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Adblock Plus (ABP) is an open-source[9][10] content-filtering and ad blocking extension developed by Eyeo GmbH (Wladimir Palant), a German software development company. The extension has been released for Mozilla Firefox (including Firefox for mobile[11]), Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge (beta version), Opera, Safari, Yandex Browser, and Android.

Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus 2014 Logo.svg
Preferences dialog box of Adblock Plus showing a group of filters
Preferences dialog box of Adblock Plus showing a group of filters
Developer(s)Eyeo GmbH[1][2][3]
Current lead developer:
Wladimir Palant
Former lead developers:

Henrik Aasted Sørensen,
Michael McDonald
Initial releaseOctober 23, 2005; 13 years ago (2005-10-23)[4]
Stable release(s) [±]
Firefox2.9 / May 25, 2017; 18 months ago (2017-05-25)[5]
Chrome, Opera, Safari1.13.2 / March 21, 2017; 20 months ago (2017-03-21)[6]
Internet Explorer1.6 / January 3, 2017; 22 months ago (2017-01-03)[7]
Android1.3 / March 3, 2015; 3 years ago (2015-03-03)[8]
Preview release(s) [±]
Written inJavaScript, XUL, CSS
TypeMozilla extension
mobile app
LicenseGPLv3
Websiteadblockplus.org

In 2011, AdBlock Plus and Eyeo attracted considerable controversy from its users when it introduced an "Acceptable Ads"[12] program to "allow certain non-intrusive ads" (such as Google AdWords) to be allowed (whitelisted) under the extension's default settings. While participation in the whitelisting process is free for small websites, large advertising companies are required to pay a fee (reportedly "equivalent to 30 percent of the additional ad revenues that it would make from being unblocked") in order for their ads to be whitelisted.[13][14] Whitelisting of ads enabled through this program was enabled by default for AdBlock Plus users.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

The original version of Adblock (0.1) was written as a side project for Firefox by Danish software developer Henrik Aasted Sorensen, a university student at the time, in 2002.[15][16] It hid image ads through user-defined filters from the page but did not actually prevent them from being downloaded.[16] Sorensen maintained the open source project till Adblock 0.3 after which the project changed hands. This was also the last stable release of Adblock.[17][15]

Starting with Adblock 0.4, in early 2003, the development of Adblock was taken over by rue. This version used XBL to hide the ads and with this objects like Flash or Java could also be blocked. But as with the original version the ads were still downloaded. This was a developer build and not a stable release as were subsequent further versions (either released as nightly or development builds) making Adblock 0.3 the last stable release.[15]

Adblock 0.5, 2004, used content policies for ad blocking which prevented the ads from being downloaded instead of simply hiding them. Background images, scripts and stylesheets could be blocked through this approach as well. XBL support was dropped in this version in favor of content policies. These updates were implemented by rue with the help of Wladimir Palant who contributed other developments as well.[15]

Sometime after Adblock 0.5's release the development of the project stalled. Development stagnated beginning in 2004 and entirely stopped in early 2005. That's when Michael McDonald created a separate enhanced version of Adblock called Adblock Plus 0.5 to improve upon the original and add additional features. No update for the original Adblock was issued even after Firefox 1.5's release in November 2005. An official update supporting 1.5 was released more than a month later. In the meantime McDonald had released a compatible Adblock Plus version for Firefox 1.5.[15]

Wladimir Palant wanted to help rue with the development of Adblock 0.5 but did not continue due to development disagreements. He eventually took over development of Adblock Plus from McDonald and rewrote the codebase, releasing Adblock Plus 0.6 in January 2006, thus making Adblock Plus a separate extension and not simply an enhanced version of Adblock.

