Ads have been an important part of the internet since its very beginning. Advertising is the main income for many web sites, and by accepting ads, we have been able to consume online content free of charge.

In time, though, ads have turned out to be one of the major annoyances of web browsing, and today consumers are working hard to get rid of those annoyances.

As more people talk about and install ad blockers, we think it’s time to share our thoughts on ad blockers.

Here are the most important reasons why people are embracing ad blocking.

Performance

Not everyone has super-fast broadband – many people access the web via mobile phones over slow cellular connections, via tablet devices on crowded hotel or cafe Wi-Fi, or on the go with a mobile dongle.

Online ads gobble up more bandwidth than ever, causing webpages to load more slowly. The average size of a webpage has doubled since 2012.

Web pages have doubled

Opera’s own test tool within Opera for computers proves that some webpages are slowed down by as much as 90% due to (bloated) ads.

Financial Times recently investigated the effect of performance on its website, concluding, in part, “The speed of the site negatively impacts a user’s session depth, no matter how small the delay, […] and there are clear and highly valued benefits in making the site even faster.”

In other words, improved performance results in an improved user experience and more engagement on a website.  In addition, there are other indicators of performance to consider, such as CPU usage or battery life.  

Data cost

Ads not only slow down the browsing experience, but they also eat into a user’s data allowance. The New York Times recently calculated that, “Visiting the home page of Boston.com every day for a month would cost the equivalent of about $9.50 in data usage just for the ads.”

Many people who browse with Opera are in emerging or developing economies, where mobile bandwidth is more expensive than in the U.S. or Europe. In Brazil, it takes 34 hours of work to afford 500MB of data.

Source: 2014 report by McKinsey

Source: 2014 report by McKinsey

 

Privacy

Privacy and tracking of online behavior is another concern. Most websites track their users in some way or another. Trackers are a central component for ad networks to profile users across websites and match an ad with a person’s interests, which in turn gives higher click-through rates and increased revenue for advertisers. However, by their nature, most trackers degrade user privacy.

The number of trackers online has greatly increased over the last few years. But, not all trackers are made to identify you as a user; some trackers simply measure webpage traffic for third-party statistics.

Annoyance and intrusiveness

We’ve all been there. Ads often cover the content that you’re trying to see, or even trick you into clicking fake buttons, leading you to places on the web that you are not interested in. Ads that move around, look like articles, or in other ways disrupt the user experience are far too common. In fact, one of the most common ad formats, “takeover banners”, are designed to take over your web experience to maximize your attention to the ad content.

But, let’s be fair. Ads have some benefits.

Publishers need to make money to pay journalists, editors, bloggers, technology development, innovation, and all the other things that live within the publishing house.   

By enabling websites with a business model to earn money, ads are fueling the web. Much of the content billions of people experience online every day is paid for by ad revenue. The more quality content to choose from, the better – for everyone.

From a publisher’s side, trackers make it possible to customize the user experience, to increase engagement and provide better content for each visitor; so, from their side, trackers are actually often positive.

The point is: ads bring some benefits, which should not be forgotten.

People really want ad-blocking technology

More and more people are using ad blockers. In a recent study conducted by PageFair/Adobe, the number of people using ad blockers grew by 41% worldwide between 2014 and 2015, with 98% of those users on computers. According to this research, more than 200 million people have installed ad-blocking tools. Ad blockers are mainstream and growing rapidly.
Top 10 reasons for adblock - from Global Web Index
Source: Global Web Index

Browsers should intervene on the behalf of the users

At Opera, we have always believed that browsers must serve the user. We’ve long allowed users to turn off images to save bandwidth, or reflow text after zooming. Opera Mini in Extreme Mode compresses pages very aggressively, often losing design details and therefore annoying web designers.

We do this because the web is not perfect, and we have to provide people with solutions to overcome the online challenges they encounter. We actively intervene in the interests of the end user, who is the one paying for bandwidth.

Opera’s stand on ad blocking

We don’t hate online advertising. We’re a business, and have a subsidiary organization called Opera Mediaworks, which does advertising. But, we’re also a consumer brand, and consumers are sending a loud, clear signal to brands and advertisers that the current situation must change.

Years ago, pop-up ads plagued the web. All browsers then introduced pop-up blockers. The ad industry didn’t die; it adapted. We want the ad industry to adapt again, and be better web citizens.

It’s time for us to take a stand: We are taking the user’s side in the debate about ad blockers, which is why we will offer built-in, native ad blockers to our hundreds of millions of users.
Link to Download Opera for computers

In Opera for computers, we also provide a tool to help advertisers and users understand the problem of heavy ads. With this tool, users can test, for themselves, how heavy a webpage’s advertisements are. Then, they can make an informed choice about whether or not they want to block ads or add a page to their own whitelist.
Speed test tool - browser computer

Finding a better path to the future

Since announcing a native ad blocker in the desktop browser’s pre-release Developer build channel in March, we’ve been avidly reading feedback from consumers and people who work in the advertising industry or those whose websites are monetized from ads.

