Adblock Plus is the most popular free browser extension with the primary purpose of removing annoying and intrusive advertisements from the user’s browsing experience. With more than 100 million active devices the company has a strong user-base. In a press release on September 13th Adblock Plus announced the end-game of their business model: selling responsible ads.
2011: Whitelisting Ads Began
A company originally built by volunteers to improve user’s experience first shifted gears in 2011 with the process of whitelisting ads. This positioned them as gatekeepers between users and advertisers by allowing ads deemed “acceptable” by Adblock to be placed in front of their user-base most of the time for a fee. The process changed the game for advertisers as they could now reach a demographic unavailable to them in the past while still providing protection from unacceptable, aggravating ads for the user.
Their September press release announced an Acceptable Ads Platform which will allow website publishers and bloggers to simply drag and drop readymade, pre-whitelisted ads onto their perspective sites. The ads will be visible to Adblock’s user-base, while blocking all other advertisements on the site.
The thought process is a trust initiative where users do not have to take part but because it is on their own terms they do, creating a middle ground between user wants and the continued need to support free online content with advertisements. For the advertiser the advantages include placing fewer ads that more users will pay attention to and the publisher has less advertising on the site without blinking and content-obscuring ads which could result in less overall page views.
The problem is two-fold; negative user outlook and advertisers do not want to pay. Users are expressing concern that the new platform allows Adblock to solely approve ads on a much larger scale while turning a profit. If their business model revolves around “creating a better internet for everyone” some feel they should not return a great profit but instead give back to the publishers to allow for sustainable free content. The debated question over the press release - should a single organization hold to power to approve what is right or wrong for a user-base this size? If users feel Adblock should not hold this power the user-base will diminish rendering the platform useless to publishers and advertisers alike.
The Bottom Line
In response, Google announced last week their participation in the Coalition for Better Ads. Its mission is to implement new global standards for online advertising to strengthen the Digital Marketplace. The bottom-line is clear; the industry is being shaped towards less intrusive ads due to user demands. Better placement is required and we will see the end of ads deemed annoying as dictated by us, the user.