Adblock Plus, a tool that has made a name for itself by offering over 100 million consumers the ability to block online advertisements, is explanding its efforts in a counterintuitive territory: selling ads. For several years, parent company Eyeo GmbH has run a tidy little business by collecting fees on "acceptable" ads it allows to slip through its filters (users can block them by adjusting the program's settings), a practice that has been criticized by the ad industry and some publishers as a high-tech protection racket. Now, Eyeo is scaling up, with an automated ad marketplace that will let any publisher include "acceptable" ads on their site. 

How does it work? In collaboration with ad tech firm ComboTag, the Acceptable Ads Platform will allow websites and blogs to curate “acceptable” ads to place on their sites. These ads would, in theory, be less disruptive to users.

“There are two ecosystems of online consumers out there right now: the one composed of people who block intrusive ads and the other where people do not,” said Eyeo Chief Executive Till Faida in a statement. “The Acceptable Ads Platform lets publishers reach the former group without changing anything about how they’re reaching the latter.”

According to Ben Williams, Adblock Plus’ operations and communications director, both “ecosystems” can be monetized with the new platform.

“It allows you to treat the two different ecosystems completely differently and monetize each one,” Williams told The Verge. “And crucially, monetize the ad blockers on on their own terms.”

According to research commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an advertising business organization, over a quarter of internet users in the U.S. use an online ad-blocking software on their desktop computers.

Not surprisingly, the IAB is not on board.

“No matter how Adblock Plus tries to justify their form of extortion, or make it seem harmless, it is a practice that will continue to erode the value exchange that powers the free and open Internet,” said IAB public policy chief Dave Grimaldi in a statement.

Eyeo sees things differently. 

"Ad blocking would have happened with or without us,” Williams told The Verge. “What we were able to do is try and reverse the spread of 100 percent black-and-white ad blocking, blocking everything ... Acceptable ads was a pivot toward what we think is better.”

ComboTag CEO Guy Tytunovich told The Journal that the ad marketplace has been in beta for a month with a dozen publisher sites and during this time, prices of ads sold on Google and AppNexus have “skyrocketed.” According to Tytunovich, the price hike in ads is due to the demand for targeting tech savvy users, who, for the record, still have the option to block all ads if that is what they want.