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February 1, 2015 11:25 am

Google, Microsoft and Amazon pay to get around ad blocking tool

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    A bicyclist rides his bike past a Google Inc. sign in front of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. Google is celebrating its 15th anniversary as the company reaches $290 billion market value. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg©Bloomberg

    Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Taboola have quietly paid the German start-up behind Adblock Plus, the world’s most popular software for blocking online advertising, to stop blocking ads on their sites.

    The deals, which are confidential but whose existence has been confirmed by the Financial Times, demonstrate that some of the biggest participants in the $120bn online advertising market see the rise of ad-blocking as a material threat to their revenues.

    Adblock Plus has become one of the most popular free extensions on Chrome and Firefox browsers in recent years as internet users have attempted to eliminate the interruption of advertising. Eyeo, the German company that produces the software, says it has been downloaded more than 300m times worldwide and has more than 50m monthly active users.

    However many publishers that fund their operations through advertising worry that ad-blocking will undermine their business model. German media groups including RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 are seeking damages from Eyeo, while French publishers are reportedly considering whether to follow suit.

    Google and Amazon declined to comment.

    Microsoft, whose Bing search ads have been unblocked, said: “Microsoft will always give consumers choice when it comes to advertisements. We are committed to working with partners who share our vision for relevant, impactful brand interaction and respect the integrity of consumer choice.”

    Eyeo makes money by operating a “whitelist” of certain ads that are not blocked. It says sites can join this “acceptable ads” programme only if they meet criteria such as being “transparent with us about being an ad” and “do not disrupt or distort the page content we’re trying to read”.

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    While the whitelisting process is free for small websites and blogs, Eyeo charges a fee to large companies in order “to make the initiative sustainable”. Eyeo declined to say how much it charges.

    One digital media company, which asked not to be named, said Eyeo had asked for a fee equivalent to 30 per cent of the additional ad revenues that it would make from being unblocked.

    In judging which ads are “acceptable” and which are not, Eyeo must tread a fine line to avoid upsetting Adblock Plus users. Those who disagree with its decisions have the option of blocking all ads including those on the whitelist, or defecting to rival software such as Adblock Edge.

    After Eyeo proposed in an online forum in November that Taboola, an advertising network that sometimes serves racy content, should be whitelisted, one user wrote in response: “This is a joke right? Taboola should be scorched from the internet for all time.”

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    Despite the protest, Eyeo whitelisted Taboola. That decision is likely to be benefit websites such as MailOnline, Business Insider and NBC News, which use Taboola to serve ads in the form of “sponsored content” recommendations at the bottom of their news articles.

    Taboola declined to comment.

    Usage of ad-blocking software increased 70 per cent last year, according to data from PageFair and Adobe. They found that there are about 144m active adblock users around the world.

    PageFair found that the majority of adblock users expressed “some willingness to receive less intrusive ad formats”, but they “strongly rejected intrusive ad formats such as interstitials and popovers”.

    Only one in five respondents to the PageFair survey said they would be willing to pay a monthly subscription to their favourite website in exchange for an ad-free experience.

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      COMMENTS (26)
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      By submitting this comment I confirm that I have read and agreed to the FT Terms and Conditions. Please also see our commenting guidelines.

      I subscribe to FT. Why do I see ads on the side of this article ? Aren't you guys happy with the subscription fees ?

      @sra84 I just run adblocker with the "allow some ads" unchecked; nothing gets through. But regardless, for the cost of FT.com (and I'm happy to pay it), revenue generating ads seems.. tacky.

      @sra84 And I hate ads that pop up automatically when I scroll down the screen. It blocks the screen completely and I can not read the article. Pretty upset that I have to find the usually tiny little easy-to-miss "close" button of that ad.

      I will remember those ads and will try to avoid purchasing them. Hopefully some market research company will read this comment and consider changing their promotion method.

      I dont get it, why cant people just ignore the ads when they are on a page? That's what I do!

      @Master Deen I agree.  I just don't see the ads any more than I hear the kids arguing when they're playing in the back yard.

