Adblock Plus and (a little) more

Acceptable Ads by the numbers · 2013-10-07 15:53 by Ben Williams

Our first-ever release of statistics on the Acceptable Ads initiative.

  • 777 whitelist applicants, over 50 percent rejected because ads not acceptable.
  • In all, we accepted only 9.5 percent of applicants.
  • 148 whitelist proposals, over 90 percent for free.

We started as an adblocker, and if the Internet dies tomorrow we’ll die as an adblocker. Until 2011 we hadn’t claimed to be anything except that. Wladimir Palant created Adblock Plus (ABP) in 2006. And for seven years it blocked all ads, pleasing a growing user base that has made it the most downloaded and most used extension since then. Beyond users, others took notice.

In 2011 Till Faida, who had a background in online marketing, met Wladimir. After getting to know one another, Wladimir the open-source programmer and Till the online ad-maker agreed on one thing unequivocally: Internet advertising was blinking, popping up and bannerizing itself to an early grave.

Their cooperation formed the bedrock philosophy of our company, and it changed adblocking profoundly: by whitelisting non-annoying ads that had agreed to a set of rules, they hoped to spark a compromise. Their plan was to always keep users in control of their online experience, encourage advertisers to make better ads and keep ad-fueled free content viable.

Were they merely Adblock? Another in the line of no-compromise adblockers? Nope. They were adblocking with a Plus.

But if you’re reading this, you’ve likely heard this story before. What you may not know are some of the details of our whitelisting process: Are the criteria really strict? What happens if my site can’t meet the criteria? What percentage of sites on the whitelist have to pay?

Well, we have rejected more than 50 percent of all applicants to Acceptable Ads because they do not conform to our criteria. Since 2011 we have received 777 applications for whitelisting. The actual acceptance rate is only 9.5 percent – there are a good amount of fake applications or communication breakdowns that account for this discrepancy. But the more notable rejections are the over 50 percent stated above that refuse to meet criteria. We developed these criteria over months of discussion, tested implementation extensively and proposed improvements to them. We’re serious about upholding them, and we don’t make exceptions. But that is not to say that we don’t work with applicants.

A large misconception about the whitelisting process is that certain ads are categorically approved or disapproved before contact with us. All ads must be approved; but whitelisting is a process, and we accompany every potential whitelister every step of the way. If changes need to be made, we are right there to help applicants make them.

A related question that often gets ping-ponged around in discussion is how we make sure that whitelisted ads don’t break agreements. There is no technical miracle here: we literally have to monitor sites to make sure they harmonize their ads with our policies. Of course, we have the help of our forum members, ABP users and list moderators. Moreover, if someone misbehaves, there is a space to report it.

But keeping track of whitelisted domains and constantly updating our filter lists is painstaking. Which is part of the reason we need money. Other adblockers either maintain poor lists, fork or copy lists for which we provide hosting, imitate us then ask you to help them make ads or just plain don’t work. We block best because we invest in lists and people. We also have no intention of stopping with Adblock Plus — hence the existence of Eyeo GmbH, an essential structure for legal reasons but more importantly a springboard for new software. Think Mozilla, just under German law, which doesn’t allow for such a clean division between corporation and organization as the American 501© does.

The next step in the whitelisting process, after we’ve worked with the applicants to meet our criteria, is the formal proposal, of which we’ve had 148 to date. Of those, over 90 percent get whitelisted for free. Free means totally and unconditionally without cost. No euro, no dollar, no peso — nada. However, all whitelisted ads must at all times conform to Acceptable Ads criteria, regardless of whether the advertisers behind them pay or not.

Ours is a simple but ambitious goal that has matured in a relatively short time. If this was an experiment to see if ads can get better, the test phase is over: the amount of organic interest we have received and the fact that a tiny company in Cologne was able to work with all serious applicants to transform some or all of their ads into acceptable ones encourages us greatly. We, too, have crystallized our focus and streamlined the whitelisting process.

