Adblock Plus teams up with content funding tool Flattr to pay cooperating publishers
The newly announced partnership says its goal is to evolve the web into “what it was supposed to have been.”
Adblock Plus taketh from publishers, and now the popular ad-blocking browser extension has a plan to giveth.
The Cologne, Germany-based company has announced a new project with content-funding tool Flattr, headquartered in Sweden. Called Flattr Plus, it will be a browser extension that automatically pays for web content visited by its users.
The main difference from the current Flattr is that users won’t have to click a button to “flattr” a site. Adblock Plus owns a minority stake in Flattr.
Founded in 2010 by Peter Sunde and Linus Olsson, Flattr previously gained attention when it became the fallback method for donating to WikiLeaks, when PayPal, MasterCard and Visa suspended payments following leaks of secret US government material. Sunde was also a co-founder of The Pirate Bay, a site for freely sharing copyrighted content like movies.
Adblock Plus’s Ben Williams told TechCrunch that his company’s millions of ad-blocking users “have been the most vocal in asking for solutions like this,” to support publishers without ads. He added that if publishers are visited by Flattr Plus users but have not signed up for the service, they will simply be told how much they could have earned.
Anonymized users will be able to set their own monthly budget for what they are willing to pay for content, and Adblock Plus/Flattr Plus will receive 10 percent of the fee.
The platform will automatically assign payment to websites that sign up for the service, according to a not-yet-specified method for measurement of user engagement and attention with the content. A beta of Flattr Plus is scheduled for this summer, with a global release by year’s end.
More leverage for Adblock Plus?
The announcement raises questions about Adblock Plus’s growing leverage. Its Acceptable Ads initiative, for instance, whitelists and allows ads it considers suitable for users’ sensitivities, a pay-to-play scheme that has been criticized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and others as being a form of extortion.
Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus and parent company Eyeo, said in a statement accompanying the announcement that Adblock Plus’s claim to “many millions of users” gives it a unique position to establish a “completely new monetization method for publishers that rewards good content while respecting users.”
With Flattr Plus, Adblock Plus would now have two financial levers — blocking ad revenue and offering user fees based on possibly unaudited engagement metrics — with which to sign up publishers and to determine “good content.”
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Sunde said that Flattr Plus is intended to “finally evolve the Web into what it was supposed to have been to begin with: a place for creators to meet their audience, and a mechanism for audiences to directly and sustainably support creators.”
It’s possible that the Flattr Plus/Adblock Plus initiative could evolve into something like premium cable TV channels, which charge a fee in exchange for no ads in a freely made deal between the content creator and the content user.
Or it could become an enforcing mechanism for a Pirate Bay vision of web content, where content makers are only able to earn what an outside gatekeeper determines they can.