How to disable ‘Acceptable Ads’ whitelist in Adblock Plus [Guide]

Adblock Plus is the most popular adblocking add-on around. dotTech recommends it and I am sure many dotTechies (including myself) use it. Indeed in the day and age where some websites have more ads than content, Adblock Plus is one of the best add-ons available. So, then, when the latest version of Adblock Plus (v2.0 — it should starting rolling out to Firefox users starting tomorrow and will hit Chrome in the next few months) makes a fundamental change that potentially challenges the core existence of the add-on, Ashraf takes notice.

Okay, okay — enough talking about myself in third person. The point of this article isn’t to stroke my ego but rather to point out the new “acceptable ads” feature in Adblock Plus v2.0.

UPDATE: This article was originally written in December 2011 when ‘Acceptable Ads’ were originally introduced. We have brought this post to the front to help educate people about Adblock Plus’ ‘Acceptable Ads’ and to teach people how to disable it, if desired.

What Are “Acceptable Ads”?

Starting in v2.0, Adblock Plus has a new opt-out feature called “acceptable ads”. “Acceptable ads” are ads the developer of Adblock Plus has vetted and approved to be “non-intrusive”. As such, ads regarded as “acceptable” are allowed to show on some websites.

Which Ads Are Acceptable, How Are They Acceptable, And For Which Websites?

At the moment the developer has three requirements for an ad to be “acceptable”:

  • Static advertisements only (no animations, sounds or similar)
  • Preferably text only, no attention-grabbing images
  • At most one script that will delay page load (in particular, only a single DNS request)

The developer also proclaims, to protect user privacy, they would like to make mandatory Do Not Track support for acceptable ads but that isn’t possible, yet.

Take note the criteria listed above is subject to change and is not finalized.

Furthermore, as it stands, acceptable ads are on a website-to-website basis. In other words, “acceptable ads” won’t be shown on all websites; only websites listed in the acceptable ad filter will show acceptable ads. Currently, at the time of this writing, there are three websites and Sedo parked domains present in the acceptable ad filter.

In regards to how the developer decides which websites to add to the acceptable ad filter: No one knows. From what I have read about it, the developer has not explicitly stated how they are selecting websites to add to the filter; they only state:

We have agreements with some websites and advertisers that only advertising matching our criteria will be used, their ads will be unblocked then. We hope to grow our list significantly over time.

UPDATE: It is now known that Adblock Plus accepts money from companies and websites (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. to be placed on the acceptable ads whitelist while some small websites are put on there for free.

Must I Allow “Acceptable Ads”?

No. The “acceptable ads” feature is enabled by default for new users and users upgrading. However, users can easily opt-out of it.

To opt-out of allowing acceptable ads, go to Adblock Plus’ Filter Preferences

…and uncheck the Allow non-instrusive advertising option:

Click the Close button after you have unchecked the Allow non-instrusive advertising option and Adblock Plus will no longer show acceptable ads.

Why Is The Developer Doing this?

This is the developer’s rationale:

Starting with Adblock Plus 2.0 you can allow some of the advertising that is considered not annoying. By doing this you support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way. And you give these websites an advantage over their competition which encourages other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well. In the long term the web will become a better place for everybody, not only Adblock Plus users. Without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable.

This is why acceptable ads are enabled by default:

[Enabling by default is] unfortunately the only way to reach the goals outlined above. If we ask users to enable this feature then most of them won’t do it — simply because they never change any settings unless absolutely necessary. However, advertisers will only be interested in switching to better ways of advertising if the majority of Adblock Plus users has this feature enabled.

dotTech Discussion

Personally speaking, as a webmaster, I am thrilled about the idea to allow acceptable ads. After all, advertisements are the lifeblood for many websites, including dotTech. I don’t even mind the opt-out nature of acceptable ads because in a twisted kind of way it makes sense that if this feature was opt-in no one would use it and it would essentially be useless. However, I am not so thrilled about the developer’s lack of transparency.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind money exchanging hands when adding websites to the acceptable ads filter as long as the ads being allowed are truly non-intrusive. After all, the developer needs to make a living and the add-on development will continue if the developer can use it to financially support themselves and their family. What irks me is

  • The developer is not very clear on how websites are being selected. If money is indeed changing hands then the developer should be transparent about it. They don’t need to tell us how much money but rather just tell us it is happening. Also the developer needs to list exact criteria being used to select websites and needs to have a transparent way for webmasters to have their own websites added to the filter. Are acceptable ads being sold to the highest bidder? (I hope not.)
  • The developer needs a more concrete definition of what acceptable ads are. Currently the criteria used is flimsy and leaves a lot of room for funny business. Obviously the concept of “acceptable” is a subjective idea; no set of criteria will ever be able to define what “acceptable” is to everyone. However, even if by definition it is a hard task, the develop needs better criteria than what exists today. Preferably there should be a community review process to develop this criteria.

The concept of acceptable ads can make or break Adblock Plus. If the developer is transparent about it and uses a community-first mindset, I am sure it will further the value of Adblock Plus. However, if the developer uses it to abuse the trust millions of users have put in Adblock Plus, we will simply dump the add-on and move to the next best ad blocker.

