Adblock Plus to Websites: ‘We’ve Got Your Back’

Adblock Plus, which has been in the forefront of online ad blocking, this week announced the beta of Flattr Plus, a joint project with micropayment site Flattr, which promises no less than to revolutionize Web monetization.

Users decide how much money they want to have distributed among their favorite sites, and the Flattr Plus algorithm automatically divvies up the proceeds among the sites they engage with the most.

The beta will launch at the end of the month.

Websites and publishers wishing to participate are required only to sign up — they won’t get tags or logos placed on their site.

The full version of Flattr Plus will be launched at the end of the year.

Fine Points

Adblock Plus and Flattr together will get 10 percent of what’s donated, said Adblock Plus spokesperson Ben Williams.

Consumers have to provide a method of payment — their credit card number or bank account number, for instance — and specifiy how much they are willing to contribute to their favorite sites, he told the E-Commerce Times. They can choose whether to make a one-off donation or regular payments.

Details involving cancellation and renewal procedures will be ironed out in the beta with user feedback, Williams said.

“Currently, Flattr just lets you set an amount, and you decide how much your monthly budget is,” he explained. “If someone budgets too much, we’d certainly let them pull out — but again, this is a question for the beta.”

Opposition to Ad Blockers

“It’s unfortunate to see yet another attempt to paint ad blocking as anything other than a dangerous technology that erodes the foundations of the free Internet,” commented Dave Grimaldi, EVP of public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“No matter what new angles ad blockers employ to appear more conciliatory to content creators, preventing advertising on websites means less funding to keep them alive,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

It’s worth noting that Flattr’s founder, Peter Sunde, “is no friend of copyrights,” Grimaldi said, adding that he has no respect for content, “and was convicted and sentenced to prison on serious infringement charges.”

Sunde was a spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, which he cofounded — a BitTorrent site that facilitates the sharing of files, especially movies. A Swedish court convicted the founders in 2009 of assisting in copyright infringement.

Publishers’ Battles

The conflict between online publishers and ad blockers has escalated of late.

Wired earlier this year began preventing people using ad blockers from accessing articles on its site, offering them alternatives to ad blocking if they wanted to view the content.

Forbes and The New York Times have been testing various approaches to fight back against ad blocking.

The IAB in March released an ad-blocking primer outlining tactics publishers are using successfully to persuade users to stop deploying ad blockers.

Tactics include paying ad-blocking companies to whitelist a site, revenue-sharing with readers, and reinserting ads into their websites even when users run ad blockers.

Ads help fund journalism, the publishing industry argues.

Meanwhile, ThinkPrivacy CEO Alexander Hanff has launched a website for people to report sites detecting or circumventing ad blockers, and he plans to file complaints with national regulators across the EU against publishers that block ad blockers.

Can Flattr Plus Succeed?

“Don’t believe all the hype around ad blocking,” advised Adblock Plus’ Williams. “We’ve been sued five times in the United States and have won every case.”

Adblock Plus “has tens of millions of users who have voted with their devices against the status quo with ads,” he continued. “Besides, all the publicity might actually help the product succeed.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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