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Adblocking - Blocking more than ads

With recent and continued publicity on the topic of ad-blocking you will likely have heard the expression, "Ad-blockers are a blunt instrument". Generally what this statement referred to is the fact that ad-blocking software does not differentiate between good and bad advertising, it simply blocks all ads. However, it doesn't stop there. Ad-blocking is blocking a lot more than just adverts.

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Adblocking - Blocking more than ads

  1. 1. 11 Analyse, Communicate and Re-engage Ad-blockers Blocking more than ads
  2. 2. 22 Blunt instruments not precise weapons 2 Ad-blockers have often been referred to as blunt instruments in that they don’t distinguish between poor or quality advertising by simply blocking all kinds of ads. However a more troubling aspect of adblocking as blunt instruments is that there are many cases where adblockers not only block ads but block other web content such as HTML, CSS and Javascript which is not advertising - The effects of this on certain publisher websites varies from small issues to problems which can render the site non functional for its users even where advertising on does not exist. Not all ad-blocking software is equal. Whilst the most popular forms of ad-blocking exist for desktop based web browsers in the form of 3rd party plugins which are installed by a few clicks, not all of the ad-blocking software uses the same set of filters to remove web content such as advertising. Lists at the heart of ad-blocking functionality At the heart of an adblockers ability to block content such as advertising are files known as Filter Lists. These filter lists are like a database for the adblocker to check against in order to determine what requests made by the browser will be blocked. All ad-blocking software use some kind of filter lists. The most popular and used filter list - Easy List The EasyList subscriptions are lists of filters designed for Adblock Plus but also used by many adblockers that automatically remove unwanted content from the internet, including annoying adverts, bothersome banners and troublesome tracking. The subscriptions are currently maintained by four authors, Fanboy, MonztA, Famlam and Khrin, who are ably assisted by an ample forum community.
  3. 3. 33 EasyPrivacy - Where the damage gets done. 3 The next most popular filter list used by adblockers is EasyPrivacy list. “EasyPrivacy is an optional supplementary subscription that completely removes all forms of tracking from the internet, including web bugs, tracking scripts and information collectors, thereby protecting your personal data.” Source: EasyPrivacy is supported by Adblock Plus, Adblock and many other adblocking software applications. *Active by default in UBlock Origin AdBlock
  4. 4. 44 Checking in for your British Airways flight online is pretty straight forward and creates no issues when you have no ad-blocker installed. 4 without adblock You can’t check-in online
  5. 5. 55 However, when an ad-blocker is installed the ability to tick the acceptance of terms and conditions is removed therefore you cannot proceed and check-in. Of course the BA site thinks you have not accepted the T&C’ s and presents an error As shown in the image below 5 with adblock You can’t check-in online
  6. 6. 66 Vodafone UK offer it’s users with a useful tool to track the progress of their orders. Simply enter your order details and find out where it is Broken order tracking 6 without adblock
  7. 7. 77 With an adblocker and easy privacy list the software used by Vodafone to track the order is completely blocked by easy privacy list Broken order tracking 7 with adblock
  8. 8. 88 A look at on the homepage shows a video on its new “Dirt-busting ACTIVE technology” The video which is part of the content does not intrude or auto play. Blocked native video 8 without adblock
  9. 9. 99 With an adblocker using EasyPrivacy, the native video player is blocked and simply server a black blank space where the video should be with no obvious warning or error to the user Blocked native video 9 with adblock
  10. 10. 1010 When arriving for the first time on the Liverpool FC homepage fans are normally presented with the latest special offer. In this case a 2015/16 away shirt offer. 10 without adblock Liverpool fans lose their shirt
  11. 11. 1111 With an adblocker and easy privacy list installed fans no longer get the chance to see the latest special offers from the club 11 with adblock Liverpool fans lose their shirt
  12. 12. 1212 Umbro provide a wonderful blog of reviews on their products including video, narrative along with highly professional photography and the ability for their visitors to comment on each of the blogs 12 without adblock Umbro lose their boots
  13. 13. 1313 With an adblocker using EasyPrivacy list, the blog is completely trashed, with videos and images blocked along with the ability for any such user to provide feedback or comments on the blog. It looks like there is no further information available 13 with adblock Umbro lose their boots
  14. 14. 1414 Looking to improve their service for visitors, O2 ask users if they would fill out a short survey after visiting their site 14 without adblock You can’t have your say
  15. 15. 1515 With adblocker and easyprivacy list all surveys provided by the survey company are blocked. You simply never know there was a survey option 15 with adblock You can’t have your say
  16. 16. 1616 And it’s not just O2 who fail to present the option of a survey to all their users. The entire portfolio of sites using by well known UK outlets are blocked 16 Other sites blocked with adblock You can’t have your say
  17. 17. 1717 The Cookie Law is a piece of privacy legislation that requires websites to get consent from visitors to store or retrieve any information on a computer, smartphone or tablet Procter & Gamble product websites have taken care to provide such notices with additional consumer options relating to cookies 17 Without ad-blocker Cleaning and washing cookie notices
  18. 18. 1818 However the cookie notice bar used by many Procter & Gamble UK product websites are blocked to all ad-blockers with EasyPrivacy list active 18 With ad-blocker Cleaning and washing cookie notices
  19. 19. 1919 Social sharing is an important part of spreading the word and driving interest to your website. Landrover like many of the top UK websites use a piece of software called to make sharing easy and available accross a wide range of social platforms 19 with adblock You can’t share this
  20. 20. 2020 Unfortunately the software utility used by Land Rover and many others is called Addthis is blocked and therefore the sharing options do not render for the user to see and share. 20 with adblock You can’t share this
  21. 21. 2121 Those were examples of what you see 21 The previous slides show visual examples of what ad-blocking can break beyond advertising and if a website is meticulously compared with and without an adblocker installed it is possible to see what gets broken. This task is time consuming and and tedious and no simple ready made solution is currently available to automatically make these tests and comparisons. However, in addition to what you see many ad-blocking software applications also block / break other critical components of a publisher's website such as analytics, site optimisation applications, performance measurement Below are just some examples of what is blocked by Easy Privacy List and is not something obvious to see.
  22. 22. Analyse, Communicate, Engage Visit us to find out how adblocking affects you or follow us on Twitter @oriel_hq Further information: Aidan Joyce - CEO - Oliver Meister - Legal & Finance - 22