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Media Morph: AdBlock Plus

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NEW YORK ( -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: AdBlock Plus.

The gist: While ad blocking has been around for a while -- who doesn't have a pop-up blocker these days? -- a plug-in for the Firefox browser eliminates all online marketing messages, including display and search ads. Likened to TiVo, the fear is that it will
The AdBlock Plus Firefox extension allows users to block all online marketing messages.
The AdBlock Plus Firefox extension allows users to block all online marketing messages.
create for online advertising the kind of ad-avoidance issues for marketers face in other media.

Who's using it: Not many -- yet. Adblock Plus creator Wladimir Palant told The New York Times his plug-in has 2.5 million users globally and is growing at a rate of 300,000 to 400,000 users a month.

What the ad industry says: Although it doesn't have data from members that indicate ad blocking is significantly affecting interactive revenue, the IAB is clearly not jazzed about this software and its potential to undermine the funding of quality online content and services. "If people want to block ads, that should be their right," wrote IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg in an e-mail. "At the same time, media companies ought to be able to respond by restricting the availability of 'free' interactive content and services -- from 'free' e-mail to 'free' searches to the 'free' online newspaper -- to consumers who block ads." Later this year, he said, the IAB will embark on "a major education campaign on the value to the public of the ad-supported internet."

What people are saying: The Times' Bits blog says that while larger sites appear to be ignoring the software in hopes that it won't catch on, Daily Kos is urging ad-blocking visitors to purchase subscriptions. CNET's Chris Soghoian asks whether "website owners wish to get themselves into an arms race that they almost certainly cannot win." But perhaps marketers and publishers just need to get more creative. "Publishers who came from a world of traditional media were completely uninterested in imagining a new model," writes Naked Communications' Noah Brier.
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