Google paid AdBlock Plus to whitelist its ads

AdBlock Plus

Have you heard of AdBlock Plus?  It’s a free, open source browser extension for Firefox, Chrome and Opera that blocks banners and pop-ups.  So far it has over 200 million downloads and doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

By default it blocks all ads.

That means flashy video pop ups, pop unders and pop anythings are banished – leaving you just the site content.  It can dramatically improve your web browsing experience.

That’s all fine so far.  I mean, even Firefox and IE come with built in pop up blockers by default.  The controversy however surrounds the Acceptable Ads policy.

The Controversy

Since many websites rely on advertising revenue to stay in business, ahem! Google, Adblock Plus actually allows Google’s ads to display as long as they conform to Adblocks strict criteria.  The problem is that Google has actually paid AdBlock to pass its Ads through.  AdBlock Plus won’t block Google Ads but will block everyone else.

AdBlock Plus claims the fee helps to maintain its filter list but if you think about this it seems like Google has purchased rights to put its own ads right in front of users with AdBlock Plus policing access to the highest bidder.  This puts AdBlock in a position of power because Google has deep pockets and can afford to pay through block filters.

The question I have is:  Does Adblock ultimately care about the user as it claims?  On the one hand, I understand Google is trying to protect its means of generating income but on the other hand, Adblock is an open platform so it seems like this move is violating its own free licensing philosophies.

This is the thing, Adblock is a community plugin; therefore, instead of selling a list of acceptable ads to whoever is willing to pay the highest, why not have the community vote on it?

I also find it a bit hypocritical for Google to force its ads through the filter when its very own Chrome browser has a recommended feature to block pop-ups by default.  So let me get this straight, Google wants all the money but don’t care about other advertisers right?

Chrome Block Popups

On the flip side, you could argue that Google’s ads actually add value because most are relevant and most are done responsibly.  For example, you won’t find many Google Ads with silly sounds and animation consuming valuable space where content should be.  I get it that but something about this makes me feel a little sick inside.

A lot of people have already chimed in on a long thread on Hackernews about this topic.  What do you guys think?  Let me know in the comments!


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