Adblock Plus: Internet Heroes Or Banner Ad Shakedown Artists?

adblockinMost of our readers are familiar with Adblock Plus, the browser extension that does what the name describes: blocks ads. For some people, it’s the only thing that makes browsing the Internet tolerable; for others, it’s an evil entity strangling the media industry. What you may not know is that the open-source extension is allowing some advertisers access to your eyeballs…but only if users deem them acceptable. Oh, and some large sites have to pay.

(No, Consumerist doesn’t run ads on our site, and neither do the other print and online publications of our benevolent parent organization, Consumer Reports.)

The “acceptable ads initiative” is an opt-out program, so if you don’t like it, you can turn it off yourself within the extension’s settings (see above). Most people aren’t against all ads, just really obtrusive, distracting, or disruptive ones. The program has been around since 2011, so maybe you’re familiar with it. Maybe you just un-ticked the “sure, show me non-obtrusive ads” box in the extension’s settings and didn’t think much of it.

The problem is how Adblock Plus is going about this. The company doesn’t deny that they’ve asked publishers and advertisers for money. Back in February, Digital Journal cited an anonymous source from a major publisher who claims that the developers offered to let their ads through…for a 1/3 share of the revenue that the now-unblocked ads generated. Is this a fair agreement that subsidizes a popular and beloved browser plugin, or a shakedown?

Publishers can’t just pay to play, of course. There’s an active forum dedicated to deciding which sites’ ads are or aren’t acceptable . Want to get your small site whitelisted? Make sure to have silent, non-disruptive, non-animated ads that are clearly marked as advertisements (among other requirements), submit a proposal, and wait.

They’re not actively seeking out sites and offering a protection racket, the people behind AdBlock Pro insist. “It’s not like we have a sales force that is pushing the companies to become our client. That is not how it works,” managing director Till Faida told the public radio program “On the Media.”

Unless they’re using the Google Play store, of course. Then they can’t buy ad-blocking apps at all.

Adblock Plus: The Internet’s Ad Gatekeeper? [On the Media]
Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus [Adblock Plus]
Media mafiosos: Is Adblock Plus shaking down websites for cash to let ads through? [Digital Trends]