Facebook Is Coming for Your Ad-Blocker

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Photo: Jaap Arriens

Prefer to surf the web with an ad-blocking extension? Facebook is coming for you. Today, the company announced via blog post that it will “begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software.” Which means you get an ad. And you get an ad. Everybody gets an ad!

Under the new changes, Facebook says it will make its ads harder for blocking applications to detect. Specifically, the company will be designing their ads in a way that serves them almost identically to how the platform serves content. This way, ad-blocking software won’t know what to block and the ads will be able to get through.

When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads,” Facebook explained in its blog post. (Ads? Annoying? You had to ask?) Now, Facebook says it will offer a more nuanced ad-preference feature that explains to users why they are being served a particular ad and lets them opt out or opt to see other ads instead.

The company says that giving control to users over what marketing they see on the site is a better alternative than paying ad-block companies to show otherwise blocked ads. “It’s not a business model that’s set out to serve the best interests of people,” Facebook’s vice-president of engineering for advertising and pages, Andrew Bosworth, told The Wall Street Journal. (Not to mention, Facebook currently makes over 80 percent of its ad revenue on mobile, largely because, well, you can’t block ads in the Facebook app. Increasing revenue on desktop could be a lucrative move for Zuckerberg and friends.)

It’s a decision that’s likely to play well with digital publishers, the group of businesses most concerned with ad-blockers. Publications are increasingly turning to tactics like earnest pop-ups asking readers to turn off their ad-blockers; Facebook has enough muscle to actually sabotage the blockers themselves.

Of course, it’s likely only a matter of time before people figure out how to work around Facebook’s anti-ad-blocking changes. But then again, as the New York Times notes, building blocking technology that analyzes Facebook’s new ads on a level that can distinguish them from regular Facebook posts would be “costly and laborious.” And besides, even if somebody did decide it was worth the money and effort, something tells me that Facebook, with its multi-billion-dollar valuation, can afford to one up them again if needed.