As we move ahead to tackle new challenges, like native advertising and the shift towards mobile, we’ll need your help if we hope to accomplish our goal of making the Internet a better place. Stopping annoying ads is indeed a start, but unless the Internet dies tomorrow we’re ready to do a whole lot more.


Comment [9]

  1. inesff · 2013-10-08 09:04 · #

    i only want to say “FUCK YOU!”

    adblock not ad block-earning!

  2. alr · 2013-10-08 14:21 · #

    I think you made a good case for the Acceptable Ads program—I will turn the preference back on and give it a try. (But not on my cell phone—too little space for any ads.)

  3. lg · 2013-10-13 10:18 · #

    you are no longer a reliable adblock company. just as the rest, hungry for money. this will be the start of your end. rest in peace, there are alternatives!

  4. Human Stupidity Is Infinite · 2013-10-13 11:47 · #

    It’s amazing how many stupid people there are out there. What ABP has done is to 1) try to enforce a standard of non-intrusive advertising and 2) made the advertisers pay for the privilege of doing what they damn well should have been doing in the first place! Good on ABP, as far as I can see.

    And for the record, I browse with ALL advertising blocked. I don’t want to see ANY. But having an alternative for those who want to easily block AGGRESSIVE advertising but allow more low-key ads WITHOUT needing an army of people working on ever-changing Block-Lists dealing with each and every site on the internet…it seems like a good alternative. And I was 100% against the whole idea of ‘acceptable advertising’. Remember, folks: NO ONE is forcing you to see the ads—you can still block them all with ABP.

    Or is that a bit too difficult for you to understand?

  5. georg · 2013-10-13 14:45 · #

    Perhaps I’ve over-read it, but one thing seems to be missing from the statistics report.

    What are the reasons for the < 10 % non-free whitelistings?

    Is paying for a white-listing completely optional, does it speedup the process or is it due to some well-defined criteria (e.g. when ad-company has more than so-and-so market-share etc.)?

  6. infoguy · 2013-10-14 18:44 · #

    1) Why shouldn’t a company that provides a VALUABLE SERVICE to internet users have to provide it for free?
    2) To commenter #3 above: Pretty sure wishing cancer on someone is worse than attempting to profit off of a product that is free to internet users and provides a valuable service (but allows you to opt out of the Acceptable Ads program and continue to block ALL ads).
    3) The non-free listings are from companies with deep pockets. They don’t specify who, but think about it.

    From the Adblock FAQ page:

    “We are being paid by some larger properties that serve non-intrusive advertisements that want to participate in the Acceptable Ads initiative.

    Whitelisting is free for all small and medium-sized websites and blogs. However, managing this list requires significant effort on our side and this task cannot be completely taken over by volunteers as it happens with common filter lists.

    Note that we will never whitelist any ads that don’t meet these criteria. There is no way to buy a spot in the whitelist. Also note that whitelisting is free for small- and medium-sized websites.

    In addition, we received startup capital from our investors, like Tim Schumacher, who believe in Acceptable Ads and want to see the concept succeed.”

  7. infoguy · 2013-10-15 09:33 · #

    Sorry minor typo!
    1) Why should a company that provides a VALUABLE SERVICE to internet users have to provide it for free?

  8. Anonymous · 2013-11-02 17:33 · #

    So massive companies can pay you to not block their less obtrusive ads. Cool.

    Let me know when you refuse to whitelist a company unless it SOLELY displays less obtrusive ads. Then your “we’re working to build a better advertiser-viewer experience” justification will actually work.

    Reply from Wladimir Palant:

    We are working towards that but whitelisting websites if they serve only acceptable ads turned out unrealistic – nobody would do that right now. There needs to be more incentive to use acceptable advertising first.

  9. Adblock Edge · 2013-11-09 01:21 · #

    Adblock Edge is a fork of the Adblock Plus version 2.1.2 extension for blocking advertisements on the web. This fork will provide the same features as Adblock Plus 2.X and higher but without “acceptable ads” feature.

Commenting is closed for this article.