YouTube Crackdown Causes Record Ad Blocker Uninstalls

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A “test” on YouTube has been extended, threatening to disconnect viewers who don’t disable their ad blockers. The tool developers are rushing to react.

The annual meeting of the ad-blocking tool business was held in Amsterdam in early October. During one session, product leaders from Google gave a welcoming presentation regarding changes taken to allay concerns that a security upgrade to the Chrome browser could interfere with ad zapping. Google even co-sponsored the event, which was held in an open-air setting by the water and generates over 80 percent of its revenue from advertisements.

While this was going on, a different Google team was discreetly getting ready to launch the biggest offensive against ad blockers since Facebook did it in 2016. Google’s YouTube unexpectedly expanded a tiny test started in May that utilizes pop-up dialogs to demand that users disable their ad blockers—or lose the ability to watch films on the most popular video-sharing website in the world—as the world’s ad blocker builders came home from their conference.

According to Krzysztof Modras, director of product and engineering at ad block and privacy tools company Ghostery, Google was “very proud to present at the ad blocking conference”. “And this war against ad blockers began the next day.”

YouTube’s crackdown appears to be effective, as seen by previously undisclosed statistics from ad-blocking providers, which show that in October, hundreds of thousands of users removed their ad blockers. According to the data available, a record number of ad blockers were removed last month, and a record number of new ones were installed as users looked for alternatives to YouTube’s annoying pop-up ads.

Ad blocks are against the platform’s terms of service, according to YouTube spokesperson Christopher Lawton. The business provides YouTube Premium, which costs $13.99 per month, for users who prefer an ad-free experience. Billions of people can access their favorite content on YouTube thanks to ads, which support a diverse ecosystem of creators worldwide, he claims.

He claims that before YouTube blocks users’ access to videos, it repeatedly notifies them that it does not support ad blockers. However, he declined to disclose the precise number of users that are impacted.

Munich-centered For the majority of October, Ghostery saw three to five times as many uninstall and installs as usual, according to Modras, leaving usage at essentially zero. When asked why they uninstalled the tool, more than 90% of respondents said that it didn’t work on YouTube.

Users were so determined to locate a functional blocker that many of them seemed to have tried Microsoft Edge, a web browser with a much smaller market share than Chrome. Installations of Ghostery on Edge increased by 30% in October over September. Microsoft opted not to respond.

AdGuard reports that about 75 million people use its ad-blocking solutions, with 4.5 million paying for them. Its Chrome plugin typically receives 6,000 uninstallations every day. According to CTO Andrey Meshkov, those exceeded 11,000 every day from October 9 to the end of the month, peaking at over 52,000 on October 18.

At least half of the 120-person company’s complaints began coming in approximately four times per hour, with the majority pertaining to YouTube. Similar to Ghostery, however, installations increased as more people sought solace, reaching over 60,000 installations on Chrome between October 18 and October 27. As more individuals learned that AdGuard’s premium capabilities were unaffected by YouTube’s ban, the number of subscribers increased.

According to the CEO of its product, AdLock, another plugin, had roughly 30% more daily installations and uninstallations in October than in prior months.

Many ad blocker providers don’t directly measure usage to preserve users’ privacy, however, Chrome’s extension store offers the fundamental installation and uninstallation information. Rather than totally deleting them, users can disable some ad blocks for particular websites.

AdBlock Plus, AdBlock, and uBlock are all operated by Cologne-based Eyeo. AdBlock users can even choose specific YouTube videos or artists to allow advertising for. However, because of the poor tracking, it’s unclear how many perplexed YouTube users have selected any of those options.

Terry Taouss, a seasoned ad tech executive, compares consumers who use ad blockers to those who use the supermarket’s “15 or fewer items” speed lanes. Even if they are controlling their own experience, they are still customers even though they are bringing in less money for the companies. He thinks platforms like YouTube have to be cognizant of that.

Ad blocking executives claim that user surveys indicate YouTube’s assault on ad blockers has occurred concurrently with experiments to display more adverts. With over $22 billion in ad revenues for the first nine months of this year, YouTube accounted for over 10% of Google’s total sales, an increase of roughly 5% over the same period the previous year.

On YouTube, creators typically get 55% of the ad sales from longer films and 45% from shorter ones. This year, premium memberships are expected to bring in roughly $2.7 billion in sales, according to industry research firm Insider Intelligence.


Over the years, a number of research and estimates have indicated that approximately one or three out of every five internet users use ad blockers when browsing. In charge of Eyeo’s ad blockers, Matthew Maier, claims that polls indicate most users aren’t wholly opposed to advertisements.

