If you work for a company that depends on advertising revenue, you won’t hear people talk that often about using Adblock Plus, but it’s something that millions of consumers probably can’t imagine their Internet browsing without at this point. It manages to block out most ads on websites, providing a relatively clean experience that’s sometimes night and day from the standard web.
The thing is, some ads do get through, and Google at least appears to be paying to make that happen, according to a new report that’s prompting a lot of discussion on Hacker News. Adblock Plus has an “acceptable ads” filter that allows certain content by default, and the company makes no secret that it charges big companies for whitelisting services – it mentions it right in its FAQ.
AdblockPlus says this fee is about helping it to maintain its filter list, which also whitelists some small websites and blogs for free, in addition to charging those larger companies like Google that participate. But it’s easy to see Google and others buying the right to put ads in front of web-browsing users, with Adblock Plus essentially acting as a gatekeeper meting out access to that sizeable chunk of consumers. Which gives Adblock a lot of power, and companies like Google that can pay a sizeable advantage over mid-sized competitors who can’t.
On Hacker News, this has spun into a discussion of the merits of online advertising in general, and it’s a very interesting read, even if you’re not that concerned about who can and can’t afford to buy a whitelist from Adblock Plus (which still also offers the ability to turn off even “non-intrusive advertising” entirely via the extension’s settings). Like it or not, display ads are still by and large the currency of the web, even for Adblock Plus, a company that’s built around reducing the user experience impact of ads online.