Adblock Plus and (a little) more

From the Manifesto to the Acceptable Ads Board · 2015-10-01 21:48 by Ben Williams

Last year we penned the Acceptable Ads Manifesto, calling for better advertising on the Internet. It was a ballsy move, because anything with the word “manifesto” in it is politically charged from the get-go. It was the right thing to do, though, and we had the support of Reddit, Doc Searls and others. So we went for it. Now we’ve got the support of a bunch more.

Today we’re upping the ante: we’re inviting a completely independent review board to take over, enforce and oversee our Acceptable Ads initiative. Although Acceptable Ads has always been debated and conducted in an open and public forum, we’re going that extra mile and removing ourselves entirely from the equation. Adblock Plus has no more say in what is deemed “acceptable,” and we have no say in who gets whitelisted.

So ad industry acolytes our critics can stop using that “extortion” word now, thank you.

What’s more, in true open source spirit we’re letting other ad blocking software use the Acceptable Ads guidelines and whitelisting processes also. Last week, Dean Murphy at Crystal took us up on the offer, and today we are welcoming tens of millions of AdBlock users to our Acceptable Ads whitelist. We’re all fighting on the same side for the consumer, after all.

Like Mother Nature, the public community has evolved the best system yet for creating exactly the right checks and balances between Internet commerce and respect for the consumer. We have this massive community effort and now we want everyone – even our “competitors,” if you can even call them that, since we give our product, and code, away – to enjoy the fruits of that effort.

Why on earth wouldn’t we? We’ve been championing the idea of supporting publishing through better ads while maintaining user control since 2011. The new board lets the Acceptable Ads initiative take a step away from Adblock Plus, allowing it to be more independent and transparent.

And in order to help these other ad blocking companies get the Acceptable Ads technology integrated, we’re actually helping to pay for their development costs. You heard that right: we’re paying them. Hell yes, we’re paying them. We’re proud that we’re able to do it!

Acceptable Ads is working! It’s the will of the people. The multi-billion $$ advertising industry can no longer ignore consumers and shovel any ads at us that they want.

Now for the final piece: we want to open up nominations for the independent review board, too. Do you know someone? Maybe an ad industry exec who quietly believes that ad blocking is innovative? Let us know in the comments! For our part, we’ve reached out to several people already, and are hoping to have our first sit-down meeting early in 2016.

This is how the Internet works, folks. We can change an entire industry just with an open source community, some clever coding … and a manifesto.

Comment [23]

  1. mapx · 2015-10-01 22:10 · #

    A user commented on forum:
    “This sounds like a recipe for whitelisting all the things, but as long as the whitelist is optional it’s fine with me.”

    https://adblockplus.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=139195#p139195

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    It’s not. The whole point is whitelisting only some of the things, the good things that is.

    And let’s be clear: you will always be able to disable it.

  2. Lindon · 2015-10-02 00:36 · #

    Why not make it so if you mouse over an ad, a little bar slides out underneath it. On this bar, there will be:
    “This ad is intrusive”
    and
    “Why am I seeing this ad?”

    People who click the intrusive button get the ad disabled locally, and cast a vote to some poll. People who don’t interact with the ad count as a “non-intrusive” vote.

    Clicking “Why am I seeing this ad” takes you to the explanation page, with a clear option to disable it.

    You could even have a voting site where users can vote on what ads are intrusive and not, before they even reach your whitelists. Hell, you could even make it a paid service. After 5000 impression votes, you pay $1. But that’s a different topic

    As I’m sure you’re aware, you’re going to stirr/ are stirring a huge controversy with this functionality. Please make sure you do it right! Otherwise there will be clone apps stealing your user base.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    It’s just not the way ad blocking developed. Ad blocking started as a 100% blocking mechanism. Our founder Wladimir tried a lot of different approaches to get out of it, like this: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2009/05/blocked_ads_clean_conscience.html

    … alack and alas, none worked. If you really don’t like — and we do btw, because it supports publishers who serve better ads — just turn it off.

  3. Mark · 2015-10-02 01:37 · #

    This whitelist is to remain optional in current and future installments of ABP correct?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Yes. It will always always always be optional :)

  4. Joe · 2015-10-02 09:42 · #

    So if I want to submit my site, I need to send the link to the forum? The submission form is not working anymore?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    More or less. For how to submit, just follow the instructions here: https://eyeo.com/en/services

  5. Ariel · 2015-10-02 17:21 · #

    I’ve read that you’ve sold the company, and the buyer wants to remain anonymous. This is unacceptable; many people would want to know who now owns the company for a variety of reasons: for instance, I am vehemently opposed to supporting Apple or anything affiliated with Rupert Murdoch. Also, one can’t help but question the motives of someone who doesn’t want to be known.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    This is AdBlock, not Adblock Plus. Totally understand the confusion, happens all the time :)

    If you’ve got questions about them, please direct them their way. And in case you were wondering, no, we DID NOT buy them.

