YouTube is making it even harder to block ads


YouTube on computer

YouTube is once again ramping up its battle against ad blocker extensions.

According to SponsorBlock, a “crowdsourced extension to skip sponsor segments in YouTube videos,” YouTube is now testing out server-side ad injection in order to curtail extensions that allow users to block advertisements on the website.

In order to combat YouTube’s move, SponsorBlock has implemented a block on all user submissions from browsers that are experiencing this YouTube experiment. However, this is only a temporary stopgap if YouTube chooses to more broadly roll this out.

What this YouTube change does to ads

Normally, YouTube serves ads to users by pausing the video and then displaying an advertisement as a separate piece of media. This way of distributing advertisements within videos allows ad blockers to parse the adverts from the video by blocking the scripts that insert the ads into the video content. The result: The ads are then removed from view for the users.

With server-side injection, YouTube is inserting the ads directly into the video stream. With one non-stop stream serving both the video content the user wants to watch and the YouTube ads, ad blockers will have a much more difficult time detecting when an ad shows up to block.

However, according to SponsorBlock, this is not the end of their extension. 

“If YouTube displays any UI such as a clickable link, that means it has to know how long the ad is,” SponsorBlock posted in a FAQ about the YouTube change. “SponsorBlock could find this data as well. There is also the feature for clicking on a timestamp in a comment that would need to know the duration of the ad, so it should be findable somewhere, it just might be kind of hard.”

How well YouTube ad blockers like SponsorBlock work is up in the air right now as these extension creators figure out a new way around YouTube’s server-side injection testing.

YouTube’s anti-ad blocker campaign

YouTube has certainly made moves in recent months to make it harder for ad blocker extensions to work on the platform. 

Last year, YouTube began showing a warning prompt to users that it detected was using an ad blocker extension. The prompt urged the user to sign-up for YouTube Premium, the platform’s paid subscription that removes ads from videos.

In April, YouTube rolled out a new anti-ad blocker campaign which informed ad blocker users that they will experience buffering or playback errors unless they deactivate the ad blocking extension.

So, it appears the battle between YouTube and ad blockers will rage on. The video giant may have found a new way to complicate matters, but the ad blockers are also finding new ways to workaround YouTube’s changes.

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