We have switched our 3rd party ad server from Adzerk to Google/Doubleclick for Publishers (DFP) on Oct 1 2017

TL;DR: Because most of the work is on the back-end, you won’t notice significant changes. For those without ad blockers, you may find that some ads disappear for a few min on Oct 1 during the transition. After the change is complete, you’ll stop seeing requests to Adzerk and start seeing requests to Google DFP instead. While our tools upgrade, our commitment to your positive experience does not change.


First off, my name is Yi (pronounced like the letter “E”), and I started working at Stack Overflow this past January as a Product Manager. I’m responsible for building honest and helpful advertising products that connect companies with developers. Outside Stack, you may find me meditating in New York subway trains, dangling down from a trapeze, kicking or screaming at Krav Maga, or performing awkward improv comedy.

As many of you know, advertising on Stack Exchange sites is one of the ways we make money to survive as a company.

So why are we switching ad servers?

There are a handful of reasons why Stack Overflow and Adzerk are parting ways after 7 successful years together. We will discuss a few below to provide more insight, but this list isn’t exhaustive. We want to share with you, our users, a bit about our considerations for the future relationship between you and promotional content on our sites.

  1. Our goals as business entities are no longer aligned. Adzerk is now focusing on growing their native advertising offering, a product we do not offer.

  2. DFP will allow us to make ads more targeted and relevant to your interests and needs. Going forward, our focus on creating an undisruptive ad experience will not change. In addition, we’d like the ad products to be of your interest and value; and DFP will empower us to do more of that.

  3. We want to make advertising more useful for you through new products and processes. Mostly so we have less of a reason to hate on Steve. ;) That means investing in ad operations through new hires and new platforms. (We’ve doubled our headcount this year!) Scaling will be a key focus for our team, so we can build a more sustainable business.

How will I be affected?

A few initial changes will be evident. The first is when we transition from Adzerk to DFP on Oct 1. You will briefly, on all sites, not see advertisements. Shortly after that you’ll be in the new world. After that, you may see ads delivering faster. In all reality, the ad server change should go largely unnoticed.

As always, protecting your PII (Personal Identifiable Information) is of critical importance to us. We (both Stack Overflow as an organization and the Ads team) work hard to ensure the safety of your privacy. Nothing will change with this transition.

Our advertising philosophy

While we are switching ad servers for a number of reasons, there is one principal one: we want to make ads better. Doing so means starting at the bottom, by refining systems and processes. Then we will find new ways to support you in everything you do as a developer. We aim to bridge the gap between your problems and solutions via partnerships with marketers.

The reality is we do ads differently than most in the industry: We turn away offers from potential partners often; we reject the premise that interruptive ads such as expandables should be the cornerstone of any business. Why? Because we are here to support you—not to inhibit you— and we feel those types of ads get in the way. Ultimately, that belief drove us to make this decision and will motivate us when building new ways to help you get things done.

Ideally, this changeover will occur with little to no interruption, but if something starts acting up, please let us know here or in a separate report.


5 Answers 5


I generally trust SE in these matters, but the phrase "targeted ads" does ring a few alarm bells for me. Certain kinds of targeting are anything but subtle, and after seeing ads for very specialized scientific equipment on entirely unrelated sites a few times, I suspect I'm still underestimating the amount of tracking for ad purposes that is happening everywhere.

So my specific question is, what information about SE users is transmitted from SE to Google for this purpose? Or is that handled entirely inside SE and Google doesn't get any information about users?

  • 12
    Great question! We do not share your information with Google. The targeting is only within SE. In other words, I won't be responsible for any ads you see outside SE (thank goodness) :)
    – Yi Shan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 21:54

So since now it belongs to Google, does "targeted ads" also mean ads which are affected by my past usage of Google?

For example, if I searched for Amazon products in the past, will I get more advertisements of Amazon? (e.g. their cloud services)

This isn't related to my Personal Identifiable Information on SE, so the answer isn't obvious.

(Hopefully the answer is "no".)

