When you ask Firefox users what their favorite extension is they’ll commonly say Adblock Plus. It’s currently the second most popular extension on the add-ons site, and receives over 250,000 downloads every week. With numbers like that you’d expect the extension to be installed on nearly every copy of Firefox, but that’s not the case.

What I found out when I released CyberSearch was that any developer can choose whether or not they want the download stats of their add-on to be publicly available. Even more interesting is that anyone can go to this page to see a full list of extensions whose stats you’re able to view. Naturally I was curious how many people were using the Adblock Plus extension.

As of July 30th there were 4.42 million active daily users of Adblock Plus. In mid-July it peaked at 5.5 million users, and over the last year the number of people using Adblock Plus has been rapidly growing:

Number of Active Adblock Plus Users from July 2007 to July 2008
adblock users.png

How does this stack up against the number of Firefox users? The last time Mozilla reported on how many Firefox users there are was when they were going after the world record for the number of downloads in a 24-hour period. They said that there are 180 million users worldwide, which means about 2.5% of all Firefox users have Adblock Plus installed.

There are some other things that need to be considered, such as alternative ways to block ads (other extensions, Greasemonkey scripts, etc…). I’d also assume that heavy Firefox users will be more likely to have some sort of ad blocking system installed over those people who just get on once or twice a day to check their email.

There Are 23 Comments

  1. I can’t use the INTERNET without Adblock… seriously, turn it off and see how long it takes before the annoying ads and pop-ups drive you crazy!

    • adblockerfromwayback

      3%? you should do your homework boy.. 93% of firefox users actually block advertising using ad block software, get your facts right b4 you type trash boy.. ad blockers are here to stay. only thing i hope is that website that rely on advertising eventually close down… who cares?

  2. Back in the day before pop-up blockers and general best practices for major websites, I could understand the Ad Blocker.

    However, nowadays, I cannot. First off, ads have gotten far less obnoxious and far more relevant.

    But most importantly, the ad-driven blog is now the backbone of the entire internet. Why would you want to cut off your favorite blog’s only revenue stream?

    If you are still getting hammered with overly obnoxious and pop-up ads, you need to check what kind of sites your visiting.

  3. I’m forced to use IE for some of my work sites so occasionally I’ll use it for general surfing. I normally open about 3 sites before I start to go loco and revert back to FF with AdBlock installed. I can’t understand how anyone can surf the net with that program. It is without a doubt one of the single most important add-ons to me.

  4. Mike wrote:
    I can’t use the INTERNET without Adblock… seriously, turn it off and see how long it takes before the annoying ads and pop-ups drive you crazy!

    Believe it or not I’ve never installed Adblock before, and I never have any troubles. We obviously rely on making money from ads, as do other sites, and so I try to support them however possible.

    StationStops.com wrote:
    But most importantly, the ad-driven blog is now the backbone of the entire internet. Why would you want to cut off your favorite blog’s only revenue stream?

    You hit that head on. We are able to offer our content for free simply because of the advertisements we display. Without them we would cease to exist.

  5. I have adblock plus installed and see nothing wrong with using it, but i have a custom whitelist which includes sites i believe deserve to show the ads and normally click few ads on the sites aswell e.g. Cybernet News & Forums

  6. Richard wrote:
    I have adblock plus installed and see nothing wrong with using it, but i have a custom whitelist which includes sites i believe deserve to show the ads and normally click few ads on the sites aswell e.g. Cybernet News & Forums

    If you use it in that way then I see nothing wrong with it. It’s just important to support the sites that you frequently visit.

  7. I use it and I try to install it whenever I install firefox for other people. Really, even if I stopped using it, I wouldn’t click on ads anyways, so blogs and sites and whatnot wouldn’t get any revenue anyways. It wouldn’t serve a purpose.

  8. This is what I say to people who use ad blockers:

    How are you compensating the writers? You clearly read websites regularly and how are you giving back to them? Do you expect everything to be free? The internet is built on the idea of advertising, all of these websites are free for a reason. They are monetized by ads, if you want to continue to view websites for free you need to learn to deal with ads.

