YouTube is testing another way to combat ad blockers


YouTube continues its efforts to circumvent ad blockers. Earlier this week, ad blocker SponsorBlock posted that the Google-owned video service is testing server-side ad injection with a limited number of users.

Essentially, this means that ads are inserted into the video before it reaches your device (as opposed to client-side ad injection, where ads arrive on your device separately), making it harder for software to detect and block the ads.

“This breaks SponsorBlock, as now all timestamps are offset from the ad time,” SponsorBlock said.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the test in a statement, writing that the service is “improving its performance and reliability in serving both organic and ad video content,” with an update “that may result in a sub-optimal viewing experience for viewers with an ad blocker installed.”

Google reiterated its position that ad blockers “violate YouTube’s terms of service” and that viewers who want an ad-free experience should sign up for YouTube Premium.

This is just the latest move in an ongoing battle, with YouTube constantly finding new ways to evade ad blockers and then ad blockers trying to adapt. In fact, the company introduced a pop-up message last year that essentially prevented visitors from watching videos on YouTube unless they disabled their ad blockers.

When I spoke to the companies behind several ad blockers last year, Ghostery’s director of product and engineering, Krzysztof Modras, told me that “as one of the world’s largest publishers, YouTube constantly invests in ad blocking prevention” and that it seems to be “optimizing (its) methods more frequently than ever.”

Recently, an email from AdGuard, another ad blocker, suggested that while the server-side approach is new for YouTube on the web, the service is already doing something similar in its mobile apps.

AdGuard said it is “optimistic that solutions will emerge, though this will require concerted effort and innovative approaches from ad blocker developers and the ad filtering community.”


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