On Acceptable Ads.

Update: You can also listen to a discussion I had about Crystal on the Rampant Mumblings podcast here (Ep 42&43).

There has been a lot of confusion and mis-reporting going on today regarding Crystal allowing advertising. I'm hoping this post will clarify the information.

What Will Be Changing? 

In my first update (6-10 weeks time?) there will be two new features. A user managed whitelist, where you the user can specify a list of domains that you would like to support and an option to enable/disable Acceptable Ads on the websites you visit.

You are totally free to use all/any/none of these features as you see fit.

What Are Acceptable Ads? 

Acceptable Ads is an initiative, supported by 3 of my favourite websites  (Reddit, DuckDuckGo, Stack Exchange), that encourages and promotes the use of better advertising on the web. They have 5 rules for publishers and advertisers to stick to: 

  1. Acceptable Ads are not annoying.
  2. Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort the page content we're trying to read.
  3. Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.
  4. Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.
  5. Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site that we are on.

Why do you need to partner with Eyeo?

Honestly? As a single developer, it would be impossible for me to manage the workload required to make sure publishers conform to any strict standard. Eyeo however has the experience & infrastructure in place, the data of acceptable ads that meet a criteria, the support staff to assist with reviews (all done through open forum) and the necessary business relationships within the industry. 

Why are you forcing this on everyone? 

Firstly - This will not be forced on anyone. It will be an entirely optional feature that will be described and presented clearly within the app before it is activated and that you can turn on/off at will. It will not be silently/secretly pushed out to everyone. I will to make sure that everyone is fully aware of how this feature works before it's enabled.
Secondly - by blocking all advertising with brute-force, it doesn't promote a healthy mobile web that is sustainable and allows publishers to make a living from the free content they provide. By including the option for a user-managed whitelist and Acceptable Ads, I'm hoping to empower users to be able to support the mobile web in any way they see fit.
Thirdly - In the long term, I'm hoping this convinces advertising agencies and publishers to reassess the kind of advertising they are using and bring them inline to a either the Acceptable Ads (or similar) criteria. 

But nobody wants to see ads online... 

I ran a short survey during the launch period of Crystal, the full results are coming in a post in a few hours, but one of the statistics from it is over 50% of people are happy to support sites by allowing ads that meet an acceptable criteria, around 20% favour a user-managed whitelist. These are the users this update will be catered for. Don't like the features? - No problem, you can choose not to enable them, they will be entirely optional.

Are companies paying you to be whitelisted?

No, but I do get a fee from Eyeo which will allow me to implement, maintain & support the features of Crystal in the long term. 

Can companies pay to be on the whitelist? 

I have no involvement with the whitelist directly - however Around 90% of websites on the Eyeo Acceptable Ads whitelist do not pay a fee to be included, only the absolute largest companies pay for inclusion, assuming they meet the criteria of course. In turn, this allows for better ads that meets the criteria to be displayed. What they are paying for is the service of whitelisting and the additional value it creates for them, but what they're doing is allowing it to be free for the majority and thereby encouraging better adverts to spread.

Here is a copy/paste from Eyeo's FAQ which describes in more detail their business model in regards to whitelisting:

What is the process for being whitelisted?
To be whitelisted, a website or advertiser must apply. At that point we collaborate with them to bring their ads in line with the criteria of our Acceptable Ads initiative. After that, we send the proposed ads to our 27,000-plus community for 7 – 10 days for an open discussion. If members of the community raise legitimate objections about proposed ads, we go back to the drawing board with the website or advertiser. If nothing comes up we whitelist the ads after the time period discussed above. All whitelisted sites are available here.
Why do some companies pay to be whitelisted and others do not?
Whitelisting is free for all small websites and blogs. However, managing this list requires significant effort on our side and this task cannot be completely taken over by volunteers as it happens with common filter lists. That’s why we are being paid by some larger properties that serve nonintrusive advertisements that want to participate in the Acceptable Ads initiative.
Can companies pay to be on the whitelist?
Absolutely not. Anyone and everyone can apply to be whitelisted. Whether they are or not depends solely on the content of their advertisements, i.e., whether they conform to our unambiguous Acceptable Ads criteria. However, after approval, some larger properties that serve nonintrusive advertisements pay.

I encourage you, if you have any comments or concerns or would like to discuss this, feel free to drop me an email.