  6. Jordan · 2015-10-02 18:51 · #

    The whole thing about the ad industry is how sleazy and shady it all is, so a company like your just isn’t going to work if its not completely transparent. The secrecy you guys are showing over who now own your company doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. ABP is such a great thing, and I love you guys for what you’ve have done, I just really hope that its gone into good and we’re not all about to be fuck over by some ad conglomerate.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the comment, but it seems there’s some misunderstanding there. We own our company. We did not sell Adblock Plus. That was AdBlock … sans “Plus.” :) Don’t worry, you’re not the first to confuse the two. We ARE psyched though, that they decided to join Acceptable Ads — that’s a win for everyone.

    Also, there WILL BE USER REPRESENTATIVES on the board. This makes it much more transparent than before, because more people are involved. And as we always say, if you don’t like it just turn it off.

  7. ygrb · 2015-10-02 21:06 · #

    You can’t have a company named Ad-block and not block ads. Time to rename yourself to Ad-Allower

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    A more appropriate name would actually be “Web Customizer” … but bear in mind when Wladimir took up the original code he had no intention of encouraging better ads through Acceptable Ads … and it’d be kinda hard to rename it now ;)

    Why Web Customizer? Because it allows you to surf the web as you see fit. Enable anti-tracking lists, block social media buttons, write your own filters … and turn off Acceptable Ads if you think it’s stupid ;)

  8. Alex Calic · 2015-10-02 22:27 · #

    I’d like to nominate the CEO and founder of The Media Trust, Chris Olson for the independant review board.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Alex, thanks for your comment. We're collecting nominations for the board and will get back to you shortly.

  9. Black · 2015-10-03 04:10 · #

    Today we’re upping the ante: we’re inviting a completely independent review board to take over, enforce and oversee our Acceptable Ads initiative.

    That will made of a click or cult personalities that will promote certain content and certain industries. Hurray. Job for the boys!

    They will also, of course, enforce censorship. Clearly a win-win. What we really, really need are organizations with self-appointed talking heads to oversee and claiming authority over something that is none of the business.

    And as you can see, the CEO of Media Trust is already volunteering. There is money to made for sure.

    Like Mother Nature, the public community has evolved the best system yet for creating exactly the right checks and balances between Internet commerce and respect for the consumer.

    This one deserves a LOL! Such “communities” devolve into anarchies or evolve into dictatorships. But you already said previously that this will be “take over, enforce and oversee” by review board. SO MUCH FOR POWER OF THE COMMUNITY!

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey,
    Totally get your concern, but also completely disagree. The community will still have the same role as before … but wait a minute, no — no, actually it will have a BIGGER role.

    Because not only will it be able to take part in the process as it always has here: https://adblockplus.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=12&sid=0e0eb5396ece2f9933992bfe8087f139

    … but there will be user representatives on the board itself.

  10. Black · 2015-10-03 04:21 · #

    By the way: How is it that something that doesn’t have any financing, doesn’t generate any revenue, doesn’t use advertising (CLEARLY!), and is given away for Free, still produces enough wealth to hire and pay for CEOs, CTOs, Managing Directors, PRs and still have enough money to pay to improve the products of the competition?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the comment.

    We’ve been clear from day one that 10% of the companies on the whitelist also pay to make the whole thing viable (= FREE for the other 90%). It’s kinda like taxing the 1%. But the criteria are the same for ALL. Difference is that now there will be a board made up to a large degree of user representatives who we will answer to.

    As I say, we’ve never shied away from this question, and we think it’s a fair compromise:
    https://adblockplus.org/en/acceptable-ads-agreements#payment

  11. Adam · 2015-10-03 13:40 · #

    I have opted out of this feature. Even if ABP decides to one day force this oxymoronic “non-intrusive advertising” on us, people will just stop using it altogether, forcing them to retract this feature. Ads are client side and someone will always be there to stop them.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey, appreciate the thoughtful comment.

    It will always be your right to opt out of Acceptable Ads. I’m a bit more hopeful about its future than you — clearly :) — but thanks nonetheless.

  12. fanrang · 2015-10-04 08:14 · #

    Hurray. Job for the boys!

  13. Cliff · 2015-10-04 08:50 · #

    ADB was sold. Not ADB+.

    This blog relates to the latter so comments about lack of transparency are misplaced.

    I really appreciate the move made to step back from the whitelisting body. I have no objection to well placed and non intrusive advertising and have learned about new products and services, some of which I’ve bought, on the back of such advertising.

