Skip to content
Google, Amazon, Microsoft pay to get ads past Adblock Plus
Naked Security Naked Security

Google, Amazon, Microsoft pay to get ads past Adblock Plus

Ad-buying big boys Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the content marketing platform Taboola have quietly ponied up the money to keep their ads from being blocked on Adblock Plus, the world's most popular software for blocking online advertising.

Image of Stop sign courtesy of ShutterstockAd-buying big boys Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the content marketing platform Taboola have quietly ponied up the money to keep their ads from being blocked on Adblock Plus, the world’s most popular software for blocking online advertising.

The deals were confirmed by the Financial Times.

Eyeo, the German company behind Adblock Plus, says its plugin has been downloaded more than 300 million times worldwide and has more than 50 million monthly active users.

It’s got a similar name to another popular advert blocker, “AdBlock”. Both plugins work by standing in as if they were firewalls between web browsers and known ad servers.

(AdBlock allows users to unblock advertisements, but claims it’s not paid by advertisers to do so.)

Both rely on databases of blocked ad servers, curated by a large and active open source community, automatically blocking ads of nearly all ad formats on all websites.

More and more people are turning to adblockers to keep distractions out of their browsing.

According to a report from PageFair – a service that measures how much ad blocking costs websites – and Adobe, by the second quarter of 2014, there were approximately 144 million monthly active adblocker users globally, 69% greater than for the previous year.

Not all ads are equally annoying: the study found that the majority of adblocker users are willing to view non-intrusive ad formats.

In fact, if ads could manage to keep themselves from cartwheels, barking or blocking the content users are trying to view, instead choosing to quietly and unobtrusively advertise with text or image ads, 67% of adblock users said they’d be OK with it, PageFair found.

From the report:

The majority of adblock users reject only distracting (animations, sounds) or intrusive (popover, interstitial, non-skippable video) ads. Adblock users can be respected by serving them non-intrusive ad formats.

Out of the box, Adblock Plus comes with an “Acceptable Ads” exception list.

After all, in the internet’s predominant market model of free content, websites have to make money somehow, Eyeo acknowledges:

We don't think that all ads are bad, and we are fully aware that website owners need them to survive.

Adblock Plus has criteria to identify unobtrusive and therefore acceptable ads that don’t need to be blocked. Advertisers willing to comply with the criteria can apply to have their ads added to the exception list, which will unblock them for most users.

Users who don’t want to see ads at all, even acceptable ones, can always opt out completely.

Adblock Plus would probably rather you didn’t, though. After all, keeping a service such as an adblocker up isn’t just a hobby; it’s a full-time job, and it needs to be funded somehow.

The way the plugin company makes money is by charging websites to get onto its Acceptable Ads list.

Eyeo reportedly charges such sites a fee that’s equivalent to 30% of the ad revenues that the business would make from getting off the blocked list.

But there are companies that are worried about adblocking’s potential to undercut their business model and aren’t too happy about being forced to pay to get around adblocking.

Some German companies are trying to get damages out of Eyeo, while two groups of French publishers are reportedly considering whether they’ll do the same.

As the Internet Policy Review reports, the main complaint of the Germany publishers isn’t adblocking.

After all, it’s tough to drag users into court over installing free software.

Rather, it’s Eyeo’s business model, based as it is on helping blocked companies “regain penetration” through redesigning their ads to meet the “acceptable” criteria.

While those cases wind through the courts, Adblock Plus users can expect to see more ads from Microsoft, Amazon and other companies, now that they’ve paid Eyeo to appear on its white list.

Google has actually been paying Adblock Plus to show its ads since 2013: a move that PageFair has estimated saved Google some $887 million in 2012 – money it would have lost from blocked ads.

This strikes me as a pretty good deal: Adblock Plus users can still opt out of seeing even the nonobtrusive ads on the service’s white list, and a useful service gets the funding it needs to keep blocking ads.

What do you think?

Image of stop sign courtesy of Shutterstock.


I’m not sure what all the furore has been regarding this in the last few days.

AdBlock Plus has been open for a year or two about its “acceptable ads” option, but always given a way for folks to _completely_ block ads if they want.

Is it just that some users haven’t been reading the options properly?


