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While the debate around ad blocking continues, Opera has decided to build a native ad blocker that ships with its browser.
The company announced that it's "the first major browser vendor to integrate an ad-blocking feature" and the reason won't come as a surprise.
It looked at the stats, which show that a growing number of consumers want ad blockers to protect them from bloated web pages, poor browsing experiences and unwanted tracking.
With ad blocking built in to its browser at the web engine level, Opera says it can provide "unmatched speed" versus ad blocking extensions that consumers must install in other browsers.
Even though Opera's market share ranges from around 2% to 5% depending on who you ask, making it the fifth or sixth most popular browser, the fact that the company made the decision to add a native ad blocker has sparked significant conversation.
Here's what advertisers and publishers need to know.
It's not enabled by default, but...
Opera's native ad blocking capabilities won't be enabled by default, but they will be promoted to users when Opera detects ads that it can block.
Furthermore, when enabled, Opera's native ad blocker will track the number of ads it's blocking and can show comparisons between estimated page load times with and without ad blocking enabled.
That information, Opera hopes, won't just be useful to consumers but also to publishers and advertisers who need to understand how ads are affecting user experiences.
It's about performance
While Opera's Kolondra notes that some popular ad-supported sites, like CNET and TechCrunch, "appear to offer very good experience to their users with ads on – with only marginal delays in page loading," many others do not.
In fact, Kolondra says "if there were no bloated ads, some top websites would load up to 90% faster."
But ad blocking extensions themselves have overheads, and Opera claims that with native ad blocking code built right into the browser it can deliver a significantly faster ad-blocked browsing experience.
It could be a harbinger of things to come
While it's unlikely that Google would add a native ad blocker to its Chrome browser given that the company generates the vast majority of its revenue from digital ads, Opera's move has some wondering whether other browsers will get native ad blocking capabilities in the future.
There was speculation that when Apple opened the door to ad blocking in iOS, it did so in part to dent Google.
That might not be the only motivation but it's conceivable that Apple, which isn't dependent on ad revenue, could one day follow Opera's lead and build some form of ad blocking right into its OS and browsers.
There's a perception that the ad industry still doesn't get it
Despite the fact that the ad industry has been forced to face the harsh statistics and inconvenient truths behind the rise of ad blocking, there's still a perception that the industry doesn't fully get it.
As Opera's Krystian Kolondra noted...
There’s the IAB L.E.A.N. initiative for better ads but where are the better ads themselves? Instead, we see a primer on how to convince users to disable adblocking.
It’s a good step, but what if ads could be better, less intrusive and not slow down the browsing so significantly?
The key point: by and large, nothing has fundamentally changed.
Sure, more and more publishers are responding to ad blockers, but talk about making the ads themselves better has not translated to better ads and, until that happens, consumers will not give up their ad blockers.