Adblock Plus launched a workaround to Facebook’s ad block bypass today that ham-handedly removes posts from friends and Pages, not just ads, according to a statement provided by Facebook to TechCrunch.
“We’re disappointed that ad blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads but also posts from friends and Pages. This isn’t a good experience for people and we plan to address the issue. Ad blockers are a blunt instrument, which is why we’ve instead focused on building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands.”
That “plan to address the issue” is coming quick. A source close to Facebook tells me that today, possibly within hours, the company will push an update to its site’s code that will nullify Adblock Plus’ workaround. Apparently it took two days for Adblock Plus to come up with the workaround, and only a fraction of that time for Facebook to disable it.
Still, the cat-and-mouse game is sure to rage on.
On Tuesday, Facebook announced it had blended the HTML of its ads on the web into its content so they’d still appear to users with ad blocking software. The company argued that by providing users with more opt-outs of ad targeting, it was addressing a top concern of ad block users, executing on its mission to connect people to businesses as well as each other, and that it’s wrong to avoid compensating websites for their ad-supported services.
Within hours, the leading blocker software company Adblock Plus quickly vowed to crowdsource a workaround from its community. Today it released that update to its filter that it claims once again removes Facebook’s ads. But now Facebook is accusing it of ensnaring legitimate content from friends and Pages, and is rolling out the code necessary to thwart Adblock Plus’ workaround.
Adblock Plus may be at a disadvantage because on some platforms it has to get users to update their software or edit their filter list manually in order to push its next move. Even a once daily update could be too slow. Facebook can unilaterally revise its website’s code for all users without them having to do anything. That means by the time most of Adblock Plus’ users have downloaded the update, Facebook may have already broken it and be one step ahead.
Facebook also has a larger financial incentive since it loses more money per ad blocked than Adblock Plus gains.
On the other hand, all websites are interpreted by users’ browsers, good giving people strong leverage to control what they see. Meanwhile, Facebook does need to make its ads identifiable to comply with FTC rules about not misleading people. That little “Sponsored” label gives Adblock Plus the scent of what it’s searching for.