Facebook last week began rolling out an update to their site’s code to nullify ad blockers like Adblock Plus, stressing that ads are how the site makes its money.
Indeed, Facebook reported ad revenues of over $6.2 billion in Q2 2016, and eMarketer estimates that this year ads account for 96.0% of Facebook’s total worldwide revenues—a figure that’s on the rise. By 2018, eMarketer forecasts, 96.8% of Facebook’s revenues will come from advertising.
The social networking giant’s blog post stressed the tools it gives users to control their ad experience, suggesting that by avoiding “bad ads,” Facebook users wouldn’t miss their ability to block ads from being served at all. But the ad preferences settings don’t give an easy way, for example, to tell Facebook if a user never wants to see placements for certain product categories.
Trying to negate ad blockers could be a dangerous game: eMarketer estimates that more than 26% of US internet users currently employ an ad blocker, which means that Facebook is taking on a considerable share of users who simply do not want to see ads.
The forecast also predicts strong growth in ad blocking users over the next year—and even stronger growth among smartphone ad blockers. This year, for example, usage of desktop-based ad blocking software will grow 30.1%. On smartphones, growth in ad blocking will be more than twice that fast. By 2017, eMarketer estimates that 32% of all internet users in the US will use an ad blocker on at least one device.
It’s not difficult to understand why Facebook wants to lock out ad blockers—after all, advertising makes up almost all of their revenue. Other publishers have begun politely encouraging users to whitelist them, or even preventing users of ad blocking software from visiting at all. Facebook has the ability to do more, though, because it is both publisher and ad server—and industry watchers will be following keenly to see how successful it is at protecting its placements.