AdBlock Plus uses its free software to blackmail Google and other large advertising companies
According to the Financial Times, which first reported the deals, the company is asking large organizations for up to 30 percent of the ad revenues these companies stand to gain by having their advertisements restored in exchange for joining the whitelist.
Companies paid the fees because they were worried ad-blocking software might threaten their businesses. Advertising money is still important to the media, and both Google and Taboola rely on ad revenues to stay afloat, to varying degrees.
It's become a cliche to point out that anyone who doesn't pay for a product are the products themselves, generating revenue for companies by being forced to consume ads. But it feels especially true in this case, where a company is using consumers' desire not to see ads to extort other companies.
Put another way: AdBlock Plus was likely never built out of some sense of idealism. That's rarely true in the tech industry. Instead, it was probably built and offered for free because its creator planned to scare companies into paying to disable the tool.
Today, there are 300 companies on the tool's whitelist -- 10 percent of which pay to be there -- and there's nothing its users can do about it. Instead of getting the ad-free Web they wanted, they're being used to make another company some money.
I'd be upset if the plan wasn't so brazen and effective. Here's to you, AdBlock Plus, for showing once again that nothing good ever comes from using free tools offered by companies that have to make money one way or another. Congrats.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]