Google: we're not involved in Adblock Plus's ad network

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This thing that Adblock Plus is doing sounds like it should be very very illegal… Good thing there are alternatives to its software (like blocking tracking sites and advertising networks on a host-file level)

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Seems like this could have been done so much better and more openly, if less profitably for ABP (although, if everyone drops them, then they have no revenue).

  1. Create an ad blocker, let the public know that the blocker will let through “good” ads
  2. Create a white list of company+ad-format, where an ad-format is a template for a type of ad that they want to serve, where only the media involved is allowed the change, not the scripts
  3. Require each new ad-format to be registered in the whitelist
  4. Charge companies for the time involved to verify that the ad is “good.” This is a one-time fee, not a fee when ads are displayed
  5. Make whitelist public
  6. Advertising networks can now have the option to offer publishers just the ads that conform to the whitelist. All transactions are this point are just between the ad networks and the publishers
  7. Publishers get more revenue, because more eyes are seeing the ads

Playing Devil’s Advocate for a sec…

If you wanted to be a Free Market Maximalist about this, you can see that AdBlock Plus is providing a service that there is significant demand for. If you want to stop them, the idea would be to compete with them - offer your own AdBlock software with your own whitelist criteria, and do the same - maybe charge less or offer features advertisers are interested in.

In this hypothetical, you’d end up with a few different competing ad “kingdoms” and kind of a de facto standard for what kinds of ads are “acceptable” to users (since users would use the program that displayed the least intense ads, and wouldn’t have many options for getting rid of ALL ads - the adblocker company wouldn’t be making any money on that).

That doesn’t sound too bad from a user perspective.

I bet it gets thick into the weeds on the creator’s perspective quick, though. When ad companies can’t be assured that everyone visiting Site X gets served Ad Y (because if they’re using adblockers A, B, or Q, they won’t see it!), websites are forced to figure out which adblockers they want to serve through, which might get messy in a hurry. Though I imagine that’d also put pressure on the adblockers to whitelist more generally.

It’s fascinating learning about all of this.


But that’s not how the free market works. The free market says that the US Congress and other governing bodies are up for sale. Advertisers have far more to spend than Adblock, which is immediately criminalized.


As a creator you would lose a lot of control, though… Let’s say BoingBoing is serving ads through Adsense (not sure if they do, but let’s say they do). There they have some (limited) control over what ads are served. Let’s assume they set Adsense to block ads from the Obama birther movement. That would stop those ads from showing up on the site.

But now, in your situation, there are several different “ad blockers” that replace BoingBoing’s ads with their own. These ad blockers can’t see BoingBoing’s preferences on the Adsense network so they could show any ad they wanted. Ad blocker A might provide some tools to set preferences, but Ad blocker B won’t. What’s worse, Ad blocker C just injects ads without paying BoingBoing.

If I had a website that operated on ad income, I would seriously consider moving that away from any delivery network and bringing it in-house so these ad blockers can’t change them.

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