Interview responses - a summary · 2007-09-29 01:24 by Wladimir Palant

This month Adblock Plus got some great publicity. Regardless of how this sudden interest for a niche product started and regardless of what all these articles actually said — this is very good because it makes Adblock Plus more widely known. But I spent quite some time answering interview questions and most of the time these answers didn’t get anywhere. In quite a few cases I had a strong suspicion that the reporter already knew what he was going to write before asking questions. He would then throw away any answer that didn’t fit into his scheme. I would hate to see all this time wasted, so I want to publish a summary of all that I’ve written in email answers over the month (unfortunately, I don’t have recordings of phone interviews).

Why do you develop Adblock Plus?

I started developing it for several reasons:

What is your opinion on online advertising?

I am not against advertising per se, it has its uses. What I don’t like is intrusive advertising that we see too often right now. Ads should not make noise, they should not try to steal your attention with animations, they should not cover up the content you are trying to read requiring you to click them away. And of course they should not waste your resources more than necessarily (bandwidth, CPU usage), invade your privacy or try to make you download spyware — issues that we are facing today.

Did you have any blowback from advertising companies?

Not really. Adblock Plus isn’t popular enough yet, attacking it would be a waste of time. So far, the only ones trying to “protect” themselves against Adblock Plus are small websites who don’t have anything better to do than alienating their user base. One interesting case is environmentalchemistry.com where the site owner spent much time and energy on blocking Adblock users (meaning really Adblock and not Adblock Plus, this was quite some time ago) — and then stated that it wasn’t worth it.

No, Google didn’t complain either, even though pretty much every filter list out there blocks Google ads (however, I heard many people saying that they explicitly allow Google ads in their configuration). And I don’t think they will complain.

Has there been any legal action against Adblock Plus? Do you expect anything in this direction in future?

No. The only case I know of is http://comparativeictlaw.blogspot.com/2007/09/hungarian-newspaper-meets-adblock-plus.html (that seems to be the only article on the topic in English) — index.hu sent out letters of cease and desist to two filter list maintainers (*not* developers). The legal basis of these letters was more than shaky, so it is not surprising that they admitted a mistake and apologized.

And I don’t expect much in future either. Adblock Plus is no way illegal. It does not even modify web pages, it only “decides” what is allowed to be loaded. And finding a legal explanation why I am obliged to load an ad will be very hard, especially if you look at the browser’s ability to disable loading of all images or even at text browsers. The way a web site is presented on my computer is not under the control of the web publisher, it simply cannot be regardless of how much some publishers would like this.

Anyway, suing Adblock Plus “out of business” will not help anybody — you cannot kill an idea on the Internet. The software that I am making is open source, even if I stop working on it — each Adblock Plus user has a copy, and any of them could develop it further. If the advertisers have a problem, they will not be able to solve it in the legal way. As long as people want to block ads, they will be able to do this.

Is there an arms race between advertisers and Adblock Plus? Do you expect one?

No and no. Adblock Plus 0.7.5.2 is the only time that I released a bug fix after the bug has been used “in the wild.” And that only happened because I was too busy with other things, this issue has been known for quite some time. So there is no real arms race, and I don’t expect one either.

So far no larger sites participated in attempts to block Adblock Plus users. Reason might be that I make it impossible to detect Adblock Plus reliably — and larger sites don’t tend to risk annoying their users for a very hypothetical gain. Not to mention that even users who block ads are valuable (Michael Arrington points it out nicely in Why Darwin Beats Danny Carlton).

Note that some sites are detecting ad blockers and displaying a message, patiently asking you to buy a subscription. This is different — while the detection is still unreliable, your users will probably not be annoyed if you show them this message by mistake. Also, it is unlikely that filter list maintainers will change their filters only to disable a friendly message (they will definitely do this for a site blocking Adblock Plus users however).

Do you think there will be technological solutions to prevent Adblock Plus from working?

I doubt anything can make Adblock Plus entirely unusable. However, Adblock Plus has a very distinct technological limit. Blocking every single ad on the Internet requires too much effort — which is why I think that over time we will reach a balance where only the annoying advertisements will be blocked by filter lists like EasyList. The others would “survive” because nobody will bother blocking them. Which is a good thing, we need something to discourage advertisers from using annoying ads.

