Adblock Plus wants to put more ads on your screen

They should probably change their name to “Ad Plus”.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Adblock Plus wants to put more ads on your screen

In the beginning there were websites.

And people went to the websites, and people thought “Hey, that’s lots of eyeballs… we should put some ads up there.”

And the advertisers went a bit over-the-top with the ads, they got more and more obtrusive and even started tracking users as they browsed the web.

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Some folks didn’t like this, and installed ad blockers – like Adblock Plus. But most people carried on regardless, mentally blocking the ads and trying to concentrate on the content that was what they really wanted to read rather than an ad that they didn’t.

Then the ever inventive bad guys started placing malicious ads and scam ads, and there was even more reason to install ad blockers. More people caught on to the benefit of ad blockers, and couldn’t believe how much faster and safer the web was without ads.

The websites (who were no longer getting as much ad revenue) and the advertisers (who were finding their ads weren’t getting as many eyeballs) were upset about this, and so they used various techniques to try to resolve the issue.

Some websites checked to see whether their visitors were running an ad blocker and either completely barred them from reading their content, asked them to buy a subscription, or simply snootily requested that they disable their ad blocker in future so they could earn a crust.

A slight variation on what Forbes actually says...

You could see the website’s point of view, but you could also understand that users simply didn’t like ads. In particular they didn’t like ads which invaded their privacy or infected their computers with malicious code.

As a result, lots more folks installed ad blockers like Adblock Plus.

Acceptable adsBut there’s a bunch of clever folks at Adblock Plus, and like anyone else with an entrepreneurial bent they’re looking for ways in which they can make some cash.

So they work with big advertisers to create an “Acceptable Ads” program, and change their product so that by default it displays these ads which have been approved by Adblock Plus.

No doubt lots of people don’t check their Adblock Plus settings, and never realised that they can disable “Acceptable Ads” if they go poking around.

Time moves on, and the war over ad blockers has continued apace.

The latest round?

Adblock Plus is going to start selling ads, as The Verge reports:

Adblock Plus is launching a new service that… uh, puts more ads on your screen.

Rather than stripping all ads from the internet forever, Adblock Plus is hoping to replace the bad ads — anything it deems too big, too ugly, or too intrusive — with good ads, ones that are smaller, subtler, and theoretically much less annoying.

It’ll begin doing that through an ad marketplace, which will allow blogs and other website operators to pick out so-called “acceptable” ads and place them on their pages. If a visitor using Adblock Plus comes to the page, they’ll be shown those “acceptable ads,” instead of whatever ads the site would normally run.

“It allows you to treat the two different ecosystems completely differently and monetize each one,” says Ben Williams, Adblock Plus’ operations and communications director. “And crucially, monetize the ad blockers on on their own terms.”

Adblock Plus even put together a video with one of those cutesy/irritating (delete as applicable) soundtracks to break the news:

What do you think? Good thing? Bad thing? Does it put too much power in Adblock Plus’s hands?

Some of the commenters on Adblock Plus’s blog don’t seem too impressed.

Chris: It’s like taking medicine for something, only to have that medicine not cure you of the advertised sickness.

Ebins: I have been using your software for a long time. Now thanks to this, I have uninstalled it forever and have installed another one. What you guys are doing is like selling condoms that guarantee “acceptable” pregnancies. No thanks.

I’ve been browsing the internet ever since the WWW came into being (and was doing ftp and others before). Prior WWW, I was active in the BBS scene. I remember all advertisement from pop ups to pop unders, to all the rest. Simply put, I-do-not-want.

You folks have lost me as a user forever. Good bye.

Bernice: I’ve been browsing the internet ever since the WWW came into being (and was doing ftp and others before). Prior WWW, I was active in the BBS scene. I remember all advertisement from pop ups to pop unders, to all the rest. Simply put, I-do-not-want.

You folks have lost me as a user forever. Good bye.

I’m not that fussed on a personal level, as I switched from Adblock Plus to uBlock Origin for my ad blocking needs long ago.

Maybe you should consider doing something similar.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

8 comments on “Adblock Plus wants to put more ads on your screen”

  1. coyote

    'with good ads, ones that are smaller, subtler, and theoretically much less annoying.'

    So smaller and subtler ads are 'good', are they? I suppose iframes are also good then, yes? Now it wasn't the culprits who said that specifically but it seems to be implied anyway.

    Yes it's a great idea – for those wanting money at the expense of others even though it is changing their business model and – ironically – advertised product. I guess the only thing which might let them off the hook is the fact it is free. But I'd like to believe they'd be above such betrayal. Unfortunately these things happen and the fact it is free makes it slightly less reasonable to complain (though I wouldn't excuse it). Hopefully this actually makes things worse for them.

    Thanks for the warning.

  2. Matthew Parkes

    The problem is the internet is soooo big now that no organisation or individual who has a website providing simply readable content for free can no longer afford to provide the content for free. So what do they do? Charge a subscription fee or get revenue by being paid by ad companies to display adverts on their pages?

    For some content I personally would prefer to pay a subscription, others I would prefer to see ads, the problem with ads is that, as detailed in the article, they are positioned in terrible places on the page and in many cases blocking the content you are trying to read and then now I find I get the same advert 2 or 3 times on the page. Is this a design fault of the web developer who places the affiliate code within the page or is it a case of when a web site owner signs up to display adverts they get no choice?

    And then when you get onto the subject of tracking your activity in order to target ads better then this will be a big problem for those with questionable viewing habits and as privacy seems to matter less and less to businesses and governments as time goes by in the name of terrorism or capitalism then no matter what tricks users try and use to hide what they are doing it won't matter. Just wait till billboards on the roadside display targeted ads as you drive by (with a wry smile on my face).

    What I definately object to is ads on sites that are generating income from customers such as retail sites, is the money they receive from purchases of products and services not enough?

  3. Nick

    Is there a plug-in available that blocks websites from detecting that you have an ad-blocker installed?

    1. Bob · in reply to Nick

      Yes, search 'anti ad-block'. There are quite a few out there but you need to configure them yourself.

  4. deuce

    Thanks for the article. I uninstalled AdBlock Plus some time ago and went with Origins plus Anti-reek. (Anti-reek is one way to get around websites that request you to turn off your ad blocker to use their website).

    I allow some websites to display ads but most sites are too obtrusive and annoying.

  5. Regina

    After reading your recent info I decided to remove Adblock which I had for almost two years and add "UBlock origin" which is available as a Google Chrome extension. After using it only one day I must say I am pleased, Adds that were seen when using Ad block are no longer there, I have more room especially when reading my emails, Again thank you Mr Cluley

  6. cranstn rainston

    they should rename this to AdAllow Plus. Good riddance – just uninstalled it forever. Thanks for the uBlock link. Going to install that now.

  7. Oblen

    Get the regular "Adblock," and please, by all means, turn the "Acceptable Ads" filter off. The regular Adblock has an acceptable ads program, but you can't buy your way on, and it has much stricter requirements. You can also pause adblock whenever you like, and whitelist pages you want to support.

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