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AdBlock Plus – A Controversial Software


For those who don’t know, AdBlock Plus is an ad blocking service that blocks pop-ups, out of context banners, and other annoying ads. The software has been developed by Eyeo a German start-up company, with the mission to clean up the advertising industry. Eyeo provides guidelines on how to make ads less annoying and intrusive, and claims to only show acceptable ads that meet the following criteria:

·         Acceptable Ads are not annoying.

·         Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort page content.

·         Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.

·         Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.

So if your ads don’t meet the above criteria Eyeo will not whitelist your company and therefore AdBlock Plus will block all your ads. According to Eyeo only 9.5% of advertisers are able to get into its whitelisting program.


Is AdBlock Plus a way of blackmailing bigger advertisers?

 The whole argument around Eyeo started when it has been revealed that the company allows big advertisers to advertise, despite installation of its software by charging them money to bypass its own restrictions. One of the recent examples is Google, who apparently paid Eyeo a huge sum for being whitelisted.

Sascha Pallenberg has written a series of German blogs criticising AdBlock Plus. He accuses Eyeo of using “mafia-like” methods. “First they block your ads and then they unblock them in exchange for 30% of your revenues.” He also added that AdBlock Plus promises to make the web advertising free but ironically the firm itself is financed through advertising.

One of Pallenberg’s sources (who would like to be anonymous due to the confidentiality agreement, companies are forced to sign) said that they don’t have any chance. “If Eyeo would say tomorrow pay 50% we would have to sign it.” Some advertisers say that they feel blackmailed and that Eyeo is taking advantage of its power. Recently the company also suggested to Twitter to join its acceptable Ads initiative to get onto the whitelist.

Eyeo’s defence is that they do not charge small and middle sized advertisers for getting onto the whitelist. They also say that everyone has to follow the same criteria; however they claim that they need the financial support of the bigger advertisers in order “to maintain its constant monitoring and review process for whitelisted domains.”

Is Eyeo blackmailing advertisers? I think it is difficult to say due to the lack of transparency around the financial terms of being on the whitelist. The problem is that Eyeo does not define who exactly has to pay for being listed. Further companies that have an arrangement with Eyeo have to sign a confidentiality contract, which doesn’t help the rumours around AdBlock Plus.


Consequences for advertisers that are not on the whitelist

Compare to TV ads, web ads still often lack of quality. Therefore I believe online users should be able to choose what advertisements are shown to them. I think ad-blocking software is a great invention, however using such software will have consequences for advertisers and will eventually affect online consumers.

Ken Fisher, the Founder of Ars Technica says that blocking ads truly hurts online advertisers. He explains that many sites are paid on a per view basis. Consequently, if ads are blocked, those sites won’t get viewers and therefore no revenue. Fisher says that this again can result in “people losing their jobs, it can result in less content on any given site, and it definitely can affect the quality of content.”

It is as a moral dilemma. As a regular internet user myself I understand why ad-blocking software is popular, however on the other hand, I understand the negative effects this has on advertisers such as Fisher. Advertising finances sites “that we love” and enables us to use them for free, such as Facebook. If we all use software like AdBlock Plus, we would soon have to pay subscription fees for the sites we love. From this perspective, I believe it is fair to have ads on websites. However, I agree with the general concept of Eyeo that advertising should be relevant and not annoying.

In short,  I believe Eyeo’s concept of only allowing certain ads is great, however having under taken some research it doesn’t sound like that they are following  this concept very strictly as money seems to be the main criteria to be whitelisted!

Let us know what you think about AdBlock Plus and ad-blockers in general. We would like to hear your opinion.