Why is Ad Blocking Suddenly so Popular? + [INFOGRAPHIC]

Ad blocking has existed for several years now, but has been adopted by millions of Internet users in the past several months. There were only 120,000 ad blocking users in January 2010, and in the past few months, ad blocking has increased by over a million users every month, which we tracked through the Chrome and Firefox webstores. This is a much higher rate than ever before. Why is this happening? Why now?


Let’s try to isolate all our variables in this ad-blocking equation. We have:


a) the actual ads (quality and type)

Have ads changed much over the past several years? It seems to me that ads have remained constant, with some sites presenting obtrusive, loud and animated ads, while other sites present more conservative ads. With the exception of video ads, which are relatively new, the spectrum of online advertising has not changed much. So, a change in the actual ads must not be a cause of the rise in ad blocking.

b) internet users

Have the Internet users changed over the past two or three years? There are two possible ways that Internet users changed. Either they have become fed up with the same old advertising. Or, they have seen so much Internet content, that they now feel entitled to ad-free content. Most likely, both of these are causes.

c) browsers and web-stores

Many internet users are migrating to Google Chrome from Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Now, Chrome has over 35% of the browser market share (Source:StatCounter). Chrome has a super-effective web-store, with thousands of extensions available. More people are installing extensions now than ever before, and this inevitably leads to an increase in ad-blocking users.

d) ad-blocking technology

Has ad-blocking technology changed? AdBlock still blocks ads, as usual. But in order for AdBlock to have gained momentum, it needed to reach a critical mass. AdBlock technology is based on rules, which allowed it to become more effective as more users installed it (network effect). Only then, it provided enough value for its end-users, which then lead to a huge rise in downloads.

The result:


Many people seem to have a strong opinion on this subject matter; what’s yours?



P.S. Check out dsero.com to recover revenue from ad-blocking users on your site! Anti-AdBlock is here.

  • Happy ad-blocker

    We as consumers are constantly harassed with advertising, where ever we look there are adverts urging us to buy the latest thing, that somehow we are deprived or worse depriving our children of essential gadgets, games, cars, homes, furniture and even food if we don’t buy the advertised product. Now you are joining in by implying that by blocking some of these adverts we are responsible for loss of work and/or income ” When people block ads, publishers lose money.
    With this lost revenue, publishers would pay writers, reporters and designers to produce great content for the world to enjoy. Many publishers live off of ad revenue”.
    Thank you for the guilt trip.
    However in my (and probably many others) defence may I remind you that a world saturated with advertising is a greedy, selfish place, where parents are judged by what toys and gadgets they buy their children – even what clothes they have, children are judged by what trainers (sneakers) they are wearing. Few are satisfied with what they have and why should they be when there is always something bigger and better to get into more debt for.
    I love being able to block the endless flow of adverts trying to entice me to spend more than I can afford on products I rarely need from the limited resources I have available. It is such a relief not being made to feel poor and inadequate and with my ad-blocking extension I get to look at lovely photo’s of cats and kittens which makes browsing etc. much more enjoyable and fun!
    Therefore sorry but long may we be able to block the endless bombardment of adverts in the sanctuary of our own homes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/moshekaplan Moshe Kaplan

      @9ca45405ddacfa6aa61db3f2f871c499:disqus How do you recommend a publisher to make a living? Will be ready to pay for content that is now available for free at blogs and online newspapers? If so, how much?

    • Jacob

      You want to, “…block the endless bombardment of adverts in the sanctuary of our own homes.” At the same time, you want to surf the Internet. Publishers need revenue to produce content for you to read/watch (news sites/weather sites/comedy/video/tech/etc…). Without ad revenue, how do you expect these publishers to produce content? In other words, is it worth hurting publishers in order to surf ad-free?

  • Newbie

    The above star counter is completely wrong I thought I needed to click more than once to increase the star rating, sorry!

  • The Narrow Browser Man.

    I can’t read your article, the stupid “share” buttons are in the way.

    • Jacob


      Just click on the ‘share’ button and most of the buttons will disappear.

  • chubbysumo

    I choose to block ads for 3 reasons, and two reasons were completely ignored in this article. First: the ads have changed. They have gone from obnoxious to obscene. I dont want 300 flashing ads, plus noises and shit. we did the same things with popups(remember them?). Popups were okay at first, but then they reached a level of stupid that required nearly everyone(and even browsers had to implement it) to block them because they would eat your system resources like no tomorrow existed. Second: bandwidth. With many ISPs around the world now implementing data caps(which are already unrealistic because of the actual cost of moving data), each ad can account for a few kb of data. if you have 200 adds on a site(common), thats a crap load of data “wasted” in non-useful content. For instance on data use: when loading this article with ads unblocked(and all content allowed), it took 2.4MB(megabytes). With ads blocked, it was only 663KB. Something should seem wrong with that to you site admins, because it is. The third reason that ad blocking is now becoming common is Drive-by downloads and hidden iFrames and crap like that are blocked(and thus, prevented). It prevents security issues, lowers total data usage, and stops the assault on my eyes and ears. I will continue to block ads because they are a fucking annoyance, and are going the way of popups.

