AdBlock users got something they aren’t used to seeing this morning — a pop-up. While it wasn’t an ad, it was a harbinger of ads to come, bearing the news that AdBlock will now join fellow blocker AdBlock Plus’ Acceptable Ads program, which maintains a whitelist of ads that aren’t blocked by default. That probably won’t be a popular move with AdBlock’s 40 million+ users, but the fine print is even more concerning — owner Michael Gundlach has sold AdBlock to an anonymous buyer.
At the end of the pop-up, Gundlach writes, ‘due to this change, I’m happy for AdBlock to join [the Acceptable Ads program]. As a result, I am selling my company, and the buyer is turning on Acceptable Ads.’ That’s all the information given about the sale — no word of how much was paid for AdBlock or by whom.
The news comes a day after AdBlock Plus announced that the Acceptable Ads program their parent company, EyeO, is spearheading is forming an independent body to manage the whitelist. Before, the whitelist was made up of whichever websites ad blockers saw fit to take money from, with assurances that the blockers would hew to set philosophies governing what ads were deemed to be acceptable — e.g. no pop-ups, no flashing banners, no auto-play videos. It’s an approach that has been pilloried by the media for taking a part of their sites’ ad revenues (including this one’s) and not providing any real service in return, but has also been viewed with skepticism by ad blocker users who just want all ads blocked, all the time (although the whitelist can be disabled).
The move to an independent body for management of the whitelist is one meant to assuage the latter fears, meant to represent a commitment to those core values of acceptable ads over money. How genuine that gesture is depends a lot on the transparency of committee formation is — in the meantime, it’s not a good look that one of the program’s newest partners has a new owner that doesn’t want to be named.