The Disruption in Progress: Ad Blockers

The use of ad blockers is on the rise.  They have created a crisis in the world of digital advertising.  The number of consumers using ad blockers in the U.S. increased 48 percent during the last year and costing publishers $22 billion this year.
Google is losing billions in ad revenue. Now that Apple has flipped the switch on allowing ad-blocker apps, the crisis could become a catastrophe.


Let me now confess to you by admitting to being one of the many that use an ad blocker, actually for years now. I use uBlock and Ghostery ad blockers. I think what is happening is a lot of people have started to realize that there are more reasons to use one than not to use one. The biggest justifications for using one are for security, performance, and privacy. My reasons are first security then performance and to a lesser degree privacy.

I am by no means going to try and claim to be an expert, but I have seen the results from using ad blockers and not using them. Over the years, I have helped families, friends, and neighbors with their computer issues. In the past few years, I have cleaned around a dozen computers of malware and virus. BlockedSorryThe great thing is I usually get called after browsers have become almost if not completely unusable.
All of these computers have had two things in common: (1) no ad blocker and (2) very active on social media. Some were also used by other family members. All of these computers had almost 300 malware objects or more. A couple of them had over a thousand. Since they were cleaned and have had an ad blocker installed, I no longer get phone calls from them with browser problems.  Coincidence?

There has been a huge rise in malvertising lately and lots of talk on how Flash needs to go away because of all the vulnerabilities that keep cropping up. How are all of these Flash vulnerabilities delivered? Ads! Using click-to-play and especially click-to-play per element eliminates any vulnerabilities delivered through Flash ads and, of course, using an ad blocker will also eliminate any Flash vulnerability.  NoMoreAdsThere are other ways your security can be compromised:  phishing attempts delivered through ads, Trojan software bundled with toolbars offered through ads, bogus PC cleaners, optimizer, security software.  Advertising networks have started now to be viewed as the biggest security threat for a reason. Recently, Yahoo was in the limelight for delivering malware through ads on their websites for a week.

Performance can be a huge problem for people that are not fortunate enough to have a fast connection. The data downloaded on a typical web page can be reduced by 30-70%.  Using an ad blocker will make a huge difference with browser performance, especially on mobile devices.

The subject of privacy I will leave for another day. For me, the important issues with ads are with security and performance. It’s very obvious, at least, to me that ad networks need to substantially improve the security of the ads they deliver. Websites need to do a better job of ad placement and general optimization.  Better performance and relevancy on dynamic ads (including retargeting). No more than ten trackers.  No attempt to use Flash based ads.

The ad networks are now reaping what they sowed.  We may be at the end of Internet Advertising as we’ve known it.