Chrome, YouTube, and AdBlock: What You Need to Know

Chrome, YouTube, and AdBlock: What You Need To Know

For many internet companies and content creators, adblocking is a controversial subject.

There are many strong opinions on adblocking – what adblocker is the best, whether it is a necessary evil, and if it’s even legal (it is). This past month, Google made the news for seemingly bypassing adblockers on Chrome, leading to another great discussion on the subject of both adblocking and advertising on YouTube.

googleadblock-vocab

This section’s just for some quick vocabulary in case you aren’t familiar with some of these terms. Skip ahead if you already know this stuff.

  • Adblocker – A program or extension designed to block online advertisements typically seen in web browsers.
  • Non-intrusive advertising – Advertising said to be non-intrusive to the user experience.
  • Intrusive advertising – Unskippable pre-rolls, pop-ups, page-disrupting advertisements, etc.

googleadblock-ad

Essentially, Google (apparently unknowingly) made a revision to Chromium (and, by extension, Chrome and Chrome OS) that made advertisements on YouTube unskippable.

The bug was first discovered in uBlock, but people investigating the issue on the Chromium Development forums quickly discovered that it applied to all adblockers, old and new.

Of course, this news spread like wildfire in no time at all. Before long a ton of news sites were covering the incident, especially as individual users began to notice the problem.

Speculation began quickly – was Google doing this intentionally, using their advantage in the browser market and video sharing to nip adblocking in the bud? Was this just an unfortunate bug that popped up – and if so, was it Google’s fault or the developers of AdBlock, uBlock and other extensions? According to various sources over a long period of time, Google is planning a premium YouTube model – could this be part of that?

It was soon discovered to be a bug and Google’s fault, with one of the known fixes involving uninstalling the YouTube app on Chrome before it was patched out.

Of course, if this were just any other news story, we wouldn’t be covering it here. This incident passed by relatively quickly, but for nearly a week Internet users everywhere were wondering if Google had crossed a sacred line between a user and their browsing experience. I’m not going to be a conspiracy theorist and say they were – it was clearly an accident – but it raised a lot of interesting questions, and I’d like to discuss those questions with you.

googleadblock-intrusive1

Most of the content you find on the Internet is offered for free, including this website. What some users may not know is that the advertisements that come with this content is what pays for it. Even with the rise of power users and abdlockers, Internet advertising revenues are getting higher than ever and are rather unlikely to decrease. While some smaller sites may find themselves plagued by an over-abundance of adblock users, most big Internet companies and advertisers are doing perfectly fine for themselves. Google is currently one of the biggest companies in the world, and it started with a search engine and advertising platform.

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you the following questions. Note that there are no wrong answers.

1. If Google wanted to remove adblocking capabilities from their browsers, would that be okay? Would you stay on an old version or switch browsers?

This one’s my favorite. Morally and legally speaking, it’d be totally okay for Google to do that – it’d just be detrimental to user experience. To me, Chrome simply offers the best user experience for web browsing. Your mileage may vary, of course, but when faced with this decision, I would likely elect to stay on Chrome and simply grin and bear with the advertising.

2. If you switched browsers – to FireFox or Opera perhaps – what if they started doing that, too?

This is likely never going to happen, but think about it. If the companies behind making web browsers decide to crack down on adblocking in the same manner that Apple cracks down on user customization and privacy, what position would that put you in?

3. Should websites be allowed to prevent adblocking? If yes, why, and if no, why not?

This is the question of questions for adblocking, and, again, there are no wrong answers. Personally, I believe that websites should be allowed to make the choice to prevent adblocking, because, you know, freedom. Personally, websites that literally cease to function without page-breaking ads aren’t worth my time. I prefer websites that offer quality content or nicely ask me to not block their ads, and once I whitelist them, using that trust well to provide non-intrusive ads that don’t negatively interfere with my user experience and still help pay their bills.

What do you think, though?

In a previous MTE poll, you guys sounded off in high favor of adblocking. Have any minds changed, or are there any opinions to voice? Please sound off in the comments; I’d love to hear your opinions.

23 comments

  1. People using the browser of an advertisement corporate complaining about advertisements. :’) Use Firefox of Maxthon then or stop whining.

  2. It is the content of may advertisements that I object to and the reason I use adblockers. Many ads I see make bogus claims, or use sex to attempt to sell almost anything. So, I will continue to use adblockers until advertisers clean up their content, especially while I have children in my home.

    • I am in full agreement, with you!!! The advertising content is what can be most offensive. Google and the websites need to be more selective, in the ad contents. If, they are using an advertising program or client, than simply use another one, where the ad content is more family orientated.

  3. I don’t mind ads for the most part. What I DO have a problem with, are pages that have some hidden ad that pops up and starts blaring music or other drivel while I’m trying to watch my content. THAT, I find invasive, and will no longer visit that page (or sponsor) once that happens.

    • Yeah. Sometimes I turn off my adblocker and visit a few sites, just to see how most Internet users are experiencing it, and it can get really painful and egregious, you know? It’s really annoying with things that are already super-popular, too, as you likely already know about them and an ad taking up the whole page isn’t likely to sell you on it.

