Adblock Plus

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Not to be confused with AdBlock.
Adblock Plus
Adblockplus icon.png
Developer(s) Eyeo GmbH[1][2][3]
Current lead developer:
Wladimir Palant
Former lead developers:

Henrik Aasted Sørensen,
Michael McDonald
Initial release 2006
Stable release 2.6.4 / 1.8.5[4][5] / May 13, 2014; 4 months ago (2014-05-13)
Written in JavaScript, XUL, CSS
Operating system Cross-platform
Type Mozilla extension
Android app
License GPL
Website adblockplus.org

Adblock Plus (ABP) is an open-source[6][7] content-filtering and ad blocking extension for Mozilla Firefox (including Firefox for mobile[8]), Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari web browsers. In November 2012, Adblock Plus was also released as an app for Android devices. ABP, a forked version of an earlier, discontinued extension called Adblock, allows users to prevent page elements, such as advertisements, from being downloaded and displayed.

Another free open-source extension, AdBlock, is also available for most browsers supporting Adblock Plus (ABP) but is unrelated to it, as well as to the original Adblock from which ABP was forked.

History and statistics[edit]

Michael McDonald created Adblock Plus 0.5 that 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.[9] PC World chose Adblock Plus as one of the 100 best products of 2007.[10]

Adblock Plus for Google Chrome has been available since December 2010 and has over 10 million users.[11] It has also become the most popular extension for Firefox, with around 18 million users as of March 2014.[12]

Adblock Plus has been available for Internet Explorer since August 2013.[13]

Adblock Plus has been available for Safari since January 2014.[14]

Operation[edit]

A website hosting google ads with and without Adblock Plus

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.[15]

Filters[edit]

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.[16] 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 subscriptions[edit]

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.[17]

EasyList[18] was the most popular Adblock Plus filter list as of August 2011, with over 12 million subscribers.[19] Created by Rick Petnel,[20] 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[21][22] and he named a user going by the name "Ares2" as the new maintainer.[23]

Fanboy's list[24] is the second most popular Adblock Plus filter list. Fanboy started the service in early 2009. The lists available are Adblock List (Main list), Tracking List, Enhanced Trackers List, Annoyance Block List, and Adult List. These are available as singletons or various combinations as one subscription—most notably Fanboy Ultimate Adblock List which combines every list. The lists are available for Firefox, SRWare Iron, Internet Explorer, Opera and Midori.

In May 2013, EasyList and Fanboy's list were merged into one list when Fanboy joined the EasyList team.[25]

Controversy over ad filtering and ad whitelisting[edit]

Main article: Ad filtering

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.[26][27] While some websites such as The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph have successfully implemented subscription and membership based paywall systems for revenue,[28] many websites today rely on third party hosted online advertising to function. In 2007, web developer Danny Carlton described the use of adblockers as tantamount to theft,[29] and called for other site owners to block the Firefox web browser from their websites to deter its use.[30]

On December 5, 2011, Wladimir Palant announced that certain "acceptable" ads would be whitelisted in upcoming builds of the Adblock software, with the option to remove whitelisted ads via 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's website and at social media sites like Reddit.[31]

In 2012 Adblock's managing director Till Faida told the Swiss newspaper Thurgauer Zeitung that the "strategic partners" on Adblock's whitelist could not be named, but that the partnership is part of the company's "Acceptable Ads" whitelist project.[32] 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.[33] 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".[34] He alleged that Adblock whitelisted all ads coming from "friendly" sites and subsidiaries, and promoted their product using fake reviews and pornography.[35] 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".[34] 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".[35]

In response to the "acceptable ads" whitelisting, forks of Adblock Plus were created such as Adblock Edge[36] and the now defunct Adblock Lite.[37]

Detection[edit]

Some webmasters have used JavaScript to detect the effects of the popular Adblock filters.[38][39] 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 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.[40]

Google Chrome had a defect in Content Security Policy that allowed the detection of any installed extension, including Adblock Plus for Google Chrome.[41] The solution of this was possible only in Google Chrome 18, and requires each developer to make some changes in their extensions.[42] Adblock Plus for Google Chrome fixed this in version 1.3.[43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ Wladimir Palant (May 13, 2014). "Adblock Plus 2.6.1 for Firefox released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ Sebastian Noack (May 7, 2014). "Adblock Plus 1.8.1 for Chrome, Opera and Safari released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ Adblock Plus. "Adblock Plus : About". Adblock Plus. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ Adblock Plus. "Adblock Plus : Source Code". Adblock Plus. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Mozilla. "Adblock Plus :: Add-ons for Mozilla". Mozilla. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  9. ^ "About Adblock Plus". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  10. ^ "PC World - The 100 Best Products of 2007". PC World. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  11. ^ adblockplus.org (October 27, 2011). "Adblock Plus for Google Chrome™ (Beta) - Chrome Web Store". Chrome.google.com. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Statistics for Adblock Plus". Mozilla. January 17, 2006. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Adblock Plus 1.0 for Internet Explorer released". Adblock Plus. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Adblock Plus for Safari Beta released". Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  15. ^ "FAQ - Adblock Plus internals". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Writing Adblock Plus filters". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Known Adblock Plus subscriptions". adblockplus.org. 
  18. ^ EasyList
  19. ^ "EasyList Statistics: August 2011". EasyList. September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011. /
  20. ^ Whoriskey, Peter (June 25, 2008). "One Man, One Long List, No More Web Ads". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Richard J. Petnel Obituary: View Richard Petnel's Obituary by Albany Times Union". Legacy.com. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: Sad news". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Adblock Plus and (a little) more: What is going on with EasyList". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  24. ^ Fanboy's list
  25. ^ "EasyList merges with Fanboy's List". EasyList. May 17, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2013. 
  26. ^ "An Open Letter Regarding AdBlock and Revenue Loss". wordswithmeaning.org. April 19, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Why Ad Blocking is devastating to the sites you love". Ars Technica. March 6, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Two years in: Reflections on the New York Times paywall". journalism.co.uk. March 28, 2013. 
  29. ^ McDougall, Paul (September 12, 2007). "Firefox Adblock Foe Calls For Mozilla Boycott". InformationWeek. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Ad blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead (updated)". The Guardian (London). August 10, 2007. 
  31. ^ Palant, Wladimir (December 5, 2011). "Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus". Adblock Plus. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Mit aufdringlicher Werbung übertrieben" (in German). November 20, 2012. 
  33. ^ "Media mafiosos: Is Adblock Plus shaking down websites for cash to let ads through?". Digital Trends. February 21, 2013. 
  34. ^ a b "Serious accusations against Adblock Plus". The H. June 26, 2013. 
  35. ^ a b "Adblock Plus denies ad fixing allegations". TechEye. June 27, 2013. 
  36. ^ Adblock Edge at Mozilla Add-ons.
  37. ^ Adblock Lite at Mozilla Add-ons.
  38. ^ "(v. 1.0) - A JavaScript way of doing ad block detection". Adblock Detector. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Content Filters and Proxy Detection". Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Detailed changelog for Adblock Plus 0.7.5.2". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Intro to Chrome addons hacking: fingerprinting". Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  42. ^ "Google Chrome Extensions: Migrate to Manifest V2". Google. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  43. ^ "Adblock Plus 1.3 for Google Chrome™ released". Adblockplus.org. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]