Ad blockers and ad businesses don’t get along. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but the tension was on full display Monday morning on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, the tech site’s annual conference, in Brooklyn, New York.
Till Faida, CEO of Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, and Interactive Advertising Bureau President Randall Rothenberg gave back-to-back talks at the opening of the three-day conference. Between Faida’s exit and Rothenberg’s entry, TechCrunch senior writer Jordan Crook suggested the two shake hands. While Faida agreed and remained on stage, Rothenberg did not emerge from behind the curtain.
Once onstage, Rothenberg did not shy from expressing his disdain for Faida's business in his dialogue with TechCrunch reporter Anthony Ha. Ad blockers are “trying to take chunks of [revenue] and move it into their own pockets,” Rothenberg said. “And I noticed [Faida] didn’t answer any of your questions. He didn’t say what was an acceptable ad. He didn’t say what the revenue was.”
Rothenberg later replied to Ha's question of the future of ad blocking, "For all the money that he’s putting into his pocket. For all they’re not disclosing about their funding and ownership."
Faida runs Eyeo, a company striving to “make the internet better,” as he repeated in his talk and is brandished on the front page of its website. The company provides open-source software called Adblock Plus. That software blocks ads across the internet except for those sites within its “Acceptable Ad” program, which requires a licensing fee from companies.
Adblock Plus is approaching a billion downloads, he said. The company last reported 500 million downloads in January.
Eyeo says its mission is to empower internet users and give them “complete control” of the ads they see online. “It’s always just the really intrusive experiences that inspires them to download an ad blocker,” Faida said.
Those intrusive ads can include animation, for example, that distracts from the content a user is hoping to view or hear. Not everyone has the same preferences, evidently, which is why Adblock Plus allows users to create profiles of what type of ads they prefer.
While Rothenberg’s criticism is correct — Faida did not provide a complete definition of an acceptable ad — he did share insight into his company’s mission. “The most important part is every user can decide for themselves,” Faida said.
Additionally, Eyeo is hoping to host a committee, including publishers, advertisers, ad tech companies, who can set broad guidelines. “I think it’s really time to work on user-friendly innovation. For that we need to bring everybody together. We need all of them to agree on certain standards,” Faida said to close his talk.
Sounds kind of like Interactive Advertising Bureau? The 20-year-old, company led by Rothenberg, works to set industry standards and also provide support for the online ad business. “I wish it were different,” Rothenberg said of the current landscape. “Obviously we strive as much as we can to try to coalesce around standards.”
Rothenberg said he is not fearful of ad blocking ruining his work or publishers. He cited his company’s research that found the systems are having little impact outside of tech news and gaming sites — not exactly the best of news for TechCrunch.