However, advertisements that are bothersome, too frequent, or last more than six seconds without providing a “skip” option irritate them. He claims that when consumers feel they have over the line, that is when problems arise, but he won’t provide any usage statistics for Eyeo.

Ad block developers claim that YouTube’s test has impacted customers who are using Chrome on laptops and desktops to view the website. Those who watch YouTube videos embedded on other websites, use the YouTube mobile site, or use the YouTube TV apps are unaffected. According to Lawton of YouTube, warnings show up whether or not users are utilizing Incognito mode or are logged onto the service.

Furthermore, rather than focusing on any particular extensions, Ghostery’s Modras claims that YouTube appears to activate the warnings when it recognizes certain open-source filtering rules that many ad blockers use to identify advertising. He says YouTube’s technique is similar to programming Google created in 2017 for a program called Funding Choices, which allows news and other websites to identify ad blockers.

In private Slack groups and discussions on GitHub projects, ad sleuths who discover methods to identify advertising and programmers adept at blocking them are devoting a lot of effort to figuring out how to get past YouTube’s blocker barrier.

However, because YouTube isn’t entangling every user in its dragnet, progress has been impeded. Only a small percentage of the developers have been successful in triggering the alert themselves; these individuals may be the only ad blockers in the world who rejoice when YouTube eventually finds them.

Google and the ad-blocking sector have a tense working relationship. Unlike Apple’s App market, the Google Play mobile app market has prohibited ad blockers for approximately ten years.

However, Chrome has allowed them a considerable amount of operating latitude, as per Google’s statement that it supports an open internet where users may be secure and private. Many ad-blocking programs come with features that shield users from being tracked online in addition to ad filtering. According to the makers of ad blockers, frustration with YouTube has long been a major factor in the downloads of their products.

Users went in all different directions last month when they encountered YouTube’s instructions to turn off the blockers. Online forums reveal that some people suggest services like Newpipe.net, an open-source YouTube clone that employs workarounds to play videos from the platform without advertisements. On its website, Newpipe states that it does not gather usage information.

Ad blockers are starting to adjust. This Monday, Hankuper, the Slovakian business that makes the less well-known blocker AdLock, introduced a new version for Windows that it claims YouTube hasn’t spotted. The patch will be sent to versions for macOS, Android, and iOS if consumers find that to be the case, according to Kostiantyn Shebanov, the product head and business development manager at Hankuper.

Modras of Ghostery is concerned about what will happen if Google intensifies its campaign against blockers. When users disable these technologies, they lose their protection against online threats, and the more sophisticated blocking strategies that businesses like his are compelled to implement may create inadvertent security flaws. According to him, there is a greater degree of risk involved the more powerful they must become to overcome obstacles.

There can be legal consequences as well. According to Modras, developers are not allowed to attempt to get beyond publisher-thwarting efforts against adblockers in Europe. However, he thinks it’s acceptable to block advertisements if the blocker does so before a notice appears.

Though attempts have been made by publishers, advertisers, and ad blockers to find a middle ground on less problematic ad forms that ad blocks would let through, a truce is unlikely in the near future. However, diverse users’ perceptions of what they want and competing company needs have resulted in a patchwork of unique ad experiences.

Eyeo is in favor of the Acceptable Ads Committee, and Google adheres to its rules when running YouTube. Both companies are members of the Coalition for Better Ads.

According to Eyeo’s Maier, YouTube eventually wants to follow other websites that have committed to exclusively running “acceptable ads.” These are ads that Eyeo’s blockers and browsers like Opera do not obstruct for their estimated 300 million viewers, as stated by the approved advertising Committee.

Meshkov of AdGuard doesn’t think the fighting will cease any time soon. “I find it hard to imagine them prepared to do any commercials that are considered appropriate,” he remarks. “With every update, they make their ads more and more annoying.”

Every time that occurs, the industry of ad blockers adjusts, driving up the cost of campaigns such as Google’s. According to developers, Facebook seemed to give up following its 2016 assault because it was using too many internal resources to keep up with the blockers. An inquiry for comment from Meta was not answered.

Although it reduces the platform’s technical load, YouTube’s strategy of identifying blockers and placing the burden on users to disable them rather than deploying technology to do so, according to Meshkov, is nonetheless noteworthy.

He says that this game will go on and there will be times, maybe even most of the time, when people can use YouTube without any annoying stuff going on. However, it won’t be a pleasant experience even if you see advertisements 20% of the time. In the worst scenario, ad blockers may end up giving in to Google at the industry convention the following year.

Read more at News Intercept:

YouTube is cracking down on ad blockers globally

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