Adblock overlord to Zuckerberg: Lay down your weapons and surrender

Eyeo vows Total War

Ben Williams, Eyeo's comms chief, has warned Facebook that it's joined a battle it can't win.

Eyeo is the controversial outfit that commercialises AdBlock software. Last year John Whittingdale compared Eyeo's model – which allows advertisers through for a fee – to a "modern day protection racket".

Earlier this year Facebook retaliated to what could be mortal threat by blocking ad-blockers. Then the ad-blockers retaliated right back. The two sides have slugged it out over a few rounds of countermeasure and counter-countermeasure – and now looks like a real grudge match. Williams hinted that Facebook would find the next stage of ad-blocking very hard to undo.

"We’ll strike back," he promised.

"Until now Facebook has held all the cards," Williams elaborated in an interview with El Reg. "Neither Eyeo nor the open-source army are going to give up... I just don't feel like it's a sustainable solution."

Eyeo's Adblock Plus boasts around 100 million users, one sixth of the estimated population of internet users who are blocking ads. Eyeo says it wants ads to be less intrusive and wants "user empowerment".

Williams adopted the "Werner von Braun defence" in an interview with us. The blockers are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not Eyeo's department.

But then he didn't have to explain why internet advertising became so annoying – the digital ad industry has admitted as much itself. "Scott Cunningham of the Internet Advertising Bureau admitted: 'We messed up. We took users for granted.'"

Eyeo's figures suggest that use of ad-blocking, which has increased in the past 18 months, has "stabilised" in some markets, Williams said, citing Poland as an example.

"That's an encouraging thing," Williams told attendees of the Ad:Tech 2016 conference in Shoreditch on Wednesday. "It means 70 to 80 per cent of the web can still be reached."

Then again, ad-blocking doesn't really figure as a significant factor on mobile yet – and that's where the ads are most intrusive, and expensive too, with unbidden videos guzzling consumers' data packages.

Should Zuckerberg be worried? You tell us. For all Facebook's wealth, it doesn't seem to have a Plan B. ®

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