Adblock Plus is one of the most popular ad blockers on the market and up until a few months ago it was going from strength to strength, finding its way onto millions of PCs and mobile devices.
However, Adblock’s venture into mobile seems to have been a wrong move, as it started unravelling ever since the service hit Google’s Play Store. Google wasn’t willing to tolerate ad blockers on the Play Store and it quickly banished the app, but at about the same time even more sinister rumours started to emerge.
The vigilant corners of the internet were saying that there was more to Google’s decision than meets the eye. They were alleging that Adblock was in fact playing a very dangerous game, by blocking some ads and allowing others to get through.
Mobilegeeks’ Sascha Pallenberg has now alleged that Adblock isn't squeaky clean. Pallenberg points out that back in 2010, Adblock entered an odd strategic partnership with Cologne based Eyeo, which had 15 people on the payroll. In the end it turned out that the company’s only product was a free browser extension, which doesn’t sound like it can pay the rent and 15 salaries in Germany.
Pallenberg says that by late 2011 Adblock Plus was offering an option called “Acceptable Ads” which would basically include ads which were unobtrusive and acceptable, based on community ratings. Nothing wrong with that, but the acceptable ads list was not just that. The “acceptable” ads were supposed to be small, unobtrusive, non-blinking and not based on Flash.
Pallenberg alleges Adblock practically whitelisted all ads coming from “friendly” sites and subsidiaries, all with a bunch of fake reviews, shady business practices and some porn to spice things up a bit.
He points out that Adblock managing director Till Faida told a Swiss paper that the “strategic partners” could not be named, but that the partnership is basically part of the “Acceptable Ads” whitelist.
Faida told TechEye: "We have an initiative called Acceptable Ads to support websites with unobtrusive ads. Every website can participate. The [Pallenberg] article on purpose just slanders our good name".
The biggest problem for Adblock might not be its execs, but another bit of software dubbed YieldKit. It basically “manages” thousands of advertisers and allows them to get past ad blockers. Nothing odd, but it’s on the list of “Acceptable Ads” and it was created by people with ties to the Adblock team.
This wouldn’t be the first time Adblock was accused of shaking down websites through its “Acceptable Ads” programme. Digitaltrends ran a piece on the subject earlier this year.