YouTube cracks down on adblock users in ongoing battle against ad blockers
August 3, 2023
On June 27, 2023, a Reddit user encountered a previously unseen popup on YouTube.
The Reddit user had been running an adblocker. Upon clicking a YouTube video, they were alerted that the video player would be blocked after three playbacks. To avoid the playback limit, they needed to allow ads or purchase a Premium subscription. Not long after the post generated buzz, a representative for YouTube confirmed they recently launched new anti-adblock measures. The representative described the measures as “a small experiment globally that urges viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium.”
One of many anti-adblocker initiatives
Since then, more and more users have posted about encountering the anti-adblock popup. YouTube has, in effect, instilled an ad block wall into its service. But this is far from the first time YouTube has worked towards fighting adblockers. Last year, several ad-blocking services - including the prominent YouTube Vanced, specifically designed to block YouTube ads - were discontinued due to legal issues and complaints from Google, YouTube's parent company. Further, in an effort to make ad blocking more challenging, YouTube implemented SSAI (Server-Side Ad Insertion) technology.
Google has also invested in battling adblockers outside of YouTube. Manifest V3, Google’s latest Chrome iteration, has left adblock developers scrambling by significantly restricting adblockers’ capabilities. Additional prototypes from Google, such as the Web Environment Integrity API, are also stirring controversy for potentially restricting ad blockers.
Separate from their anti-adblock efforts, YouTube has steadily increased the number of ads shown to users. Last summer, YouTube conducted a “small experiment” (the same phrase used to describe the recent adblock wall measures) where users experienced increased ad breaks and unskippable ads. In longer videos, ad breaks appeared as often as every few minutes. Plus, a single break would contain up to ten unskipp. While the ads were typically just five to six seconds each, the combined ad break time resulted in roughly one minute of video disruption. Despite the negative public reactions, YouTube again upped the ante in May this year by introducing unskippable 30 seconds for YouTube's top-performing content when viewed from a connected TV.
People may look at Google and YouTube and wonder why they go to such lengths to improve their ad revenue. After all, Google’s ad revenue is already colossal. However, from Google’s corporate perspective, it’s likely that their adblock revenue loss is also colossal. Over 40% of internet users worldwide have reported using an adblocker. With such widespread usage, estimates show that most publishers lose 10-40% of their ad revenue to ad blockers. For Google, that’s literally billions of dollars in lost revenue. Considering how much is at stake, Google’s efforts are more understandable.
So how effective is YouTube’s adblock wall? It’s notoriously easy for adblockers to bypass adblock walls - and it appears that YouTube’s adblock wall is no exception. The wall seems to still be in effect for mobile web environments, where adblocking capabilities are limited. However, popular ad blockers like AdGuard and uBlock Origin have already neutralized the adblock wall in desktop environments. To add insult to injury, it took less than a week. With just two lines of added filter (shared below), the block was easily bypassed.
youtubekids.com,youtube-nocookie.com,youtube.com#%#//scriptlet('json-prune', 'playerResponse.adPlacementsplayerResponse.playerAds adPlacements playerAds', 'playerConfig.streamSelectionConfig.maxBitrate')
youtube.com,youtubekids.com,youtube-nocookie.com#%#//scriptlet('json-prune', 'playerResponse.adPlacements playerResponse.playerAds adPlacements playerAds', 'playerResponse.playerConfig.streamSelectionConfig.maxBitrate')
Despite the desktop setback, YouTube may improve adblock recovery rates via mobile web users. However, it comes at the cost of alienating loyal users with a disruptive new UX.
Adblock wall alternatives
For behemoths like YouTube, sacrificing UX to increase ad revenue may be feasible. But it’s far from ideal and causes long-term revenue losses for most publishers. If you're not 100% satisfied with your website's ad revenue, consider trying Ad-Shield's next-generation adblock recovery solution. By consistently recovering over 90% of adblocked impressions, we have the highest recovery rate on the market. Plus, our solution is Better Ads Standards-compliant and includes opt-out functions. Ad-Shield prioritizes UX and helps publishers sustainably recover adblocked revenue - without disrupting the user experience. Join us in building an internet enjoyable for everyone.
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