Facebook Inc (NASDSAQ:FB) is engaged in an almighty struggle with Adblock, a popular web browser plugin that stops ads appearing on screen.
The two companies are engaged in a tug of war over the right not to see online advertising, which many people think is obtrusive. However it looks as though social media giant FB might be winning.
FB blocking ad blockers
Facebook Inc (NASDSAQ:FB) made an announcement on 9 August in which it revealed that it would be making a greater effort to crack down on ad blocking. This means that the social network found a way to beat the ad blockers and make ads appear even if users did not want to see them, although it did say that users would be able to exert more control over the type of ads that appear.
The social media giant maintains that the improvements to its ads mean that users don’t need to block them. Advertising revenues are crucial to maintaining a free Facebook Inc (NASDSAQ:FB) service, but users still want to block ads.
Adblock Plus is the world’s most popular ad blocking browser plugin, and recently announced that it could once again block Facebook ads. The revelation was made in a blog post on 11 August.
Cat and mouse game continues
Just a few hours later Facebook Inc (NASDSAQ:FB) retaliated and said that it had worked out how to block Adblock once more. It then rolled out a code update on 12 August to ban ad blockers for all users.
Adblock Plus is made by German software developer Eyeo GmbH, and offers an open-source content and ad filtering system. Users can download the plugin for free in order to hide ads, background images and HTML elements, and it can even speed up the browsing experience.
Since its release on Google Chrome in December 2010 the plugin has been incredibly popular. It now has 50 million users on the Google browser along with 18 million on Firefox.
What comes next for ad blocking software?
At the time of its announcement, Adblock Plus said that Facebook would likely retaliate.
“Facebook might ‘re-circumvent’ at any time. As we wrote in the previous post, this sort of back-and-forth battle between the open source ad-blocking community and circumventers has been going on since ad blocking was invented; so it’s very possible that Facebook will write some code that will render the filter useless — at any time. If that happens, the ad-blocking community will likely find another workaround, then Facebook might circumvent again, etc,” Adblock Plus’ spokesperson Ben Williams wrote in the 11 August blogpost.
However it is likely that Adblock did not expect Facebook to respond quite so quickly. As it stands it looks like the social media giant currently has the upper hand in the ongoing tug of war.
At the same time Williams is confident that the war is not lost.
“The thing about ad blocking is that it is supported by a huge online community, and that community contributes to the code and functionality of ad blockers,” he said. “So even though we’re a very, very small company in Germany, we have a lot of people who are interested in finding a solution.”
Williams is also confident that other websites will not follow Facebook in attempting to stop ad blockers from working. He says that readership drops significantly when sites do so, and Facebook Inc (NASDSAQ:FB) is only able to implement such a strict line due to its unique nature as a huge social network.