    Trying to reach a compromise is a mature and intelligent online approach. Individuals still have the option of blocking all but I’m happy to receive content for free that is supported by intelligent advertising.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the comment. You clearly check facts better than many journalists I know ;)

    I totally agree with the sentiment, of course — but in case anyone reading this doesn’t like Acceptable Ads, please remember that you can turn it off.

  14. Keisuke Kobayashi · 2015-10-05 04:35 · #

    Hi Ben,

    - When is the Acceptable Ads Program (AAP) going to an independent organization?

    - Please tell me more about sharing the revenue from the whitelisted companies paying to AAP. Will AAP distribute the revenue among Eyeo, Crystal, and any other blockers who participated the program? by equal?

    - How many numbers of people on the boards of the AAP and the members who vote whether an ad is intrusive or not? Then you’ll increase the members who criticize ads than before?

    - Can any person join the member who criticize ads? What is the change from before? More open?

    - And…Please tell me how to pronounce Eyeo. A-I-Oh?

    I’m looking forward to reply from you.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hi Keisuke, thanks for your comment and sorry for my late reply. I guess we’ve discussed your questions via mail by now. Thanks. Ben

  15. Jacob Kristensen · 2015-10-05 19:51 · #

    I think the rules as to what is accepted has been to strict, and without automating the whitelist you really end up violating a lot of website owners rights, perhaps unwillingly.

    Website owners should also not have to do anything to get a websites whitelisted – yes, you can’t expect everyone to know about Adblockers!

    I do realize that some of these ads that are showing up trough Adsense, can be disturbing to users, but i am sure it is very few of them. Flash and image ads should not be disallowed in themselves – there are in fact many non-disturbing animated ads – it’s mainly those with sound that are the problem.

    I do not necessarily think the acceptable ads criteria will be improved on community hands – that would be like allowing internet pirates to create laws on copyright.

    But i do think that having acceptable ads, is a step in the right direction, but the process should be automated, and that should be a priority for any responsible developer of adblockers – i see no reason why this shouldn’t be technically possible, as it seem to be misleadingly claimed – but for adblockers to truly show no evil intentions, in my book, would be to remove the option to disable the whitelist entirely. If they really believe in “acceptable ads”, then there is no need to have this option, and then they should embrace the ads that are acceptable according to the ad guidelines.

    The concern about privacy is a political question, one that should be directed directly at browser developers, and ad-networks. Not website owners. And to be honest, the whole thing has been blown out of proportions, and i am sure, has wasted a lot of tax money, too ;-)

    But anyway, i also think it was really unfair, that adblockers won in court – not knowing the details of the cases – but to me, it is pretty obvious that adblockers violate private property, private ownership, and the rights of website owners. It makes me question the judgment of the court, because in my opinion, they should have ordered adblockers to implement certain changes.

    But in their defense, the internet is still a fairly new invention, so you can’t expect these, likely, old law-people to understand how it works.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Thanks for the thoughts. You probably won’t be surprised that I don’t quite see it the way you do.

    One important thing: automating whitelisting is not technically possible, and the manual process of it helps us make sure sites truly abide by the criteria.

  16. Mat Bennett · 2015-10-06 19:56 · #

    This sounds like a great move. I’d really like to hear more about how the board will be selected. In particular I’d love to see independent publishers represented in some way.

    I work to support independent publishers (Yeah, boo-hiss… I know!). Many of these are trying to find ways to implement a workable balance, but the current acceptable ads requirements don’t quite hit the mark for many. I’m not talking about the “chuck 10 ads on it” brigade, but genuine quality publishers who would like to improve user experience AND stay in the black.

    These small publisher are some of the hardest hit when ads are blocked. The don’t have the resource to sell direct native ads or often the ability to drastically change the model. They often also hate annoying and intrusive ads as much as anyone. Their voice would be a valuabl addition.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hi Mat, thanks for your comment and your thoughts. I’ve added you to our list of people who’re interested in hearing more about the board. Especially since you’re working to support smaller publishers I think your voice will be valuable.

  17. Larry · 2015-10-08 21:40 · #

    Why am I constantly being bombarded with this: chrome-extension://gighmmpiobklfepjocnamgkkbiglidom/pages/acceptable-ads-announcement.html

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Larry, sorry for my late response. The notification you’re receiving is from Adblock. Please contact http://support.getadblock.com/ if you’re still bothered by the notification. Thanks, Ben.

  18. Lorena · 2015-10-09 18:11 · #

    Great stuff!

    It seems that currently it’s the publishers job to get their site approved?

    Working at an agency, I’d be interested in what options we have to work within the Acceptable Ads framework, while still working with tools such as the Google Display Network and YouTube ads (since for some types of campaigns I can control keywords and style of the ads, but not necessarily the placements).

    Is there a way to become an acceptable ads approved agency or something of the sort?

