Interview with Michael Gundlach, Creator of AdBlock for Chrome and Safari


The logical extension of AdBlock. (src)


One of my favorite extensions for Chrome is AdBlock. It seemlessly blocks all banner, text, and even some video ads from even entering into my world. Even with a Google ad on this site (which I hope to one day replace with something more vegan-friendly all the time), I highly recommend this extension for Chrome (or Safari) as a way to de-capitalize your Internet experience. Don’t let companies tell you what you need, decide for yourself!

The creator of Adblock for Chrome, Michael Gundlach, was kind enough to answer some questions for me via e-mail, which are below.

TNTSU: Could the Internet exist with ads?

Michael Gundlach: I can remember the early days when it was ad-free :)  And even on the commerce-focused Web we have today, there are lots of ways to generate revenue — serving ads is only one of them.  I think as app stores gain acceptance on the Web, we’ll have more users buying access to ad-free content, and being happy to do so because the app stores make it so easy, as opposed to the frustration of one-off paywall registrations.  And there’s merchandise sales, and Flattr, and selling add-on products, and content syndication, and in-game payments… not to mention the “pay-if-you-want” model that AdBlock uses.

You said in another interview you hate the message of consumerism behinds ads – do you take a stand against consumerism in other aspects of your life?

Well, putting AdBlock in the hands of millions of users is definitely the biggest stand I take.  I don’t know that I take a stand in my personal life as much as a stance.  My wife and I tend not to accumulate “stuff”.  We don’t have a TV, we always buy used cars, neither of us own a smartphone.  I’m wearing a T-shirt right now given to me 5 years ago by an employer.  Part of this is just that I’m a cheapskate, but part of it is a feeling of antipathy toward worshipping Stuff.

Does coding (as a career) come with a “buy X” mentality?

I don’t think there’s much that all coders have in common besides a love of coding.  I suspect that growing up in America makes it much easier to have a “buy X” mentality, though.

Advertisements are designed to sell product in exchange for money, cash, yet that is what you’re asking from for your users. Is there an alternative in your mind, or do you feel that some sort of currency exchange is necessary even in a non-capitalist society?

I think your question assumes that I’m not a capitalist :)  I think it’s great for people to make money doing what they love.  The part that’s not so great is when users lose out, because publishers and advertisers are incentivized to push aggressive ads at them.  The system is a little broken right now.

In the NY Times article featuring AdBlock there’s talk of Google saying that “the market” will sort ad-blocking out, and eventually we will only see ads that we “love.” Do you agree with that?

I certainly hope that it happens that way.  I’m sure every user would prefer a highly relevant, very useful, unobtrusive ad over the current standard.  Right now there’s not much incentive for publishers or advertisers to dial back the aggression, because users don’t have tools to signal their dislike.  As a result, users learn to do their best to ignore ads, and ads increase in turn must be louder to be noticed.  If every user had ad blocking technology in place, the incentives would be very different.

What’s the future of AdBlock?

Maybe if I’m lucky Google and Apple will bundle some form of it in future versions of their browsers, to help users choose the ads they want to see.  A man can dream, right? :)

Download AdBlock for Chrome here, and support Michael! He quit his job to code this thing full time.