As arms races go, it is hardly in the same league as the Cold War, but the battle between Adblock Plus and Facebook is still threatening to press the red button on the global online advertising market.
Last week, Facebook changed its desktop website so that visitors would see ads on pages even if they are running an ad-blocking plug-in by making ads appear as normal posts albeit carrying a tiny “sponsored” label, which managed to get through the ad-block.
However, Adblock Plus responded within a few hours by distributing a fix that scuppered Facebook”s pan. By Thursday, Facebook had updated its own site to once more to circumvent the Adblock Plus block.
At the time it released a statement, which read: “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.
“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.”
The triumph was short-lived, however, as within hours Adblock Plus had already updated its scripts to reblock the Facebook ads. Or as one tech magazine headline read: “Adblock Plus blocks Facebook block of Adblock Plus block of Facebook block of AdBlock Plus block of Facebook ads.”
The stakes are high for Facebook; it generated $6.2bn (£4.7bn) in revenue from advertising in the most recent quarter and, as the most powerful online publisher in the world, the market will be following its every move. Adblock Plus has called Facebook’s policy of nullifying its tools as “anti-user” behaviour, while Facebook claims ad-blockers are simply trying to make money by forcing publishers to paying for inclusion on their “white lists” of permitted ads.
In March, the IAB’s latest Ad Blocking Report showed the industry is failing to stem the rising tide of ad-blockers, with a sharp increase over the past four months, although many consumers are content to turn the software off to get still get free content – if they have to.
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