YouTube recently implemented strict measures against visitors using ad blockers - after a few videos, the site stops serving content, essentially forcing users to disable their blockers. This culminates months of escalating efforts by YouTube to circumvent ad blockers and ensure ads are served. However, ad blockers continue working to detect and filter ads, leading to an ongoing arms race.
YouTube utilizes various advanced techniques to bypass ad blockers, like embedding ads in videos or serving them from the same domain. Many publishers do this, but YouTube’s immense scale and constant innovation to outwit ad blockers makes keeping up uniquely challenging. Popular blocking methods like DNS and network filtering no longer succeed on YouTube.
The imminent Manifest V3 update for Chrome will further hurt ad blockers by severely limiting extensions and slowing down block list updates. This will stifle innovation and make it harder for ad blockers to rapidly adapt to YouTube’s frequent changes.
The recent anti-ad block wall forces users to disable blockers or pay for Premium, dramatically altering the status quo. But ad blocking companies argue it’s more a policy change than technical feat, simply demonstrating YouTube’s new willingness to antagonize users to serve ads. Many users are quickly cycling through different ad blockers to circumvent the measures.
Some ad blockers like uBlock Origin still work for now through constant filter updates before YouTube changes detection scripts again. Non-Chrome browsers are also being targeted by alleged throttling. Scriptlet injection has emerged as the most reliable method – it subtly alters data to block ads without affecting site functionality. Scriptlets also help ad blockers evade detection themselves.
According to Ghostery:
“YouTube is using various techniques to bypass ad blockers. These techniques make it harder for ad blockers to identify and block ads and trackers on YouTube. Download Ghostery, a privacy browser extension that blocks ads, trackers, and cookie pop-ups, to block YouTube ads. Ghostery also provides information about the types and sources of trackers on sites you visit.”
While network and browser-based ad blockers can sometimes succeed on YouTube where extensions fail, one popular company AdBlockPlus won’t attempt to bypass the wall at all, respecting YouTube’s monetization.
YouTube claims its ads support creator ecosystems and that ad blocking violates its Terms. But ad blockers counter that open-source community knowledge lets them gain capabilities to beat anti-adblock elsewhere too. If users only disable blocking on YouTube while maintaining it across other sites, YouTube still loses cross-site targeting data.
The alternatives for most publishers to build similar anti-adblock systems are limited - YouTube uniquely dominates online video and its parent Google owns the top browser Chrome. But ad blockers see YouTube’s policy as motivation to improve circumvention technologies for the ongoing cat-and-mouse game.