Damned either way

It’s been very interesting to watch the evolution of Add Block Plus (ABP) these last couple years.  ABP, written by Wladimir Palant, is by far the world’s most popular ad blocking software addon.  It boasts over 14 million users on Mozilla, and several million more on Chrome.

Ad blocking has long been criticized for hurting web sites that depend on ads to survive.  I don’t know how true this is…arguably the kind of people that install ad blockers are not the kind of people who click on ads.  On the other hand, some advertising, such as brand advertising, doesn’t rely on clicks to be effective.

Either way, Wladimir took this to heart.  Some time ago, he started a dialog among the ABP community to address this issue.  His idea is to not block all ads, but only those ads that disrupt the user browser experience, for instance because they flash or are too brightly colored, or because they slow down loading.  He argues that this compromise mostly preserves the benefits of ad blocking, while at the same time motivating web site publishers to be more responsible about advertising….something incidentally that benefits all users, not just ABP users.

The latest version of ABP has this feature.  What’s more, the feature is on by default (though easy to turn off).  Though many people support this change, it has also resulted in a storm of criticism, sadly some of it quite abusive.  Besides this, somebody forked off a version of ABP that differs only in that this feature is off by default.  At its worst, Wladimir is being accused of selling out to the advertising industry for money.  I hate to see this, and hope that Wladimir is able to see past this kind of nonsense.  I deeply respect not only that he has been able to build and support such a high-quality addon, but that he is trying to do the right thing in the face of this kind of criticism.




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