  9. Michael Dobrofsky
    Mike wrote:
    I can’t use the INTERNET without Adblock… seriously, turn it off and see how long it takes before the annoying ads and pop-ups drive you crazy!

    This is true. The internet is largely unbearable without ad-blocking.

  10. Michael Dobrofsky
    Michael wrote:
    This is what I say to people who use ad blockers:

    How are you compensating the writers? You clearly read websites regularly and how are you giving back to them? Do you expect everything to be free? The internet is built on the idea of advertising, all of these websites are free for a reason. They are monetized by ads, if you want to continue to view websites for free you need to learn to deal with ads.

    When advertising becomes a complete **hinderence** to visiting and reading websites, it’s no longer something people can deal with, Michael. I would “deal with” ads if sites had them embedded in places that weren’t so in your face and that obstructed content. I would “deal with” ads if sites didn’t pop-up and pop-under several windows at once, placing my CPU at 100% for several seconds. But the methods used by a lot of sites just piss people off to seek out ad-blocking. Rule No.1: Don’t piss off your customer.

    P.S. Sites that do the “right thing” and have sensible ad positioning can easily be white-listed with Ad Block, thus ad-revenue allowed ;)

  11. DKong wrote:
    I use it and I try to install it whenever I install firefox for other people. Really, even if I stopped using it, I wouldn’t click on ads anyways, so blogs and sites and whatnot wouldn’t get any revenue anyways. It wouldn’t serve a purpose.

    That’s actually a misconception though. Half of the ads we have on our site we make money on just from the page loading. These ads don’t require interaction for us to make money, and the advertiser is really looking to push out their brand.

  12. Perhaps many of the remaining 97% of Firefox users rely on other anti–adware solutions, such as the famous “Ad Muncher”, for instance, which, because they are on the system level, become system-wide, browser-wide, software-wide.

  13. It is easy to forget that the kind of people who comments in blogs, discusses browsers in forums and does all the other things that we consider “using the Internet” isn’t the typical Internet user. Only a small percentage of Firefox users installs any add-ons at all.

    @StationStops.com: I disagree. There was a short period where using a popup blocker allowed you to browse the web comfortably. By now advertisers caught up however and try to get your attention by using animations and layer ads. On many sites you have trouble finding the content and once you found it you really cannot concentrate on reading it (studies have been made and confirm that animations are extremely distracting even though people learned to ignore ads automatically). Now we are at the same stage again where we were before the popup blockers.

    @Transcontinental: Don’t think so. The usage numbers for Ad Muncher should be way below Adblock Plus. What could be more common is firewall and antivirus software with ad blocking functionality – very often people aren’t even aware that they are blocking ads (Outpost Firewall is a typical example). In the end, the vast majority of Firefox users is still viewing the ads (this might not hold true for the more technically advanced audience).

  14. I thought changing AdBlock to “Hide Ads” instead of “Remove Ads” still gives websites credit for advertising without me seeing the ad. Is this not correct?

    Does this count include people using AdBlock *and* AdBlock Plus? Personally I have never used the “Plus” extension.

  15. redfish wrote:
    I thought changing AdBlock to “Hide Ads” instead of “Remove Ads” still gives websites credit for advertising without me seeing the ad. Is this not correct?

    Possibly… I’ve never used the extension so I’m not sure what it’s using to hide the ads. From the sounds of it you should be correct about how that works.

    Wladimir Palant wrote:
    It is easy to forget that the kind of people who comments in blogs, discusses browsers in forums and does all the other things that we consider “using the Internet” isn’t the typical Internet user. Only a small percentage of Firefox users installs any add-ons at all.

    That’s definitely true. Judging by our traffic we always have about 30% fewer impressions on ads than we pageviews on the site. That’s likely because a large portion of our readership are tech-savvy users who are blocking the ads.

  16. Wladimir Palant wrote:
    @StationStops.com: I disagree. There was a short period where using a popup blocker allowed you to browse the web comfortably. By now advertisers caught up however and try to get your attention by using animations and layer ads. On many sites you have trouble finding the content and once you found it you really cannot concentrate on reading it (studies have been made and confirm that animations are extremely distracting even though people learned to ignore ads automatically). Now we are at the same stage again where we were before the popup blockers.