Consumer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Who doesn’t want their webpages faster?

But, we’ve also read interesting replies, for example, Andrew Betts of the Financial Times blogged, “Obviously people should have the ability to block ads if they want to. In fact, I have an ad blocker on one of my personal browser profiles. But, blanket network or browser level ad blocking is not helpful in improving the state of display advertising on the web.”

We think browser-level or server-side native ad blocking is faster and better than extensions or other third-party tools. Opera currently only features a very small whitelist of websites, but we’re aware we need to provide a better solution for the future. The big question is: which ads are good, which are bad for the users, and who is responsible for making it better? Apparently the answer is “Not me”, from everyone in the ad-value chain, according to this post on Medium.

We first considered implementing our own solution, but after discussing with industry bodies like Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), we think we can influence the ad industry to change by working together with them on their existing standardization efforts. Opera is now talking with IAB to see how a browser can implement support for their LEAN initiative, once this is ready, if it truly manages to serve the end user needs for speed.

Opera is on the consumer’s side

The consumer is sovereign, and, as IAB says the ad industry has messed up. Opera has always been about faster browsing, because that is what our consumers want. We hope that the ad industry will work harder and take responsibility to find ways to engage the user, without disrupting users’ browsing with intrusive, slow ads.

We all deserve a better, faster web.

It’s time to take a stand on ad blockers.

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  • Paranam Kid

    Excellent article Krystian. I switched from Chrome to Opera developed because of the VPN, and am happy with it.
    Regarding ads: like you pointed out, the ad industry messed up. So the onus is definitely on them to come up with a paradigm that is acceptable to both sides. You can work with them, but it is their primary responsibility to fix this. If they keep whining about the unfairness, nothing will change & they will go under. Sure, consumers would eventually not have free content anymore, but the advertising industry will bite the dust 1st. It is their future that is primarily @ stake so they should get on their bike & start work. And for heaven’s sake, THEY SHOULD STOP WHINING.

    • Graham_Douglas

      What do you do for a living? I bet it isn’t content creation.

      • Paranam Kid

        What I do for a living is not relevant to the discussion. Trying to turn the tables is not going solve the problem. The ad industry has messed up & you know it. So get on your bike & get cracking, there is a lot of work to be done.

        • Graham_Douglas

          My point about what you do for a living is that you appear to have no idea what it means to be a content creator. If you were then you would know the struggles to monetize your creations. If you did create something of value then you might have a different perspective on the subject. Many people do rely on Google Adsense to make running a website worthwhile. You going to tell me that these folks deserve to be blocked especially when these (you know whats) from Opera make it built-in? Even the dumbest person on earth will choose faster (ad free) rather than slower with ads. It’s called circumvention. <– ethics involved.

          • Paranam Kid

            Graham, I do not begrudge you & your fellow content creators a living, on the contrary. But the ad industry has gone down the wrong track in a big way. Why? Pure greed.
            You cannot now blame users for blocking out those obtrusive pop-ups & sneaky malware. As always, people will always look for ways to get around what is perceived as unacceptable.
            The solution: different types of ads & perhaps a different monetisation paradigm.

          • Graham_Douglas

            @Paranam, I can appreciate that we are having an honest discussion on this subject.

            What I can say is that the ad blocking movement bleeds corruption. Don’t you think? Afterall, there are white lists. These ad blockers can come with some sites, white listed out of the box. One of them? Think.. Google. Now just think how that white list was resolved.

            What you get now are videos instead of ads. I’ve seen more pop ups lately than ever before. I’m seeing ads open up on a page as I scroll down now. I’m getting teased to reading an article only to find some auto play video player above the content. These are ugly in comparison to a box that has text or an image that is an ad. Those exist but they don’t block content. Ads on TV block the show. Ads from Google Adsense sit there.

            There is an irony. The ad blockers enable users to visit the very sites that the ad blockers were designed for. Those awful ad laden bandwidth sucking sites are now tolerable thanks to what? The ad blocker. So you can go visit those sites and when you do, you condone the very behavior that ad block users are supposedly fighting against. I call that? A farce. Opera is a farce in the same regard.

          • Paranam Kid

            I don’t agree with you. The fact that Opera now lets you visit a site that’s full of ads does not mean Opera is a farce. Opera’s ad blocker stops those ads interfering with the visitor’s browsing experience, so the ads are earning anything for the website owner.
            Your premise that if Opera would not have an ad blocker the ad problem would be a lot less. That’s simply not true. People visit a particular site because they have a (potential) interest it, which should be a pointer for the site owner that he/she has something of interest to offer. So the challenge then is to monetise without chasing visitors away. Ad blockers keep visitors coming back, an absence of ad blockers chases your visitors away.
            So, as far as I am concerned as a visitor, kudos to Opera for integrating. And those browsers that don’t offer it, will be enriched by the user by adding an ad blocking extension. So, whether you like it or not, website owners and content creators will have to embrace the challenge I described above or go under.

