AdDetector since its launch

Posted: 2014-09-04

Not long ago I released AdDetector, a browser plugin that reveals articles with corporate sponsors.

Since its launch, it has received about 15,000 installs and largely positive press from publications like the Wall Street Journal, Engadget, and Lifehacker.

The plugin now covers over 100 top media and newspaper sites, through a number of great contributions by others. It also has been improved to recognize more nefarious cases of biased articles, like articles on climate change written by oil companies.

I've also spent some time improving its test suite, which automatically detects if sites make changes that affect the accuracy of its rules.


Building and launching AdDetector has been a great experience that highlights how much users care about responsible advertising on the web. The feedback I've received from publishers and journalists seems to universally acknowledge the need for improved transparency in native advertising.

In multiple cases, publishers actually reached out to request that I add their sites to the plugin. I was contacted by several people from native advertising companies and was impressed by how understanding they were about the need to update standards for ads.

The standards surrounding native ads are not well-defined, but it's clear the industry is thinking critically about it, and that is very encouraging. I think AdDetector has motivated the industry to take a more thoughtful approach toward developing standards for native advertising.

Ian Webster

About the author

Ian is a software engineer based in the Bay Area. He has helped Google, NASA, and a dozen governments around the world improve their data pipelines and visualizations. He maintains a handful of cool websites like,, and this one.

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