A few weeks back, it was rumored that web content giants Microsoft, Google, and Amazon might sue the maker of Adblock Plus, the Firefox/Chrome plugin that blocks ad content on web pages.
Instead, they are bribing the company.
According to a new report from the Financial Times (registration required), Microsoft, Google, Amazon and content delivery provider Taboola have been quietly paying Eyeo, the German company that developed Adblock Plus, to let their links slip through Adblock Plus's filters.
Eyeo has what it calls "acceptable ads," which can be whitelisted and bypass its program filters. This tends to be for smaller companies with "non-intrusive" ads, according to Eyeo's site. Microsoft and the other companies are hardly small, and people often want to block them.
In fact, this is not new. Taboola, which counts MailOnline, Business Insider, and NBC News as customers, was added to the Adblock Plus whitelist last November to serve ads in the form of "sponsored content" at the bottom of news articles.
In the process, Eyeo caught hell from its users in discussion forums. "This is a joke right? Taboola should be scorched from the internet for all time..." wrote one user.
"Hope you got paid a lot for this, because it just cost you a lot of credibility," wrote another.
Adblock Plus has become hugely popular among Chrome and Firefox browsers. Eyeo claims it has been downloaded more than 300 million times worldwide and has more than 50 million monthly active users. And it's not the only ad blocker out there. A survey by PageFair and Adobe found that there are about 144 million active adblocker users around the world.