Eyeo, the maker of the AdBlock Plus browser extension, is being roasted for accepting money to "whitelist" some ads, letting them pass through the software's filter mechanism -- but there's an easy way to tweak it to block all ads.
Eyeo is dealing with the aftermath of an article by the Financial Times, which reported this weekend that not only Google, but also Microsoft, Amazon and advertising network Taboola are among the companies paying to stop having their ads their ads blocked. In response, users have blasted the company and have vented frustration with the software on social media and elsewhere.
However, an Eyeo spokesman said Tuesday the company has been open about the fact that companies pay to be on the whitelist, and maintains that overall, the software helps make online ads less irritating.
The company says it's been talking about whitelisting what it calls "acceptable ads" since it began doing so at the end of 2011. That's when it started to put what it considers nonintrusive, static ads with no animation or sound on a "whitelist," allowing them to pass through AdBlock Plus' blocking feature. The company has acknowledged that it did this mainly to meet the wishes of Web masters who complained about revenue losses due to the use of AdBlock Plus.
But users who do not want to see any ads at all can turn off the whitelist feature and block all ads, any time they want. The company provides a list of instructions for different platform opt-outs. AdBlock Plus, which according to Eyeo has been downloaded over 250 million times and has over 50 million active users, also offers an option to whitelist sites its users want to support. Here's how users who have installed AdBlock Plus can turn off the whitelist feature and block all ads:
Blocking all ads
On Firefox: Click the AdBlock Plus icon and choose Filter Preferences from the menu. Uncheck "Allow non-intrusive advertising" and you are done.
On Chrome: Right-click the AdBlock Plus icon in the address bar on the right, then choose Options and uncheck "Allow non-intrusive advertising."
On Opera: Click the Opera menu button in the left corner at the top (on OS X: click Window at the top), choose Extensions, find AdBlock Plus there, click on Options and uncheck "Allow non-intrusive advertising."
On Internet Explorer: Click the AdBlock Plus icon in the status bar on the right, then choose Options and uncheck "Allow non-intrusive advertising."
On Safari: Click the AdBlock Plus icon in the address bar on the left, choose Options, and uncheck "Allow non-intrusive advertising"
On Android: Click the AdBlock Plus icon in the notification bar at the top, then uncheck "Acceptable Ads / Allow some non-intrusive advertising."
Eyeo apparently did not immediately plan to cooperate with advertising networks when it launched its nonintrusive ads program. In 2011, one of the company's co-founders was quoted saying that Eyeo had been wrongly accused of collaborating with Google, adding that Eyeo did not want to support large advertising networks.
Since then, things surely changed. While whitelisting is free for small websites and blogs, Eyeo is being paid by "some larger properties that serve non-intrusive advertisements" and want to participate in the acceptable ads program, according to its website. This helps pay the bills and wages for the company's 36 employees who keep the service up and running.
About 90 percent of the entities on the whitelist don't pay, and those who pay have to abide by the same rules as non-payers, Eyeo's spokesman said.
The company is secretive about who is paying to get their ads shown, though. A company spokesman declined to name any of the companies who pay, citing contractual reasons. Whether Google is paying or not, search ads on google.com and sites participating in Google's AdSense for Search program were whitelisted in June 2013.
Since then, there have been many rumors about how much Eyeo gets paid by companies like Google. Eyeo's spokesman declined to discuss this, but according to the Financial Times, companies pay 30 percent of additional ad revenue that they would make from being unblocked.
It is quite possible that ad blockers cause revenue loss. The German Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW), an organization that represents the interests of companies in the field of interactive marketing, estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent of ad traffic on German sites is being blocked by ad blockers.
That is the reason several German media companies, including Axel Springer and IP Deutschland, the company behind RTL, have sued Eyeo, demanding damages. They claim AdBlock Plus hurts their ad-based business model. Those suits are still ongoing and the media companies involved declined to comment.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org