Will Browsers Ship With Ad Blockers?

August 7, 2009
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A while ago, I wrote a post entitled “Think Evil” in which I mused that:

A few years ago, when it became clear that Microsoft was losing the search wars to Google – but when they hadn’t lost much browser market share to Firefox – I thought they should have used a scorched earth strategy of including an ad-blocker in Internet Explorer. The ad blocker would be on by default and would block all ads, including sponsored links from search engines. Actually, I can’t bring myself to consider this particular approach evil – from my perspective, the means would justify the end.

I guess I’m not the only person with such musings. In a post with the descriptive (if uncreative) title “In five years all browsers will block internet advertisements by default,” Orin Thomas argues:

People have become conditioned to accessing content for free on the Internet and people also don’t want to see advertisements on the Internet. At some point in the not too distant future, ad blocking will become a necessary browser feature like Tabs are today. Any browser that does not include the feature will suffer a dramatic downturn in market share as people move to platforms that “block those darn


A while ago, I wrote a post entitled “Think Evil” in which I mused that:

A few years ago, when it became clear that Microsoft was losing the search wars to Google – but when they hadn’t lost much browser market share to Firefox – I thought they should have used a scorched earth strategy of including an ad-blocker in Internet Explorer. The ad blocker would be on by default and would block all ads, including sponsored links from search engines. Actually, I can’t bring myself to consider this particular approach evil – from my perspective, the means would justify the end.

I guess I’m not the only person with such musings. In a post with the descriptive (if uncreative) title “In five years all browsers will block internet advertisements by default,” Orin Thomas argues:

People have become conditioned to accessing content for free on the Internet and people also don’t want to see advertisements on the Internet. At some point in the not too distant future, ad blocking will become a necessary browser feature like Tabs are today. Any browser that does not include the feature will suffer a dramatic downturn in market share as people move to platforms that “block those darn advertisements.” Within five years, all browsers will block advertisements by default because, in the end, it is a feature that most people want.

I’d like to believe that he’s right, but I’m pretty sure I made similar claims at least five years ago, and I’m not aware of even a niche browser that ships with a built-in ad blocker.

I’m curious what readers think. Is it a matter of time before we see another arms race, like we had a few years ago over pop-up ads? Or, as one of the commentors responded to Thomas , is it just a matter of equilibrium, where advertisers produce ads that users don’t want to block?

Indeed, are we already at that equilibrium? Is the lack of traction for easily available ad blockers a sign that people don’t mind ads, and that the ad-supported ecosystem can easily afford to ignore outliers like me who religiously use Adblock Plus and CustomizeGoogle to block all ads?

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