An open letter to Twitter · 2013-10-04 15:48 by Ben Williams

Dear Twitter,
We’ve been reading the early media analysis of your IPO filing, and we are not surprised that many industry pundits are speculating about how you are probably going to become more aggressive with your advertising. BuzzFeed cautioned “expect more ads”; Forbes said the IPO could “juice ad offerings”; and the Wall Street Journal admonished “don’t do what Facebook did.” We read about your deals with CBS and the NFL – which means ads galore and happy investors.

Congratulations!

We get it; you need to make money. And there’s plenty of it circulating: last year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, US Internet advertising revenue grew a record 15 percent from 2011 to $36.6 billion. In the first quarter of this year digital ad revenue hit $9.6 billion, an almost 16 percent quarter-on-quarter increase from 2012.

But your users might not be too thrilled about what’s in store – and that will inevitably send that many more of them running to Adblock Plus. Our numbers are swelling even if advertising revenue is growing as well. Over 200 million people have downloaded our software, and last week alone we had over 1.5 million downloads. Your current ad offerings are actually not far from what we’d consider non-annoying (see more below) – but the idea of a fundamentally changed Twitter, now with ads round every corner, may direct users to Adblock Plus for no other reason than that they want their “old” Twitter back.

So why not work together? We would like to partner with you to engineer acceptable, non-intrusive advertising that would conform to our guidelines and make it to our whitelist. That’s right, we want you to advertise. But we want you to do it responsibly, by adhering to our Acceptable Ads guidelines.

Not only would your ads not be blocked by the millions of Adblock Plus users, but you’d be helping shift the paradigm of online advertising away from the blinking, privacy-killing pro-market stance to the clean, privacy-protecting user-first one.

To be clear, we don’t hate advertising – much of it is entertaining and even useful. And certainly a lot of the free stuff we enjoy on the Internet owes its existence to the advertisers who support those websites. But there needs to be a sustainable middle ground between ads and adblockers.

We think our Acceptable Ads initiative is the answer. Acceptable ads don’t pop up, pop under or blink. Acceptable Ads don’t steal our IP fingerprints and collect our entire browser history. Acceptable Ads don’t hound us with cookie trackers and re-sell our data to other companies. We wouldn’t tolerate that behavior in the physical world; why should we accept it just because it’s digital? And we’re pretty certain that Twitter users won’t tolerate that behavior, either.

Here are the principles of Acceptable Ads, as debated in a public forum and defined by our open community:

  1. Acceptable Ads are not annoying.
  2. Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort page content.
  3. Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.
  4. Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.
  5. Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site or tweet that we are on.

On this front we are not alone. We’ve found common ground with user-rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and researchers like Doc Searls and his Harvard-based Project VRM.

So what do you think? Users would get a better Twitter experience because they would determine how and what advertising is presented. It’s an agreement which benefits both parties: Twitter users won’t be bombarded with obnoxious advertisements that they feel compelled to block. On the other hand, your advertisers would be able to align their messaging more effectively, without the need to use irritating ads to get their messages across.

Ultimately, we all face a billion-dollar struggle for the Internet’s soul. We feel that our compromise for online advertising will make the Internet a better place. Let us know if you do too.

Sincerely,
The Adblock Plus Community

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Comment [6]

  1. Andrew Florian · 2013-10-04 16:21 · #

    Wow, a free ad stopping application that actually works as advertised.. and isn’t simply a ling to some crappy payware sight, and installs with one button.. hmm, you guys should design software for the federal government.. Wait.. never mind… I didn’t mean to insult you like that.. your software “works”!!!! have a nice day :)

  2. Bert's mate · 2013-10-07 16:10 · #

    So my ad-blocking software will in future be allowing advertising?

  3. Bert · 2013-10-09 22:13 · #

    @Bert’s mate: only if you let him do that, mate.

  4. robinr22 · 2013-10-15 04:24 · #

    I think that you forgot an additional criteria:

    6. Acceptable Ads pay Adblock Plus 30% of their revenue.

    This isn’t about making the internet better or on behalf of ‘the Adblock Plus community’. It’s about the money.

    You get the majority of your revenue stream from essentially extorting websites into paying you money so that their adverts aren’t blocked. This also means that your users still have to look at adverts despite using adblock plus. This is hardly ethical nor in the best interests of either users or the websites.

    Of course, you already know this. But it is very disappointing that you are trying to sell your actions as for the greater good. They aren’t. They are for your good and no one else.

    I’d finish by saying that there are equally free ad blocking services out there that don’t do this and maybe your actions will prompt some users to switch.

  5. The rage · 2013-10-21 12:37 · #

    Block ads? Pay for content. The end.

  6. htpyspspa · 2013-11-04 18:59 · #

    A begging letter / ransom note.
    Agree 100% with robinr22.

Commenting is closed for this article.