Tuesday, November 28, 2023

YouTube’s Ad Blocker Crackdown

Paresh Dave (Hacker News, Reddit):

In early October, the people who make ad blocking tools convened in Amsterdam for their industry’s annual conference. One session was a welcome pitch from Google product leaders about tweaks made to address fears that a security update to the company’s Chrome browser could hamper ad zapping. Google, which draws nearly 80 percent of its revenue from ads, even cosponsored the event, at an airy venue along the water.

Emma Roth:

YouTube is broadening its efforts to crack down on ad blockers. The platform has “launched a global effort” to encourage users to allow ads or try YouTube Premium, YouTube communications manager Christopher Lawton says in a statement provided to The Verge.

If you run into YouTube’s block, you may see a notice that says “video playback is blocked unless YouTube is allowlisted or the ad blocker is disabled.” It also includes a prompt to allow ads or try YouTube Premium. You may get prompts about YouTube’s stance on ad blockers but still be able to watch a video, though, for one Verge staffer, YouTube now fully blocks them nearly every time.

Ryan McNeal (via Hacker News):

YouTube recently expanded its ad-blocking efforts, transitioning from just a small experiment to a global launch. The move appears to have had some success, as users are uninstalling the software in record numbers. But you can also argue it has had the opposite effect, as even higher numbers of users are turning to better ad blockers.


Some people are even turning to solutions like Newpipe, a YouTube-like website that’s capable of running videos from the platform without ads.


If you’re looking alternatives, extensions like uBlock Origin still work when used on Firefox. Adblock Plus has also offered some suggestions on how to get past the anti-ad block wall. There’s also the option of biting the bullet and paying for YouTube Premium.

uBlock Origin (2019):

It will not possible for uBlock Origin to work with the upcoming Safari 13 / macOS Catalina release.

Nick Heer:

I am not signed into YouTube and I, too, have seen the anti-adblock campaign.

YouTube is in a unique position — one I imagine is enviable for pretty much any other ad-supported product. It is the web’s video host — well, the web’s general purpose video host, I suppose — and has no equal, so it can do basically anything it wants. It has spent years ratcheting up the ad load. It is now typical that any video you watch will be preceded by two unskippable ads, with more ads often appearing every few minutes.

Alec Watson:

Seemingly few people know (or understand completely) that YT Premium is a good deal for all parties involved - it kills ads, creators get a cut of the membership, and (in my experience anyway) it neutralizes many of the platform’s weird tendencies because serving relevant ads to the viewer is no longer a concern.

I would advocate for it much more strongly (and I say 100% truthfully that Premium views pay me more than ad-supported views do) except YT continues to lump YT music into it.

Jay Bonggolto (via Hacker News):

Several Reddit posts have highlighted a five-second delay when loading YouTube videos on Firefox, which disappeared when the user agent was switched to Chrome, revealing a potential browser-specific issue.

Investigation by users suggests that the delay isn’t a Firefox bug but an intentional addition in the JavaScript code of YouTube’s desktop client.

Discussions speculate that the added delay might be linked to ad display, possibly as a workaround for users employing ad blockers.

Aamir Siddiqui (via Hacker News):

Here is the complete statement sent to us by a YouTube spokesperson:

To support a diverse ecosystem of creators globally and allow billions to access their favorite content on YouTube, we’ve launched an effort to urge viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium for an ad free experience. Users who have ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing, regardless of the browser they are using.

Google’s statement squarely marks the delay as an intentional change targeted toward users who continue to use ad blockers.

hackhive-io (Hacker News):

YouTube is now blocking Ad Blockers - So I just make ads run 16x faster

See also: Hacker News, Reddit.

Pieter Arntz (Hacker News):

Google has announced it will shut down Manifest V2 in June 2024 and move on to Manifest V3, the latest version of its Chrome extension specification that has faced criticism for putting limits on ad blockers. Roughly said, Manifest V2 and V3 are the rules that browser extension developers have to follow if they want their extensions to get accepted into the Google Play Store.