Development of the original Adblock stopped with version 0.5 and the project was abandoned in late 2006.[15][18]

History and statisticsEdit

Michael McDonald created Adblock Plus 0.5, which improved on the original Adblock by incorporating the following features:

  • whitelisting
  • support for blocking background images
  • subscription to filters with a fixed address and automatic updates
  • the ability to hide HTML elements, allowing a greater range of images to be blocked
  • the ability to hide ads on a per-site basis, instead of globally
  • memory leak fixes
  • improvements to the user interface

McDonald discontinued development and transferred the name to Wladimir Palant, who released Adblock Plus 0.6 with a rewritten codebase in January 2006.[19] PC World chose Adblock Plus as one of the 100 best products of 2007, featuring in at 95.[20]

Adblock Plus for Google Chrome has been available since December 2010 and has over 10 million users.[21] It has also become the most popular extension for Firefox, with around 14 million users as of December 2017.[22]

Adblock Plus was released as an app for Android devices in November 2012. On March 3, 2013, the Android app was removed from the Google Play Store along with similar ad-blocking apps.[23] Some apps remain in the Play Store with the caveat that they require root access in order to function.[citation needed] Adblock Plus, while not in the Play Store, is still available on the app's website. Users can download the .apk file directly and install it as a third-party app if they allow "Unknown Sources" in Android settings. The application page as of December 2017 features the Adblock Browser for Android instead of the original app.[24]

Adblock Plus has been available for Internet Explorer since August 2013,[25] Safari since January 2014,[26] and Yandex Browser since December 2014.[27]

An Adblock Plus browser beta version was made available in May 2015, called the "Adblock Browser".[28] Adblock Browser 1.0 was released on September 7, 2015, based on Firefox for mobile.[29]

Adblock Plus has created an independent board to review what is an acceptable ad and what is not.[30][31]

OperationEdit

Like Mozilla's built-in image blocker, Adblock Plus blocks HTTP and HTTPS requests according to their source address and additional context information and can block iframes, scripts, and Flash. It also uses automatically generated user stylesheets to hide elements such as text ads on a page as they load instead of blocking them, known as element hiding.[32]

AndroidEdit

On rooted devices, the Android app blocks ads on all web traffic including mobile networks. For non-rooted devices, ads are only blocked through a Wi-Fi connection and requires the user to set up a local proxy server for each network in order for the app to function.[33] The app uses a local proxy server to intercept web traffic and remove ads before showing content to the user. Most of the content that users are trying to block will be removed, though some content is missed and the app is not as reliable at blocking ads as the browser versions. The app can be configured to auto-start every time the device reboots, minimizing the action required by the user.

FiltersEdit

Basic filter rules can include wildcards represented by asterisks (*). Sites and objects can be whitelisted with filters that start with two at signs (@@). Regular expressions delimited by slashes (/) can be used. Adblock Plus also supports a more-sophisticated syntax that gives fine-grain control over filters.[34] An example of the sophisticated filtering would be wikipedia.org##div#centralNotice, which will hide the centralNotice element used by Wikipedia to display donation requests.

Filter subscriptionsEdit

Users can add external filtersets. Adblock Plus includes the ability to use one or more external filter subscriptions that are automatically updated. Filterset.G is incompatible with this system (and Adblock Plus specifically recommends against using Filterset.G for other reasons as well), but other filtersets can be added by typing their addresses. A list of known Adblock Plus subscriptions is maintained on the Adblock Plus official website.[35]

EasyList[36] was the most popular Adblock Plus filter list as of August 2011, with over 12 million subscribers.[37] Created by Rick Petnel,[38] it became officially recommended by the Adblock Plus program, and filter lists for other languages were built on top of it. Petnel died in 2009[39][40] following which Palant placed a user named "Ares2" as the new maintainer.[41] The filter lists EasyList and EasyPrivacy are both subscribed by default in uBlock Origin but not in Adblock Plus itself. Both of these filter lists will also be used by Google Chrome starting February 15, 2018, on sites not complying with the Better Ads Standards.[42]

In May 2013, the former second most popular Adblock Plus filter list, Fanboy's List, was merged with EasyList.[43]

Controversy over ad filtering and ad whitelistingEdit

The owners of some websites which use third-party hosted online advertising to fund the hosting of their websites have argued that the use of ad-blocking software such as Adblock Plus risks cutting off their revenue stream.[44][45] While some websites such as The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph have successfully implemented subscription and membership-based paywall systems for revenue,[46] many websites today rely on third-party hosted online advertising to function. In 2007, web developer Danny Carlton described the use of ad blockers as tantamount to theft,[47] and called for other site owners to block the Firefox web browser from their websites to deter its use.[48]

