Adblock Plus says it has passed 100 million users and presents this as a feat that has restored sanity and calm to the web. The head of an advertising trade group says it's "an extortion-based business and hurts publishers.”
Who's right? Maybe both.
Adblock head of operations Ben Williams argues that there is nothing cast in stone that says publishing needs to be supported by a torrent of ads.
"The pioneers of the world wide web envisioned it as a public service, and it existed as such for a couple of years," Williams says on the company's blog. "Then came the ads, and with them the false notion that journalism and other content on this very public medium must be reliant on ads."
Try telling that to Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg.
Noting that most publishers still earn the majority of their revenue from online ads, Rothenberg grumbled that AdBlock Plus is in the business of taking the revenue that these publishers should earn in order to “divert it into their own pockets.”
Some ads squeak through
He's talking about Adblocker's "whitelist" -- a program that lets some ads squeak through the company's ad roadblocks. These are supposedly ads that users don't find offensive. Translation: Adblocker gets a percentage of the payment that goes to the publisher. Hence Rothenberg's "extortion" comment.
Rothenberg is actually somewhat more conciliatory than he sounds. At a recent ad conference, he admitted that some ads are intrusive and others slow down page-loading and said his group is working with advertisers to correct that. He also said that, its 100-million-user claim notwithstanding, Adblocker and similar companies are not having a huge effect on websites, except those in the tech and gaming sector.
The 100 million figure, by the way, doesn't necessarily translate to 100 million people. Williams says his company's "stupid smart data scientists" count each download to a device as a user. Thus, a person who runs Adblock Plus on a laptop, smartphone and tablet would count as three users.