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Google wants to make it impossible to block YouTube ads as they may be inside videos

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Image via Boing Boing

Google has been constantly trying to find ways to stop adblockers from blocking ads on its YouTube platform. In June last year, it started limiting videos to just three if it detected an adblock. This was done with a prompt which later got revised to one where it would count down 30-60 seconds before an ad would start playing.

As such efforts have not born the fruit Google had hoped for since adblockers like uBlock Origin also evolved to counter them, in April this year, the company clearly expressed its displeasure at the entire situation with some stern words.

Google now apparently wants to make it impossible for traditional adblockers to block ads on its video platform. According to SponsorBlock, which helps block sponsored segments inside YouTube videos, which happens to be another major annoyance for viewers, Google is working on server-side injection of ads which means the ads will be inside the videos themselves.

The SponsorBlock developer has also published an FAQ about this new "experiment" YouTube wants to conduct and how it will affect SponsorBlock and adblockers:

Does this mean YouTube is live re-encoding content?

No, this is not needed. Online video streaming nowadays uses a "playlist" of video chunks. These chunks are seperately encoded videos, so can easily be swapped out, or concatted to. This also means that an ad-blocker could ignore specific chunks if they know which ones to ignore.

Is this the end of SponsorBlock?

No, if YouTube displays any UI such as a clickable link, that means it has to know how long the ad is. SponsorBlock could find this data as well. There is also the feature for clicking on a timestamp in a comment that would need to know the duration of the ad, so it should be findable somewhere, it just might be kind of hard.

In the short term, SponsorBlock will not work for people with this experiment.

Will this be the end of general adblockers?

Probably not. But it makes things harder. As always, uBlock Origin work best on Firefox-based browsers, especially now that we reach the end of manifest v2.

Hence, as you may note in the first query, SponsorBlock suggests it may not be impossible to block such server-side ads for adblockers if they can detect where the ads are placed and skip those parts entirely. However, it may still be a difficult exercise as this appears to be new territory for adblockers to conquer.

As an online publication, Neowin too relies on ads for operating costs and, if you use an ad blocker, we'd appreciate being whitelisted. In addition, we have an ad-free subscription for $28 a year, which is another way to show support!

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