          • There are many ways to advertise, arguably the very best being to have a meaningful and worthwhile product. Which is not necessarily the same as trying to gain attention through illustrious squares throughout the internet. Ethical, that seems to be an argument you make when it suits you, considering the tone of your comments.

          • Graham_Douglas

            @xami, spoken with a truly uneducated viewpoint on the subject. You sound super smart. Come up with a new monetization model that works. Afterall it only took what, 10 years for the current system? I’m so sure you will come up with something that makes the time to run and update a website worthwhile. You don’t understand collateral damage. You don’t understand website monetization. You don’t appreciate or understand content creation and what happens when people circumvent the monetization model that you have in place. So I’m saying I understand your complacence on the issue. You, just like many many others. Like asking a musician to find a revenue stream that doesn’t involve royalties. The ad blockers are like giving a musicians music away, free to listen to, and royalty free. Feel good making and creating music and have your ability to make money circumvented by some convoluted semi-corrupt industry.

  • Vux777

    last two images in the article are not loading

    • VeraLB

      @Vux777:disqus Fixed now. Thanks for the poke 🙂

  • Deepro Bhattacharyya

    I should say this is a very well-written article. Hardly has the case for the consumer ever been so passionately placed. Thank you

  • Graham_Douglas

    You are a worthless POS. You sleep at night? Why not do some research on a company that came up with an ad removal system for television programs. What became of them and why did they disappear? Go find out for yourself and then ask yourself how you are ethically any different.

    You make the assumption that idiots cannot make decisions for themselves. Protect idiots from idiots. You come to an ad laden, bandwidth sucking site? Guess what we all have? A brain yes. But we have a back button. We can choose to not visit trash websites. But no, you decide to be the brain.

    Unethical. That is about as low a view I can make about individuals. You can justify anything in this world. All you need is a bit of ignorance and disregard and you can justify any action that you make.

    Dispute the back button and making a decision not to visit garbage ad laden websites. So you’re saying support garbage sites because with our ad block, we can enable you to visit the very sites that we are trying to protect you from. What a garbage viewpoint.

    How about the fact that most websites created faster sites for the benefit of users? Not for you guys to come along and say the web is faster without ads. Yeah really? Oh wow brilliant stuff there. TV shows are faster to watch with ads too. Movies are cheaper too if you watch them on YouTube. All genius thoughts right there.

    • xirit64

      Salty tears… so yummy!

      • Graham_Douglas

        Way to bring it spineless.

        • xirit64

          I won’t even bother with you, insect.

          • Graham_Douglas

            You bothered enough to post a troll comment, so I figured you might have the balls to offer counter points. This is why I used the word spineless. You bothered making an ugly avatar so you would think you could write something more productive. You have time on your hands, obviously. Ugly avatar design vs. making a point. Troll on.

    • “You can justify anything in this world. All you need is a bit of ignorance and disregard and you can justify any action that you make.”

      This criticism should be applied to your own contribution, which showcases a tremendous amount of depth:

      “You are a worthless POS.”

      • Graham_Douglas

        What should I say? How do you express yourself with text that communicates how you feel? The internet isn’t about being sensitive. If you’re sensitive then you’re in the wrong business. Don’t post or write online.

        I have complete and utter disregard for Opera and anyone associated with their direction and decision making regarding this topic. Or could you figure that out?

        And if you think a decision like adding an ad blocker, pre-installed to a browser is without collateral damage, then you are what I said. White lists? Safe sites? Golden handshakes. Friends. Corruption. It all comes with the territory. Who is Opera to decide who is white listed?

        People who run only Adsense ads on their hobby websites? Who cares. Block ’em all. Afterall, fast is never fast enough. Privacy? I’m sure killing affiliate links will be next. The next big Opera marketing ploy. Save your privacy, kill affiliate links/income from the sites you visit. Same mentality. Same disregard.

        • Graham_Douglas

          Certainly using the phrase “worthless POS” isn’t very tactful. On that level I apologize. However people who can influence what other people do, need to be responsible. Whatever you want to say, ad blocking is circumvention. You could make great arguments too about a system that can remove ads from television also. You can make great arguments about how you can watch copyrighted materials on YouTube for free also. There is a difference between people seeking ad blocking software vs. offering it during an install.

    • Davey126

      “You are a worthless POS”

      All respect immediately lost. I began reading responses hoping for thought provoking, constructive discourse but quickly discovered a small voice that comes unglued when challenged. Moving on. I am sure a personal insult is forthcoming.

  • Hello Krystian,
    Its great article you have written some days i was using firefox but now i am using opera its excellent.

  • skt.diaz

    I don’t mind seeing ads as long as they don’t intrude or flash like neon lights everywhere.

  • The type of ads I consider permissible are ads that placed on sensible area of web pages which don’t cover important contents. I hate pop up, and ads that are inserted in links. They are so annoying. You click a link but directed to another site. I wanna get rid it off

  • We don’t run ads on our site. The first thing I did after downloading Opera was to look at our website. Opera said that it blocked 6 ads and that the site would be 15% faster without ads. How do I uncover where the ads would be coming from? I’m running WordPress site on Godaddy.