Hint of the Future? Opera Debuts Browser With Ad Blocking Built In

Company Calls Out Interactive Advertising Bureau's L.E.A.N Initiative, Incorporates Speed Test Within Browser

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Back in the day, users had to download separate software to block annoying pop-up ads. But by 2008, all major web browsers had the software pre-installed, and the demand for such applications soon diminished.

So it wouldn't be much of a surprise if popular ad-blocking extensions like Adblock Plus soon share the same fate, as browser companies start to incorporate ad-blocking software into their browsers.

On Thursday, Opera Software released what it's calling native ad-blocking, meaning the ad-blocking software is built into the Opera browser and is not a separate extension that requires download.

The ad-blocking feature is deactivated by default, but Opera will suggest blocking ads whenever they are detected. Toggling the browser's ad blocking feature is done by clicking a shield icon near the URL.

Native ad-blocking is now part of Opera's developers' edition but will likely roll out to the standard version in about six weeks, according to a company spokesman.

"We are the first major browser vendor to integrate an ad-blocking feature, but this development should be a no surprise to anyone given the rising popularity of ad-blocking software and even Apple allowing it on its platform," Krystian Kolondra, Opera senior VP of engineering for desktop, said in a blog post.

Opera is not a major consumer browser, with 1.7% global market share in desktop browsing, compared with 11.7% for Firefox, 36% for Chrome and 44.8% for Microsoft's browser, according to February data from Net Applications. But it is well-known in tech-savvy circles and has a bit of a cult following. Its desktop browser has 60 million monthly active users, the company spoksesman said.

The company says its browser with built in ad-blocking technology is 45% faster than Google Chrome running Adblock Plus and 89% faster than Microsoft's Edge running the same extension. Additionally, Opera has integrated a speed test within its browser that can easily show its users how fast a web page can load with or without ads, a first for browsers, it says.

"People are clearly sending a signal to brands and advertisers that the current situation must change," Mr. Kolondra said. "It's 2016, and we believe it's time for ads to be lighter and faster. There's the Interactive Advertising Bureau's 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 number of people using ad blockers grew by 41% worldwide between 2014 and 2015, with 98% of those users on desktop computers, Mr. Kolondra said, citing a study by PageFair/Adobe.