Facebook and ad-blocking don’t get along, and now the social media site is doing a little blocking of its own.
Facebook today makes a change that will prevent ad-blockers from working on its desktop site. (This update doesn’t apply to the mobile app, which is not accessible by ad blockers.)
Instead of allowing ad-blockers, Facebook will give users more control over the types of ads that they see, said Facebook’s Andrew Bosworth, who is vice president of ads and business platform.
Facebook is able to make the change because most ad-blockers look for key features that indicate which content is an ad, and going forward, those features will not be distinguishable from other content on Facebook.
“When we asked people about why they used ad-blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads,” Bosworth said, specifically calling out issues such as ads that obscure content, ads that slow down load times or ads that sell products that are not of interest to the user.
According to a 2015 study from Digital Content Next, more than 70 percent of consumers dislike ads that expand over content or play with sound; 68 percent are concerned when ads track their behavior, and 57 percent note that web pages load too slowly with ads.
Bosworth argued that relevant and well-made ads can be useful, adding, “We’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software.”
To that end, Facebook is making ad preferences easier to use and letting users customize their interests. The site uses factors such as Facebook profile information, activity on Facebook (including stated interests) and interactions with businesses to determine the ads that users see. Now, a user can remove any of their interests from their ad preferences and they will no longer see ads related to that interest.
Users will also be able to elect to stop seeing ads from businesses or organizations that have added them to their customer lists. Bosworth said these expanded controls will give people a better experience with advertising on and off Facebook, and made another case for seeing ads on Facebook as free services: “Ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected.”
The move is a bold, yet understandable, approach to fighting ad-blockers. Facebook has its ads to thank for dominating the digital advertising landscape. Facebook’s second-quarter net profits reached $2.06 billion, thanks to its advertising. A year ago, its ad growth surpassed Google’s.
This is also a rare update that puts Facebook in the same corner as digital publishers who monetize through ads. PageFair estimates that the global cost of ad-blocking will be as much as $41.4 billion this year. It also aligns Facebook with Yahoo, whose chief executive Marissa Mayer has called ad-blocking “a mistake.”