Have you ever been web browsing when all of a sudden some obnoxious video ad starts blaring through your speakers? You then have to start start clicking through your tabs trying to find the culprit. Well there’s an app for that and the two biggest players are AdBlock and AdBlock Plus (unrelated). These block ads from popping up while web browsing including in things like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. These advertisement blocking browser extensions have been downloaded more than 340 million times and it’s estimated that by June 215 million people will use ad block services on their computers. Now these companies are moving into the mobile market. Within 24 hours of Adblock Plus launching an ad-free browser for Android devices last Wednesday, it logged more than 200,000 downloads. It plans to release an iOS equivalent in a few months.
This rapid growth could be devastating to websites dependent on ad revenue. Many websites that publish content rely solely on advertising revenue. They get paid based on the number of site visitors who see or click on ads. Some companies have reacted aggressively, disabling content when they detect a user with an ad block extension. Ad block users are trying to solve a real problem and are accidentally hurting all the websites they love the most. It’s a bit of a Catch 22.
Some are claiming ad blocking to be immoral, that the content creators deserve to get paid for the content they provide. Most will agree, but the thing is, surfing the Web entirely without an ad blocker is dangerous business. It’s easy to claim that ad blocking is immoral, but that’s assuming a perfect world, where there aren’t plenty of malicious parties out there using advertising to deceive and infect users. Ad networks can accidentally (and intentionally) distribute malware or mess with users’ browsers. See our previous blog posts on our website about ransomware and spyware to understand the dangers that ad blocking can protect you from.
While there are settings for users of ad blockers to control the amount of advertising they see, by default they block basically everything under the sun and most users aren’t going to change that. Websites that rely on ad-based revenue will have to adapt to this big change in the way people surf.