Since nearly the day Google purchased YouTube, the company has been fighting against users who have ad blockers installed. They have tried various tactics over the years, such as messages and delays. But now, Google is taking its battle against ad blockers to a new level, blocking users from watching any content on YouTube entirely.
What is an ad blocker?
An ad blocker is a piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page. Simply put, ad-blockers are software specifically developed to remove advertisements from the sites you visit. They're easy to install, available as browser extensions, and are compatible with just about every device and platform. While a site is loading, the ad-blocking software checks the domain names of the elements loading on the web page against massive blocklists.
Ad blockers not only keep you from seeing some ads, but the best ad blockers also block the trackers and other tools advertisers use to spy on you. By blocking these requests and preventing ads from downloading into your browser, you'll see pages loading faster, fewer cluttered sites, and a reduced risk of encountering malware. It's for these reasons that more and more folks are turning to ad-blockers. In fact, 25% of internet users in the US used blockers in 2019, marking a 24% increase from 2018.
The problem with ad blockers
The problem, of course, is that ads are how many free websites pay their bills. For example, our site produces a ton of content every year and we charge readers, listeners, and viewers absolutely nothing for that content. Well, we charge nothing in terms of money. Instead, our payment is your time and attention. On the website, we have link-based ads. In our shows, we run audible and visual ads. But, as soon as that is over, we get right down to the content.
Without those ads within our content, we would be incapable of running the site or the 100 or so hours of video content plus written articles. YouTube's business model is nearly identical, only on a significantly larger scale. The company sells and runs ads in content uploaded by users and shares the profits of those ads with the content creators themselves.
YouTube's response to ad blockers
As part of the company's crackdown on ad blockers, YouTube is now preventing users who are using an ad blocker from accessing any content. This includes ad blocker plugins and browsers with ad blockers built in. Instead of seeing a video, users will instead see a black box with a message that says,
Ad blockers violate YouTube's Terms of Service
It then informs the user that they need to disable the ad blocker or to subscribe to YouTube Premium to continue using the service. YouTube has been working hard to identify scenarios in which people with ad blockers are able to get around these newly enforced restrictions. For example, switching your user agent string to Windows Phone was able to avoid the notification, though that seems to no longer be the case.
Ad blockers as a technology are a complicated and frustrating topic. Users are looking for protection from unwanted tracking and possible malware, plus a faster and better internet experience. On the other hand, content creators and websites need to generate revenue to create the content that users are looking for. A middle ground needs to be found so that content creators and consumers are no longer at odds, but instead in concert to produce a better experience for everyone.