Facebook isn’t hurting for ad revenue, but instead wants to take a moral stand against the use of ad blockers.
Facebook doesn't really need the money, but it's making a stand. Image: SEO/Flickr
Hope you weren't too used to browsing Facebook without seeing any ads.
The company on Tuesday will begin preventing ad blocking software from blocking ads on the desktop version of the Facebook.com website. The move, which Facebook couched in moral terms in interviews with the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is perhaps the highest-profile salvo by a website against users who actively seek to avoid ads.
"We're doing it more for the principle of the thing," Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's vice president of engineering for advertising and pages, told the Journal, claiming that the company isn't doing this to recoup lost ad revenue. (The company isn't exactly hurting.) "We want to help lead the discussion on this."
"This," of course, is the increasing use of ad blocking software across desktop and mobile devices, depriving publishers of the ad revenue they need to keep the lights on. Gone are the days where you had to be a card carrying member of Slashdot to know how to use something like AdBlock Plus. To wit: PageFair, a research firm, noted in its most recent report on ad blocking, published in August 2015, that 198 million people worldwide used ad blocking software, a 41 percent increase compared to the previous 12 months. Another report, from the Internet Advertising Bureau, claims that 22 percent of US internet users block ads on their desktop computer.
It's important to note that, at least for now, there's still a way to browse Facebook without seeing ads, and that's by using the mobile website and using ad blocking software like Crystal or Mozilla Focus. That's because this initial ad blocker banhammer doesn't affect the mobile website. (Mobile ad blocking software doesn't block ads in native apps, mind.) How long this mobile loophole remains in place is unclear, but publications I've spoken with over the past year have claimed that the use of mobile ad blocking software wasn't sufficiently common for them to pay too much attention to.
Eyeo, the German company behind AdBlock Plus, characterized Facebook's decision to block desktop ad blocking software as a "dark path against user choice."
It's not all bad news for people who are using to blocking ads on Facebook, with the company updating the tools that its users can configure to help them see more relevant ads. Whether that placates the anti-ad crowd is another matter entirely.