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A couple of weeks ago, Adblock Plus had made a blog post stating that they were dis-invited from the leadership summit of the Interactive Advertising Bureau(IAB). However, IAB was not content to simply keep them out of the summit; but went on the attack, calling out Adblock Plus specifically and “ad-block profiteers” in general in the opening keynote.

The keynote was given by Randall Rothenberg, the CEO of IAB, and the full transcript can be found here. Early on in the keynote, he describes the importance of diversity and freedom of speech, and then tries to link these things with advertisement by stating, “In all advanced societies around the world, advertising has been a central contributor to assuring such freedom and diversity of expression and economic action.” Rothenberg segues into his attack on adblocking, stating that “this is why I hate the ad-block profiteers.”

He brings up the aforementioned controversy relating to Adblock Plus, and states they were not dis-invited because they were never invited in the first place. He states that Adblock Plus registered online, and as soon as this was discovered, the registration was canceled by IAB. The reason he gives for canceling the registration is, “they are stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less – and less diverse – information.”

He calls Adblock Plus disingenuous in its attempt to set up a dialogue with publishers to develop “Acceptable Ads” and states none of the executives who met with Adblock Plus have gotten follow-up calls. He even goes so far as to call Adblock Plus “an old-fashioned extortion racket, gussied up in the flowery but false language of contemporary consumerism.”

However, the keynote acknowledges that Adblock Plus is not their only enemy. It also mentions Brave, the new browser being developed by Brendan Eich, which aims to replace bloated and dangerous ads with better ones. Rothenberg criticizes Brave stating:

It was launched by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, whose last major investment was in banning gay marriage in California. His business model not only strips advertisements from publishers’ pages – it replaces them with his own for-profit ads. THIS is the true face of ad blocking. It is the rich and self-righteous, who want to tell everyone else what they can and cannot read and watch and hear – self-proclaimed libertarians whose liberty involves denying freedom to everyone else.

After really tearing into adblockers, Rothenberg does state that they have done some good by forcing the industry to look inward on itself. He admits that many people have installed adblockers because they are concerned about getting infected with viruses or because bloated ads are slowing down the speed at which pages load. He closes the keynote by stating that the IAB is developing LEAN principles for advertisement, which stands for light, encrypted, AdChoices-supporting, and non-invasive. One of the first goals is to create a public scoring system for publishers, advertisers and ad-networks to measure themselves against.

Is Rothenberg’s attack on adblockers justified, or do they serve a legitimate purpose? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.