There was a time when ad-blockers did what they said on the metaphorical tin: Stop advertisements from appearing while their users browse the Web. But in an increasingly crowded market with multiple tools promising to declutter websites, new ad-blockers need a schtick to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Goodblock, an extension available as a public beta, is one of those newcomers. It performs the standard function of blocking ads — that’s in the job description — but it also gives users the option of periodically viewing advertisements that give at least 30 percent of their revenues back to the charitable cause of their choice.
The actual mechanisms, which involve what the company behind Goodblock calls an “ambassador butterfly” named Tad as well as using virtual hearts as currency, is a little more complicated but that’s the gist of the extension. It’s available now for Google Chrome, and it will expand to Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari soon.
The ads themselves are static images that will take up an entire browser screen. Users can decide not to view the ads — just leave the ambassador butterfly alone! — and Goodblock will continue to block all the ads that would otherwise appear. Gladly, the company behind the app, has basically built a guilt-free ad-blocker.
“The growing usage of ad blockers is a signal that people want more control over their online ad experience. Advertisers need a better solution; simply finding workarounds to ad blockers or forcing users to pay for content isn’t a long term fix,” said Gladly chief executive Alex Groth. “Goodblock represents a radically new model for ad blocking that gives users control over the ads they engage with, and a choice in how the revenue they help earn is allocated. We want people to not only enjoy the ads they choose to see, but to feel good that their time is also helping out a good cause.”
Goodblock is an extension of what Gladly has done with “Tab for a Cause,” a tool which replaces the browser’s “New Tab” page with advertisements that support a charitable organization. Groth said that tool has given $150,000 to charities; information about where the revenues drawn by the tool go is publicly available.
The extension capitalizes on renewed interest in protecting against the intrusive gaze that supports the online advertising apparatus. Privacy is one of the main reasons ad-blockers have seen a resurgence of late — people have decided they shouldn’t have to be tracked by countless businesses as they browse the Web.
“Our number one priority is that users are in control of their ads. Some users want ads targeted to them; others don’t. We don’t currently do any ad targeting,” Groth said in response to a question about targeting ads. “If we introduce ad targeting in the future, it will be based on data users share with us for the explicit purpose of discovering products and events and brands they’ll enjoy. Unlike most ad companies, we refuse to collect or aggregate user data behind users’ backs.”
Goodblock, like AdReplacer before it, is likely to invite criticism from those who view ad-blocking as a threat to small, advertising-dependent online publishers. Yet these tools debuting within a few days of each other shows that this is likely the way forward. Businesses aren’t content with blocking ads; they want to replace them with something they, and hopefully their users, think is better.