YouTube begins fighting ad blockers by slowing down load times


A hot potato: YouTube seems to have adopted a new strategy its cat-and-mouse game against ad blockers. What appeared to be a glitch is now revealed as the company’s latest method to degrade the experience for users who either avoid watching ads or do not subscribe to YouTube’s premium plan.

YouTube has confirmed that the platform is intentionally delaying video loading when it detects ad blockers. This policy change may be a reaction to the ad blockers that recently started bypassing YouTube’s initial measures against them.

Earlier this week, Reddit users reported experiencing delays of about five seconds when loading YouTube videos on Firefox and Edge, but not on Google’s own Chrome browser. Investigations suggest that these interruptions happen whenever a video is opened in a new tab or window. Eventually, JavaScript code intended to cause these delays was identified on the site.

YouTube confirmed in a statement that it implemented these pauses to persuade ad-block users to either disable ad blocking for YouTube, uninstall their ad blockers, or subscribe to YouTube Premium. The company also cautioned that ad blockers could worsen the viewing experience across all browsers.

This new approach follows a more severe tactic rolled out globally a few weeks earlier, which either temporarily or permanently halted video playback for users with ad blockers. Often, viewers encountered a message urging them to disable ad blocking for YouTube, though the message eventually allowed them to continue watching. Some users received warnings that the service would completely block their access after watching three more videos.

YouTube’s strategy has reportedly achieved some short-term success. Ad-block providers have noted a significant increase in uninstallations, with surveys citing YouTube’s new policy as the main cause. Meanwhile, extension developers keep devising ways to circumvent the service’s hard lock. The video delays might represent the latest chapter in an ongoing battle between YouTube and ad blockers, or they could be a less aggressive means of coaxing users towards viewing ads and subscribing.

Users of ad blockers are likely frustrated by the unavoidable 30-second ads that frequently appear on non-desktop platforms. Moreover, YouTube Premium received a price hike earlier this year, now charging $13.99 a month or $139.99 a year for ad-free viewing and access to original content. In some instances, even the FBI recommends installing ad blockers as a defense against malicious advertising.

YouTube might gain the upper hand in this conflict next year, at least on Chrome. Google has announced a new schedule for Chrome’s highly anticipated and controversial transition to Manifest V3. This change, which is set to significantly alter how the browser manages extensions and restrict ad blockers, is slated for June 2024 after a previous postponement.

Editor’s note: It’s worth mentioning that when you block ads on all sites, that also means TechSpot sees no revenue from your visits. See: Why Ad Blocking Matters to TechSpot


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