Opera has jumped on the ad-blocking wagon today by including the feature in the latest developer release of the Opera browser for computers. The company claims that it will improve browsing speed significantly.
The company says in a press release that with the built-in ad-blocking software enabled it can speed up browsing by up to 90% and if compared with third party add-on software, 40%, as the filtering is done directly by the browser’s engine rather than being handled externally.
Krystian Kolondra, SVP of Engineering and Head of Opera for computers says in the release, “Advertising fuels the internet, allowing for many services to be free for users. But, as our new research shows, most webpages today are significantly slowed down by bloated ads and heavy tracking. We don’t accept it – we want the web to be a better place for us all, as users.”
Users of the latest developer release, which can be downloaded here, can toggle the ad-block software on and off wth a simple switch and they can also find out how much faster each page is being loaded, how many ads are being served or blocked from a web page, and they can monitor these statistics periodically.
“Growing demand for ad-blocking tools tells us that the current approach to advertising is damaging user’s online experiences”, Kolondra added. “it interrupts your web-surfing, slows down your browser, and at Opera, we want to fix it.”
The new browser has a customizable whitelist allowing certain sites to display ads despite having the ad-blocker enabled. By default it already contains a list of roughly 50 web addresses including Opera’s own website, AliExpress, Bloomberg, Google, Kaskus, Lazada, Liputan6, YouTube, and more, which can be removed easily.
The issue of ad-blocking between Internet users and online publishers have escalated significantly over the past year. A report by Adobe and PageFair in 2015 estimated that during the year, the use of ad-blocking software have cost publishers $21.8 billion in worldwide advertising revenue with usage of such software increasing 41% globally year on year between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015.
In 2015, every month in the United States there are on average 45 million Internet users blocking online advertising while in Europe the number is much higher, reaching 77 million. Globally this number has reached 198 million users. This massive rejection of online advertising has driven publishers to refuse serving content to people with ad-blocking software enabled on their browsers. Wired and New York Times are the latest to join this chorus and are aggressively offering paid subscriptions to readers.
Publications such as the Financial Times, the New York Times as well as the Wall Street Journal have long implemented limited access for non-paying readers to generate revenue from digital publishing in addition to online advertising while others such as the Washington Post, Politico, and Guardian allow full access to everyone.
With the introduction of iOS 9 in late 2015, Apple became a prominent player in the ad-blocking scene by allowing software developers to distribute ad-blocking software for the iOS platform. Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox also allow ad-blocking though browser extensions.
Opera’s decision to block online ads by default is a curious one considering that the company, which is currently being acquired by a Chinese consortium, has an advertising arm, called Opera Mediaworks which manages and delivers online ads for a large number of global advertisers and agencies including Samsung, MasterCard, Coca-Cola, WPP, Omnicom Group, and Havas.
While Opera remains a significant force in mobile browsing, it’s nowhere near as strong on the desktop space where it only manages to hold between 1-5% market share in 2015 according to numbers from StatCounter and NetMarketShare. Given that, the addition of the ad-blocking feature in the latest developer release means that it’s only going to be used by a very small number of Internet users.
However, if the feature makes it to the standard release, it could serve as a strong leverage over other browsers which currently do not have this feature built in and eventually forces advertisers to rethink how they promote their products on the Internet.
[Update] Added links to websites mentioned and speed test results
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