AdBlock Plus launches service to sell ads

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One of the internet’s most popular ad-blocking services is launching an ad platform. It may sound odd, but it’s actually a logical next step in AdBlock Plus’ quest to give advertisers a chance to offer “acceptable ads.”

In other make-you-do-a-double-take news this week, AdBlock Plus has announced plans to help advertisers reach internet users that employ ad-blocking software.

AdBlock Plus has around 100 million registered users, making it one of the most popular browser extensions for ridding websites of pesky ads. When the service began in 2006, it simply blocked all ads. That quickly changed – and it’s about to change again.

The company behind AdBlock Plus, Eyeo, kicked off a marketplace on Monday for ads that it will permit to bypass its digital cordon. A pre-requisite for such ads is that they must not be annoying or intrusive, i.e. they should not play video automatically or be pop-ups.

Publishers can sign up for the marketplace and – voilá – users see more ads. This is a departure from AdBlock Plus’ previous arrangement, which put advertisers through a rather lengthy vetting process known as “whitelisting.” This determined whether the ads on their pages were sufficiently subtle and unimposing.

The new marketplace – officially called the Acceptable Ads Platform – includes loads of already vetted ads. All publishers need to do is sign up (for a fee, of course). And there’s the rub.

AdBlock Plus has been a source of controversy since its inception. The company maintains it is simply safeguarding users’ online experience, shielding them from ads that distract or chew up bandwidth.

Advertisers, on the other hand, criticize the service for denying them a crucial source of revenue. Some are also reluctant to pay for the privilege of unblocking ads on their own websites. Jacob Kastrenakes from The Verge summed it up nicely: “Adblock Plus continues to position itself as a gatekeeper charging a toll to get through a gate of its own making.”

The beta version of the ad marketplace launched on Monday. A full version is expected later this year.

cjc/uhe (dpa, AFP)

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