AdBlock Plus could change web advertising landscape

NoadsEveryone hates pop-ups. Its gotten to the point where browsers now come with built-in pop-up blockers to combat those annoying ads that interrupt your web experience. Pop-ups, however, account for only a portion of the billions of ads sprawled across web pages all over cyberspace. From a business standpoint its these online ads that allow otherwise free content to be monetized, essentially fueling the internet. But what if there was a way to get rid of those, too? What if there was a way you could potentially never see another ad on a web page ever again?

The New York Times published an article this morning, written by Noam Cohen, profiling a free open-source plugin for Mozilla’s Firefox web browser that allows users to seamlessly erase advertisements from any page on the internet. Cohen writes:

Adblock Plus — while still a niche product for a niche browser — is potentially a huge development in the online world, and not because it simplifies Web sites cluttered with advertisements. The larger importance of Adblock is its potential for extreme menace to the online-advertising business model. After an installation that takes but a minute or two, Adblock usually makes all commercial communication disappear. No flashing whack-a-mole banners. No Google ads based on the search terms you have entered.

A quick look reveals that the Firefox web browser is used by 34% of internet users. With Firefox being used by one-third of the internet population, it has moved beyond just being a “niche browser” to becoming a major player in the browsing world. The reason for Firefox’s popularity has a lot to do with its open programming structure that allows for really cool plugins such as this one. If AdBlock Plus were to go viral, marketing companies would be forced to completely re-think the web advertising model.

GoogleuseSo far, this hasn’t happened; Wladimir Palant, the programmer responsible for the plugin, estimates there are about 2.5 million users of AdBlock, with 300,000 to 400,000 new users each month. No doubt that the buzz generated by the NY Times article and all the blogs responding to it, such as this one, will cause Palant to see a notable spike in those numbers. This could lead to a snowball effect that the large online advertisers couldn’t ignore, but for now, the biggest player has remained silent: Google refused to respond to Cohen’s request for comment. Palant says that AdBlock isn’t popular enough yet, and that attacking it would be a waste of time for a company like Google.
Not only would it be a waste, but it would draw tons of attention to a plugin that Google surely prefers no one ever hears about. Author Nicholas Carr comments on the delicacy of Google’s situation on his blog:

The company is in a particularly dicey position. The broad adoption of ad-blocking software could devastate its business, yet an outright attempt to block the use of such programs would run counter to its often-expressed commitment to give users what they want. If web users decide they don’t want to see ads, Google would face an extremely unpleasant dilemma. Either its business or its credibility would end up in tatters.

While Google remained silent, Microsoft, which is still the leading giant in the browser world with Internet Explorer, was not so shy. From the NY Times article:

In a statement, Microsoft spoke of its success in permitting third-party developers to “add value to the browser experience through the creation of add-ons.�? The statement continues: “The range of add-ons available does include ad blocking software. It would not be appropriate for Microsoft to comment on the merits or demerits of a specific add-on, or group of add-ons. Provided they have not been designed with malicious intent and do not compromise a user’s privacy or security, Microsoft is pleased to see new add-ons that add to the range of options that users have for customizing their browsing experience.�?

If you had to rub your eyes and re-read that a few times, we don’t blame you. Microsoft… standing up for the user? Not quite. As Carr notes, “Microsoft knows that ad blockers pose a far greater threat to Google than to itself.” What better way to take down the Google behemoth than to erase its very foundation: ad revenue. A commenter on Carr’s post by the name of Leigh Hunt goes one step further, referring to an article he wrote that suggests if Microsoft continues to lose to Google in the market share battle, they “should simply add an ad blocker to Internet Explorer and enable it by default.”

While we don’t see this type of drastic action being taken by Microsoft anytime soon, one thing is certain: if AdBlock reaches the tipping point and goes viral, it will be very interesting to watch what happens.

Comparison screenshots of TechCrunch’s front page with and without using AdBlocker. Click to enlarge.

Without AdBlocker: (note the ironic Google banner)

With AdBlocker turned on:

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One Response to “AdBlock Plus could change web advertising landscape”

  1. By charlie on Jun 16, 2021 | Reply

    Gorilla marketing in today’s economy is everything, marketing to get through the recession!
    If your interested in web optimization for your site, there is a free site for uploading video ads for your business, they also have image uploads if you are not yet up to videos. The more sites you can link to the greater your market will be. They have a free link exchange as well.


    Web optimization is a must,

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