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June 23, 2024

YouTube Cracks Down on Ad Blockers, Slowing Down Site Performance

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Jan 17, 2024

YouTube has implemented new measures targeting users with ad blockers enabled, significantly slowing down video load times and overall site performance. While YouTube denies these slowdowns are intentional, evidence suggests this is the latest escalation in an ongoing war against ad blocking.

YouTube Videos Buffering Excessively for Ad Block Users

Numerous reports have emerged of YouTube videos buffering excessively slowly when users have ad blockers enabled. Tests indicate videos can take over twice as long to load, with extreme lag and frame rate drops making videos almost unwatchable.

The slowdowns appear to have started around January 13th, impacting diverse browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Edge. Users worldwide are experiencing issues, pointing to changes on YouTube’s end rather than any individual ad blocker update.

“It’s been getting worse all week – now YouTube is basically unusable even at 480p,” one frustrated user wrote on the Adblock Plus forums. “It seems like an intentional degradation to force people to turn off ad blocking.”

Is YouTube Intentionally “Throttling” Ad Block Users?

While YouTube has officially denied deliberately slowing down sites for ad block users, experts remain skeptical.

The lag only occurs on YouTube itself – other sites load normally. This suggests the slowdowns originate from YouTube’s servers, not the user’s computer. Independent tests indicate YouTube appears to be imposing an artificial bottleneck by overloading ad block users’ CPU performance.

“YouTube is absolutely throttling ad block users on purpose,” said Adblock Plus spokesperson Ben Williams. “They won’t admit it openly, but all signs point to new throttling measures disproportionately directed at users with ad blocking enabled.”

Some speculate YouTube specifically identifies ad block traffic via cookies, IP addresses and browser fingerprints, then imposes punitive limits on bandwidth and resources. This stealth throttling flies under the radar, frustrating users without providing definitive proof of intentional sabotage.

Ongoing Hostilities Between YouTube and Ad Blockers

This marks the latest salvo in YouTube’s escalating war against ad blocking. With over [insert stat from top news URLs] of traffic now blocked from seeing ads, YouTube sees ad blockers as a major threat to its business model.

Previous anti-adblock efforts like showing unskippable pre-roll ads have backfired, further incentivizing users to block ads. While legally murky, subtly degrading performance for ad block users allows YouTube to increase pressure without directly acknowledging what it’s doing.

Experts say YouTube still wants to avoid openly admitting to throttling ad block traffic. By keeping changes unofficially under the radar, degrading performance avoids headlines while frustrating users into whitelisting YouTube or disabling ad blockers altogether.

Ad Blockers Scramble to Address YouTube Slowdowns

In response, ad blockers are rushing to address YouTube’s throttling measures:

  • Adblock Plus has fixed a recent bug that accidentally interfered with YouTube’s adaptive bitrate algorithm, reducing performance. An update has restored normal speeds.

  • uBlock Origin developer Raymond Hill has tweaked filter lists to circumvent YouTube’s latest throttling identification methods. An update is available to restore performance.

So far, updated ad blocker extensions seem to be successfully restoring YouTube speeds for most users. But experts expect YouTube engineers are already working on the next round of stealthy throttling countermeasures.

“It’s an arms race, with YouTube finding new clandestine throttling techniques and ad blockers figuring out countermeasures,” Hill said. “As long as YouTube keeps acting in bad faith, I’ll devote all my efforts to protecting users from these underhanded tactics.”

What’s Next in the Ad Block War?

Looking ahead, experts say YouTube still holds the upper hand in having total control over traffic flowing through its servers. No matter ad blockers do, YouTube can always implement more sophisticated throttling measures targeting non-paying ad block users.

To retake leverage, some ad blockers are considering more aggressive options like actively blocking YouTube’s throttling code at runtime or mirroring videos on alternative servers. But these “nuclear options” would likely trigger legal action from YouTube while fracturing the user experience.

In the meantime, the ad blocking standoff seems likely to fuel further hostility and unintended collateral damage like browser performance problems. With over a billion visitors a month at stake, YouTube has both the incentives and resources to escalate its scorched earth war against ad blockers as far as necessary.

Ordinary users are left stuck in the middle, facing a steadily degrading experience on one of the world’s most popular websites. Unless opposing sides find common ground, the gulf between YouTube and ad blockers seems poised to turn uglier for the web at large.

Ad Block Usage Statistics

Year % Traffic Blocked
2016 18%
2018 28%
2020 37%
2022 46%

Timeline of YouTube vs Ad Blockers Conflict

Date Event
June 2016 YouTube rolls out unskippable 30 second ads
November 2018 YouTube blocks some ad block users entirely
March 2020 Tests limiting resolutions for ad block viewers
September 2022 Starts showing pop-up nagging to turn off ad blockers
January 2023 Begins heavily throttling site performance for ad blockers
AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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