Reports are coming in from across the web that Youtube videos are no longer being blocked in Chrome. Multiple users on Twitter report, and AdBlock developer Michael Gundlach confirms, that pre-roll adverts are now playing before Youtube videos.
The adverts are played in full, and the Skip Now option, which allows viewers to dispense with ads after only a few seconds, has been disabled. Only Chrome users are being affected, and whatever Google did to circumvent the block is affecting all ad blocking plugins.
Google hasn't released a statement on this story, but there are signs that this might have been an accidental change. AdBlock is saying on its support site that:
According to the EasyList forum post on this topic (you can read the original Google Code issue if you'd like to know the gory details) it's caused by a recent Chrome security update, not the ad blockers or YouTube finding a way around the current filters.
At this point, we're waiting for news about another update to Chrome which will fix this. In the meantime, we recommend switching to Firefox or Safari, which continue to block ads in YouTube videos just fine.
They also recommend going in to chrome://apps and deleting the Youtube app from Chrome. I've tried it, and that does appear to fix the problem.
In short, this is not a deliberate attack on ad block users, but it does show us what Google could do if they so choose.
Google controls Chrome so completely that they could bypass, break, or disable ad block extensions if they want, and now that it's been proven to work Google will be pressured to do just that.
Apple's plan to integrate content-filtering tech into iOS9 has angered a lot of advertisers and many publishers, and that includes the IAB. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has held two summits this year just to talk about ad blocking, and they want to go nuclear:
"It's become a very important issue, and I think the IAB is doing a good job of trying to get ahead of it, although I don't know anybody that's really ahead of it," said WPP Digital President and Xaxis Chairman David Moore, who also serves as chairman of the IAB Tech Lab's board of directors. ...
Some of the options put on the table were a lot stronger than some of the more Pollyanna-ish calls for better ads or publisher appeals asking people to turn off their ad blockers as ways to fight ad blockers.
"I advocated for the top 100 websites to, beginning on the same day, not let anybody with ad blockers turned on [to view their content]," said Mr. Moore. He said that the other IAB members in attendance considered it "a good idea but the possibility of pulling it off slim."
As soon as the IAB learns of the Youtube bug, they're going to start leaning on Google to make the bug a standard feature. They'll be using financial and political pressure, and they just might pull it off (the ongoing EU antitrust suit against Google makes for a good alternate to thumbscrews).
This pressure will be ultimately self-defeating, but I still expect that it will be applied. Sure, disabling ad blockers on Chrome will simply drive users to other web browsers, but those who would fight the future (rather that adapt to the new and overcome it) won't see that coming until it's too late.
image by Jaro Larnos