Thursday, August 11, 2016

Facebook sees ad-blocking software as a problem and is going to block it

Publishers like the New York Times, Forbes and Wired think that ad blockers are a problem. Facebook agrees.

The social network says it will start using software to show ads to users who visit Facebook via a desktop, even if they’re using an ad blocker.

It’s one of many techniques publishers are using to combat ad-blocking software. And it’s proof that ad blockers must be impacting Facebook’s business, even though the vast majority of Facebook’s users and business now come through mobile devices. (Ad blockers work on the mobile web, but not with in-app ads.)

Roughly 84 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from mobile ads, but it still made almost $1 billion in desktop ads last quarter alone. That’s a nice chunk of change the company is trying to protect.

So how is Facebook doing it? Ad blockers are usually able to pick out ads because they're clearly identified as ads within a website's code. Most sites can't change that because advertisers want to wrap their ads in various data trackers, so that they can find out exactly how well they're performing. But Facebook seems to be at such a large scale that advertisers can't balk at changes; and so within the site's code, Facebook ads will now look just like any other Facebook content. (They'll still be displayed as "sponsored" to users, of course). It's possible that ad blockers will find a way around this in the future, but it'll be a lot more work for them.

Like many of its publishing partners — many of whom also take issue with ad blockers — Facebook is a free service that relies on ads for its revenue. So it’s no surprise ad blockers aren’t a welcome sight.

As part of the announcement, Facebook is updating its ad controls so you can opt out of seeing ads from particular businesses. It’s tough to imagine many users will take the time or effort to personalize their ad preferences, though.

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