Adblock is blackmailing publishers through its acceptable ads program

in News & Rants

I’m not going to lie, I use Adblock plugins to improve my online experience. I have mostly played around with the two most popular plugins: Adblock and Adblock Plus. Yesterday, I opened up Google chrome and saw the following message from the adblock plugin: adblock was joining the acceptable ads program created by their rival Adblock plus. And then, buried deeper under the announcement that the owner of the Adblock plugin has sold it to an undisclosed buyer!

adblock-acceptable-ads

Adblock is one of the most popular ad blocking extensions for the Chrome web browser with more than 40 million users. It’s Adblock Plus’ biggest rvial so it was a bit of a shocker to hear that it has been sold and that it has joined Adblock Plus’ acceptable ads program. Here is a quote from the creator of the plugin:

Why now? Well, I have always shared similar goals for the Web with the ad blocker Adblock Plus, who created the Acceptable Ads program. But I did not like the fact that they also control the program, because they are supported by some Acceptable Ads advertisers. Now, Adblock Plus will be transferring custodianship of Acceptable Ads to an impartial group of experts. I love this idea — in fact, it was my wife Katie’s suggestion! Due to this change, I’m happy for AdBlock to join the program. As a result, I am selling my company, and the buyer is turning on Acceptable Ads.

For anybody who is unaware, the acceptable ads policy is a program that Adblock plus runs to show ads to users that have installed the adblock plus plugin. It allows certain publisher sites to bypass the plugin if they respect certain standards that have been set by the makers of adblock. Some of these conditions include clearly displaying that your ad is an ad by having the word advertisement on top or having a box that indicates that you are watching an advertisement. If all these conditions are met, then adblock will allow ads to be shown to users who have installed the adblock plugin on that site. Some of the sites that pay for this “service” include Google and Microsoft.

Adblock plus calls it a better user experience, i call it blackmail! And I am not alone. On the IAB website, IAB CEO Randal Rothenberg calls for-profit adblocking “robbery, plain and simple — an extortionist scheme“. With today’s news, the enemy the IAB has declared against has just doubled in size.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I work in the field of online advertisement. So I understand how Adblock is killing content creators. In fact, this site is paid for by the ads that i display in the sidebar. Now, I understand that adds are pretty annoying, especial pop-ups and ads that are buried so deep in the content that they look like they are part of the content. But on the other side, you can’t expect online content to be completely free.

Many of the free sites that we know and love stay free because of their ad revenue. With Adblock killing their revenue, these sites have less incentives to continue creating cool stuff. For example, Google had started that they lose around $6 billion ( billion with a b) in add revenue because of adblockers! So I’m always amazed when people tell me that everything online should be free. Nobody does anything for free!

But back to Adblock’s acceptable ads program.. My biggest problem with the program is that the makers of this plugin are attempting to police the Internet! What gives them the right to tell us what ads are acceptable or not? And why should they be able to get away of their mob-style business of “pay us a cut or we’ll make sure you get nothing”? I think that its a dispicable practice and i dont think that it will last for long.

I understand the need to block ads that are obstructive and annoyeing but no media survives without ad revenue. Thats why radio and tv ads still exist. I know that the Internet is still young compared to other medias and its going to take some time before we can find that sweet spot of what ads are acceptable. But one thing i know for sure is that adAlock Plus’ acceptable ads is not the way to go…

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Mifty Yusuf is a Montreal-based software developer who enjoys playing with new web technologies as well as comic books and illustrations. He beleives that, no matter what the question is, the answer is always Batman!

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