On December 5, 2011, Wladimir Palant announced that certain "acceptable" ads would be whitelisted in upcoming builds of the Adblock Plus software, with the option to remove whitelisted ads by using a custom setting in the software. According to Palant, only static advertisements with a maximum of one script will be permitted as "acceptable", with a preference towards text-only content. The announcement created some controversy both at Adblock Plus's website and at social media sites like Reddit.[49][not in citation given]

In 2012, Adblock Plus's managing director Till Faida told the Swiss newspaper Thurgauer Zeitung that the "strategic partners" on Adblock Plus's whitelist would not be named, but that the partnership is part of the company's "Acceptable Ads" whitelist project.[50] In February 2013, an anonymous source accused Adblock Plus developer Wladimir Palant of offering to add his site's advertisements to the whitelist in return for one-third of the advertisement revenue.[51] In June 2013, blogger Sascha Pallenberg accused the developers of Adblock Plus of maintaining business connections to "strategic partners in the advertising industry", and called ABP a "mafia-like advertising network".[52] He alleged that Adblock Plus whitelisted all ads coming from "friendly" sites and subsidiaries, and promoted their product using fake reviews and pornography.[53] Faida responded to Pallenberg's accusations, stating that "a large part of the information concerning the collaboration with our partners is correct", but that the company did not see these industry connections as a conflict of interest. He said that the company is convinced that the "acceptable ads" business model will be successful and says that the whitelisting criteria are "completely transparent".[52] He also stated that "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".[53]

Attacks were made in 2016 against ad-blocking with paid whitelists—though Adblock Plus was not mentioned by name—by content providers who provide content free of charge to users, deriving revenue from advertisements, and by industry and government sources who criticise the "unsavoury" business model, which has been described as a "modern-day protection racket".[54]

In May 2016, Adblock Plus parent company Eyeo began a collaboration with the online donation service Flattr to create a service that would allow users to automatically donate money to online publishers based on their engagement. The service was conceived as a way for users to automatically support online publishers as an alternative to advertising; Eyeo would acquire Flattr outright the following year, seeking to expand upon this model as Flattr's main service.[55][56] In September 2016, Eyeo announced that it would launch a "marketplace" for ads that meet its acceptability criteria.[57]

Legal challengesEdit

In December 2014, it was reported that Zeit Online and Handelsblatt had brought suit against Eyeo GmbH in the Landgericht Hamburg [de].[58][59][60] In April 2015 the court rejected the suit.[61][62][63]Axel Springer SE has filed a court order for the removal of the Adblock Plus post[64] though there is a redacted version[65] and people have posted videos and posts on how to get around the Axel Springer wall.[66][better source needed] However, in April 2018, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court found in favor of Eyeo and ruled that Adblock Plus did not violate any laws.[67]

In August 2017, the Admiral advertising company sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to EasyList to remove the domain functionalclam.com from the blacklist. Admiral argues that the domain is part of its access control technology of its advertising platform, and therefore the blacklisting is an attempt to circumvent a technical protection measure, which is forbidden under the DMCA section 1201.[68]

DetectionEdit

Some webmasters have used JavaScript to detect the effects of the popular Adblock Plus filters.[69][70] This is done by generating a honeypot-like URL, verifying its delivery, and DOM verification after the web page is rendered by the web browser, to ensure the expected advertising elements are present. Detection is simplified since the extension is not yet capable of replacing content; Loopback proxies provide this additional functionality.

These methods do not detect the presence of the Adblock Plus extension directly, only the effects of the filters. They are vulnerable to continued filter updates, and whitelist-filtering web scripts with extensions such as NoScript.

