Ad-blocking software that serves ads is more or less the dictionary definition of the term 'irony'. But that is exactly what Adblock Plus plans to do with its new Acceptable Ads service.
Adblock's free web browser plugin stops annoying adverts from appearing on screen and prevents websites from tracking users. The software has proved hugely popular since its launch in 2006 and now boasts some 50 million users worldwide.
Adblock now wants to replace ads with those it deems "acceptable", rather than blocking all of them entirely. The Acceptable Ads platform will allow website owners to choose from a selection of whitelisted adverts and place them on their website, which will then appear to Adblock Plus users when they visit that site in place of whatever adverts would normally run.
Adblock Plus introduced its Acceptable Ads guidelines in 2011, and it allows certain ads to pass through its filter unchanged if they adhere to its rules. This is now being expanded so that publishers can select exactly which adverts appear on their websites, rather than having to rely on Adblock's pre-approved whitelist.
As a result, publishers and bloggers will still be able to gain ad revenue from adverts shown on their website, meanwhile marketers who serve "good" ads — that is, those not deemed too obnoxious or intrusive — can continue to advertise products and services.
Web users will also get a say in the type of adverts that appear in their browser. A feedback tool embedded in each advert will let people vote on whether they thought an advert was good or bad, which then gets factored into which adverts appear on the whitelist.
A non-intrusive ad experience
Adblock Plus will still block all non-compliant ads, and users can still turn off the Acceptable Ads feature completely if they choose.
Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus, explained: "The Acceptable Ads Platform helps publishers who want to show an alternative, non-intrusive ad experience to users with ad blockers by providing them with a tool that lets them implement Acceptable Ads themselves.
"There are two ecosystems of online consumers out there right now: the one composed of people who block intrusive ads and the other where people do not. The Acceptable Ads Platform lets publishers reach the former group without changing anything about how they're reaching the latter.
"We've been waiting years for the ad-tech industry to do something consumer-friendly like this, so finally we got tired of waiting and decided to just do it ourselves."