      I'm used to them and (generally) not interested.  If I see a discount or sale then I might click because it's helpful to me just like I'll hear the kids if they start shouting about a redback or a snake.

      Many people like Adblock Plus but if they've actually yielded their soul and are now essentially rebranded as "Adblock Plus Lots of Ads" it'll be kind of sad and possibly time to move on.  Time will tell how infested it gets.  It must have been a LOT of money. 

      And I must say that the Microsoft flack's quote struck me as rather amusing.  Using a corporate PR stooge-to-English dictionary, do they not seem to be saying "we will give customers choices regarding adverts except for the minor choice of electing not to be carpet-bombed with adverts?" 

      Whatever it means, based on that quote, I just deleted Bing from my search engine group.



      For this FT page my NoScript menu looks like:
      http://www.jdawiseman.com/2015/20150202_FT_scripts.png 

      A few of these sixteen have been allowed, most are stopped. FT: this is your reputation, not mine. 

      (And while at it: your app wants access to my contacts. Why? Change that too.)

      One can use uBlock (already available for Firefox), which is believed to be more RAM-friendly than Adblocks.

      @I am free Capt. Peacock

      If Adblock Edge and AdRemover follow the path of Adblock plus, I will renew my subscription for AdMuncher, which was my go-to software for blocking ads. Besides, AdMuncher is now free.

      I switched to Adblock Edge (Firefox) and AdRemover (Chrome) a year ago. In my opinion, these two are the best.

      @berl•n 

      What if even they cut a deal with the Ad guys like Adblock Plus?

      I find the FT intolerable without Adblock.  (In fact, I refused to use Internet Explorer until recently inter alia because there was no Adblock.)  Mind, Adblock collecting money to undermine its efficacy is an ethically questionable racket.  Not unprecedented, though.  We all remember how Google started out as "do no harm", only for suddenly toll-payers to be pushed up the order of search results.  Adblock serves Google right, in other words.

      *Shrug*  My guess is, if Adblock Plus and/or Adblock and/or any other ad-blocking extension permits 'premium paid' advertisers to get around the block, then hey surprise, other ad-blocking extensions will be willing to step into their shoes....there are and always will be leaner less-memory-hungry alternatives to take the place of A-Plus.  Welcome to the Interwebs.  

      I feel skeptical regarding why Google is allowing the usage of ad blocker because main source of income for Google is the online ads and if they are getting blocked then what about the business model of Google.

      Just use Adblock, which is different to Adblock Plus.

      Adblock is available only on Chrome browser but is much more effective. And as said below, is run by a one developer and does not have "exclusion lists"

      I guess, if the media were more forthcoming with their actions then trust could be built up. According to Ghostery (the essential companion to ABP) my visiting this page is logged by and communicated to no less than twenty four (24) separate marketing, logging, analytics and advertising firms. 

      Can the FT give an up to date list of those partners and what values their individual privacy policies keep to? My guess is no. So if it's impractical for an entity like the FT, why should we be taking such risks. Best to block everything short of livefyre that maintains this commenting system. 

      Taboola is consistently one of the worst things on the Internet, there must be plenty of programs out there which block it and I will find them to replace Adblock.

      @ChicagoLocal All sponsored content, whether taboola, outbrain or nRelate are the scourge of the Internet. Click bait at its worst with absolutely 0 intelligence in picking stories. It's all about meaningless lists and junky content for the idle. 

      ABP are doing well and at the end of the day their code is open, the lists are compiled by volunteers and if they start annoying people too much, a fork (code clone) or other alternative will be a few clicks away. 

      Talking of click bait the FT is also a little guilty as ABP has been optionally allowing non-intrusive adverts for years and users ALWAYS have the option to block the lot, irrespective of any deals with any party. 

      The original Adblock is still the best (i.e. not Adblock Plus/Edge)

      @laga 

      I just thought both were same..! and even donated to Adblock Plus after a week of using it and found effective. 

      It feels like making donation to a Children's Charity then later realizing that the Charity was in fact engaged in child labour.

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