A woman holding out a stop sign

YouTube is testing ad blocker detection

YouTube is dipping a toe into the muddy waters of ad-blocker blocking, with ad-blocker using Redditors complaining about a popup that warns “Ad blockers are not allowed on YouTube,” when they visit the site.

An adblock warning popup on YouTube

The popup message explains that “Ads allow YouTube to stay free for billions of users worldwide,” and invites users who want to be ad-free to take out a YouTube Premium subscription.

Despite the “Ad blockers are not allowed on YouTube” claim, only a select group of individuals currently see this messaging. A YouTube spokesperson confirmed this is currently just a test, though there’s no information with regard to how many people are seeing it or which regions its being seen in:

They also note that ad detection isn’t a new thing, and publishers often ask site visitors to disable ad-blocking tools. Everyone reading this very blog has almost certainly experienced a “Please turn off your ad blocker to view this site” notification on a website at some time.

The big problem is that these messages tend to be unpopular, and can turn visitors away from a site. If the content you want to see or read is available elsewhere, why go to the hassle of altering your settings?

In recent years, many sites have adopted a more cautious popup method in an effort to not aggravate visitors. A typical example might say “Support our content, funded by adverts which are used to pay the writers”. Underneath you’ll be given the option to turn off the blocker, or visit the site without doing so this time around. Whether repeat visitors actually do turn off the blocker on the next visit is something only the site owners could know.

In terms of how this is going down with YouTube users, it’s not great. Here’s a typical reaction from the Reddit post where this test was first revealed:


A big issue for YouTube users is frequency of adverts, but also length. Users are tired of rapid fire short ads which require a constant supply of clicking to skip. They’re also not fans of the long format adverts, which can hit 30 minutes, an hour, or in one extreme case 4 whole hours!

If you stray into the wacky world of content for children, other types of ad are a problem too. The 20 minute+ adverts which are essentially glorified toy adverts dressed up as cartoons can be a pain to have to keep skipping on a television.

As you’d expect, people have already figured out how to bypass or skip the YouTube ad-block testing in the form of tools such as uBlock origin.

While “These videos can only exist with the support of ads” may be a good point, there are very good reasons why so many people now block ads by default in the first place. Those reasons would include scam ads, and malvertising—the delivery of malware via ad content.

Ad networks have been given chances time and time again to clean up the rogues, fix the malware drive-by antics, and shut down the malvertisers. Despite this, the problem refuses to go away and so some of us would like to stay protected until it is.

The sites using those ad networks are ultimately collateral damage. If YouTube takes a hard line on this, it runs the risk of the biggest YouTubers moving elsewhere. Direct funding, Patreons and other methods of revenue generation are out there and they don’t run the risk of alienating fans with advert-related demands.

Blocking ads is a personal choice, and it’s hard to argue in favour of trusting ad networks when bad ads land in front of millions of people on a regular basis. As I said earlier: this isn’t an “us” problem, it’s a “them” problem. People don’t block ads for the sake of it; they do it because they find them to be annoying, intrusive, or potentially dangerous. This is the consequence of years of bad ad practices, and it’s up to the networks behind them to put in some heavy lifting.

Malwarebytes protects against annoying ads and scams while blocking trackers that spy on you.



Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.