Facebook and Adblock Plus have been playing a game of cat and mouse, with Facebook preventing Adblock Plus from detecting adverts in its news feed and Adblock Plus quickly overcoming this. Facebook has already begun work on re-enabling news feed adverts. This battle demonstrates how difficult it is – even for the world-class developers at Facebook – to overcome the army of developers willing to work for free on hobby projects.
Fighting the ad blockers only makes them more sophisticated
In early August, Facebook made changes that meant that Adblock Plus and other ad blockers could no longer detect and block adverts that appear in its news feed. To combat this the Adblock Plus community swiftly created a solution for the issue and news feed adverts were blocked once again.
Hours later Facebook announced that it was working on hiding adverts from ad-blocking software once again. It stated it was “disappointed that ad-blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads but also posts from friends and pages.”
This statement ignores the fact that consumers are actively choosing to block adverts by downloading and installing ad-blocking software. And if this means that posts from friends are hidden, consumers will surely deactivate the software themselves.
The community surrounding open source ad blockers believes that adverts have become too intrusive and need to be kept in check. Members of the community help with maintaining and developing the software, so that ad blockers are extremely difficult for online publishers to combat.
The battle between Facebook and the Adblock Plus community shows just how important it is to engage with consumer concerns rather than try to tackle the ad blockers, especially when according to Ovum’s Ad-Blocking Forecast: 2015–20, the difference between the right response and the wrong one could save online publishers as much as $61bn in 2020. Online publishers need to ask themselves the question: Is fighting the ad blockers directly the right tactic?
“Publishers could save $61bn in 2020 by tackling the ad-blocking threat,” ME0002-000678 (June 2016)
Ad-Blocking Forecast Report: 2015–20, ME0002-000671 (June 2016)
Ad-Blocking Forecast: 2015–20, ME0002-000676 (June 2016)
“Ad blocking could cost the digital publishing industry $78.2bn in lost revenue,”TE0007-001029 (June 2016)
“Publishers should follow the Swedish example to solve the ad-blocking problem,” ME0002-000658 (March 2016)
Telcos in Mobile Advertising: Operator-initiated Ad-blocking, TE0003-000879 (October 2015)
Ad-Blocking: How to Address the Threat to Revenues, ME0002-000606 (September 2015)
Charlotte Palfrey, Senior Analyst, Digital Media