Here comes Facebook into the ad-blocking arms race. Facebook announces it here in its newsroom; The New York Times has a piece on it, and Adblock Plus’s blog notes that “Facebook just got all anti-user.”
Effectively, Facebook is no longer identifying its ads, just disguising them as regular pictures so ad-blockers won’t know what to block. At the same time, it’s trying to give users more control over what ads they see with ad preferences that will let them block certain types of ads.
There’s a lot of rhetoric on display on both sides, and you can wade through it by reading the blog posts from Facebook and Adblock Plus, each of whom take no small pains to justify their stance while casting aspersions on the other’s. Online publications need ad views to survive, but users have gotten fed up with ads—many to the point of not wanting to see any ads at all, no matter how “un-annoying” they might be.
The New York Times piece says that “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.” But it seems to me that computer programmers love to simplify “costly and laborious processes.”
Just as an example, it seems to me that it wouldn’t be at all hard for some ad-blocker to add a system to crowdsource that ad analysis. People could right-click on Facebook ads and select “tag as ad” from the context menu, and the tags get reported back upstream to a central server that will then push out blocks for everyone on anything reported as an ad by X number of users.
However they do it, I know this for sure: ad-blocker programmers aren’t going to shrug and say, “Well, if Facebook doesn’t want us to block their ads, I guess we won’t block their ads.” I predict they’ll route around this measure by Facebook in a matter of days at most.