  • 7
    GAH. No. <tracy_morgan_no.gif> But an interesting question, I have to admit!
    – stevvve
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:16
  • 5
    We're still curating all the ads that get served on our network. All the existing campaigns that you've been seeing will come over from Adzerk to Google DFP. If all goes well, the only change you should see is ads loading faster.
    – rossipedia
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:16
  • 1
    @stevvve thanks! (I guess? ;)) Sep 29, 2017 at 20:18
  • @ross hey good to see you here! Yi mentioned targeted ads which sparked my suspicion. So if they have fixed pool, what will be the difference? Sep 29, 2017 at 20:19
  • I think it was mentioned a few times now - the difference is that ads will load faster ;)
    – Oded
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:21
  • 3
    @Oded "DFP will allow us to make ads more targeted and relevant to your interests and needs." - so guess what I'm asking is if SE alone will decide the targets, not Google. :) Sep 29, 2017 at 20:24
  • Something for the ads team to respond to, methinks.
    – Oded
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:24
  • 5
    @ShaWizDowArd We decide the advertising campaign targets working directly with our advertisers. We are not participating in any Google advertising offerings other than using their ad server to serve ads. Sep 29, 2017 at 20:29
  • 5
    @ShaWizDowArd We will not chase you outside the Stack Exchange sites. By more targeted and relevant, I meant that we can tailor to your needs more based on your interest in the Stack Exchange sites. We are not interested in the goods you buy on Amazon and won't insist to push baby diapers on you ;)
    – Yi Shan
    Sep 29, 2017 at 20:35
  • Thanks @YiShan guess this clear things up. :D Sep 30, 2017 at 10:57
  • 2
    @ShaWizDowArd Always happy to help when it comes to our community's undergarment ad selections
    – Yi Shan
    Sep 30, 2017 at 15:14

There used to be thumbs up and thumbs down icons on each ad, letting us send basic feedback.

However now they're not there anymore:

Any chance to bring them back?

  • 6
    The up/downvote module was a feature we really valued in the old system. It isn't part of the initial launch plan (we're still squashing bugs as it's only about 48 hours old) as we're focused on making sure everything isn't broken at the moment. We want it back, but we want it to be better than it was. It will be back, but right now I can't speak to an expected/goal date.
    – stevvve
    Oct 2, 2017 at 16:09
  • @stevvve thanks, guess it's better than nothing. :-) Oct 2, 2017 at 18:17
  • In 6 to 8 weeks.
    – jpmc26
    May 6, 2018 at 2:15
  • 1
    @jpmc26 lol, no... I'm not naive, and well aware that it will never be back. The Steve was just being polite. :) May 6, 2018 at 6:49
  • @ShadowtheHatterWizard You appear to be correct, sir.
    – ruffin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 15:46
  • 1
    @ruffin sadly, I know. Assuming the worst is risky in SE case, often time it actually happens. Dec 24, 2020 at 15:56

I seen by accident today that, in the mobileapp, Stack Exchange already use Google Analytics.

I found it contradictory to comment I seen there that no data are shared within Google, as in the notice it's clearly wrote the cookies are sent and stored on Google.

I join the printscreen for reference.

The fact it's stored on google, does that mean my Ad on the desktop will or can reflect the mobileapp usage or viceversa ? (as the notice is broad; providing other services..) (Or to know the possible interaction between google ad and google analytics would be nice)

GA text

  • 3
    We're looking into exactly how this works. Stay tuned!
    – hairboat
    Oct 2, 2017 at 21:52
  • 3
    We’ve double checked and confirmed that DFP and GA aren't friends and don't talk to each other. The functionality does exist and we might use it in the future - We will make sure to touch base with the community then. Ps: No worries if you dislike GA. Feel free to block it on our sites (and any other sites on the internet).
    – Yi Shan
    Oct 4, 2017 at 18:18
  • @YiShan Thanks for the research ! Its good to know GA will not suggest DFP what AD campaign to suggest you for me, or any other user :)
    – yagmoth555
    Oct 4, 2017 at 19:11

In google ads, there is an option to give feedback includes too often and so on.

If I gave feedback an ad that is not irrelevant to me or that I don't want to see, will the feedback be analysed by SE for future improvements?

In that way can we report irrelevant ads to SE?

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