Ad blockers and anti-ad blockers compete in the net. While Google is considering developing its own advertising blocks, researchers are working on the “Super weapon“.
If you block me, I’ll block you – abblock and anti ablock
The Internet is a race. On the one hand, the operators of commercial websites and their advertising partners stand. On the other hand, there are start-ups, worried users and data protectionists. And in between: developers, researchers and companies like Google, Apple and Facebook who want to communicate. It is about ad blockers and anti-adblockers to counter-defense.
The martial vocabulary is used by researchers from Stanford and Princeton universities in a new study (Storey et al., 2017). In the past two years the debate has escalated, they write.After an ad-blocker, which means browser extensions, the advertising elements on websites, has long been, the advertising industry bounces back. It is increasingly using technology that is designed to obfuscate advertising or block ad blockers – only those who disable the ad blocker can then read the content of the site. The users and developers of the blockers, on the other hand, try to trick these mechanisms out.
Both sides have good arguments. On the one hand, most of the media offers on the Internet, including ZEIT ONLINE, are financed mainly by the use of advertising media, which is reduced by the spread of ad blockers. They are interested in the fact that their readers deactivate the extension for individual pages or do not even use the extensions. On the other hand, online advertising can interfere, prove to slow down websites or bring about unwanted data exchange (tracking). The fact that some users want to prevent this is understandable.
A cat-and-mouse game
A solution of this tension seems difficult. Even if new browsers such as Brave or Cliqz try to give users more control without harming the advertising industry. The media sector also tests alternative financing and revenue models beyond traditional banner advertising. At the same time, there are questionable copyright complaints from publishers and equally questionable business practices on the part of the ad block providers, which often also have commercial interests.
Companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook, all of which operate their own advertising networks, are increasingly the focus of the debate. Two years ago, Apple allowed the use of ad blockers on the iPhone for the first time, which distressed the advertising industry, the increasingly important mobile advertising but so far as safe from blocked ads. Last year, Facebook joined the developers of ad blockers.
Google, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, the Chrome browser with an already built ad blocker, both on the desktop and mobile. By default, it could hide all those advertising items that do not follow the guidelines of the Coalition for Better Ads industry association. What initially seems odd – advertising is still Google’s main source of income – could give the company more control in the online advertising market in the long term, analysts say. In other words, if ad blockers can not be abolished anyway, Google itself wants to have control over what is blocked and what is not.
New ad blocking technology should not be circumvented
In fact, the researchers from Stanford and Princeton also come to the conclusion that, in the end, the ad blockers will retain the upper hand, at least in the current state of technology and consumer protection laws. What’s more, they want to discover a solution that would be useless with anti-ad blockers and obscuration techniques: they call it perceptual ad blocking – “perceptual blocking”. It does not primarily consider the source code of a website, but the content. So what the users actually get to see.
Until now, ad-blockers mostly work on the basis of filter lists, which are maintained by the suppliers and volunteers from the community. They contain, for example, links to known commercial servers, which are then blocked via ad blockers when the browser extension detects them. The problem with this system: The advertising industry can always change the links, the filter lists must be constantly renewed. At the same time, ad blockers allow advertisers to pay off the list for a fee.