There was a bit of a user uproar when it came to light that browser advertising blocking service Adblock Plus was actually providing some advertisers, like Google, the opportunity to show some ads despite installation of its software through a whitelist program. It seemed like a straight-up commercial play, with Adblock Plus acting as a gatekeeper for precious users and charging big ad companies like Google money to bypass its own restrictions.
Now, the company has revealed some of the info behind its program, shedding light on some statistics in an effort to get more transparent about what the whitelist is and how it works. In a blog post, Adbock Plus PR Manager Ben Williams notes that over 50 percent of whitelist applicants are rejected for not meeting the company’s criteria, and that over 90 percent of the 148 formal whitelist proposals (final stage before acceptance) they’ve received have been submitted without any cost, as in without a revenue upside to Adblock Plus.
Williams reminds readers that Adblock Plus began as a way to help advertisers and users, by providing guidelines on how to make ads less annoying and intrusive, and whitelisting ads that met those criteria as a way of developing best practices. But that’s not the news; the numbers behind the program are the news.
In total, Williams says Adblock Plus has fielded 777 applications for whitelisting since its incorporation in 2011. Only 9.5 percent of those applications ever result in whitelisted ads, but a huge chunk of those are eliminated right away as they’re fake or incorrect. Finally, even if the paperwork is done correctly, still more than 50 percent get rejected. But Adblock’s approval queue is a process, he says, and as such they work with advertisers to bring ads into compliance.
The blog post makes no specific mention of Google or other major advertisers, but it does claim that the vast majority of whitelisting happens without money changing hands, and claims that the money it does take in is necessary in order to maintain its constant monitoring and review process for whitelisted domains and their adherence to its good behavior policies.
In case you’re not aware, these are the principles in brief that Adblock Plus follows in determining whether an ad is whitelist-appropriate:
Acceptable Ads are not annoying.
Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort page content.
Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.
Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.
Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site or tweet that we are on.
There’s also an entire section on the site devoted to the subject of acceptable ads. Of course, this doesn’t answer all the questions users might have around commercial relationships between Adblock Plus and large organizations, but it does provide a lot more transparency about the business and how it’s run.