This week Facebook made a big play in the battle between the free web and ad blockers. The company created a way to show ads to its users who were using ad blockers, allowing them to once again generate the revenue that is required to keep the service operational.
VP of Advertising Andrew Bosworth, said,
We've designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software. When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads. As we offer people more powerful controls, we'll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software.
The strategy worked for a short period, that is. It didn't take long for Adblock Plus to find a way around their changes. It didn't stop there, however. In fact, it went back and forth a couple of times before Facebook decided to take a step back.
The fact that Adblock Plus is fighting so hard is an indication that Facebook will inevitably win the battle. They know that Facebook legitimately holds all of the cards and could easily disrupt the internet with a single move - one that no other publisher has successfully implemented: blocking. Facebook could actually disable their service for people who are using ad blockers.
While Bloomberg is losing revenue just the same as Facebook, they could never implement a blocking policy, as there are plenty of other sources of information on the internet that users could readily switch to. There is not, however, another Facebook - at least not now. Much of the internet is dependent on the social network today, and losing access to it would cause havoc.
As the Editor-in-Chief of an online publication, I know exactly what ad blockers mean to our business - they mean less employees, less writers and less interesting shows for our fans. I also understand the issues that are posed by advertising: slow load times, more data usage and potential security threats. We try to be judicious about the ads we run, but not everyone works as hard. Major publishers get tricked by their advertisers into running unsafe ads which hurt their customers. There is a middle ground that we need to get to, or the free web will be over.