Web advertisers strike back at ad filters

The battle of the banner ads has just heated up. With Internet users increasingly implementing filtering software to screen out advertisements, Web site operators will soon have a new tool to block the blockers.

For some time, Web surfers annoyed by banner and pop-up ads cluttering up sites have been able to resort to software – such as the shareware AdKiller, InterMute Inc.’s AdSubtract, and Junkbuster Corp.’s Proxy – to screen out commercial messages. Makers of the filters say they’re just helping users protect their limited bandwidth from annoying ads that slow down loads.

The filters have proved popular. Filter maker webwasher.com AG, a spin-off of technology giant Siemens AG, claims four million users. AdSubtract users “have blocked over five billion Internet advertisements in little over a year, freeing up terabytes of bandwidth,” InterMute said in a statement in July.

However, operators of Web sites that are financed with advertising counter that the filters are choking off their revenue stream; they argue that in an era of faster Net access, there’s no longer any need to filter out ads.

That’s where AdKey comes in. The new software, currently in beta testing, will allow Web site operators to deny access to users who have installed ad filters, said Frank Beckert, chief executive officer (CEO) of mediaBEAM GmbH, which is developing the product.

“It detects more or less all the programs, because all of the known software, like webwasher, Junkbusters, and so on, do more or less the same thing,” he said. “We are so intelligent with our server now that we can detect if someone is trying to get our information without displaying the ads.”

MediaBEAM is implementing AdKey on its German unified messaging services Web site www.directbox.com – which gives users access to voice messages, fax, SMS (short message service), and e-mail via the Web, and is financed entirely through advertising.

“If we see that a surfer is not willing to see any JPEG (joint photographic experts group) images, graphics, etc., we then give a specific message where they can either switch off their filter or pay a fee for advertising-free services,” said Beckert.

After a four-week testing period, MediaBEAM plans to offer AdKey for Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Information Services (IIS) and the open-source Apache Web server, Beckert said. He said a pricing model has not yet been decided on.

One filter maker is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new product.

“We’re very interested to see how broadly this software will be implemented,” said Berni L