Update (2023-12-06): Thomas Claburn:

Today those Chrome extensions by and large adhere to an API specification known as Manifest V2: that’s what they use to, for example, inspect pages for stuff to filter out. Googlers feel that API puts too much power in the hands of extension developers: someone could make an add-on that offers to do things like block annoying ads on a page, and then later use those powers to steal or manipulate sensitive data on your internet profiles.

The Chocolate Factory’s answer to this was to develop Manifest V3, which has been supported by Chrome for a while now: it’s an alterative way for extensions to drill into pages and filter out bad content, for instance. Google says V3 is safer - giving users more protection from wayward extensions - but some developers argue the switch from V2 to V3 cripples their extensions and makes them less effective. That would mean less effective ad blocking.

See also: Slashdot and Does uBlock Origin (uBO) bypass the latest YouTube anti-adblock script? (via Hacker News).

Update (2023-12-08): Nick Heer:

If you watch a lot of YouTube, Premium looks like a great choice, though I find it requires a reorientation of your headspace: think of YouTube Premium as “YouTube”, and YouTube sans Premium as the “free trial” or “lite” version. That framing also puts Google’s strategy for YouTube into a more understandable context, I think. Google has increased the per-video ad load and it delivers fewer skippable ads, and it is becoming more strict about ad blocking in the same way many software companies limit free trials.

But I can understand why people block ads, too, because the quality of ads I get on YouTube sucks. Part of this is my fault because I am a more privacy-conscious user and, so, take steps to prevent specific targeting. That means I get an awful lot of ads with deep-faked celebrities hawking sketchy investments, garbage supplements, gambling, diet scammers, and other bottom-of-the-barrel crap. I understand my restrictions reduce my likelihood of seeing things which interest me. On the other hand, why is Google accepting ads like these in the first place?

Colin Devroe:

I do not intentionally block ads. I do, however, intentionally block ad tracking. And I think this distinction is important.

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Google has become too big for its britches. I don't know if a good old boycott (this website does not work with Chrome, install a compatible web-browser, firefox) would make any difference. Probably not, since the web is a lot more corporate than it used to be.

Beatrix Willius

Some videos has ads every 2 darn minutes. After the ad-blockers were blocked I switched to Brave for YouTube.

I'm using Adguard's system-wide adblocker for macOS, and after Google's change there were a few hickups at first for a day or two, but since then, I have been seeing neither ads nor notices.

Generally, I think YouTube has every right to fight against adblockers, and it doesn't matter if it's registered users or users like me that don't have an account, have never agreed to their ToS, and subscribe to channels via RSS.

Conversely, I have every right to use an adblocker, and anti-anti-adblocking methods.

PS: I haven't noticed any slowdown. (I'm using Firefox.)

"except YT continues to lump YT music into it."

But that's good for people who subscribe. YT Premium is already a bargain without YT Music, but including it also allowed me to cancel my Spotify subscription, so it basically paid for itself.

It also means that if I find a cool music video in YouTube, I just add it to my Music collection, and then I can also play that song in YT Music.

Safari still works for me with Wipr (not free but cheap once). Could also be because I'm in the EU?

I've been making heavy use of Invidious, partly because it also skips ads, but most of all because it's simply a better experience than using YouTube itself.

“except YT continues to lump YT music into it.”

I agree, that's a big part of this - I have no interest in YT Music, and I have looked at paying for YT-without-ads multiple times. But by lumping Music in they remove any option to just get ad-free, and pretty much no matter what the cost is I'm going to find it unreasonable to pay for something I don't want.

Luckily this hasn't hit me yet, or Ublock Origin magically stayed on top of things in the background.

Good to know from Technology Connections that Premium works for them. But I'd like to have confirmation from others such as Lotus Eaters or Better Bachelor that my support would reach them well before subscribing!

Must be really bad for the cheapskates to pay for content. - A YT Premium customer.

Old Unix Geek

Oh, look. A judgemental German. How original.

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