An attempt was made to detect the plug-in itself, but that detection method was rendered unusable by the 0.7.5.2 update of Adblock Plus.[71]

Google Chrome had a defect in Content Security Policy that allowed the detection of any installed extension, including Adblock Plus for Google Chrome.[72] The solution of this was possible only in Google Chrome 18, and requires each developer to make some changes in their extensions.[73] Adblock Plus for Google Chrome fixed this in version 1.3.[74]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Palant, Wladimir. "Introducing Eyeo GmbH, the company behind Adblock Plus". Adblockplus.org.
  2. ^ Hern, Alex. "Adblock Plus: the tiny plugin threatening the internet's business model". Theguardian.com.
  3. ^ Sartoros, Alkimos; Dernbach, Christoph. "Adblock Plus: Erpresser-Vorwürfe gegen umstrittenen Werbeblocker (German)". Spiegel.de.
  4. ^ Palant, Wladimir (September 10, 2006). "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: Adblock - the evolution". adblockplus.org. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  5. ^ Wladimir Palant (May 25, 2017). "Adblock Plus 2.9 for Firefox released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Jon Sonesen (March 21, 2017). "Adblock Plus 1.13.2 for Chrome, Opera and Safari released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  7. ^ Oleksandr Paraska (January 3, 2017). "Adblock Plus 1.6 for IE released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  8. ^ René Jeschke (March 3, 2015). "Adblock Plus 1.3 for Android released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  9. ^ Adblock Plus. "Adblock Plus : About". Adblock Plus. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  10. ^ Adblock Plus. "Adblock Plus : Source Code". Adblock Plus. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  11. ^ Mozilla. "Adblock Plus :: Add-ons for Mozilla". Mozilla. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  12. ^ "Reach new audiences with Acceptable Ads". acceptableads.com. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  13. ^ "Subscribe to read".
  14. ^ Jones, Rhett (September 15, 2017). "Chrome Will Soon Block Autoplay Videos With Sound—Here's Why You Should Be Worried". Gizmodo. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Palant, Wladimir. "Adblock Plus: A not so short history of Adblock". adblockplus.org. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  16. ^ a b O'Reilly, Lara (July 14, 2015). "The inventor of Adblock tells us he wrote the code as a 'procrastination project' at university — and he's never made money from it". Business Insider. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  17. ^ Palant, Wladimir (September 10, 2006). "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: Adblock - the evolution". adblockplus.org.
  18. ^ "mozdev.org - adblock: index". adblock.mozdev.org. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  19. ^ "About Adblock Plus". Adblockplus.org. Archived from the original on July 8, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  20. ^ Dahl, Eric, ed. (May 21, 2007). "PC World - The 100 Best Products of 2007". PC World. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
  21. ^ adblockplus.org. "Adblock Plus - Chrome Web Store". chrome.google.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
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  23. ^ "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: Adblock Plus for Android removed from Google Play store". adblockplus.org. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
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  25. ^ "Adblock Plus 1.0 for Internet Explorer released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  26. ^ "Adblock Plus for Safari Beta released". Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  27. ^ Williams, Ben. "Adblock Plus now available on Yandex Browser". Adblock Plus. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  28. ^ Williams, Ben (May 20, 2015). "Adblock Browser is here". Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  29. ^ "Adblock Browser for Android". Google Play Store. September 7, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  30. ^ "Adblock Plus creators plan independent board to decide ad acceptability". Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  31. ^ "AdBlock Plus to introduce independent board to oversee Acceptable Ads program". BetaNews. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  32. ^ "FAQ - Adblock Plus internals". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  33. ^ "About Adblock Plus for Android". adblockplus.org. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  34. ^ "Writing Adblock Plus filters". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  35. ^ "Known Adblock Plus subscriptions". adblockplus.org.
  36. ^ "The Official EasyList Website". easylist.to.
  37. ^ "EasyList Statistics: August 2011". EasyList. September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011./
