The growth of a vision

Birthday cake

The growth of a vision

Internet at large, Ainhoa Leinweber, 06. September 2021

10 years of eyeo

The growth and development of eyeo over the last ten years is something that in many ways defies logic. The company, which began as a small cohort of seven or so underdogs, went up against Goliaths, fighting for fairness. This all because these few web-savvy people really believed in what they were doing, even though the odds seemed heavily stacked against them. Today, eyeo is a flourishing company of over 250 employees working in one of our three offices (Cologne, Berlin or Malmö), or remotely from their homes or workspaces across the globe. We have over 225 million people using our ad-filtering technology and Acceptable Ads Standard, and are continuing to forge partnerships with some of the biggest browsers and brands in the online world. In the same innovative spirit that started it all, we also released two new products this year (Crumbs and Trestle), that we believe will have a real impact on the way the internet works, products that in their very ideation embody our vision.

Thus, that brings us to that very question: vision. For the aforementioned group of ‘disruptors’, as the original members of eyeo were often referred to, to the community-building advocates of a sustainable internet that we are today, there was obviously an evolution of vision, right?

The beautiful jein

Well, there’s a beautiful word in German jein, that means ja and nein, i.e. yes and no. The vision statement we adhere to today (and one that we spent a lot of time earlier this year revisiting) is not so far from the vision that the founders of eyeo, CEO Till Faida, Chairman Tim Schumacher and Adblock Plus developer Wladimir Palant, had for the company in 2011. Their idea was to make “a fair ad blocker and revolutionize the way that the online advertising industry works” (Till Faida).

Faida established from that a precursory vision statement that eventually became a more finalized original eyeo vision: Putting you in control of a fair, profitable web.

Sounds pretty inspiring, right? Well, it was. By holding to these general guidelines eyeo grew away from being seen as a ‘distraction’, or even a ‘nuisance’, to become a company that is finally being seen for what it truly is: an enabler. Because eyeo started and is still trying to foster a fair, sustainable value exchange between all stakeholders in the online ecosystem. The profitable from that original vision statement is a nod to that, i.e. that we should all be able to benefit from an open, widely-accessible internet that allows everyone access to quality information and content.

At its core, the vision has not really changed but the statement underwent a natural evolution. We sought precision to reflect our more mature and balanced approach.

The current version is: Putting you in control of a fair and prosperous internet.

The changes are not earth-shattering. We disliked some of the connotations of the word profitable, and felt the nuances of prosperous fit our idea of a healthy ecosystem in more ways than just (or limited to) the financial. The Oxford Language dictionary definition of prosperity also includes: “to flourish physically; grow strong and healthy”. That’s exactly what we wanted to convey, and so our vision was tweaked there, just as it was with the word web. To wit, the internet is a global network of smaller networks while the web refers to a collection of information accessible via the internet. It’s important to differentiate between the two. We also started to think bigger, moving beyond the confines of the term web.

How a small ‘cohort’ became community makers

Pushing against the status quo, no matter what the intention, can make people nervous. And by promoting fairness we pushed against the established norm, thus disrupting the carte blanche the digital advertising industry was enjoying in the online world, often at the expense of user experience. That led to this small group of original eyeo members having to always battle upstream to get their ideas across.

eyeo’s dedication to fairness has prevailed through the years, and we find ourselves having convinced many of the people who were initially not ready to see our vision that it actually works. I mentioned before the notion of ‘all stakeholders’, and that’s something that has driven eyeo and helped us win over many parties. Our newest product, Trestle, is our first dedicated advertiser solution. And another recent product, Crumbs, is an ingenious win-win that tries to empower users to have more privacy and more control over their personal data while offering a novel monetization solution for advertisers, browsers and telecommunications companies.

As you can see, starting with our ad-filtering technology and moving right up to these new products, they all have one thing in common: They represent a vision of the internet in which fairness prevails. The only way to sustain the open internet is by upholding a balanced value exchange.

From a few people to the 250 plus employees and many more partners working with us, it’s clear that our vision has a stronghold, that it’s valuable, and that it’s something we can continue to help build the future of the internet upon.