Consumers again declare independence from relentless Facebook ads · 2017-09-26 17:55 by Ben Williams
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Death, taxes, and Facebook serving ads to users who don’t want them … these are three things we can all agree on. With 2 billion users inside a closed community, Facebook is a true giant. And because it is closed, we admit that they can do anything they want inside that community, including serve ads.
However, user feedback to Facebook and to ad blockers like us, led us to concur that Facebook users still don’t want to see ads that they haven’t asked to see. This is why both we and our user community have been busy working on a more lasting fix to let ad blockers do what they do.
Again, full disclosure here: we’re outfoxing Facebook’s latest attempt to hide the ads on their site so ad blockers can’t block them. We’re reasonably sure that Facebook’s IT army will eventually outfox our outfoxing. Just like death and paying taxes, Facebook will continue the cat-and-mouse game, ushering in a fix that will stop ad blockers.
The difference this time around, versus the back and forth our community shared with Facebook last fall, is that due to our community’s hard work, we’ll be able to respond more quickly to Facebook’s next anti-block volley.
For the techies out there, the basis for our blocking of Facebook ads depends on a new “has” filter, which allows ABP (right now just for Chrome and Opera) to look inside elements (read: FB posts), picking out telltale signs that a particular element is an ad, then blocking it based upon said element.
Usually, ABP and other blockers look into particular web elements at the top, or “parent” level; and most ads on the open web are marked with obvious signals in that top element that show they’re an ad. However, remember how we said Facebook is closed? Well, that allows for lots of obfuscation. And after our dust-up last year, they moved all ad signals below the “parent” level. The difference that the “has” filter makes is that it allows the blocker to peep under the top at the “sub-elements” below it. Of course, ad filters had to be written that correspond to the blocker’s new ability. And the open source community wrote them.
We can almost promise our users that Facebook will be back with a fix to our fix. Still, we felt like it was important to notify you that the fix is there and let you know that Facebook’s offensive against the open source community, including all content-blocker producers, is ongoing. Again, they can do whatever they want because … Facebook is not like other sites on the open web. Think of it as a private country club and (most) of the rest of the web as a public park.
We won’t plaster this blog space with constant updates about fixing Facebook’s fixes, or provide a blow-by-blow account as it progresses. But, we, along with our millions of open source users in the community, will keep on sluggin away, no matter how many rounds we go.
Maybe someday we’ll stop dancing. Maybe not. The good news is that the ultimate eventuality here is Facebook moving to make ads indistinguishable from content. And it’s not likely they’ll go that far.
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