Wladimir Palant, author of the ever-popular AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox, recently penned an interesting article on the AdBlock blog: An approach to fair ad blocking.
As I stated many times before, my goal with Adblock Plus isn’t to destroy the advertising industry. In the end, the Internet does need money to run and ads are still the most universal way to distribute that money. The only problem is that ads are becoming increasingly intrusive and annoying as webmasters try to maximize their profits which is the main reason people install Adblock Plus. So the idea is to give control back to the users by allowing them to block annoying ads. Since the non-intrusive ads would be blocked less often it would encourage webmasters to use such ads, balance restored.
Now it isn’t a secret that Adblock Plus hasn’t been performing particularly well towards that goal. While users can theoretically choose not to block ads on some sites, most users simply install Adblock Plus, choose a filter subscription (which will block all ads without exceptions) and forget about Adblock Plus.
I’ve long been one of the many who feel that ad blocking has gotten out of hand, but it certainly is interesting that the author of the extension has similar views. I think of AdBlock as a pop-up blocker; it’s for nuking the Flash ads that play sound or dance across your screen, not for removing all ads, and the publishers’ revenue with it. No, I don’t click ads, save for the occasional 125×125 banner on a tech site, if an interesting one happens to catch my eye.
Some sites get advertising right, shunning large, Flash-heavy ad networks for private sales or alternative networks like BuySellAds. These sites aren’t getting money per click, they’re being paid a a fee for an estimated amount of page displays over a set period of time. If you block ads, the number of impressions goes down, and it’s a lot harder to sell ads, and already low prices go down.
Wladimir is proposing a new feature in AdBlock Plus that may offer publishers and users alike a fair solution. A meta tag could be added that suggests that a site has unobtrusive ads. AdBlock would check the history when one of these sites is loaded, to see if you’re a frequent visitor to the site, and suggest that you whitelist the site.
It’s a little bit clunky, but it’s better than the situation the publishers are in now. Perhaps a better idea would be a central whitelist database that sites could apply to be in, and be reviewed by the community?
Wladimir later posted a summary of the feedback from the first post, and it seems that the meta tag is going to be built into the extension.