According to an ad blocking report by PageFair and Adobe, ad blocking software has been gaining momentum and has ballooned by 41% to nearly 200 million in the past year. That figure is considered to be a small fraction of the nearly 3 billion population of Internet users worldwide, but even so it is already enough to evaporate almost $22 billion of total online ads revenue this year.
Source: PageFair & Adobe report
The figures outlined in the graph indicate how much within these past few years that ad blocking has grown globally stronger, especially in the 2013 and 2014. The United States alone saw a 48% spike, with a total of 45 million ad block users in the past year.
Ad blocking is?
Ad blockers are content filtering software or hardware that removes ads from a webpage, usually implemented as a browser extension such as the popular ad block extensions AdBlock or Adblock Plus. The ad blocker extensions can easily be installed on the web browser for instance Google’s Chrome & Mozilla’s Firefox. AdBlock Plus app, which can be manually installed on Android devices, enables users to block ads within Google Chrome or even Firefox mobile browser, which is available directly from Google Play. With support for ad block apps in iOS 9, it is soon expected that ad blocking on mobile Safari will trend towards the levels seen in the mobile version of Firefox. This would be a game-changer for publishers as Apple’s mobile Safari browser represents 52% of the mobile browsing market and 14% of total web browsing. (It takes literally 2 seconds to install the AdBlock Plus from here to enjoy surfing the web without annoying ads!).
Ad blocking extensions, browsers, VPNs or DNS solutions act like a firewall between the web browser and all known ad servers. Most ads are blocked by open-source web browser extensions, installed by end users. The database of blocked ad servers is curated by a large and active open source community. Once installed, these extensions automatically block ads on all websites and are effective against almost all ad formats.
Source: AdBlock Plus
Do I really need another browser extension?
Ad blockers benefit the users as it vastly improves the web-browsing experience. Most modern web pages are a mess of third-party analytics, plug-ins and advertising tags, which together weigh down publisher’s pages and slow down page loading time. The ad blockers software prevents all of these elements from loading, which speeds up page load time as well as benefit the user’s privacy as the software prevents third-party tracking tags from loading and following people across the websites.
Ad blocker software functions as a massive “filter lists”, because the vast majority of ads served through ad exchange or ad networks and blocking them is hardly more difficult than blocking the domains of the ad servers themselves. Ad blockers will target to block out display ads but also sponsored content widgets as well as video ads. In most cases, ad blockers prevent the loading of digital ads that are served by a list of known ad servers. Blocked ads typically include display, video, social, and search ad units that appear in web browsers.
Dangers of web ads you’re not blocking
Malvertising attacks are on the rise. Malvertising rates more than tripled in 2014, according to a report released by cybersecurity firm Cyphort. Such attacks have even shown up on major sites like Yahoo that receive much online traffic. In these kind of schemes, cybercriminals buy ads through an online service, which then places them on legitimate Web sites. Visitors who access those sites will immediately be served malware as soon as the ads load.
In documents revealed by Snowden, online advertising practices came to light as they were sometimes exploited for government surveillance efforts. In late 2013, The Washington Post reported on a National Security Agency presentation that showed how the agency piggybacked onto Google cookies, the little snippets of code used to track online behaviour, to help pinpoint targets it wanted to hack.
What it means for companies & publishers
The issue on ad blockers has garnered more attention lately as news of Apple’s mobile Safari browser is set to support third party ad blocking extensions. Coupled with Google losing its fight to keep ad blockers off of Android, this is expected to make mobile ad blockers a more commonplace. Users are increasingly spending their time online via their smartphones instead of laptops, where ads are less lucrative.
On one hand this can be a growing threat to companies and publishers, as advertising dollars are the lifeblood of the free internet. Users of ad blocking however believe that website publishers have brought this onto themselves by spamming the internet for years with obnoxious, and sometimes malicious ads with no concern for the toll it takes on loading speeds or screen clutter.
Publishers fight back
Publishers are getting hurt with the loss of revenue as millions of people are using ad blocker software as many people are not aware of the predicament publishers are facing. As such, publishers are fighting back by using anti-ad blocking measures by preventing users of ad blockers from accessing their content entirely or using anti-ad block vendors such as PageFair, Sourcepoint and Secret Media which dodge ad blockers and serve ads anyway. For instance, Secret Media does this by encrypting ad server data thus making it harder for ad blockers to target it. Of late Sourcepoint raised $10 million in investor funds to make software that essentially blocks ad-blockers, in which it offers publishers a few options: whereby it can bypass the ad-blocker and show the ad anyway, display message prompting the visitor that the site losses money when ads are blocked, offer a subscription plan or let readers choose ads that are more to their liking.
It is no secret that Google’s main revenue stream is from online advertising. Therefore with the growth in ad blocking extensions, Google recently has taken a drastic approach by bypassing ad blocks completely on Youtube (which usually shows video ads before the start of videos) and apparently disabling the skip option. As such, viewers are forced to watch the entire ad before being able to watch their chosen video. As Youtube relies on its ads to generate revenue, another counter-attack to ad blockers is due to the subscription base serve that Youtube is offering (called Youtube Red) which is a paid monthly subscription whereby users will be able to watch videos ad-free.
Other big names like Yahoo as well have recently taken drastic steps to ‘punish’ ad blocker users. Some Yahoo users in the USA have complained how they are being blocked from their email accounts unless they switch off ad blockers. Concerns by web publishers are growing that ad blockers could jeopardize their ad businesses, on top of the growing tensions between Internet companies and consumers over the use of ad blocking software.
“Everybody should be running adblock software, if only from a safety perspective …
 PageFair and Adobe
 Washington Post
 USA Today