Nov 29th, 2012

Yesterday we reported exciting news that AdBlock Plus is available for mobile devices running Android. Tablet, smartphone or anything in between, you can bust all those website ads that you don’t want to see. The great thing is that the app is fairly browser agnostic, so you won’t need separate plugins for each browser (a godsend considering not all browsers support plugins to begin with).

There are still some exceptions to take heed to, though, and we were curious to know why such limitations were placed on an otherwise straightforward experience. Speaking with AdBlock’s Till Faida, we learned that Android 3.0+ devices had to be rooted to use automatic blocking because of limitations in Android beyond their control.

If they had a choice in the matter they’d give everyone the easiest and quickest route possible toward an ad-free device, but some users will have to do some minor proxy work on their side if they find themselves on the less fortunate side of the street. More information about how to set AdBlock Plus up on your particular configuration can be had upon downloading the app.

Blocking ads is not about hurting the bottom line…

But the more interesting bits of this conversation came when we asked Faida what the company’s goals were. On the outside looking in there doesn’t appear to be many revenue generating opportunities for AdBlock Plus. For starters, it’s completely free and open-source, and they don’t ask their users to pay anything to use it. There’s no “premium” unlock, and not even as much as a donation link on its site: it’s just free.

So what do they want out of all this? Well, believe it or not, they just want to help people. First on their list are users — they want to help the everyday, average Joe block all the ads in existence if that’s what they truly want.

It’s even deeper than that, though. The AdBlock Plus team wants to help the web as a whole. They’re on the side of content publishers just as much as they are users. It may seem strange and counter-effective to take this stance with an app that could kill most sites’ source of income, but it really does make sense when it’s broken down.

Faida says they want content providers to be able to make money off of their work. Ads help provide services and content at no out-of-pocket cost to users. Us Android users know all too well how Google’s ad-driven business allows them to provide tons of great services for no initial cost to anyone who wants to use them. Still, much of the online advertising industry is broken and ad providers and publishers tend to go overboard.

…but rather helping users and publishers alike

Simply put, they want to kill obtrusive ads. Users can’t really “vote with their wallets” in a traditional sense for free services, so blocking ads on sites which abused advertisement is the only effective voice they have outside of those feedback forms tucked away inside obscure, hidden links (which many sites probably won’t pay attention to in the first place).

It’s one of the many reasons why AdBlock started “Acceptable Ads,” a program that allows them to outline which ads users are more likely to consider “acceptable.” A certain list of criteria is still being worked out, but so far it’s believed that static, text-only ads with sensible placement (ie, not breaking up the main text of an article or making users scroll unnecessarily to get to the page’s main content) fit the bill most accurately.

With this, they’ve started a partnership program with ad publishers who want to ensure their sites have “acceptable ads.” Sites that sign up will be reviewed by the AdBlock team, and if they maintain their status AdBlock will whitelist the site in a list they maintain. Users can enable this list if they want to applaud and encourage those who approach online advertising with sense, style and class. AdBlock monitors the sites in this list regularly, and should they find one of their partners violating the “acceptable ads” movement they will be removed with no hesitation — total win, I’d say.

This feature isn’t yet available on Android, but we’re told that it will be one of the main new features they’re looking to bring in future upgrades. A general user-maintained whitelist setting wouldn’t go unappreciated, either.

Are publishers hurt by blocked ads?

Interestingly enough, though, Faida believes content providers’ pockets aren’t hurt by those who wish to block their ads, stating “the real loss is happening because many websites are sticking to the old approach of annoying their visitors with intrusive ads instead of offering real value to them which would be a much more profitable approach in the long run.”

The idea is that a user doesn’t care to click on the ads anyway, so that revenue was never going to be generated in the first place. You could argue that other revenue models, such as CPM, will be affected, but considering how many variables there are to figuring these numbers out in the first place it’s difficult to know what might really be happening. Long-term frustration could set in, as well, as intrusive ads could drive a user away from your site for good.

Those are all very good points, but we must maintain a degree of objectivity here. After speaking with AdBlock’s co-founder, though, it’s clear to us that their motives and ambitions are as genuine as anyone’s, and we don’t mind supporting a better future for online advertising one bit. Try AdBlock Plus for Android in the Google Play Store.