    • True. Short of changing ad domains daily, I don’t think an advertiser or Google could do anything to subvert a system-level website block.

    • I’ve been using Hosts since (around) 2008, and I find it the fastest, easiest way to block 98% of the ads.
      Unfortunately, there are some services (Hulu, NBC, etc.) that won’t play their content, unless you unblock the ads.

  4. I would definitely switch to Firefox. I’m already teetering on the edge and use them both. I agree that static ads are find but I hate automatic videos or popups

  5. Google is a great company but too too much big.
    I was thinking buying a chromebook.
    I will not.
    I will continue to use adblockers.

    • Interesting, so you’ll buy a standard laptop with windows or a Macbook? That will certainly keep you away from the big big companies. Come on. I hate ads as much as anyone, especially intrusive ones (and I’ll never bother with the site again) . . . . but taking them all away means you’d be paying for almost everything you do online now. I know which one I’m choosing.

  6. I agree with David above. It is the content and method of showing us ads that creates frustration and problems. I am very tired of the fraudulent “did you know this tip to lose weight, get insurance, blah, blah” ads. I do not mind discreet, in the corner of the page ads from local folks or from real retailers. I detest the ads that take over my screen, block the content I am viewing, or otherwise interrupt what I am doing. The Internet was never designed to be someone’s cash cow and the advertisers should take their lumps as well.

    • Completely that! Also what really offends me are fake download button ads and the people who think it’s ok to use those advertisers for their website when they are a site that offers mostly downloads for things. It’s too difficult for my older relatives to know the difference between the real download button & the ad, which is really sneaky & dishonest, malicious behavior. There should certainly be some way to reprimand the people who do that.

  7. Yes, I would go to a different browser if Chrome stopped me from blocking awful ad content. Some of it is just plain offensive to me, and some of it is intrusive to my browsing experience. If the big guys all gang up and decide to stop ad blocking together, there will always be open source, like Firefox, for people who care about what is pushed at them. Thank goodness for open source developers and everybody else who contributes to open source!

    • Yeah, that is a relief. The open source community is capable of some really amazing things, and it’d be pretty awful for Google to turn on them.

  8. I use Firefox, sometimes Chrome or another browser. Even though I developed almost perfect immunity against advertising, I still view it as a robber of my time. Literally, I do not pay attention to most ads, and sometimes I even react “allergically”, disliking the advertised product, particularly if they try to force me to watch the ad (I really wish to see more people adopt this behavior!). A particularly infuriating behavior for me is breaking pages, or Youtube ads which do not allow to “skip to your video in x seconds”, and make me waste a whole 15 or 30 seconds of my life.

    So, I strongly support adblockers and object against disabling them.

    Interestingly: if I see a polite “not to block” request (your Q3), that might actually send me to click the ad… crazy world.

  9. I use all mayor browser (yes even IE) for my work to verify the correct working of our application.
    IMHO a browser should be a transparent tool only rendering the page coming in.

    So when Google takes a stand against ad-blockers they are on the wrong way.
    It is up the the owners of the web pages to stop ad-blocking. If Google builds in some commands that allow web pages to stop an ad-blocker, that is OK. But they shall not block ad-blockers themselves.

    Concerning the adds. i mostly do not look at them. but the intrusive ones; in whatever form; should be forbidden. Why? Well, I have a sticker on my mailbox (the real live one) to stop the postman to put adds in my box. This is completely legal. So putting a “sticker” in the form of a ad-blocker on my internet connection is also completely legal. If a site politely asks me to not do this because they need the money to give me the information for free then I will stop blocking there adds but otherwise all adds will be blocked.

    NOTE: There seem to be add-providers that in some way blacken out the screen in FireFox when blocked. This kind of behavior should also be forbidden.

  10. As for myself. I have dealt with the ads on YouTube and other sites, and while I realize these companies must get paid (no one’s going to show your product for free!) I don’t think it’s fair to the average user to have to sit through a 5 – 7 minute (some even longer!) advertisement about something that helps you stop smoking, when they’re NOT smokers! Nor should someone have to watch a commercial about Erectile Dysfuntion if they’re a WOMAN! One or two commercials might not be so bad, but 12 or 13 of them while watching a Linux HowTo video?….ridiculous and truly asinine. I used to use Internet Explorer, with Windows 7….but ever since dealing with the foolishness that these streaming and content heavy sites participate in, I switched to FireFox…..installed the advertisement blocking software, and have never looked back since.

    I realize that every and anything can be converted into a business or a revenue stream, and I guess since TV’s so plagued with commercials, ads, info-mercials, and just plain old “video spam” That the businesses now have to bombard the ‘net. And even though I can always go to a different web-site, I don’t see why its necessary, when I can just install an adblocker and enjoy my content minus the ads. If a company is really, REALLY intent on thrusting their commercials on the masses they should actually figure out a way to do so without interrupting their content. That actually makes a person “hate” the particular service or product. And everytime that same commercial was run this built up another level and then another level…until guess what?…a person would rather be caught DEAD than to shop / buy from that particular product or service!

