Most of us hate websites littered with ads, and while many companies do legitimately need to generate revenue through advertising their services, not only are ads typically eyesores that slow down page loading times, they are used by analytics companies to track us as we surf the web, and can even be used to trap the unwary into downloading viruses and other malware.
Unsurprisingly, browser extensions that block ads are very popular, and none more so than Adblock Plus (ABP), which is now used by more than 144 million people (.pdf). Equally unsurprising is that companies’ which rely on online advertising are alarmed by the extension’s popularity.
Since 2012 Adblock Plus has attempted to address this problem by ‘whitelisting’ ads that meet its ‘Acceptable Ads’ criteria. A full explanation of what constitutes an ‘acceptable ad’ is available here, but it basically boils down to that an ad should be transparent about being an ad, should be static and not obscure a site’s content, and that it should be appropriate to the site on which it is displayed.
Small companies that match the ‘acceptable ads’ criteria are whitelisted for free,
‘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.’
However, Adblock Plus’s parent company, Eyeo GmbH, does charges companies over a certain size a fee to be whitelisted (in addition to having to conform to the ‘acceptable ads’ criteria), and as revealed in Financial Times (paywall) on Sunday, this includes lucrative deals with companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and the much reviled ad-server Taboola, for which Eyeo charges up to an astonishing 30 percent of advertising revenue.
Now here at BestVPN we have been aware of this issue for some time, and have in the past suggested measures reader who are not happy with being served ‘Acceptable Ads’ can take to prevent seeing them (see below).
‘In general, it’s a little surprising that people are so surprised. To be as transparent as possible, we’ve done everything short of taking out a Super Bowl ad to inform people about our Acceptable Ads initiative… All in all, I’d just like to emphasize that in the absolutist world of adblocking-vs-online-ads, we’re proud to offer a compromise that can encourage better ads and leaves users in control over their online experience.’
How to opt out of Acceptable Ads
1) If you do not want to see any ads the simplest solution is to instead use the AdBlock Edge extension for Firefox. This is a fork of Adblock Plus (ABP is open source software) that does not include the sponsored whitelists.
2) Although enabled by default, the sponsored whitelists can be disabled within ABP. Instructions for each browser are available here.