It’s a sad day on the Internet, folks: Adblock Plus, one of the most popular ad-blocking tools around, is reportedly selling out. That’s per a Wall Street Journal story on how there’s “money to be made blocking ads” and “allowing ads to evade ad blockers.” According to the Journal, Eyeo GmbH, the company behind Adblock Plus, has started letting the ads of about 70 companies pass through its filter in exchange for money; that’s some 700 ads in total. What’s more, that number should only grow, as Eyeo “is now reaching out to developers of other ad-blocking tools to cut deals that allow certain ads to pass ads through their filters, too.”
Eyeo tells the Journal that for ads to go through they must comply with its “acceptable ads” policy, which means that they “aren’t too disruptive or intrusive to users.” Adblock Plus expands a little more on its website, noting that “a few very large entities who take part in the Acceptable Ads initiative compensate Eyeo for its service.” Eyeo declined to name specific paying companies on the whitelist, but the Journal reports that the list includes Google, Microsoft, and Taboola. Eyeo, moreover, does not seem to feel that anything about this is compromising its service, writing online that “there is no way to buy a spot on the Acceptable Ads exception list.”
Tragic as it is to learn about the Adblock Plus whitelist, perhaps it should have been obvious all along that something like this would happen. A free service in the business of interrupting other revenue streams was bound to eventually need revenue of its own, and likely beyond what Internet users were willing to donate. Estimates of the revenue at stake in the ad-blocking wars range from $1 billion to $20 billion, which might explain why they’ve seemed to get a tad more heated as of late. Apple’s new iOS 9 mobile operating system enables developers to build ad-blocking software for Safari for the first time. Advertisers, for their part, are contemplating how they can target the ad-blocking segment directly. In the meantime, mourn for Adblock Plus, which isn’t as pure as you thought, because at the end of the day it needs money too.