Feel free to provide your own feedback regarding this new change to Adblock Plus in the comments below; and hit up the links below to read up on exactly what the developer says about acceptable ads:

Acceptable Ads information page

Acceptable Ads blog post

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28 comments

  1. Jeanne

    I installed adblock plus and had bad results. I made my computer run and sound like a VCR tape being rewound and it slowed up my streaming as well. I encountered malware and viruses that my anti virus programs missed. I do not recommend this product. It cost me money to remove this from my computer and save my processor.

  2. Wandering Bear

    [@x]

    Adblock, in it’s current form, does not block ads. However, you can still block most of them by filtering the google ad urls at your router. This won’t stop ads from coming in via your mobile data, but at least you can escape them at home.

    I just pulled up the adblock whitelist and added every url to my router filters. Poof! All the annoying ads were gone.

  3. Wandering Bear

    MUST I ALLOW “ACCEPTABLE ADS”?

    No. The “acceptable ads” feature is enabled by default for new users and users upgrading. However, users can easily opt-out of it.

    This is incorrect. The Android version does not allow opting out or editing the filters. So you must allow the ads that advertisers have paid Google to place on your screen.

    Pretty much makes the app useless since it allows a flood of ads through.

  4. lawlscape+beta

    i think all ads are annoying and the abp i have saved me from rage flipping and pretty much losing mah mind cuz every 5 minutes id get an ad -.- now i do not believe there is an “acceptable ad” the only acceptable ad is no ad nuff said i wont relpy to any of yall

  5. x

    Adblock has turned into “allow marketing.” I like many had grown to trust AdBlock, and this recent update caught me blindsided until it was already installed. In this case years of trust AdBlock had built up with me, as I was on phone and working when the pop-up happened offering the upgrade when I rebooted browser .. caused me not to dig into things like I might have otherwise. AdBlock just came aboard with a normal upgrade like it has for the last two years.

    ONLY THIS TIME IT WASNT A NORMAL UPGRADE WAS IT

    What you did was flush the word AdBlock and replace it with something that is not very honest at all.

    We need a real AdBlock back.

    I guess I could always return to just using a hosts 127.0.0.1 file. That worked for years before AdBlock .. excuse me … LyingSackOfPartnerMarketingDontBlock .. that you are turning AdBlock into.

    The endgame of this is probably a delight for your one-day acquirer or purchaser, but it does change your business model just a little bit. Keep flushing your credibility and indeed your whole reason for existing. I’m sure most won’t notice .. at first … and if you can sell before they do, all the better.

  6. Tortuga

    I do like this concept!
    Do not agree that all publicity is bad, and do not agree that this is a “bait & switch”.
    Not that I like ads, but the static ones that inform w/out distracting or giving us an headache are ok.
    And just maybe this concept will also help curb those websites that went way over the top w all those terrible ads …
    I find that if one is not paying/donating to a website that gives us information, reviews, tips, promotions, etc, the least one can do is allow ads so the webmaster receives some compensation for their hard work!

    If I remember correctly, the AdBlock dev. didn’t ask for donations, didn’t even had a “Donations” button, so not only has he been doing it ALL these years for free, I dont think he will get rich w this new formula. But if he does, w/out selling his soul, good for him!!
    There is nothing wrong with getting paid for work/services rendered!!

    This notion that everything needs to be free, and must remain so is a quite ludicrous!
    All the software can not be free, all the help & advice we get, can not always be free, running a website is NOT free!

    For now I’m using AdMuncher from GOTD (still trying to get used to it…)
    Wondering if many DotTechies are using it too?

    Thanks for all the info & GREAT advice you provide for us, Ashraf, it is MUCH appreciated!!

    Peace!

  7. Giovanni

    For IE users, who don’t want to spend money to buy a license of AdMuncher Pro , I recommend a pretty unknow but extremely powerful FREE TOOL called “AdFender”: ever heard about it, Ashraf?.

    It works well even on Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Avant, K-Meleon, Maxthon, Lunascape, Epic and more!!

    You’ll be amazed at what this app can do for you without charging you a dime, unlike Admuncher:

    http://www.adfender.com/

    Screenshots:
    http://www.softpedia.com/progScreenshots/AdFender-Screenshot-158778.html

    That being said….

    ASHRAF?? Have you ever tried COMODO DRAGON browser??

    Quicker than Firefox and more secure than CHROME!!

    Give it a try and let me know what you think about it!!

    http://www.comodo.com/home/browsers-toolbars/browser.php

    Review:
    http://www.techishare.com/tech/comodo-dragon-vs-google-chrome-updated/

    Enjoy!!

    Chers from Italy!!

  8. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @leland: I agree that the developer will (probably) get it all ironed out in the future. However, with such a fundamental change to the add-on, I feel it would have been better if these issues were ironed out before the feature was rolled out.

    @Stephen Cohen: Yes, that is a huge benefit of Adblock Plus. Do note, however, I believe this blocking-before-download is only for Firefox — I think the Chrome version doesn’t do that because of limitation within Chrome.