    • Jacob

      Thanks for pointing out your reasons and I’m strongly considering adding them to this post. But realistically, how often do you come across ads that yell at you? Do non-obtrusive ads bother you? What do you think about AdSense Ads? Should they be blocked or are they okay?


      • Dave

        Personally as an IT guy I run an add blocker for many reasons.

        1) When looking to download free software the adds are all “Download” buttons. its like playing Russian Roulette on whether you get what you want or a virus or just something annoying.

        2) Advertisers have started putting in a pause before their content starts playing. I have had to hunt through my tabs (I run 3 screens and might have 5 browsers and 100+ tabs open) to figure out which one has started making noise.

        3) Advertisers periodically find ways to redirect you to a site completely different from the one you wanted to go to. Web Admins usually find and dump these fairly quickly but in the mean time, congrats you got a virus (stopped by the AV 99.9% of the time)

        I have added add blockers to my standard install and the number of blocked items by our AV has dropped to almost 0/week (down from 20 or so)

        If I am on a system without an add blocker it is usually less than 10 mins before I encounter one of these problems and I go get an add blocker.

        • Jacob


          That was quite an honest and straightforward comment. So I’m wondering, honestly, to what extent would you use the internet if you could NOT use ad blocking at all?

          • Dave

            Without add blocking I would continue to use most of the sites I commonly visit.
            Other sites I am less familiar with or that I know host annoying adds I would avoid just in case. For example I would not have followed the link here since I was not familiar with this site. I also like listening to slacker radio from time to time but won’t do it without an add blocker because in addition to their in-stream adds, which are actually more annoying with an add blocker because it can break the radio, there are adds that play during the music and adds that send you to a new page if you just mouse over them.
            I also find I am less likely to donate to or purchase from a site that has annoying adds.
            I think that the annoyance of adds goes in cycles. Advertisers will figure out that the truly annoying ones are causing people to block all adds and they will back off. Then they will forget that they were annoying when someone figures out a new, clever way to prod the user and the cycle starts over. (Purely anecdotal but someone with more time might be able to research it)

      • http://www.facebook.com/NatWillow Nathan Willoughby

        I’d say a really rough average of 16-20 times a day I encounter a website that either has pop-ups, or very loud video ads. Most of these are on news sites or newsblogs. I understand the need for add revenue, but a massive pop-up, or a blaring audio add is offensive. It’s not a good way to sell the product to me. So I block them. Certain sites, that have ads, but aren’t coming on to me like a street vendor of questionable moral fiber don’t get ad-blocked, because I’m very well aware of what makes the content on websites possible. That being said, I already pay something like $80 a month for internet access, so it’s not like I get it for free.

        • http://www.facebook.com/moshekaplan Moshe Kaplan

          @facebook-547383731:disqus Wow! $80 for internet connection, I get 10Mbps connection for $30. However, this amount goes to your connectivity provider and not the content providers.

          Do you have any idea why AdBlock blocks Amazon affiliates and Google AdSense ads that are very solid?

  • thatguy

    this is like asking why people skip through the commercials on prerecorded programs. “are the commercials more aggressive now? have the viewers changed?”

    NO, it’s because people don’t want to be sold things when they’re enjoying leisurely activity!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001051740879 Brandon Adams

    What advertising?

    I haven’t seen an internet ad in three years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/xNero93 Alexandr Serbajev

    How about these:
    1. I just hate ads. They are ugly and stupid no matter how not annoying they are. And they make websites that otherwise look decent into ugly ones.

    2. I would never click them anyway. I never clicked an ad in my entire life.

    3. Security. Ads often contain viruses. Running a browser without adblock is just insecure.

    • Jacob


      I’ve been asking this question to many people lately, and I want to hear your response… To what extent would you use the Internet if AdBlock did not work at all?


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  • E. Hess

    Here are some of the reasons I block ads

    1. Drive-by downloads
    2. Download button roulette
    3. Ad frequency
    4. Ad content

    It’s not that I ‘hate’ ads it’s the advertising assault I face on a daily basis regardless of the situation. There are ads on TV, the internet, driving down the road, on the freeway, in movie theaters, it’s everywhere. Buy this, look at that, click here, push this button, watch this video, check out this ad, ENOUGH ALREADY! Modern life has become an absolute deluge of advertising assault, not to mention a lot of the ads now are either downright stupid, or advertise to people like they have the IQ of a gerbil.

    There are sites I know to be safe, mostly browser games, that I don’t block ads on because they’re not intrusive, overbearing or everywhere and I know these websites depend on ads for revenue. Those sites are on my exceptions list for the ad blocker. For me by and large its the excessively aggressive advertising that auto-starts audio/video ads that make me angry. In truth those ads don’t make me want to buy these products, it actually makes me NOT buy them because their advertising practices piss me off.