Adblock Plus is the most popular advertising blocker browser extension and has been downloaded more than 300 million times. The free service claims on its website that it blocks "annoying" banners, pop-ups and video ads. Eyeo, the German company that owns Adblock Plus, says the add-on has more than 50 million monthly active users.
Ad blocking is an existential threat to internet services who rely on advertising for the majority of their revenues. As The Financial Times points out, German media groups including RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 are currently seeking damages from Eyeo.
In order to block all ads, Adblock users must go into the software settings and configure them to the strictest options possible.
Eyeo's business model operates around its "whitelist" service, which allows some ads to appear to Adblock Plus users. That whitelist only consist of "acceptable ads" that meet criteria such as being transparent about the fact that they are advertising, and "do not disrupt or distort" page content.
The whitelist is free for smaller sites, but a media company source told the Financial Times found that bigger internet companies and publishers are being asked to pay a fee "equivalent to 30% of the additional revenues it would make from being unblocked." The "acceptable ads" program has been running since 2011, but this is the first time we have got an insight into how much companies are paying to be included in it.
The larger companies paying a fee to be whitelisted include Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Taboola (a company which offers "sponsored content" links on sites including Business Insider, The Atlantic, TMZ and MailOnline.)
Those deals could run the risk of irritating Adblock Plus users who may have been under the impression that the service blocked all online advertising, but will notice ads appearing across some of the world's most popular sites. Those users can, however, choose to opt out of Adblock Plus' acceptable ads program by unchecking an "Allow non-intrusive advertising" option on their browser extensions. They can also report ads they deem unacceptable.
Business Insider contacted Eyeo for comment about the Financial Times report.
Eyeo spokesman Ben Williams told us, "In general, I'm just a little surprised that our Acceptable Ads initiative is being treated as something new. To be as transparent as possible, we've been talking about it since it began in 2011. In addition, it's been widely reported; we wrote a manifesto about it and got others to join; we published blog posts explaining it in great detail; we've debated it; spoken about it on stages in Europe and America; and we put every applicant to the program completely out in the open on our forum."
He added: "It's also important to point out that we whitelist 90% of the entities in Acceptable Ads for free, that the same criteria are in place for payers and non-payers alike and that users can turn it off and block all ads any time they want. So in the absolutist world of ads-vs-adblockers, we're proud to offer a compromise that can encourage better ads and keep the free internet alive."
We asked Williams to clarify the amount companies like Google are paying to get their ads unblocked with Adblock Plus, but he responded: "We are not disclosing that information."
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.