Facebook Inc. (FB)’s War on Ad Blockers is Doomed, According to Princeton Professor

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)

Yesterday, cyberspace was abuzz about Facebook Inc ‘s war on Ad blockers when the firm updated its source code to block ad blockers. The firm also updated its ad preference tools in order to give users more control over the kind of ads they see. The firm’s VP of Ads & Business Platform, Andrew Bosworth revealed that ads are the lifeblood of the firm’s business and that an ads-free Facebook will not happen.

Facebook Inc (FB)

Well, it turns out that Wall Street thinks Mark Zuckerberg is wrong to block ad blockers and the shares of Facebook had a dressing down on Monday. The stock of the social media giant was down 0.78% to end the last session $123.90 and the stock had lost 0.11% in pre-market trading this morning.

Princeton Professor says Facebook can’t win against ad blockers

Facebook is making a loud PR push about how it has neutralized ad blockers but Princeton professor begs to differ. Arvind Narayanan, an assistant professor at Princeton and Grant Storey have created a proof of concept ad highlighter for Chrome browser. The Facebook Ad Highlighter is capable of graying out ads on the page and written the words “THIS IS AN AD” over the image.

Narayanan noted that the Ad highlighter looks for and blocks any post with the “Sponsored” tag that the FTC requires on all ads. In essence, the efforts made by the firm to block the ad blockers and ensure that users see ads are already dead on arrival.

The professor notes in a blog post that “This (ad highlighter) is a simple proof of concept, but the detection method could easily be made much more robust without incurring a performance penalty… All of this must be utterly obvious to the smart engineers at Facebook, so the whole ‘unblockable ads’ PR push seems likely to be a big bluff.”

Ad blockers fight back with patch to bypass update

Analysts have started to air their views on how the blocking of ad blockers could affect the business of the social media firm going forward. Facebook could have paid ad blockers to whitelist its ads. However, Bosworth says the firm  won’t pay Ad blockers; rather, the firm wants to address the issues that are making people use ad blockers in the first place.

Analysts at Wells Fargo observed that ad blockers are starting to have a material impact on Facebook’s desktop ads revenue. Peter Stabler of Wells Fargo observed that “Given that FB generates only 15% of ad revenues from desktops, we believe this move suggests ad-blocking is beginning to have a material impact on desktop results.”

Interestingly, the firms making ad blockers are ready to go on a fight to finish with Facebook. In fact, Murali Sankar analyst at Boenning & Scattergood observed that “To date, FB has refused to pay to get whitelisted by ad blockers and is instead focused on making its ads less disruptive, faster, and more secure… Separately, Ad Block Plus has already distributed a patch that can bypass FB’s changes, although it is unclear whether the workaround impacts the user experience.

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Victor Alagbe is a seasoned business and finance writer with a specialty in writing about how to invest for the long-term in healthcare, pharmacology, energy and tech stocks. His long-term focus is on stocks that provide a nice mix of growth and income. For the short term, he passionately writes about trading stock options for the excitement and leverage that stock options offer.


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