  11. Ads are pointless, and do nothing but clutter pages and media, throwing brainwashing techniques to stuff one will never buy. one of the reasons why I don’t watch TV. If i wish to buy something online, I always pull out the search engine, and search for it. I never click ads, because they are useless, what I really hate about ads, is their embedded scripts that try and attempt to track your location,log your machine, log your operating system and type of browser. Adverts give me anxiety and stress because more often than most, they advertise content I am not interested in… Its all about trying to force people to buy stuff they are not interested in. Like I said before, if I am interested in buying something, I always search for it. I typically dislike websites that block you from visiting just because I use an add blocker for my own sanity and mental health wellbeing, as well as keeping my browser clean from unwanted scripts and cookies that are coupled with ads to extract information of your location, machine and software.

    • Couldn’t agree more. This is exactly my thoughts, ads are useless & have never once encouraged or led to me buying anything. Ever. They do nothing more than irritate me to a point where I’d like to mail the creators of said ads a bag of dog poop every day. They’re always intrusive, distracting, annoying & beyond stupid. If I want to be condescended to, I’ll go down to a police station or something & be a douchebag. Until then, I’d prefer to keep my sanity by removing things like advertisements. That’s not the only thing adblock is great for, too. In Firefox, I have something called “element hiding helper” for adblock plus, which allows me to click on anything on a page & make a filter for removal based on it. I use it all the time for blocking comment sections & things because I get caught up in reading them & they make me crazy with rage. It’s a defense mechanism of the greatest variety.

  12. No wrong answers? Yes there are. Any site that disables my adblocking can go screw itself & die. It is my screen, I get to control what is on it. It is also my computer. They’ve no right. It’s THEIR problem, not mine, the issue of somehow monetizing whatever it is, and it is THEIR job to figure out how to do so without causing ME problems.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is reason 1,001 why screw Chrome & I will never be using it again. It’s been several years since I used that crappy, ugly, horrid browser & I’m glad I’m rid of it. Firefox has so much more to offer anyway. There are also a multitude of other great browsers that I’d pick any day over Chrome. K-Meleon, Icedragon (based on firefox & awesome & compatible with FF addons), Palemoon (also firefox based), Maxthon, Seamonkey, Flock, UC Browser (debatable since it’s basically chrome, but maybe it wont have this problem), Flashpeak Slimjet, Avant, Opera etc etc etc etc…….. I’d recommend K–Meleon, it’s awesome. I’d also suggest any of the FF alternatives (Palemoon, Icedragon, Cyberfox, Flock, Seamonkey)

  13. I agree with those who say that anti-adblocking is the responsibility of individual web sites, not a browser manufacturer. A web browser is a tool to render content that is served up to it, and nothing more. It should make no decisions on what content to allow other than those made by its user in the settings or via the extensions. It is up to individual web sites to either refuse to load in the presence of an adblocker, or to display a nice message asking you to make an exception for them. When sites issue a polite message and don’t have intrusive adverts, I sometimes consider whitelisting them.

    Regarding the philosophy of adblocking – whether it’s right or wrong, I’m with all the people in favour of ad-blocking:

    Firstly, I never click on any ads, so the ad networks and web sites don’t gain anything from me anyway.

    Secondly, it’s very arrogant and thoughtless of them to believe that my bandwidth is so worthless they can use it all up, and that my internet connection is fast enough to cope with it. I am paying time and money to load every MB of irrelevant rubbish.

    Thirdly, ads constantly distribute malware. Earlier this year (or last year?), Yahoo! spent 4 days serving up malware on their main web site’s ad banner, before any member of staff noticed it.

    Fourthly, it’s my screen and my hardware. I decide what code runs on it and gets displayed.

    Finally, I don’t want to be tracked and monitored and profiled across the internet. I ignore advertising, so it’s a waste of resources letting any ad network do it. I always block adverts and content that doesn’t respect “Do Not Track” headers, via PrivacyBadger, regardless of what’s actually blocked in my adblocker. If a webmaster wants to get their adverts viewed, then fine, but it’s up to them to stop tracking me! Their ads simply won’t be visible until then…

    It is up to a web site owner to find a way of monetising their site. It’s not my problem. If they can’t provide content without ads, then I’d happily see their site die and get consigned to history where it belongs. I’d rather donate or pay for better content. In short, if a site stops working because of an ad-blocker, I won’t miss it, I’ll just find another site, and I don’t care if it’s free or not.

  14. Yes ,advertising helps pay the bills.In a normal way ,I think we all would say ok. Just like we used to on tv. We skipped a channel back and forth if aggravated with content. If a 15 second ad was shown every 10 or 15min or so I’m sure people would not be upset. I think the ads that don’t stop for 30 seconds and are constantly repeated for”news” bits of 30-60 second duration are the frustrating ones. Please!!! we’re not stupid!
    or the ones that play on a page you’re on and can’t stop and they loop! And thats on top of the original ad that played for 30 seconds for a 30 second feed! There needs to be a standard but who sets it and how do we police it. Ahhhh, the internet . What a beautiful invention.

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