Every Browser User Needs To Know These 5 Details About AdBlock Plus
Dhir Acharya - Jul 31, 2019, 11:00 pm IST
Adblock Plus offers a browser extension to block ads, then take 30 percent of ad revenue from big publishers agreeing to join a program which unblocks ads.
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Adblock Plus is heavily criticized for its business: It offers a browser extension to block ads, then take 30 percent of ad revenue from big publishers agreeing to join an Eyeo program which unblocks ads. Some say that the business is an “extortion racket,” but the company’s Chief Executive Till Faida stands his ground, saying that he is trying to save online advertising along with websites relying on it.
While the exec doesn’t reveal who’s paying, the company’s whitelist, which governs the sites allowed to show ads, includes Amazon, Google, and other big firms.
“There needs to be a sustainable way to fund content on the web, but it should be done in a user-controlled way,” said Faida.
In the past, people blocked ads when they wanted to clear the screen; but now, they do that to avoid privacy intrusion, web lags, battery drain, mobile data loss, and malware. That’s why Eyeo’s service has made its way to 100 million smartphones and PCs and AdBlock Plus has become Firefox’s top extension.
However, blocking ads everywhere is impossible if you don’t pay the webs you visit and Eyeo’s situation is complicated. While the company blocks some ads, it offers its own ad exchange to help supply publishers with advertisements.
And now, take a closer look at the AdBlock Plus.
1. How Acceptable Ads program works
Launched in 2011, the program was meant to codify Eyeo’s standards for the use of ads which AdBlock Plus would not block on sites agreeing to cooperate and appearing on its whitelist. The ads are required not to be intrusive, flashy, or too large. According to Faida, the key is balancing what users like with what websites need.
All ads from websites not on the whitelist are blocked by default, which is done by almost 170 employees Eyeo hires to prevent publishers from sneaking past the system. Users are able to set Adblock Plus to block all ads.
Faida said that over 90% of firms on the whitelist don’t have to pay for their participation. The fee of 30% from ads revenues only applies to bigger publishers that display over 10 million Acceptable Ads each month.
While blocking ads may cause publishers to turn to paywalls, Faida believes that it’s here to stay. He stated that ad blockers are not what’s putting open, free web at risk, but rather because there are too many available spots for online ads.
2. What the Acceptable Ads rules are based on
When the company set up the work in 2017, it was nonprofit, with participation from 50 member companies that were involved in online advertising, including publishers, ad agencies, ad tech companies, as well as others in the industry.
The Coalition for Better Ads is another outfit that has a similar role. And Google used this as standards for ad blocking policy on Chrome, starting 2018 for sites overusing ads.
3. Why Adblock Plus doesn’t block ad trackers by default
Along with ad blocking, tracker blocking is rising, shown in notable moves from companies like Apple, Mozilla, and Brave Software with their browser Safari, Firefox, and Brave. Besides, there are tracking protections on Microsoft Edge, and Chrome in addition to tracker blocking extensions such as DuckDuckGo, Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and uBlock Origin.
However, according to Faida, through the Acceptable Ads Program, AdBlock Plus does not block tracking by default, but rather by users’ decision. And there’s an option so that you can disable the like and share buttons on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook if you don’t want them to track you.
“Some consumers don't mind tracking and want to support the websites they use. Other users are more concerned about privacy,” said the exec. However, when users apply tighter control on their privacy, even Eyeo’s revenue will be affected, not only publishers.
4. Whether or not Chrome hurts Adblock Plus
With Manifest v3, the Chrome team giving extensions, including ad blockers, new limits to improve performance, privacy, and security. But that reduces the capability of ad blockers regarding how they rely on rules to probe website elements; for instance, finding whether an advertisement comes from an internet domain on the whitelist.
Though the tech giant lifted the limit of previously proposed rules from 30,000 to 150,000, some extensions claim that isn’t enough. And the change only comes discussions that lasted for months and threats from users to stop using Chrome if the browser hurts ad blockers. However, the tech giant said that it wants to let content blocking extensions operate and Faida doesn’t want his service to be damaged.
He said, “I'm optimistic they will listen to our feedback.” While Google has a reason for its concerns, Faida believes that there can be a solution which doesn’t hurt blockers. And, as he said, if Chrome goes for its plan, other browsers will jump in to claim displeased users.
5. Why not build ad blocking in the browser?
UC Browser and Opera are some of the browsers that have built-in ad blocking option. The option is automatic in Brave, and AdBlock is following the trend too.
Microsoft has integrated AdBlock Plus into its Edge browser, which can be enabled with Samsung Internet and Firefox on Android. AdBlock Plus also offers an ad-blocking browser of its own for iPhone users.
However, Faida doesn’t agree with the approach Brave is taking, in which it shows Brave-supplied advertisements after blocking others’ ads. “Blocking ads and injecting your own is a very different approach than helping publishers to show their own ads. We want to create an open ecosystem,” said Faida.
But while the ad system Brave uses is optional, it pays users parts of its ad-generated revenues as well as shares the revenue with publishers. Furthermore, it’s developing a system that directly displays ads on sites cooperating with publishers which receive the lion’s share of its ad revenue.
“Unlike Eyeo, we block trackers and refuse to whitelist them, because privacy-by-default is the only way to rebalance the system and to justly reward users and publishers instead of intermediaries that perpetuate a toxic ecosystem,” said Brendan Eich, Chief Executive Officer at Brave.
The technology Brave uses offers not only user privacy but also publisher revenue, which Eyeo cannot manage users turn on tracker blocking. “There are very few ads available that don't require any tracking at all,” said Faida.