    @ebony: You could manually update by going to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/ and downloading it.

    @meldasue: Hmm… I don’t think it will wipe out the annoying ads from all websites, or even cause a dent in them. Think about it this way. Does Adblock Plus have the potential to wipe out all advertising? Sure many people use it but for every one person that uses it there are ten people that don’t. Okay I made up that stat but I think you get my point.

    @alro: You are welcome!

    @Seamus McSeamus: I hate Flash ads too. They are so bloody annoying. I would say +1 for Apple but instead of Flash ads they get GIF ads :-P On the bright side GIF ads don’t have sound.

    @Nebulus: More power to ya’! We should be able to control what is on our computer and what is not.

  9. Seamus McSeamus

    I wouldn’t mind allowing unobtrusive ads through. It’s all those obnoxious flash ads that I can’t stand, and which in turn cause everything else to be blocked. Sort of guilt by association. I’m willing to give it a shot to see how it works out.

    I would also like to know more about the behind-the-scenes aspect of it all. Will money be the motivating factor in what is deemed an acceptable ad? If enough money is offered will the definition of “acceptable” be expanded to include ads with screaming audio, or those ridiculous “you’re a winner” ones?

    I agree that more transparency is needed, but it seems it is still earl in the process as well.

  10. meldasue

    I really like this concept – as the developer mentions, in the long run, this could wipe out those horrible animated ads (which are almost always connected to a scam). I agree, however, that site selection and the possibility of payment to have your site vetted is a big concern. That could move the internet in the direction the big media companies would like it to go, with content under the control of the 1%.

    (Now, if I could just get this for my tv – I love the Southwest Airline ads, but something’s got to be done about the Viagra commercials.)

  11. Stephen Cohen

    An apparent benefit of AdBlock that I haven’t seen mentioned is that it apparently blocks ads BEFORE they are dowyloaded to your hard disk. One news site that I regularly visit has numerous ads. This site downloaded these ads as temp files, sometimes as many as 5000. After AdBlock, I no longer get thousands of temp files.

  12. leland

    I have been running the beta version for a few months and got the update about 2-3 weeks ago. So it is very new and I expect that is why the developer has not defined things to well yet. Give him time and I am sure the questions will be answered. We have become a society that thrives on instant gratification but in the software development world things take time. I know this from personal experience…

  13. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @jimx29: I disagree. If you had made that statement of they “deserve it” regarding a new install, I may agree. But regarding an update to an add-on that adds functionality counter to what that add-on stands for… no one deserves that, whether they read the notice or not. In my opinion people upgrading should be prompted with an option if they want to enable this feature. Or at the very least the notice that this option is being enabled should be more profound than in black bold text mixed in with the other text.

    @tony: Ditto.

    @ebony: You are using an older version?

    @peter: Hmmm, I suppose you can say that but it isn’t exactly bait and switch.

    @Darcy: I believe there is the ability to modify the list yourself. Check out the information page (link at the end of the article above). I believe it lists a way to un-protect the list and thus allow you to modify it yourself.

  14. Darcy

    i can see the value of this for a lot of websites that would fair w/o advertising. There are several I go to that I don’t mind non-intrusive ads on. Trouble is ABP has been pretty much all or nothing so far.

    The lack of disclosure, so far, on the points you mentioned does disturb me though. The reasoning for adding this makes sense but I’d like to see more configuration options for advanced users. Particularly the ability to define our own list of websites in addition to whatever websites are pre-defined. As it is, it could become a matter of payment to be listed which would destroy the trust in ABP indeed. That would cause exactly the opposite to happen.

  15. ebony

    The ABP that I have works just fine for me. I do not care for the animated ads which are distracting when I am reading or just trolling around the net. I never buy anything because of an ad. I have ABP enabled for this site a few others that show what I consider non intrusive ads.

    As far as the developer making money, that is call business.

    I think I will stick with what I have since it has not failed me yet.

  16. jimx29

    For those people who “probably wont read it and thus wont know what is happening” get what they get and deserve it then.
    Personally, I like the idea and will probably allow the non-annoying ads to display

  17. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Peter: For what it is worth, we don’t know if the developer is making money off this or not. And when you update the update screen says this feature is enabled (see first screenshot above); but you are right in the sense that most people probably wont read it and thus wont know what is happening.

  18. Peter

    I know I am going to come across as some kind of moaning old git, but if the developer is going to allow “certain” ads, then this is no longer the ad-blocker it used to be..and has already failed or strayed from the goals it set out to fulfill in the first place!

    To call it an ad blocker and then start trying to strike up and new income line now that it has a large following is, in my mind, as low a tactic as any applied by the very advertisers it is meant to protect its users from!

    Another thing is I have heard nothing about this..aside from the article here..and I’m guessing many others out there will find themselves upgrading over then ext few days without even knowing this will be letting ads through by default..and as mentioned or touched on above..tracking would still seem to be a issue at this time.

    In short, I think it’s a bad idea and one that hasn’t been thought through fully..at least, not with us users in mind..or so it would appear.

    Just my thoughts, for what they are worth.