Google has a complicated relationship with the ad blocking industry. THE Google Play mobile app store, unlike Apple’s App Store, has banned ad blockers for about a decade. But Chrome, which Google says is on a mission to support an open internet where users can be safe and private, has given them quite a bit of leeway to operate. In addition to ad filtering, many ad blocking tools have features that prevent users from being web tracking. Ironically, ad blocker developers say that frustration with YouTube has long been a major driver of downloads of their tools.
After facing YouTube’s demands to disable blockers, users have turned in all directions over the past month. Online discussions show some recommended services such as Newpipe.net, an open-source YouTube lookalike, which uses workarounds to stream videos from the service ad-free. Newpipe does not collect usage data, it says on its website.
Some ad blockers are already adapting. Hankuper, the Slovak company behind the lesser-known AdLock blocker, released a new version for Windows this week that it says is going unnoticed by YouTube. If users find the same, the fix will be extended to versions for macOS, Android and iOS, says Kostiantyn Shebanov, product manager and head of business development.
Ghostery’s Modras worries about the consequences of Google’s escalation of the war on blockers. Users who lose anti-tracking features by turning off the tools could fall prey to online dangers, and the more complex blocking tactics that companies like his are forced to introduce could lead to unintended security breaches. “The more powerful they have to become to meet the challenges, the higher the risks,” he says.
There could also be legal repercussions. Modras says that when a publisher takes steps to thwart an ad blocker, it is illegal for developers to try to circumvent those measures in Europe. But he believes it is permissible to block ads if a blocker does so before triggering a warning.
A truce seems unlikely in the near future, but ad blockers, publishers and advertisers have tried to find common ground on less troubling ad formats that ad blockers would allow to pass through. But different interpretations of what users want and conflicting business imperatives have left a patchwork of different advertising experiences. Eyeo supports Acceptable Announcements Committee; Google is a member of the board of directors of Coalition for Better Advertisingand operates YouTube according to its standards.