Facebook is giving you better control over ads, but also killing your ad blocker.

Facebook has long been one of the big reasons people use ad blockers, but over on The New York Times, they detail Facebook’s newest plan to circumvent those ad blockers starting today.

At some point today, Facebook will flip a switch across its desktop site that will render all ad blockers useless. It’s hard to say exactly how this will work right now, but the Times has this to say:

To shut down the blockers, Facebook is taking aim at the signifiers in digital ads that blockers use to detect whether something is an ad. Facebook’s desktop sitewide changes will then make ad content indistinguishable from non-advertising content. For blockers to get around these changes, Facebook said they would have to begin analyzing the content of the ads themselves, a costly and laborious process.

Of course, using ad blockers aren’t exclusively about removing annoying advertisements from web sites, it’s also about privacy. Right now, it’s unclear how this change will affect privacy-focused extensions, which limits tracking but doesn’t block ads. Based on a blog post immediately after the announcement, it appears that at least Adblock Plus is taking the whole thing personally.

‘This is an unfortunate move because it takes a dark path against user choice.’– Ben Williams, Adblock Plus

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of ads and business platform, suggested that Facebook users no longer need to use ad blockers anyway because “we’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad-blocking software … to stop annoying, disruptive ads.”

The company announced it is making some changes to user ad controls so that:

  • You can choose not to see ads about certain interests “like travel or cats” by removing them from your ad preferences in your user settings.
  • Users will soon be able to stop seeing ads from businesses and organizations that have added them to customer lists.

Facebook criticized some ad-blocking companies for accepting money from advertisers in exchange for “whitelisting” their ads, allowing them to be seen by users with ad blockers installed. Ad-blocking companies like Adblock Plus claim that money is needed to assure that the ads that are allowed are non-intrusive, as managing a whitelist ” requires significant effort on our side.

“Rather than paying ad-blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we’re putting control in people’s hands with our updated ad preferences and our other advertising controls,” Bosworth wrote.


The number of people in the U.S. using ad-blocking software will jump by double digits this year, according to research firm eMarketer. (Photo: eMarketer)

Facebook listed ad-blocking software as a risk in its most recent quarterly filing.

“Revenue generated from the display of ads on personal computers has been impacted by these technologies from time to time,” Facebook said in the filing. “As a result, these technologies have had an adverse effect on our financial results and, if such technologies continue to proliferate, in particular with respect to mobile platforms, our future financial results may be harmed.”

Facebook makes nearly all of its revenue from advertising. It generated $6.44 billion in revenue in the second quarter, easily topping Wall Street estimates. Mobile represented 84% of the $6.24 billion in advertising revenue Facebook collected. Advertisers are flocking to Facebook to reach the 1.71 billion users who are hanging out there.

“Facebook definitely recognizes (ad-blocking software) as a risk,” eMarketer analyst Bryan Yeager says. “This is a way for them to see what type of success they could have at mitigating that risk and extending that into a larger scale strategy for all their properties.”

Research conducted for Facebook by Ipsos Connect found people resort to ad blockers to avoid disruptive ads (69%), ads that slow down the browsing experience (58%) and security and malware risks (56%).

“The rise of ad blocking is a clear signal to the ad industry that consumers are dissatisfied with their current experiences,” says Adam Isaacson, research director of Ipsos Connect.

Younger consumers are more open to being targeted by ads and having their data collected, but across the board consumers want ads to be personalized and relevant, Isaacson found.

Cat-and-mouse game

The company that makes the popular Adblock Plus software called Facebook’s move “anti-user.”

“This is an unfortunate move because it takes a dark path against user choice,” wrote Ben Williams, communications manager for Eyeo GMbh, in a blog post.

He suggested the move won’t benefit Facebook or advertisers: “Publishers (like Facebook) alienate their audience, and advertisers (the brands) allow their cherished brand name to be shoved down people’s throats. Yikes.”

He also said there is “no reason to overreact” and implied that ad blockers will soon find a way around Facebook’s new anti-ad-blocking technology.

“Cat-and-mouse games in tech have been around as long as spammers have tried to circumvent spam filters,” he wrote.



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