What is ad blocking?

The ins and outs of ad blocking

Many users these days are using ad blockers when viewing content such as ads, media, social widgets or tracking beacons online. Ad blocking is the act of selectively downloading material when visiting a website or using an app, thus “blocking” the unwanted items from loading.

How does ad blocking work?

Ad blocking involves software that is usually installed as an extension into a browser like Chrome or Firefox. Once installed, it filters content in two main ways:

  1. By checking against a (crowdsourced) blacklist of domain names and stopping them from loading, and
  2. Then checking the page after it has loaded and removing any items that fit certain rules, like images with standard ad dimensions or text within a box that says “sponsored.”

Why would someone use an ad blocker?

There are four main reasons someone would use an ad blocker and these are:

  • Speed – Web pages generally take time to load due to hundreds of tags, images, megabytes of video, etc, so preventing all of this from loading drastically speeds up the website.
  • Privacy – Most ad networks and tracking systems (like Google Analytics) collect information about user behavior and pages visited, which can lead to privacy issues. Ad blockers stop all of this and make it easy to browse privately.
  • Security – The display (banner) ecosystem is still the largest part of online ads, where ad networks have allowed for third-party JavaScript and Flash files to run in ad slots. Both of these options allow for malicious code to be run, which has led to users getting infected with viruses and malware.
  • Experience – Ad formats have evolved from simple banners to rich media popping up and distracting users from viewing articles. This only leads to negative effects and is arguably the biggest reason for using ad blockers.

Options for advertisers

Advertisers are affected by ad blockers as ads targeting a specific audience will be blocked. However, as more content is heading toward closed platforms and apps, advertising will only become more integrated and harder to remove.

Options for publishers

Publishers are the most affected because they lose out on ad revenue when visitors block ads.