eyeo has a new task force to fight circumvention
eyeo believes that anyone using the Internet has the right to choose how they see the web. Blocking annoying and/or malicious ads is one of those rights. We’re not alone – the sheer number of people using an ad blocker is testament to the level of irritation that users feel when they are bombarded with ads on every site they visit. Unfortunately, circumvention companies think it’s OK to blast these users with ads, even if they choose not to see ads.
A YouGov study shows that the main reasons for using an ad blocker include avoiding invasive and malicious ads, as well as increasing security and decreasing the amount of tracking that online companies deploy on a daily basis.
However, many websites still rely on the “classic” ad model for revenue. This brings users in direct conflict with publishers, leading to an arms race between publishers and ad blockers.
Circumvention - the anti-user choice.
As ad-blocking rates have increased since 2002, many publishers, understandably, have attempted to find solutions. These solutions include paywalls, anti-ad block walls, premium content, and limits on how many free articles can be read before paying. Still other publishers have opted in to the Acceptable Ads program (54% of Comscore Top 50 websites now use Acceptable Ads).
There are also a number of “counter-measure” companies that offer their services to online publishers. These companies promise publishers the ability to recoup lost advertising revenue by “reclaiming” ads from ad-blocking users. Simply put, the companies use their tech to attempt to reinject ads into sites viewed by an ad-blocking user, effectively circumventing the ad blocker.
While on the surface it seems like an easy quick fix, there are a few problems with this approach.
Circumvention is massively anti-user. By employing circumvention technology, a publisher effectively tells the user “we don’t care about you, we just want the clicks. We don’t care about user experience, user choice or even our reputation as a content provider.”
If a user has chosen to visit a site without seeing ads, nothing is going to annoy more than ads popping up everywhere. True, they may blame their ad blocker, thinking that it’s broken, but probably they’ll just leave. They may go somewhere else for their content.
As we’re about to see, circumvention is also costly and ineffective.
Ad blockers vs. circumvention
Facebook was one of the big companies that employed circumvention techniques. It took the team at eyeo a period of cat-and-mouse games with Facebook, but in the end, eyeo won and users of ABP have been using Facebook ad-free for over a year now.
To step up the fight, eyeo created an interdisciplinary circumvention task force led by Jutta Horstmann. Although the task force is relatively new, they are tough, and they have been hard at work. Their new anti-circumvention measures were first implemented in Adblock Plus version 3.1 in April. The success of that update freed up 103 websites from reinjection and forced a slew of third-party circumventers to adapt their business model. Version 3.3 of Adblock Plus further reinforces these measures, making them more adaptable and faster to implement. Responding to circumvention now takes hours instead of days.
Jutta says: “We believe that this [circumvention] risks further isolating consumers, so we have created a task force, staffed with experts from all parts of the company to address this very issue. Even in a small space of time we are already seeing success and we are providing features to the whole ad blocker community, not only for Adblock Plus. I’m proud to be leading the newly formed anti-circumvention task force”.
Companies that now attempt to disrespect user choice by reinjecting ads into their sites may soon find (if they haven’t already) that ad blockers have the upper hand. They are paying for an ineffective and easily-thwarted service that brings precisely no value.
The bad news for these companies? Over the next few months, eyeo will be rolling out several updates and strategic initiatives to further counter circumvention.
Maybe it’s time publishers started to look for user-friendly solutions?