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Adblock Plus says it has already beaten Facebook’s ad block blocking tactics
Cat and mouse game around ad blocking is likely to continue and escalate.
Two days ago, Facebook said that it was improving user control over ads but also going to block ad blocking software on the desktop. The company declined to do something similar on mobile, where most of Facebook’s ad revenues come from (84 percent) and where most of the ad blocking activity is now taking place.
Today, one of the leading companies providing ad blocking software, Adblock Plus, said its user community already found a way to beat the Facebook ad block blocking move:
We promised that the open source community would have a solution very soon, and, frankly, they’ve beaten even our own expectations. A new filter was added to the main EasyList about 15 minutes ago. You’ll just need to update your filter lists (see below for how) . . .
As many of your know, the filter lists that “tell” Adblock Plus what to block are in fact the product of a global community of web citizens. This time that community seems to have gotten the better of even a giant like Facebook.
Echoing IAB critiques of ad blocking, when it made its announcement about PC blocking, Facebook criticized ad blocking companies seeking to insert themselves between publishers and advertisers:
Some ad blocking companies accept money in exchange for showing ads that they previously blocked — a practice that is at best confusing to people and that reduces the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web. Facebook is one of those free services, and ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected. Rather than paying ad blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we’re putting control in people’s hands with our updated ad preferences and our other advertising controls.
In other words, Facebook said that by offering greater user control over ad preferences, it was effectively eliminating the reason for ad blocking and thus would neutralize the software.
Adblock Plus rightly calls the ad blocking and anti-ad-blocking efforts of companies a “cat and mouse game.” It’s one that’s likely to continue for some time, but with a greater emphasis on mobile. Publishers and many marketing technology companies consider ad blocking an existential threat to their models, while others downplay the extent and severity of the phenomenon.
Postscript: A Facebook spokesperson provided the following statement:
We’re disappointed that ad blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads but also posts from friends and Pages. This isn’t a good experience for people and we plan to address the issue. Ad blockers are a blunt instrument, which is why we’ve instead focused on building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands.
Postscript 2: Reportedly Facebook has already released code to block or neutralize the Adblock Plus workaround discussed above. That will in turn lead to another Adblock workaround, and so on and so on.