Is there other popular ad blocking software?

Yes, actually a lot of it. Some firewalls come with built-in ad blocking capabilities, e.g. Norton Internet Security, Agnitum Outpost Firewall or Kerio Personal Firewall (I think these firewalls have way more users than Adblock Plus). There are also ad blocking solutions like Ad Muncher or Proxomitron. And, finally, there are plug-ins for particular browsers — e.g. IE7Pro for Internet Explorer or PithHelmet and SafariBlock for Safari.

Are you aware that Adblock Plus threatens all free content on the Internet?

No. I am actually pretty sure that Adblock Plus is not the end of the Internet, even though it might change some business models. If your business model is to annoy your customers, should you be surprised that you no longer can pay your bills? I wrote two articles on this topic recently: Profitability is not a right, it has to be earned and Ads don’t generate money

Does anybody make money from Adblock Plus?

No. Adblock Plus is my personal hobby project, I don’t make any money from it and neither do I intend to.

Do you work for Microsoft, Google or some of the traditional advertising companies that are loosing money due to advertising moving to the Internet?

No.

Tags:

Comment [12]

  1. rick752 · 2007-09-29 23:08 · #

    Hey Wladimir, so how does it feel to have ABP as an “internet household name” lately? :-)

    It DOES sound like the reporter already had his mind made up on the story just by the ‘canned’ questions he asked you. Seems like he was just trying to get some fresh quotes from you to add to his pre-determined story.

    I guess how the article comes out would be directly related to who interviewed you. So can you share that? ... or is it a secret? Was it a big site?

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Rick, it wasn’t a single reporter – these are answers from four different interviews. There has been quite some duplication in questions however.

  2. rick752 · 2007-09-30 00:20 · #

    “ .... it wasn’t a single reporter – these are answers from four different interviews.”

    But you’re not going to tell us who the four are, are you?
    (In my best Yoda voice: “Teasing you are doing … secretive you have become” :-)

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    :)
    New York Times, CNET (News.com), Les Affaires, Publico.pt. Brandweek and CBC News did their interviews on the phone. That’s at least the ones I can remember.

  3. rick752 · 2007-09-30 02:55 · #

    Hmm … all big, ad-intensive commercial sites. Let’s see what kind of ‘spin’ they will put on this. This will show which of those have any kind of credible writing.

  4. Bradley J. Fikes · 2007-09-30 08:43 · #

    This attention to and Adblock Plus as if ad-blocking were just invented is amusing. Some reporters take a long time to discover things and then write as if they were new. I mentioned Adblock in a sci-tech column in 2004.

    Whenever I use a computer without Firefox, I’m horrified by the blinking, flashing intrusive ads, and wonder why anyone would or could endure it.

    The spate of publicity reminded me of what a great help Adblock Plus is to productive Internetting. Thanks, Wladimir!

  5. iNsuRRecTiON · 2007-10-02 05:52 · #

    Hi there,

    are you working together or stay in connection with AdblockPro?

    Earlier in your blog, you wrote, that Adblock for IE is not an option..

    Now I see AdblockPro (http://www.adblockpro.com), which uses nearly the same interface as AdblockPlus and it seems they are stay in connection with you..

    best regards,

    iNsuRRecTiON

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    No, “Adblock Pro” is using the name without my permission. At least we were able to make this guy stop using the name “Adblock Plus for Internet Explorer”.

  6. iNsuRRecTiON · 2007-10-03 04:41 · #

    Hi Wladimir,

    oh ok, I understand.

    But is AdblockPro not efficient?

    Does it not work as good as Adblock Plus?

    I don’t know much about this stuff, but it seems, Adblock Pro have the same features as Adblock Plus and the same abilities..

    Btw. I hope we can see Adblock Plus 0.7.6 or even 0.8.x soon, at least at the latest, if Firefox 3.0 is finally released.. :) ;-) :-P

    And it’s not that good, that Adblock Plus source is available, so Adblock Pro users, can illegally use code and improvements fron your app for their pay solution.. .

    best regards,

    iNsuRRecTiON

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    I don’t know whether it is efficient, whether it is working good, and whether it is worth the money the developer wants to have for it – and that’s exactly the point, I didn’t want to give Adblock’s good name away for something of questionable quality. At least the first version was inferior to Adblock Plus, don’t know whether this changed.