I just installed Adblock Plus for the first time on Firefox. I see no information presented to me that there are exceptions or how to opt out. I have to be a curious user and actually find the options in order to poke around. Granted, people *should* do that, but you know better than that.

There is a link on the download page that talks about how it is configurable, but people treat that like a EULA or TOS.

I clearly can’t speak for whether previous users were told about the change when updating the addon back when this was introduced.


Taking 2 minutes to run a web search and follow direction is not unreasonably difficult. I think users might have been notified of the change when it happened last year (or I just follow up on the software I have installed).

I’m ok with the unobtrusive ads feature. Every now and again I turn off Adblock Plus completely just to make sure the web is still unusable without it. Yep. Installing Adblock Plus on everyone’s browsers at work has been more effective malware protection than our security software, too. And we actually saw a productivity increase.

I think charging companies to allow ads is fair. It takes resources it maintain a black list of advertisers. But it takes even more resources to work with advertisers to conform to a behavior standard and enforce it. Advertisers may be miffed at this, but the alternative is blanket ad blocking with no exceptions. And if that were no longer an option, I think a lot of people would resort to blanket content blocking. If it moves, kill it. I’d go back to a text-based browsers to avoid Flask ads if I had to.


I recall an AdBlock Plus update that contained a notification of the addition of the Acceptable Ads initiative. IIRC, it also reassured users that this did not affect manual blocking of ads.

For people installing for the first time, they’d have to read the EULA linked to when they installed it to find out about the initiative.

Personally, I see this initiative as a good thing; it keeps out any dodgy web code while holding the participants to a code of conduct. If I don’t want their ads, I’m still free to block them (whether by manually blocking, or by subscribing to a blocklist other than the default one).


Blocking ads has become a security measure, not just a nuisance eliminator, until ad networks can stop the malware distribution on their networks they will not be allowed in my browser. I would like to do my share and contribute to their ad revenue, but until they can get their act together my ABP whitelist will remain disabled.


If you want an adblocker w/o “acceptable ads” enabled by default, try Adblock Edge. I don’t work for the company in any way. I just like software that does what it’s supposed to do.


I use “AdBlock” in google extensions for Chrome.
I completely agree with the idea that non-intrusive advertisements are acceptable in my books. I don’t need to figure out which of the 10 pictures that say “download” for a file are legit, I also don’t need to find whatever I’m looking for hidden under a dozen pop-up ad’s and video players to hear about what I can do to help with my erection. Side/top and bottom placed banner advertisements are completely acceptable to me. The rest, ain’t got time for that.


I find the ads exceedingly annoying. They clutter up the page so that you can barely find the page content. I never read them if they do appear and I don’t buy anything from looking at those ads because I won’t go to an unknown website. I agree with Dave B. And if I could find a way to block those pop overs I would. I’m in the middle of reading and often times can’t “x” out the ad that’s blocking what I’m reading. If I opt out of seeing ads it’s for a very good reason. I don’t watch the commercials on TV either. Yet, I still manage to learn about new products without the intrusiveness.


I have vision-impairment: Flashing, jumping movement has my slow focus trying to constantly change. I am left dazzled and unable to see. It causes motion-sickness. I do not surf the web because of this. It costs sellers any business I might bring.I know of a boy with cerebral palsy whose muscles go into painful cramps from the flashing ads.
The US funded research into creating a gun using this method to deter people trying to cross the Mexican/US border[ New Scientist] It was called a, “weapon.”


I think there’s a distinct difference between “Pay us and we’ll let you through” and “Meet our criteria and we’ll let you through, and you can pay us to get certified,” as long as the certification is real and enforced, and not a rubber stamp. But then we’ve seen the same issues play out with spam filtering over the years. (Does anyone remember Goodmail?)


The funniest thing about the die-hard adblock users – they hate ads but won’t pay a dime to use/read a website.

You do realize that many website rely on ad revenue in order to exist? The more people who block ads – the harder it is for them to present free information/services.

Chew on that while you brag about never seeing ads. The time is soon to come where many small website operators will simply give up.


Due to these companies inability or unwillingness to effectively filter malvertising from their networks…I always disable “acceptable” ads as well, and I will continue to do so. I also recommend this for all my customers.


i think, by now, anyone that has quit ABP has. I use adblock edge, which is a fork of ABP, just without the insulting whitelist, and it works like a charm


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!