Three cheers for Facebook, which this week took aim at ad blockers working against its desktop web application. The company also created new ad preferences for users, seen as an attempt to ease the sting of desktop ad blocking that presumably has now stopped working.
Predictably, some say this will escalate the battle between Facebook and other web services and the developers that create ad blockers (many of which are open-source software), who promise to make Facebook blocking work once more.
“No one can stop ad blocking. Not even Facebook,” reads Wired’s headline for a story that goes on to admit that even Wired itself is using anti-ad blocking technology to protect its revenue and content.
Wired notwithstanding, Facebook is particularly well equipped to fight ad blockers because it can serve both content and ads from the same server platform, denying ad blockers of an easy way to differentiate between ads and content. Many ad blockers work by simply blocking content from IP addresses known to serve advertising as part of web pages.
In what amounts to paying ransom to kidnappers, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Taboola reportedly pay developers of ad blockers to white list their advertising and allow it to be shown.
As a performance native advertising network, MGID is absolutely opposed to ad blocking, which we believe threatens the free internet. We understand that many users do not like internet advertising and we call on our industry to do a better job of providing a balanced user experience.
Still, ad blocking violates the unwritten social contract under which paid advertising has supported free content for almost 100 years. We understand that ad-blocking users do not think of what they are doing as theft, but if you are a web publisher losing revenue to the blocks, it certainly seems like content is being stolen.
Convincing “honest” users that ad blocking is bad for the internet presents an uphill battle, so Facebook and other sites have started blocking the blockers. We have developed our own MGID anti-ad blocking technology to protect our publishers’ revenue and advertisers’ messages from facing a sudden death in this pay-to-play ad-blocking racket
Facebook’s mobile app is already pretty blocker-proof, so this week’s news is about Facebook on desktops. We welcome the attention Facebook’s move will bring to the ad-blocking problem. They can do more than anyone else to educate well-meaning users that ad blocking undermines the free content that people use and enjoy.
We also call upon organizations such as Google that are paying developers that create ad blockers what amounts to protection money to stop.
Nothing is likely to convince some users that ad blocking is bad news. But, we believe most people appreciate the important role advertising plays in providing internet content and services. Ad blockers have been around for decades, but recent advances in the technology coupled with increased complexity of economy have caused the issue to bubble up into users’ consciousness.
Over the next year, we expect more and more sites to fight ad blocking. We certainly plan to, but remain hopeful if publishers are not too heavy-handed, that the majority of users will accept that viewing advertising—or paying for ad-free content—is the grand (and good) bargain that makes the internet content available to billions of users
Please join us in fighting ad blocking.