  7. BenoitRen · 2007-10-04 15:16 · #

    “Are you aware that Adblock Plus threatens all free content on the Internet?”

    What kind of question is that? A lot of free content is created by enthusiasts who want to share information. People also have free web space given to them by their ISP, without ads.

    The Internet is more than GeoCities, its clones, and commmercial sites.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Granted, this reporter’s native language wasn’t English and I even had to reformulate his question here somewhat – still, reading this question was funny :)

  8. Michael · 2007-10-09 19:01 · #

    A general suggestion for an additional option in Ad Block Plus: Instead of just blocking out the ads, wouldn’t it be fun, to provide some alternative content? Just like people can now subscribe to blocking lists, they could subscribe to alternate content providers. I would, for example, set up a server that picks some random funny quote.
    Maybe it should be limited to one or two items per page, or even to per several pages in order to keep it fresh and save bandwidth.
    The only sticky part is if people start serving up alternative ads…

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    You probably want to look at the AddArt project – I provided them with some code to make it work as an extension on top of Adblock Plus, and from what I heard they finally want to release something usable soon.

  9. Nikolaj · 2007-10-11 21:43 · #

    A Danish newspaper wrote, that Firefox users now have a new (!) possibility to get rid of ads. That ‘new’ possibility is AdBlock Plus…

    http://www.business.dk/article/20071011/medier/110111250/

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    Thanks. Not a particularly well-researched article, yes. They mostly translate some English-language article (that’s where this “new” comes from), rest is meaningless statistics.

  10. Julie · 2007-10-23 09:52 · #

    I was recently introduced to Adblock PLUS after my many complaints of continuous pop up adds. I use myspace and a few other sites to help me keep in contact with friends. We all have had the same complaint about being inundated with unnecessary and annoying adds. For the fun of it, I posted the following blog;

    Adblock PLUS…Get the treatment you deserve!

    Do those annoying ads on myspace have you scared and confused?

    Are you unsure of your sex life?

    Does the add animation have you playing their cursor games?
    Do you find yourself going to your happy place from all the bright blinking colors?

    There is a cure…Adblock PLUS!

    TESTIMONIALS

    Adblock PLUS changed my life forever! I use to have an addiction to clicking on every pop up add, but Adblock PLUS cured me. I am no longer subservient to those ads. – Tony, Florida

    I could never update my blog. Most of my time was spent taking add quizzes about my love life and zodiac sign compatibility. Thanks to Adblock PLUS, I am finally in control. – Selina, Washington

    Due to the loss of my Xbox and Atari, I found myself spending my time playing the cursor games on the pop up ads. I could not stop. I had a problem. Adblock PLUS rescued me from my addiction. – Harry, Colorado

    I suffered from missing time every time I was on myspace. The flashy colors and blinking ads would put my mind into a state of animation. Before I knew it, ten to fifteen minutes had gone by. I soon realized that it was not alien abductions, only those annoying ads. Thank you Adblock PLUS! You saved me from having to go to the doctor and perhaps having an implant removed. . – Rose, Pennsylvania

    All this can be yours at http://adblockplus.org/en/ It is free and there is no obligation. If at any time you miss those annoying ads, you may simply disable your Adblock PLUS features. Try it for seven days and see how your life changes.

    - Yes. I did have friends and family download Adblock PLUS immediately. They did not realize that there was something out there that could alleviate the non stopping (and sometime ridiculous) adds.

    Thank you. I have greatly enjoyed Adblock PLUS.

  11. Rick · 2008-02-06 22:27 · #

    I have used ABP for a long time, and have never been disappointed. You do great work. The world needs more people like you who are willing to take steps to diminish the power corporations (read: “The Man”) have over the media. Thanks, and good luck with all your affairs.

    Rick Hawkins

  12. joe · 2008-10-01 16:54 · #

    Adblock plus has it’s uses when ads are over animated but if this is the case a one click flash blocker might be a better solution.I only have a blog and your extension blocks out google text ads that are non intrusive.Those ads help keep a blog going that helps people .
    Google text ads should not be on those lists only flash based ads
    or you can expect a lawsuit someday.And yes an open source project can be made illegal just as a commercial project can if a court decides to make it illegal.

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