    Exactly! I’m using AdMuncher (with whitelists), but I refuse to voluntarily browse sites which show animated ads or worse: layer ads or ads with video/sound. I would gladly pay for some sites I visit to get an ad-free version (if the price is reasonable), but most don’t offer that option unfortunately. I think only one site I visit regularly offers this.

    I have no problem with text-ads by the way. I leave all Google ads enabled for that reason.

  17. Perhaps is the “anti-advertisement mentality” that of a minority ? I’d be very happy to know that blocking the earnings of websites does not, in the final, hurt them that much. This would be a pleasant example of odds in statistics.

  18. Ryan wrote:
    Judging by our traffic we always have about 30% fewer impressions on ads than we pageviews on the site. That’s likely because a large portion of our readership are tech-savvy users who are blocking the ads.

    Or because those aren’t users. On my site, around 30% of impressions is caused by “users” who don’t download any images, scripts or CSS at all. That’s various spiders (including the ones that ignore robots.txt and use a User-Agent header of a browser), spam bots, vulnerability scanners and the like. You shouldn’t expect them to view your ads…

  19. Change wrote:
    I would gladly pay for some sites I visit to get an ad-free version (if the price is reasonable), but most don’t offer that option unfortunately. I think only one site I visit regularly offers this.

    We’ve thought about doing that, but I don’t know how many people would actually go for it. What’s a reasonable price that you’d pay out of curiosity?

    Wladimir Palant wrote:
    Ryan wrote:
    Judging by our traffic we always have about 30% fewer impressions on ads than we pageviews on the site. That’s likely because a large portion of our readership are tech-savvy users who are blocking the ads.

    Or because those aren’t users. On my site, around 30% of impressions is caused by “users” who don’t download any images, scripts or CSS at all. That’s various spiders (including the ones that ignore robots.txt and use a User-Agent header of a browser), spam bots, vulnerability scanners and the like. You shouldn’t expect them to view your ads…

    Well, Adsense uses JavaScript and so does our Google Analytics. So the crawlers/bots would need to have JavaScript in order to register on both Adsense and Google Analytics. So I’m fairly certain that the numbers for both are for real people.

  20. Ryan wrote:
    We’ve thought about doing that, but I don’t know how many people would actually go for it. What’s a reasonable price that you’d pay out of curiosity?

    Heh, good question. And a difficult one. It does depend on how important the news of a site is to me, how high the quality is, if I would get more (news/features/other) than non-paying visitors, and how easy it is to get the news elsewhere.

    If I take Cybernetnews as an example, I would say the site is pretty important to me, has good quality content (bordering high quality), and it’s not very easy to get the same quality, amount and type of news delivered by other sources. That would get the price to a regular magazine price.

    However, due to the amount of news sources (more competition, not just for you, but also for my dollar/euro), lower production costs and scale advantages, I don’t think I would spend offline magazine prices online. A fair price would sound like $2.50/m with discounts when a yearly subscription is bought. I hope that’ll be around the amount of ad revenue you get per regular visitor..

    (Looked up after I wrote the comment above: the site I was talking about has subscriptions from €1.25 – for an ad-free site – to €2.50 per month, where you get more features than free users are getting.)

  21. Change wrote:
    However, due to the amount of news sources (more competition, not just for you, but also for my dollar/euro), lower production costs and scale advantages, I don’t think I would spend offline magazine prices online. A fair price would sound like $2.50/m with discounts when a yearly subscription is bought. I hope that’ll be around the amount of ad revenue you get per regular visitor.

    Thanks for the info. We’ve been thinking about doing something like that, and for the people who’d pay the $2.50 it would probably work out better in our favor since those would probably be the ones who would ordinarily block the ads all together. We have been thinking about whether or not to pursue the site full-time though, and so we’d hate to charge someone when in the next few months we may not be writing as frequently as we are now. I appreciate the response though, and gives us something else to think about.

  22. Yeah I can understand the dilemma.. Not an easy one in your case! Good luck making up your mind :) (and hey, you could always give a warning.. for regular visitors it shouldn’t matter that much, since they’ve been enjoying things for free for a long time already)

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