Ad Blocking Just Got Harder: YouTube Tests Server-Side Ad Injection

Ad Blocking Just Got Harder: YouTube Tests Server-Side Ad Injection

Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska
Published on: June 14, 2024 Senior Editor

YouTube’s efforts to curb ad-blocking tools are evolving.

The company is reportedly experimenting with injecting ads directly into video streams, which would make it a lot more challenging for ad blockers to prevent advertisements from appearing for free users. The news was first reported by third-party browser extension SponsorBlock, which crowdsources data to identify and skip video segments containing sponsored content.

SponsorBlock reports that server-side ad injection will disrupt its functionality, but the company is working on developing a solution. This change will also affect the effectiveness of other ad-blocking extensions used on YouTube.

YouTube currently uses client-side ad injection, where JavaScript scripts and the video player on a user’s device are responsible for loading and displaying ads. In this setup, the video content and ads are separate entities; the player pauses the video to play ads at specific points.

Traditional ad blockers work by preventing these JavaScript scripts from running, thus blocking the ads. SponsorBlock, on the other hand, uses crowdsourced data to identify and skip sponsored segments within videos, allowing users to avoid these parts.

With the shift to server-side ad injection, YouTube is embedding ads directly into the video stream, so they’re an inseparable part of the video stream itself, rather than distinct elements that can be easily blocked or skipped. Ad blockers that want to remain effective will be forced to at least attempt to adapt their strategies.

This also complicates things for YouTube in how it’ll stop ads from showing up to Premium viewers on the site. When ads are injected server-side, the YouTube client must be programmed to automatically skip these ads for Premium members. However, this necessitates sending ad segment data to the client, which could potentially be exploited by ad blockers to bypass the ads intended for regular users by using the same data designed to help Premium subscribers.

Source of Article