Consider these two facts –
Fact 1: many of the world’s largest internet companies, including Google and Facebook, derive most of their revenue from serving up online advertisements.
Fact 2: one of the most popular browser add-ons is Adblock Plus, free software designed to eliminate online advertising from a user’s browser, with the Firefox version alone recording close to one million downloads per week.
Overall statistics on browser ad blocking are hard to come by, but Mozilla records over 178 million total downloads of Adblock Plus and over 14 million average daily users for its Firefox browser alone. Even when extrapolated over all browsers, this still only represents a small percentage of web traffic. Whether this will grow significantly remains to be seen.
There are also technical ways in which websites try to defeat ad-blockers, but this is somewhat of a cat-and-mouse game between developers, with dynamically-updated filter lists and other techniques giving ad-blockers the upper hand. There is also a growing trend of sites asking users (nicely) to not ad-block them.
The robust health of the online ad industry means that any legal battles over browser ad blocking are probably some years away – if they emerge at all. The attention at the moment seems to be on the nascent but potentially critical cases involving other forms of ad blocking – such as the Fox v Dish litigation currently underway in the US:
- Fox sues Dish over ad-blocking feature; Dish fires back
- Fox Seeks Ban on Dish’s Ad-Skip Feature Pending U.S. Trial
- Fox denied injunction against Dish ad-skipping service
Also, browser ad blocking is a slipperier target (practically and legally) than what the likes of Dish are attempting.
Update: Slashdot has picked up the article, with lots of interesting comments.