  38. ^ Whoriskey, Peter (June 25, 2008). "One Man, One Long List, No More Web Ads". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  39. ^ "Richard J. Petnel Obituary: View Richard Petnel's Obituary by Albany Times Union". Legacy.com. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  40. ^ "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: Sad news". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  41. ^ "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: What is going on with EasyList". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  42. ^ Aleksandersen, Daniel. "Here's how Google Chrome's new ad blocker works". Ctrl blog. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  43. ^ "EasyList merges with Fanboy's List". EasyList. May 17, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  44. ^ "An Open Letter Regarding AdBlock and Revenue Loss". wordswithmeaning.org. April 19, 2012.
  45. ^ "Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love". Ars Technica. March 6, 2010.
  46. ^ "Two years in: Reflections on the New York Times paywall". journalism.co.uk. March 28, 2013.
  47. ^ McDougall, Paul (September 12, 2007). "Firefox Adblock Foe Calls For Mozilla Boycott". InformationWeek. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  48. ^ "Ad blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead (updated)". The Guardian. London. August 10, 2007.
  49. ^ Palant, Wladimir (December 5, 2011). "Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus". Adblock Plus. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  50. ^ "Mit aufdringlicher Werbung übertrieben" (in German). November 20, 2012.
  51. ^ "Media mafiosos: Is Adblock Plus shaking down websites for cash to let ads through?". Digital Trends. February 21, 2013.
  52. ^ a b "Serious accusations against Adblock Plus". The H. June 26, 2013. Archived from the original on December 8, 2013.
  53. ^ a b "Adblock Plus denies ad fixing allegations". TechEye. June 27, 2013.
  54. ^ Mark Sweney (March 9, 2016). "Adblocking 'pretty unsavoury' business model, says Trinity Mirror chief". The Guardian. Retrieved March 9, 2016. They offer software for free [to consumers] and then come to us and say 'your site's OK so if you pay us we will ensure ads on your sites get through'. There is something extremely unhealthy about this business model.
  55. ^ "AdBlock Plus teams up with Flattr to help readers pay publishers". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  56. ^ "The company behind Adblock Plus is acquiring micropayment service Flattr". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  57. ^ "Adblock Plus now sells ads". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  58. ^ "Auch Zeit Online klagt gegen Adblock-Plus-Mutter Eyeo" (in German). horizont.net. December 17, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  59. ^ "Prozessauftakt in Köln - Adblock Plus: Axel Springer klagt gegen Eyeo" (in German). Internet World Business. March 11, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  60. ^ "Auch Süddeutsche klagt gegen Adblock Plus" (in German). Internet World Business. March 13, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  61. ^ Landsgericht Hamburg 16. Kammer für Handelssachen, Urteil vom 21.04.2015, 416 HKO 159/14 (Anonymized)
  62. ^ Ben Williams (April 21, 2015). "Restating the obvious: adblocking declared legal". Adblock Plus and (a little) more. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  63. ^ "Landgericht Hamburg: Adblock Plus darf weiter blocken" (in German). heise online. April 21, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  64. ^ "AdBlock Plus accuses Axel Springer of censorship after ad-block move". Digiday. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  65. ^ "Adblock Plus • View topic - bild.de adblock detect unskippable". adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  66. ^ Bild.de AdBlock Sperre umgehen (in German), retrieved November 13, 2015
  67. ^ Cooper, Daniel (April 20, 2018). "German court says ad-blocking is legal". Engadget. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  68. ^ Jones, Rhett (August 12, 2017). "A Copyright Claim Was Reportedly Used to Stop Ad Blocking, But It's Complicated". Gizmodo.
  69. ^ Larsen, Dan. "Adblock Detector (v. 1.0) - A JavaScript way of doing ad block detection". adblockdetector.com. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2016. Adblock Detector is a javascript, that can help site owners to detect ad blockers like Adblock Plus. It is not bullet proof, but definitely better than nothing, if you want to make sure your visitor are not blocking your ads!
  70. ^ "Content Filters and Proxy Detection". BrowserLeaks.com. Retrieved June 22, 2016. The set of demos that try to determine Content Filters usage, is the type of applications that operate between the browser and the web page, and are designed to manipulate the connection and content of a visited web pages. Among them are TOR Browser, Privixy, Adblock Detectors.
  71. ^ "Detailed changelog for Adblock Plus 0.7.5.2". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  72. ^ "Intro to Chrome addons hacking: fingerprinting". The World. According to Koto. February 17, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2016. Webpages can sometimes interact with Chrome addons and that might be dangerous, more on that later. Meanwhile, a warmup - trick to detect addons you have installed.
  73. ^ "Google Chrome Extensions: Migrate to Manifest V2". Google. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  74. ^ "Adblock Plus 1.3 for Google Chrome released". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved February 11, 2013.

External linksEdit