As someone whose income relies entirely on advertising (it's the sole source of revenue for most content sites, even HotHardware), AdBlock Plus has long been a thorn in my side. But on the flipside, I like the fact that it exists, because I do feel that people should have control over their own computers, their browsing and potentially even their privacy. Because of those perks, millions use AdBlock Plus regularly.
As with most filtering apps, AdBlock Plus offers users the ability to whitelist (and let me take a moment to recommend this for sites you appreciate) either a site or an entire ad network. For its services, AdBlock Plus recommends users donate to help support the app, and as Austrian news site Horizont reveals, one of the biggest donors is none other than Google - but it's for a reason, and that is automatic whitelisting.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, however, as ABP's own FAQ admits that this practice goes on:
Do companies pay you for being added to the list? 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.
Essentially, if a big ad company is deemed by AdBlock Plus to deliver only "acceptable ads", then they can earn the right to pay for automatic whitelisting. As some folks over at Hacker News have pointed out, this is actually a pretty major issue. One poster notes, "In essence, this has set up two tiers of advertising: those we have paid for white list privileges, and those who haven't." In this regard, ABP is holding everyone's ads for ransom by default, and only those who pay will set them free. We'll see if the folks behind ABP will comment on the issue, given that it's setting fire to the Web right now.
For what it's worth, it appears that if you don't like any of the sites or networks that are automatically whitelisted, you can undo it in the settings.