Google pays AdBlock Plus not to block its ads

July 7, 2013
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Adblock Plus, a popular plugin for filtering advertisements, won't hide Google ads by default. That's because the company pays for inclusion in a whitelist.

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Ever look for an ad filtering browser plugin to keep annoying, obtrusive advertisements off of your computer screen? Chances are you ended up installing Adblock Plus, a free product with millions of users. What you probably didn’t know, though, is that Adblock doesn’t function as indiscriminately as you might expect; though the program hides a number of advertisements by default, ad giants like Google can and do pay Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, to keep their advertisements on the company’s Acceptable Ads whitelist. By default, display ads from those who pay are visible even when Adblock is enabled.

The policy isn’t exactly new. Eyeo implemented the Acceptable Ads whitelist back in 2011, in part to prevent depriving small websites of valuable ad revenue. The move was also pragmatic: per the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Abdblock Plus website, managing a list of whitelisted ads can be expensive, and so charging larger properties to participate keeps the Acceptable Ads initiative viable.

The inclusion of a whitelist in ad blocking software may seem disingenuous, but Eyeo co-founder Till Faida thinks of it as a way to promote positive change in the online advertising sphere. In an interview with Digital Trend’s Molly McHugh, Faida suggests the company’s philosophy is more about reaching a happy compromise between internet users and advertisers than shutting advertisers out altogether. Less in-your-face ads are a start, apparently: the Acceptable Ads policy mandates advertisements be nonintrusive.

Considering (1) the number of small internet publishers that rely solely on ads for income, and (2) the services companies like Google provide at no charge, Eyeo’s policy looks reasonable. Adblock Plus’s current approach allows legitimate ads while discouraging harmful ones, and in doing so hopefully helps to shape the online advertising landscape for the better. Greater transparency is warranted, granted – knowing exactly how much Eyeo charges certain advertisers would be a great start –  but the balance Eyeo’s struck between internet users and ad companies is sound.

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