or seeing paid ads if you want. You will still see community ads, which we run for free that promote community projects.

We have gone into more detail about our views in our blog post about this topic. Eric Holscher, one of our co-founders 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. Get more information on what we offer.

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:

  • Go to the drop down user menu in the top right of the Read the Docs dashboard and clicking Settings (
  • On the Details tab, you can deselect See paid advertising.

Project owners can also disable advertisements for their projects. You can change these options:

  • Click on your Project page (/projects/<slug>/)
  • Click the Admin dashboard link
  • Choose the Advertising submenu on the left side
  • Change your advertising settings

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.