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Lorena, thanks for your comment. I’d like to refer you to our service page: https://eyeo.com/en/services. Thanks. Ben

  19. Advertisements are toxic pollution · 2015-10-15 15:59 · #

    No ads are acceptable to me. I won’t buy anything that is advertised, period. So if you want me to buy your product, DON’T ADVERTISE. That’s my message. I don’t NEED anything that is advertised, so I make my shopping choices on the basis that I won’t buy ANYTHING that is advertised on the web.

    I had to change email and web searchers because ABP wasn’t blocking ALL the ads and the “block element” function was not sophisticated enough to allow it. So those advertisers are out of luck. It’s boycott time.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Fair enough. This is why ABP is customizable to let you have the web experience you want to have.

  20. You are killing the correct people · 2015-10-17 19:59 · #

    You are killing the correct people, which provides quality articles. I have a website with tutorials and just 2 adsense blocks per page.

    You must allow the legit ads. I agree that the popups must be killed but the adsense is provided by Google, which has a very strict policy. So, why are you killing the correct publishers with your tool?

    Big online newspapers are simply killed by your tool and the people are fired because they are not able to obtain enough money to pay the salaries.

    So, be kind and think a little bit at the repercussions determined by your activity:

    - The advertisers cannot sell their products > the people are fired; – The publishers cannot obtain money > the journalists are fired; – The ordinary people will not be able to find any news because in few years the publishers will disappear.

    Please, think a little bit at these things…

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Why not apply to have those ads on your website whitelisted? Everyone, including newspapers, is welcome to apply. The application and info is available here: https://eyeo.com/en/services

  21. Nathaniel Lageman · 2015-10-26 06:16 · #

    I would like to nominate Dr. Robert Walls, my coauthor on our study looking at the Acceptable Ads program.

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Nathaniel, thanks for your comment and the link to your study. I’ll share it with the team! Also thanks for your nomination – we’re still collecting interested parties and will get back to you shortly. Best, Ben.

  22. robsku · 2015-11-01 18:22 · #

    Jacob Kristensen is stating that he thinks adblockers are actually seriously violating private property and ownership – really, how?
    I might be a visitor on your server, but only one that can request you to provide a copy of certain content, usually a document in form of a web page, and I can’t have it if you don’t want to give it to me.
    Now, through dynamic content you become a visitor on my computer, and by default I deny any dynamic (scripted) parts from working – just like I decide with any other programs, it’s my right and responsibility to allow any programs on your page to run or not to allow them – this alone for reasons of basic security, and system stability; you know, I have nearly two hundred pages open, and if I were to allow every one of them to run programs both on their own domain and 3rd party programs they wish to include, it would kill my system to crawl so slow it would take minutes until I got a terminal and could run ‘killall -9 firefox-bin’!
    Not only that, but I also expect my visitors to behave: you are at my house, both symbolically and literally. And that’s unfortunately not happening – tracking, profiling and disturbing me by making me accidentally click your add, it’s not OK.
    Besides, you gave me the document, but legally nor ethically you have no say on what parts of it I decide to have shown to me or ran on my system. Nor with what program – for example, in addition to Firefox I use text-based browser called eLinks, mostly when I know what I’m going to look for is mostly textual, and visual presentation has little or no importance on it, because it’s lighter, faster (in loading, rendering and in navigating) and often makes text content much easier on your eyes to read. I don’t block ad’s on it, and occasionally even see some; of course they are text-only, and fully static, as eLinks don’t support Javascript.
    Anyway, frotee reasons explained above, the three first add-ons I install in fresh Firefox, in order, are Adblock Plus, NoScript and Ghostery.
    I’m kind enough to have “allow non-intrusive ads” enabled on the desktop, but on my mobile phone I simply can’t afford the luxury – the screenspace is way too expensive to waste, compared to my FullHD TV acting as my monitor :)

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Robsku, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. I absolutely agree on the point you make that you should be able to configure your browser in whichever way you fancy. User control is so important and that’s why we’re encouraging publishers to listen to their users and take their arguments seriously. Best, Ben.

  23. Jhon · 2015-11-05 09:49 · #

    Adblock is a perfect plus for page speed loading. Ads network have to optimise them delivery network to speed up page load… While they continue to be slow, people using Adblock will grow.
    The problem is that content online is 90% paid by ads… A writer have to be paid… Look at http://www.mijn-tv-gids.be for example. Those people only leave wih ads. Without ads, they cannot pay servers and writers. And the website is really helpfull (tv guide)…

    Reply from Ben Williams:

    Hey Jhon, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. We’re aware of the problem you have noticed. That’s why we’re constantly working on our Acceptable Ads Initiative. Every website can apply to have their ads whitelisted as long as they meet the Acceptable Ads criteria. And smaller entities don’t even pay a dime for our services. By the way, we are the only ad blocker to offer this option and most of our users actually enable Acceptable Ads to support their favorite websites. Best, Ben

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